27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of kangaroos, particularly big red, the largest living marsupial has been reduced to a level which places their survival in jeopardy; none of the States have sufficient wardens to detect or apprehend people breaking the inadequate laws in existence. Only uniform laws, brought in at Federal level, and a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can ensure the survival of the kangaroo; it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter, to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Petition received and read.
Mr DAVIES presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one-sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evdence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of specal programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; the provision of preschool opportunities, for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether the Australian Government has any knowledge of the suggestion reported in the ‘Cessnock Eagle’ of 6th March and elsewhere concerning Australian soldiers serving as mercenaries in Laos? Has the Government co-operated in any way in having Australian soldiers, either before or after discharge, serve as mercenaries in Laos?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honourable gentleman and I would not wish to make a comment until he had forwarded it to me. I would be obliged if he would do so and I would be prepared then to give him an answer.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Ti relates to the island of Fiji. Having regard to Fiji’s historic dependence economically upon Australia and the recent announcement that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd may be withdrawing its interests and activities from Fiji after 1972, will the Government examine whether it should institute discussions with the Government of Fiji to ascertain whether there is any way in which any economic dislocation that may be caused by such a move of an Australian company can be reduced to a minimum by the actions of the Australian Government?
– Already the Fijian Government has initiated discussions with the Commonwealth Government to ensure that milling operations at least during this sugar season are carried out without interruption. Some days ago I received a cable from Ratu Mara, the Chief Minister of Fiji. He suggested that, he might come to Australia in order to have discussions with me and that, if possible, I should arrange discussions with the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. The fact is that the sugar mill in Fiji is owned by the South Pacific Sugar Mills, which is to a large extent owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, although there are local shareholdings in the mill. I contacted Sir James Vernon, who arranged to meet me over the weekend before last with- several of his top officers. They informed me of all the facts and later informed me of the trend of the thinking of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and the way in which they would advise the South Pacific Sugar Mills.
I immediately sent a cable to Ratu Mara. At the same time I informed Sir James Vernon and his colleagues that the Commonwealth had a great interest in this because of our very friendly relationship with the Fijian Government and that we did not want the present sugar season to be disrupted in any way. I must say that I thought the representatives of . the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd took an enlightened view. They informed me of the kind of action that they felt they should recommend to their board. That was done. Sir James went to Fiji. The company has agreed to accept what is called the Denning award’, which is the arbitration award relating to pay and conditions in the sugar industry. The company will enter into the necessary agreement with the Fijian Government to operate for 3 seasons but has indicated that it may have to give under the agreement notice of termination which . will end at the expiration of the third period of the sugar season. I have just received a cable from Ratu Mara thanking the Australian Government for its attitude, and indicating that the sugar season will proceed normally and in the intervening period of two clear sugar seasons - that is, three seasons in all - his Government hopes it will be able to come to an agreement with the South Pacific Sugar Mills that will solve this very difficult problem.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question, he being the Minister responsible for the administration of the Public
Service Act. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that the 4,000 indigenes employed in Commonwealth departments in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are employed as exempt employees under a special determination by the GovernorGeneral under the Commonwealth Public Service Act and that they are therefore denied the retirement benefits, arbitration provisions and appeal procedures on promotion and discipline which are available (o other Commonwealth public servants? I ask him: What steps have been taken or when arrangements will be made for these 4,000 Commonwealth public servants to have at least as good terms and conditions of employment as local officers in the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea?
– I am not aware that 4,000 persons in Papua and New Guinea are employed in this way. I would have thought that the question, if it sought to elicit information, might better have been directed to the Minister for External Territories who would know precisely what the situation was regarding those employed in Papua and New Guinea under his administration.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether he is aware that some sections of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam movement are unhappy at being handed over to the organisation of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. Is the Minister aware that 4 members of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam general committee in South Australia, responsible for founding that movement in that State, have resigned from the general committee of the movement because, to quote them, the Moratorium Campaign ‘can be neither predicted nor controlled’? Can the Minister inform the House how many Opposition members have declared themselves in support of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign - a body looked on as irresponsible by some committee members of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam movement?
– I am aware of the fact that certain members of the committee of the Peace in Vietnam movement have become disenchanted and have resigned from that committee for the reasons indicated by the honourable member. Speaking for myself, and bearing in mind that all but 13 members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party have committed themselves in support of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign, I can only say that the assessment made by the dissident members of the committee of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam movement probably is pretty well founded. It is a body, having regard to the support it draws from the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, which would be a very unpredictable body indeed.
– I preface my question which is addressed to the Minister for Social Services, by stating that some Maltese citizens have served, and are serving, in the armed forces of Australia and that we have a very buoyant trade balance with Malta. I ask: Has a decision been made in reply to the request for a social services reciprocal agreement with Malta? If not, when will the House be informed of the Government’s decision?
– Mr Speaker, the agreement in question is under review at the present moment, as part of the larger context of the general situation relating to Australian citizens who go back to their homeland. At the present moment I cannot give any indication as to what will be the result of that review.
– I address my question to the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Will he inform the House whether he has made any money available to the Yirrkala people to enable them to participate in the industrial development now taking place at Gove in the Northern Territory?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. Recently a sum of $95,000 was made available for this purpose from the capital fund in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. The main expenditure for which this sum will be used will be in connection with the making of concrete bricks. When in Yirrkala recently I saw the prototype plant and I have every reason to expect that this will be a very successful operation. There are other minor matters for which expenditure has been approved. I have every confidence that there will be further applications made by the Yirrkala people and wherever a viable proposal is put up for Aboriginal ownership in that area we will be able to support it.
CouldI say two further things? Firstly, there is an Aboriginal Benefits Trust Fund which is administered on the advice of the Board consisting very largely of Aboriginal people and in this fund there will be considerable moneys which can be made available at Yirrkala and elsewhere for Aboriginal purposes. I have no doubt that from this fund also, not by way of loan but by way of grant, there will be moneys available for the kind of purpose which is in the mind of the honourable member.
Secondly, could I say that in the larger context, again there is a scheme for the development of Arnhem Land on an economic basis and the Yirrkala proposals will undoubtedly be integrated as part of that larger scheme. So I can say to the honourable member that progress has been made and will be made in this matter.
– I ask the Minister for
External Territories: Does he intend to accept the resolution of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea asking that the Administrator’s Executive Council be the authority that grants permits to people to enter Papua and New Guinea? Also, is it true that Mr Percy Chatterton said that the Australian Government has allowed a significant number of Australian criminals to enter the Territory?
– In answer to the honourable member: Apparently this was a decision of the House of Assembly yesterday. I have not yet received the details of this. As soon as I have the details I will examine them carefully and will see what is to be done in that regard. As regards Mr Percy Chatterton’s allegations about criminals coming into Papua and New Guinea, again I am not aware of any relevance of that.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister ask the Australian Dairy Produce Board to disclose the actual selling prices and thu costs of manufacture, selling and shipping of all dairy products - I refer specifically to butter-oil, ghee, milk powders, casein co-precipitate and butter - in Asian markets including reconstitution plants, so that producers can work out whether the Board is misleading them about conditions in the export trade and come to an appreciation of the need to reduce production in those items being sold at what the Minister has called give away prices?
– I do not think there is any reason why the Australian Dairy Produce Board should not make these figures available to the honourable member. In fact, I think that much of this information is probably available in the Board’s annual report. However, I will do what I can to obtain the sort of information that he has asked me. It is true that the export, of our dairy products does tend to reduce the overall return that producers .get in Australia. We have satisfactory domestic prices for most dairy products but the overseas prices, because of a world oversupply of most dairy products, are at ruinously low levels. It therefore follows that the more we tend to export the lower the overall return to the Australian producers.
I have stated on a number of occasions that it is absolutely a crazy policy for public moneys to be spent on expanding the production of dairy products and exporting them to produce a lower return to producers. I would hope that all governments in Australia will adopt policies not to be encouraging the expansion of dairy production but if anything to be reducing it.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, and I presume to ask it on behalf of every member of this House. Will the right honourable gentleman be good enough to say to what functions honourable members and their wives are to be invited during the Queen’s visit to Canberra late next month? Will he also say on what days Her Majesty and her family will be in Canberra?
– I am glad to inform the House that all members, senators and their wives will be invited, if they have not already received au invitation, to a number of the functions when Her Majesty the Queen is in Canberra. The functions themselves - and I speak now from memoryare the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen in Canberra, the opening of the Captain Cook memorial, the reception to be given by the Australian Government in Parliament House on the evening of Her Majesty’s arrival, the Anzac Day ceremonies, the presentation of new Queen’s Colours at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, on the morning of Monday, 27th April, the garden party at Government House that afternoon, and the Royal party’s departure from Fairbairn on the morning of Tuesday, 28th- April. I would like to add that because of the significance of this visit it has been decided that there will be an additional visit to Canberra of members’ wives in order to enable these ceremonies to be attended by senators, members and their wives.
– When does Her Majesty arrive?
– Her Majesty arrives on the afternoon of Thursday, 23rd April.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of the long standing community awareness of the misery which has resulted and continues to result from the use of inflammable fabrics in children’s night attire, can the Minister indicate any immediate prospect of the Commonwealth or State governments introducing controlling legislation after the style of the Children’s Nightdresses Regulations 1964 of the United Kingdom?
– I would answer the honourable member’s question in this way: Except in relation to Commonwealth Territories, the primary responsibility in a matter such as this would rest with the States. It would not be within the competence of this Parliament to introduce legislation on an Australia wide basis of the type to which the honourable gentleman refers. I shall discuss’ with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, the possibility of legislation of this kind being introduced in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, and I will let the honourable member know after S have had those discussions.
– Mr Speaker, I ask you a question. You will know that honourable members have been delighted to notice that a young woman is among the Hansard reporters of our proceedings and has won that position in the face of the strenuous competition that there is for this top job in that calling. I ask you, Sir, why she does not receive equal remuneration for her work of equal value to that of the male reporters, particularly since any women members of this House receive pay equal to that of male members.
– I was not aware that this was the case. I will have a look at the matter, but I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that the rates of remuneration of the Hansard staff are always considered after consultation with the Public Service Board. However, I will look into the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Did the Australian Medical Association, as part of its submission to the Nimmo Committee, advocate a scheme of differential benefits for medical procedures commonly carried out by both general practitioners and specialists? If so, has the Australian Medical Association departed from the submission that it then made? What submissions, if any, has the Association now made to the Minister concerning the proposal for differential benefits?
– The honourable gentleman has asked me whether, in its evidence to the Nimmo Committee, the Australian Medical Association made submissions supporting the concept of differential benefits for general practitioners and specialists performing the same procedure. I understand that the AMA did make such submissions to the Committee. This would be consistent with the Association’s policy since 1965. The concept of differential rebates has been AMA policy just as it is Government policy. The only way in which the patient can be adequately protected against the cost of medical treatment by a specialist is by the adoption of such a policy. The honourable member asked further whether the AMA had changed that policy and if so, in what respects. I think I can answer that question by saying that as far as I am aware the AMA has not changed its policy. The honourable member may be referring to a statement made by the President of the AMA in Adelaide a week ago last Monday, after conferring with the Presidents of the State branches, in which he said that the AMA would take up with the Government a review of some - not all - of the more than 300 procedures for which it is anticipated there will be differential benefits in the new schedules. Those discussions took place yesterday between the Executive of the AMA and me. Arising out of those discussions a working party was set up comprising officers of my Department, members of the AMA and the Chairman of the Council of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The working party has finished its work and has reported to me that it has reviewed the matter in the light of the Government’s policy that the patients of specialists will not be financially disadvantaged. The working party has informed me that any changes that it favoured were so small as to make it undesirable to recommend their implementation. To sum up, the AMA’s policy is still pne of support for differential benefits for procedures performed byboth general practitioners and specialists.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Since the Minister for Defence is to visit Saigon soon, presumably to discuss, among other things, troop withdrawals with American and South Vietnamese officials, does the Minister still intend to visit Saigon next month for the same purpose?
– First of all, the assumption of the honourable gentleman is wrong. The answer to the second part of his question is no.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the concern expressed by export meat works and producers regarding concessions granted by the Australian Meat Board to Northern Territory meat exporters under the meat diversification scheme so as to earn entitlement to entry into the United States market? Can the Minister give an assurance that nothing will be done to jeopardise the diversification scheme and the Australian entitlements for meat on the United States market?
– 1 am aware of some concern about the concession that was given by the Australian Meat Board to northern meatworks on Friday. I know this because of a number of telegrams I have received from southern meatworks protesting about the concession that was given. But I am also aware of the concern by northern producers that the concession was not big enough, because I have also had telegrams from them. Last week I mentioned to the House that after meeting a deputation from the northern producers and northern meatworks I was concerned at a degree of inequity that existed for northern meatworks through not being able to earn entitlement to export .part crf their production to the lucrative United States market, and I expressed the hope that the Australian Meat Board might give consideration to some concession. 1 should like to inform the House that concessions have been given. I believe they are worth while and will enable meatworks in northern Australia to open this season. This could have been in doubt had nothing happened, lt is necessary for these northern meatworks to be given some concession because basically they produce a manufacturing type of meat - a third grade type of meat - and the only really sound market for it is the United States market. They have been exporting almost their entire production to the United States market over the last 3-year period and if they were asked suddenly to divert a large part of this production to other .markets it would impose a penalty upon them. Concessions have been granted to give them a degree eft flexibility and to enable them to operate this season. They will not be penalised by the more severe ratio that is generally imposed later in the season. The Australian Meat Board has stated that the ratio will be geared to the first 10 weeks of their production rather than the first 10 weeks of the year. As their production normally starts later in the year, they will not be penalised as a result.
- Mr Speaker, as the forms of the House do not preclude me from asking you a question without notice I direct a question to you in relation to accommodation in Parliament House. How many offices in Parliament House were allocated to private members of the House of Representatives during- the years 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968 and 1970? How many of these members were accommodated in offices in Parliament House on the basis of 1 per room, 2’ per room and 3 per room during the same years? How many rooms were allocated to House of Representatives Ministers and their staffs in the same years? Would .you be good enough to seek similar information from the President of the Senate relative to that side of the building?
– The honourable member will realise that I have not been in this position for the length of time he mentioned and therefore I have not full knowledge of the matters referred to in his question. I will obtain the information for him as soon as practicable. I will also accede to his request and convey his question to the President of the Senate. As soon as possible I will supply him with the information he seeks.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that people unaccustomed to receiving telegrams receive them with some fear? ls he aware that a retail house in Sydney is sending out telegrams to people? The telegram that I have in my hand is signed by a Miss Leslie. The addressee to whom it was sent was not at home. She has a son in Vietnam and when she received notice that a telegram was waiting for her at the Post Office she rushed to the telephone box and suffered a slight heart attack. Will the Minister consider this matter? I will hand him the telegram. Is he aware that in the recent election the Leader of the Opposition engaged in the same form of advertising in the Division pf Mitchell?
– I regret to say that I did not catch everything the honourable member included in his question, but I do know that during the last general election campaign and on other occasions, people have tried to simulate telegrams as publicity or advertising media. I inform the members of the House and the public that of course this is quite contrary to the regulations under the Posts and Telegraph Act. Action will be taken against any person found using this form of advertising. As to the details of the telegram which the honourable member intends to show me, when I have seen it I will have an investigation made and advise him of the results.
– Has the Minister for Defence noted a statement by the New Zealand Minister for Defence that the South Vietnamese Government is ready to take over operations in the Phuoc Tuy Province? Does he agree with this statement? If he does not agree, will he say why he does not? If he does agree with it, will he say why Australian troops would not then soon be withdrawn from Vietnam?
– It is only a very short while since I spent the best part of a day in lengthy discussions with the New Zealand Minister for Defence and also Mr Thomson’s advisers including the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Staff who had been accompanying Mr Thomson on his recent visit to South Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Nothing that was said during the best part of the day long discussions would have given any support to the kind of view expressed by the honourable member for Lalor.
– In addressing a question to the Attorney-General I refer to the report of the committee under Mr Justice Manning presented in May 1964, which made recommendations concerning bills of exchange, including cheques. I refer also to the item on endorsement of cheques in the Governor-General’s Speech last week. As this proposal would result in significant saving in labour needed elsewhere in the national economy, would the honourable gentleman advise whether the Government has accepted the general conclusion of the committee that general reform is now due to the law relating to cheques? Are most of the other recommendations embodied in the draft proposed Cheques
Act accepted by the Government? Is it his intention to introduce the legislation as a separate Cheques Act or only as amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act?
– The Government does accept in substance all the recommendations of the committee that was headed by Mr Justice Manning, and it is proposed in the current sessional period to introduce legislation which was foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech. This legislation will introduce the most substantial of the proposals recommended by Mr Justice Manning’s committee. The main proposal which will be implemented by the proposed Bill will be one to do away with the necessity for the endorsement of order cheques paid into the account of the payee designated in the cheque. Consequential amendments are to follow that main proposal. The Bill proposed to be introduced will also remedy an anomaly which has been thought to exist for some time in section 88 of the Bills of Exchange Act.
The Bill will extend to uncrossed cheques the protection presently extended to bankers in relation to crossed cheques. Other proposals will be carried into effect by the proposed Bill, but as I say, they are mainly of a consequential character. The other point raised in the honourable gentleman’s question is whether the proposed Bill will be one, as it were, which stands on its own feet as a separate Cheques Bill or whether on the other hand it will be in the nature of an amendment to the Bills of Exchange Act. This matter has received a considerable amount of attention on the part of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I am in a position to inform the House that the Draftsman’s view on consideration is that the measure will be best introduced by way of amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act.
-I ask a question of the Minister for National Development in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it true that Mascot Airport now handles, 350 flights per day? Does this mean on the average one flight movement every 3 minutes? Does this type of pressure mean that the people of Kingsford-Smith suffer a great inconvenience in the early hours of the morning and late at night with nights being permitted at these times? Is the Minister aware that the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures have requested all-night nights from Tullamarine? If this request was granted, would there not be excessive pressure to allow outside curfew hours flights at Mascot Airport thereby causing greater inconvenience and noise nuisance to the people of Kingsford-Smith? In the circumstances, will the Minister request his colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, to prohibit all flights into and out of Mascot aerodrome outside the curfew limits?
– 1 am not aware of any proposals that have been submitted by public bodies in Victoria in relation to operations at the new Melbourne airport at’ Tullamarine. The international section of this airport is due to come into operation later this year and the domestic section will open approximately 12 months after the date when the international terminal is opened. However, that matter, I. understand, has to be fully considered before the actual opening of the international terminal and, no doubt, any submissions made by public bodies will receive full and appropriate consideration.
The position regarding Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport is not quite as stated in the question by the honourable member. The curfew to which he refers applies to the operation of jet aircraft only. Operations are carried out throughout the night by other types of aircraft including turbo-prop aircraft and conventional engine aircraft. I may say that the curfew that applies at certain of our major airports in Australia is a stricter application of restrictions of this type than in any other country in the world. This indicates the awareness of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Government of the problem that applies in this regard.
The question of any extension of operations outside the curfew hours has come up from time to time for consideration. The Government and the Department have considered that no change should be made. Certainly, as far as I am aware, no change is contemplated in the future. The whole question of the development of airport facilities in a major sense for Sydney is under investigation by an inter-departmental committee which 1 had the opportunity of setting up a year ago. That committee has done considerable work in this field. I understand that we cannot anticipate that its report as to the future development of airport facilities at Sydney will be received for some time.
– I refer to the setting up of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister for External Affairs advise the House whether or not the Australian Labor Party has resolved the great differences which it has encountered in coming to a conclusion-
Opposition members - Oh!
– Just settle down; settle down.
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question without commenting.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I ask whether or not the Australian Labor Party has resolved the great differences that it has encountered in setting up the composition of the committee. Furthermore, does the Minister believe that the Party which has been once more - I think for the eighth time in a row - rejected by the Australian people as a government should have the opportunity to prevent members oh this side of the House getting into the work of the Committee. Thirdly, does the Minister anticipate any face saving moves from the Leader of the Opposition to try to hinder this Committee being set up in an endeavour to placate the differences with the left wing of the Party.
– The answer to the first question asked by the honourable member is no. The answer to the second one is that I am one of those who have never been able to work out the internal workings of the Australian Labor Party, and I think that as it has been in Opposition now for well over 20 years it is clear that the Australian electorate in general also has never been able to work out how the Labor Party functions. As to the last question asked by the honourable member about a face saving compromise, I do not know because - again I have to give a now somewhat familiar answer - I can never work out the thinking of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Before asking my question, Mr Speaker, may I extend to you my personal thanks for giving me the call. I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration and by way of explanation I refer to the entry to and departure from Australia of Mr Wilfred Burchett without an Australian passport. Were the passport regulations broken in the case of Mr Wilfred Burchett or are the same facilities available to any Australian citizen refused a passport? If so, does it mean that any Australian citizen refused a passport who is able to provide his own transport or travel facilities does not need an Australian passport for entry or departure and on arrival will be made quite welcome? Does it not reduce the value attached to an Australian passport by Australian citizens if entry and departure to Australia may be made without this document? Finally, will the Minister also assure the House that uniform regulations will apply to all Australian citizens without passports and not only to those whom the Government wishes to keep out or desires to send into exile?
– I can certainly inform the House that no special concessions of any type were accorded to Mr Burchett in relation to his entry to or departure from this country. Indeed, the view of the Government which has been consistently stated is that the travel of Mr Burchett will not be facilitated in any way whatsoever. The fact that Mr Burchett entered Australia and has now departed represents no change in or contradiction of that attitude. So far as the generality of the honourable member’s question is concerned let me say this. Under the Passports Act it is not compulsory for a person leaving Australia to obtain or produce a passport, and so far as persons seeking to enter the country are concerned, they are required to identify themselves and show that they are eligible to enter. Normally, of course, this is done by production of a passport. However, any Australian who identifies himself and who is clearly not an immigrant in the sense in which this term has been defined in a series of High Court cases cannot be prevented from entry. So far as the final part of the honourable member’s question is concerned - it related to the value of an Australian passport - I want to say quite clearly to the House that the value of an Australian passport is that it identifies the bearer and his citizenship to representatives of other governments, to our own representatives overseas, to carriers, to immigration officials at ports and airports on entry to Australia, and to this extent it is valuable because it greatly facilitates the travel of the bearer.
Debate resumed from 17 March (vide page 521) on motion by Mr Brown:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
DrJ. F. CAIRNS (Lalor) [3.20]- At this point in the debate, on behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment:
That the following words be added to the Address: but this House is of the opinion that the Government should be censured because, despite the long break since the last effective sitting of the House, Ministers have refused to report to the Parliament on the negotiations concerning Commonwealth and State finances and the national health scheme, the problems of production, marketing and reconstruction in primary industries, the state of the economy, the development of New Guinea and the failure of the F111’.
The 1969 general election resulted in a very narrow victory for the Government. At first the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) dismissed any suggestion that fault could possibly lie with him, with his Ministers or with the two parties of which the coalition consists. Then under pressure from senior Ministers and senior members of his own Party, both inside and particularly outside the House, the Prime Minister began to admit that there had been faults in the previous Government and said that action would be taken to correct them. We have had the sight ever since of the Prime Minister of this country meeting outside the House his faceless men, who have laid down the law about what they consider to be serious departures from Liberal Party policy and principle. The newspapers have been full of reports of conflicts, arguments and controversies within the Liberal Party. State branches of the Liberal Party have come to the point of moving motions of criticism of the Prime Minister and of the Government.
During this time and since, there has been one of the longest recesses in parliamentary history. Indeed, history has to be examined very closely to find a longer recess in the whole history of the Commonwealth than the erne through which we have just passed. Ministers have, therefore, had the opportunity to correct the faults that the Prime Minister seemed to have recognised, to work out new or additional policies and to inform Parliament and the people. This is necessary because it is democratic procedure. It is a precedure that this House under 20 years of Liberal-Country Party coalition seems to have forgotten and hardly ever practised until those honourable members cm the Government side of the House who contribute most to the debates in this parliament concentrated their criticism upon the Government for its ignoring ©f parliamentary and democratic procedures. But it is necessary to inform Parliament, not only because it is part of democratic procedures but also because Parliament may he able to help in the solution of some of these problems, a point that the Ministers and their advisers presumably do not normally think about. It is possible that this Parliament, consisting of 125 elected representatives of the people, may be able to contribute just a little towards the solution of these problems. But hardly anywhere nas the Government given Parliament an opportunity to do so. Now, after nearly 3 weeks of sitting, the result, to say the least, is disappointing. The Government not only has let Parliament down, it has let itself down. I do not think that even one Minister has spoken in the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
There is a crisis on the land. Farmers are marching and demonstrating. They are doing what they have attacked trade unionists and students for doing for decades. Members of Parliament are associated with the demonstrations but not one reference to this has been made by the responsible Minister. He has not made a speech in Parliament . on any of these matters and has, I think, narrowed down to the very minimum answers to questions asked of him. Then there is the question of Papua and New Guinea. It did not require a visit to Papua and New Guinea by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to show that there is considerable movement and concern there. People all over the Territory are dissatisfied, with the conditions imposed upon . them by the Department of External Territories, or the Minister, for External Territories (Mr Barnes) or by the Administration in the Territory - and one finds it very hard sometimes to ascertain just where these conditions originate. But despite that the Minister has chosen to avoid making any statement in this House about the Government’s future policy on Papua and New Guinea. What is his attitude to all those questions raised in the Press and in Parliament and which have become, in recent weeks, one of the most significant topics of discussion in the Australian mass media? We have heard not a word from the Minister who is responsible for all this.
In the period of almost 3 weeks for which the Parliament has been sitting, the gaps left by the Government thoroughly justify the House, to my mind, in censuring the Government for its poor performance. There are many problems and questions with which the Government has not dealt at all or has dealt with improperly or inadequately. We are back in the bad old days of drag and drift. In fact Ministers have tried to deal with problems in only two areas. In this time the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a statement and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) proposed additions and changes to what he still calls a national health service. Referring to the defence statement, it was the first statement for several years by a Minister for Defence which purported to deal with defence in general and for this reason everybody thought it was a wonderful performance. A young ambitious Minister seeing himself in the future as a Prime
Minister, could not resist the opportunity to make a general defence statement - the first in years - and for that we are grateful. The statement was welcomed. It was the first general statement on defence for, I think, 4 or 5 years.
The Minister for Health produced additions and changes to what he still calls, as I said before, a national health service. Referring again to the defence statement, although it was the first such statement for several years, I submit that it failed completely to state the objectives of defence policy for Australia. It failed even to relate Australian defence equipment that has been ordered or is to be ordered to any defence purpose or objective. Is the Government still planning to take part in wars in South East Asia, similar to that in Vietnam, or has there been any change at all in that purpose or objective? This old question, which seems to go to the root of the whole thing, was not even mentioned by the Minister for Defence. If the Government is not planning to continue to take part in wars in Asia why does Australia need 126 helicopters? Does the Government still consider that Australia’s military intervention in South East Asia has been successful although one of the leading mass media supporters of the intervention, Mr Denis Warner, wrote in the March 1970 issue of the ‘Readers Digest’, at page 131: Australia and America have been defeated in the war in Vietnam*. Why has this not been mentioned? If this is so, why is it that everyone appears to accept the idea that the United States will not again commit her troops to land warfare in Asia. If this is the position the United States has taken, can Australia take a different position? What are the consequences of this? There is not one word from the Government or from the Minister who is at least in part responsible.
Surely the Government must have left most of its ardent supporters dismayed and dissatisfied with the way it has handled the Fill. We are entitled to say to the Government that it should have made up its mind by this time about the technical ability of the FI 1 1. It should have done so long ago. Technical problems and failures of the Fill for 3 years have piled one on top of the other. But it was only last year for the first time that the Government decided it would use any independent technical experts to examine the performance and value of the aircraft. Still no decision has been made.
Now the Minister for Defence is to go to America. What can he do that has not been done before? Is the decision to be a political one now as it always has been a political one? But suppose the Fill eventually flies effectively, what would it be used for? Its range, I submit, is such that it would need costly air bases in northern Australia or elsewhere; that it would need refuelling aircraft if it is to be used over any range which would make it of use in the defence of Australia. Probably the Fill has been designed for nuclear weapons. No Minister has ever indicated what it is going to be used for in the Royal Australian Air Force and what kind of bomb load it might be able to carry. It is only if some attempt is made to answer these questions - or if we can - and this Parliament has been given to understand that the Government has considered some of these questions, that a sensible decision could be made about the aircraft. But the decision has always been political and it appears to remain political. Beyond its failure to state clearly objectives or purposes of defence policy, the Government has shown no logical connection between these objectives and the type of defence equipment that has been ordered.
The other matter on which the Government has made some proposals is the socalled national health service. These proposals will have the effect of further increasing the cost of the health service. Already with the cost of pharmaceutical drugs it is probably the most costly service per head of the community in the whole world. But since the Minister has put forward a proposal a great roadblock has been put in the way. The essential feature of the operation of these proposals was the provision of a most uniform fee. What the Government proposes to do in 1970 will stand or fall on what the Australian Medical Association will accept. Is it enough to have the Minister giving an off the cuff answer to a question to deal with this important matter? The Government has not only had the 18 weeks of the recess in order to solve these problems but it had 22 weeks before that when the Nimmo report recommended that there should be a fundamental overall development of the scheme. The Government has had 40 weeks to consider this. There are still fundamental problems in this key area. Not only should the House censure the Government on this tout a censure of the Government is demanded by these circumstances.
I have mentioned up to now things that the Government has made some attempt to deal with or has indicated in the case of foreign affairs that it still wants a little more time. I hope that the Minister is not going to extend that little more time beyond this week. But there are many matters about which the Government has said nothing at all. Firstly, there is the problem of Commonwealth-State financial relations. This involves too the problem of local government finance. No-one more than leading members of the Liberal Party recognises the shocking deficiencies of all those essential services which can be provided for the people of Australia only by their State and local governments. Time after time speeches from the other side of the House sound like speeches from the Opposition. There is not one word from the Prime Minister about what happened in the consultations he recently had with the Premiers. Not one word does he see fit to use to take this House into his confidence. If people in this House did not feel that the Government should be censured because of its inability to perform its task they ought to feel it should he censured for this insult to every member of this House that comes when they are treated in this way. We know what the problems are that rest in the field of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
Education is not only inadequate but progress in education is being closed off to more and more children by overcrowding, unqualified teachers, and quotas in the faculties of every university. Many departments are dropping out of universities altogether. Schools in Melbourne which are fire hazards are burning down at night and may well burn down in the daytime when they are full of children. Also, there are problems of roads, streets, sewers and drains. These problems are not only inadequate but they are getting worse. Cities sprawl for 20 or 30 miles in all directions. They are choked to death at their centres and in countless bottlenecks throughout these illogical and unplanned structures. In many cases today it costs a worker onequarter of his working time to get to and from work. There is an enormous cost to the nation in time, petrol and depreciation of millions of motor cars. Every State government and every municipality, if it is trying to meet needs, is facing growing deficits while the Commonwealth Government appears to the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, to have money running out of its ears. It is easy for the Commonwealth to plan for the finance of the FI 1 1 up to $300m, if that should be needed; it is easy for the Commonwealth to draw on the Reserve Bank of Australia for over $400m to pay for wheat which may not be sold; but it is difficult and impossible sometimes for the States and local government to build a drain unless the overflow first spreads hepatitis among children and damages hundreds of houses as it has recently done in my own electorate.
The financial problems of the State and local governments mean not only these glaring, immediate, real swamps and dumps and crowded bottlenecks, not only the pollution and contamination which have now become all the rage to recognise after years of ignoring them, but it means also inability to plan development and enforced lack of continuity. It means enforced economy and poor and shoddy standards, public squalor in the States and affluence in the Commonwealth. There is private affluence too - Poseidon shares. This is not the affluent economy of society; it is the distorted economy of society.
Then, of course, there is the problem of the state of the economy; the problem of inflation. Until recently the Prime Minister had taken the line that there was no such thing as inflation in the economy. This was before the election and was for election reasons. He had to provide enough scope to spend a few hundred million dollars on defence to win a few votes here and there and even the Treasurer at the time joined him in this. But now the Treasurer for the moment has decided that the economy is overheated and the Reserve Bank - it had nothing to do with the Government - has decided to increase interest rates by onehalf of 1 % . What kind of economic policy is that? It is a policy for the rich and it is a policy against the poor. It is a policy that favours less essential things and discriminates against essential things.
The famous American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, clearly expressed the effect of this kind of economic policy. He said:
An active monetary policy acts to make the competitive sector of the economy and the public sector of the economy the least creditworthy and the oligopolistic sector the most creditworthy part of the economy.
They talk about the private investor; they talk about the free enterprise; they talk about the small businessman and the small farmer. Those who have to borrow will have to pay more for what they borrow; those who will lend will get more for what they lend; those who get their millions for investment out of monopolistic price policy in the market will not be retarded by the increase in interest rates but those who have to build roads, streets, drains and houses and those who buy clothes for themselves and goods for their homes will pay more because of this increase in interest rates.
The Treasurer has never tried to explain how you can cure high prices and high costs by raising the price of one of the most important commodities - money. How do you cure high prices by increasing interest rates? There is no suggestion that this is going to reduce total overall demand, lt will merely raise the cost of the full employment economy by a few hundred million more and transfer some more money into the pockets of those who have too much already. The characteristic feature of the Government’s spasmodic, after-the-event monetary measures by which it hopes to deal with inflation is that they have failed. Inflation is as much as ever a problem in the Australian economy. It has meant not only ever rising prices for the ordinary citizen but increasing debt for the people, for State and local governments, and for every other section of the people catering for essential needs. It has meant money running out of the ears of those who already have their fill of it.
Many years ago Australia was among the leaders of those countries which made progress in handling their social and economic problems. Today we do not even claim to be in the first 1 0. This is because all those countries have adopted methods of planning their economic activities appropriate to their own social attitudes and national history. This has not happened in Australia because for 20 years we have been governed by people who in this field have proved rigid and conservative, ready to use the very thought of a new idea as a barrier in the way of any kind of change. This Government faced, more than any of its predecessors were, with the challenge to take initial steps towards planning the use of our resources has failed more dismally than any other. The Government certainly deserves the censure of his House. Now we have entered a period of euphoria because of the discovery of new resources. For a century Australia has been lucky enough to be able to ride on the sheep’s back, but no longer can the sheep or the rest of its colleagues in the country perform as they did. But the euphoria lives on. Now we are in the midst of a mineral boom and the Western Australian Minister for private profit making - I think they call him something else - has said that exports from the Pilbara alone in 1980 will be greater in value than the whole of Australia’s wool cheque. The stock exchange has taken this up and is the main cause of the inflationary boom which the Government proposes to deal with by increasing interest rates so as to increase costs to home buyers, small businessmen and farmers who had nothing to do with the boom in the first place.
At a conference in Sydney just before Christmas which a leading industrialist said got better as it went on, the Prime Minister said: 1 do say if there is great material prosperity to come to us, as I believe there is, then it is wrong, it is insupportable, that there should be people who are bankrupted by illness or who are unable in their old age, having borne the heat and burden of the day, not to have a comfortable life, and a life without worrying whether there is enough money to buy enough to eat.
That was what the Prime Minister said. In Australia today there are no fewer than half a millon people who are in that position. We have heard two Governor-Generals* Speeches but nowhere in any speech by any Minister in this House in the last 3 weeks has there been one word to suggest how these people are going to benefit from the great material prospertity of which the Prime Minister spoke. And in the meantime at least a couple of dozen people have become millionaires. In the Melbourne ‘Sunday Observer’ last Sunday there was a letter from
Mr John Howe of Caulfield who is known to quite a number of honourable members. He said:
Take the case of an original Anzac 1 know. Known to his doctor as a walking tribute to the skill of surgeons, he receives an age pension of $15 a week. Out of this he pays $8.40 a week rental purchase of his war service home, plus $4 a week for rates, electricity, gas, leaving $2 a week to feed and clothe himself.
There are tens of thousands - hundreds of thousands - of people in that kind of position. When a government, which is supposed to dedicate itself to the defence of Australia and constantly affirms its deep affection for soldiers, leaves an original: Anzac in that position what more need be said in censure of that Government?
The former Treasurer, now the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), as well as every other member of the Government, has been repeating; ‘This nation owes a debt of gratitude to those disabled by war’. That is how the Government pays the debt - by a system of social services and benefits that has become nothing more than a bureaucratic nightmare of minor privileges and a range of handicaps and disqualifications which need an army of qualified social workers to apply if there is to be any justice at all in the narrow and stodgy system of rationing out money to those who need it most. Nothing has been said or done by any Minister in this House in almost 3 weeks of sitting that indicates that there is going to be the slightest change in the situation. When all these factors are taken into account can anyone deny that the Government deserves the censure of the House for its delay, prevarication and sometimes double talk which now extends over 20 long weeks since the last election, when the Australian people clearly expressed their desire for a change in the methods and practices of government in this country?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is the amendment seconded?
– I deny with every fibre of my being the charge that has been levelled against the Government by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). Far from being an object of censure, I believe that this Government can claim credit, as previous governments of our political parties can claim over the last 20 years, for a great deal of progress and advancement in all fields. If the Opposition were really genuine in this charge 1 would suggest that instead of accusing the Government of delays and of holding up the processes of this Parliament it should have refrained from moving urgency motions day after day, almost without exception, ever since the Parliament met early in March.
The honourable member for Lalor finished his remarks by advocating that there be some change in the method of government in this country. I would like to ask members of the Opposition, and I would like them to give a clear, frank and unequivocal reply, why they have not put before the people at election time, or at any other time, their true platform. It is all very well for the honourable member for Lalor and other honourable members to get up in this chamber and make accusations and move motions of censure against the Government for delays. If there have been delays in the last 3 weeks or so since the Parliament met those delays were caused primarily by members of the Opposition. I would like to ask honourable members opposite why it is that they keep quiet or keep under the counter their one objective and the one reason for existence of the Australian Labor Party. I quote from the Australian Labor Party’s ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ for 1969 as approved by the Commonwealth Conference at Melbourne. As far as I know, this is the latest official document put out by the Australian Labor Party. It sets out in clear black and white what the objective of the Australian Labor Party is - and it has only one objective:
The Democratic Socialisation of Industry, Production, Distribution and Exchange - to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in those fields - in accordance with the Principles of Action, Methods and Progressive Reforms set out in the Party Platform from time to time.
I repeat that there is only one objective, but we never hear it spoken of by honourable members opposite. I would have thought more of the contribution from the honourable member for Lalor if he had come out clearly and stated what the Opposition stood for. It is a very regrettable thing in the political life of this country that the Party which claims to be the alternative government keeps under the counter, as it were, its true platform. Why does it not tell the people, and why do the honourable members in this Parliament not stand up and say what they really believe in, instead of accusing the Government falsely of not attending to the affairs of the nation? Honourable members opposite are interjecting. They cannot take it. Obviously my remarks are hurting them.
I return to the second paragraph of the Labor Party’s platform, headed ‘Interpretation of Democratic Socialisation’. We do not hear much from honourable members opposite about their programme of socialisation because they know that an overwhelming number of Australians are opposed to socialistic policies. Australians have demonstrated this opposition in years gone by. I remind the noisy honourable member opposite who persists in interjecting that the word ‘democratic’ before the word socialisation’ in the Party’s platform does not mean a thing. I have as my authority no less a personage in the Australian Labor Party than Mr Joe Chamberlain. Members of the Opposition do not say much about the Labor Party’s platform for pretty obvious reasons, but the platform refers to the restoration of Parliament as the principal organ of democracy. Notwithstanding this, we have the word of Mr Joe Chamberlain that the word ‘democratic’ before the word ‘socialisation’ does not alter one iota the terms of Labor’s objective.
Later in the Labor Party’s platform we find a paragraph dealing wi.h inc methods of implementing the objective of socialisation. This reads:
Nationalisation of -
I regret having to remind the House that during the last general election campaign on a television programme ‘Meet the Press’ the Leader of the Opposition, answering a question put by a member of the interviewing panel as to whether the ALP still stood for nationalisation, said: ‘No, that is out of date.’ The nationalisation plank still stands in Labor’s platform, lt was altered in only one respect, and that was in respect of radio and television. Radio and television were on the list to be nationalised until about 1968, when they were removed. On television the Leader of the Opposition has said that the nationalisation plank is out of date. He suggested that the interviewer examine other proposals in the Party’s platform, such as those with respect to education. Fairly and squarely 1 ask honourable members opposite: Do they stand for nationalisation? Do they stand for the nationalisation of banking, credit, insurance, monopolies, shipping and sugar refining? If they do they should tell the people of Australia now from this Parliament and at election time.
As a Queenslander I am hit hard by the knowledge that sugar refining is on the list to be nationalised should Labor come to power. Labor’s methods of implementing its platform include the following: . 6. (b) Adequate grants in aid to the Stales by the Federal Parliament with special consideration for the disabilities under Federation of the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
That apparently indicates what the ALP thinks of Queensland. Queensland is a large State with a relatively small population. If Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are listed by the Labor Party to receive adequate grants in aid, why has Queensland been excluded?
– Turn the page.
– I will not be sidetracked by honourable members opposite. The honourable member for Lalor had a good deal to say this afternoon about defence. He was highly critical of the statement made last week by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I and many people outside this Parliament think the statement on defence was an excellent one. It was full and detailed. Obviously it could not deal in a complete form with the aircraft situation. The honourable member said a lot about the Fill. He must know that the Government has decided to send the Minister for Defence to the United States in the next week or two to investigate the present situation regarding the Fill. I would like to ask honourable members opposite a fair question, just as I asked them a fair question about their nationalisation plank. Since they have so much to say about defence and since the honourable member for Lalor was so critical of the Government’s activity in this field, why is the subect of the defence of this country listed 23rd in order of importance in the Labor Party’s platform? We on this side believe that the defence of this nation - its safety and security - should have top priority. Because of this view Australia has been governed safely and securely over the last 20 years by Liberal-Country Party governments. The changes advocated by the honourable member for Lalor will do nothing to preserve this situation, but unfortunately many people in Australia are not aware of the hidden dangers to this country in Labor’s platform. I shall await with interest answers by responsible spokesmen of the Opposition to the questions I have posed.
The Government’s health proposals were criticised. My mind goes back to the late 1940s- 1948 or 1949- When Senator McKenna, who was Minister for Health in the Chifley Government, endeavoured to introduce a health scheme but failed because the government of the day got off side with everybody in the community whom it was necessary to have on side in order to implement a proper health scheme. It was left to governments of the persuasion of the present Government to devise and introduce successfully a national health scheme for the benefit of the people of Australia. This was done some years ago by the late Sir Earle Page. It is all very well for the honourable member for Lalor to criticise the Government’s health programme but I remind him that we will soon hear from the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) details of proposals now being formulated in association with the medical profession. I stress that the Government must have the medical profession on side if it is to implement a successful set of health proposals.
The honourable member for Lalor said a good deal about the economy. He said that it was distorted. He talked about inflation. Inflation is not indigenous to this country. As an economist he is well aware that Australia is prosperous and stable. We have a degree of inflation from time to time; we have a degree of inflation now. I do not deny these things, but a degree of inflation is not a crime. Plenty of countries suffer inflation to a greater or lesser degree. This is part of the price one must pay for progress. Things are changing not only in Australia but in other countries. Processes change. Methods and techniques change. Technology is changing. Advance and progress mean change. With all these changes we have an element of inflation, but I know that this Government has the matter well in hand. I trust the Government to look after the economy of this country and to keep it in a healthy state for the life of this Parliament, just as it has for the last 20 years. We ran into some trouble in 1961 through applying the brakes too hard but I remind the honourable member for Lalor, who was critical of the Government’s handling of economics and finance, that no less an authority than the ‘London Financial Times’ praised Australia for the way it handled its financial crisis. I know of no other country, although there may have been others, which received such high praise from such a well respected journal as the ‘London Financial Times’ in respect of the handling of its finances.
I see sitting at the table on the Opposition side the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who I understand is to follow me in the debate. I want to put a question to him in relation to health. I saw the honourable member for Oxley in a television interview, which he handled very effectively, but when he was asked what a Labor government would do about the nationalisation of health he replied - and I hope I quote him correctly, but this is the gist of the reply he made on the interview on Channel 9 - There is no authority to nationalise health or anything else’. There may not be any authority. I am not a constitutional lawyer nor am I a member of the High Court but I should like the honourable member to explain what he meant by that statement, particularly as this interview must have been watched by thousands of people like myself. If there is no authority for nationalisation of health or anything else, why does the Australian Labor Party still keep in its platform a nationalisation plank? I shall leave the Labor Party now, because that is all the time it deserves.
The year 1970 marks not only an important landmark in our history but also the beginning of a new decade in which all of us hope that we will continue to enjoy a period of progress, stability and advancement. During this year not only do we commemorate the bi-centenary of the discovery of eastern Australia but, perhaps more importantly, we take stock of our present position and prepare and plan for the future. As I said earlier, the defence and the security of Australia must, at all times, be paramount. It is like the biblical saying about the man who builds his house on rock: He builds a secure house. The man who builds his house on shifting sand builds a house that will not remain. We want in Australia to build a house on a firm foundation. I believe that we are doing this and I am sure that under this Government we shall1 continue to do so in the years ahead. It is vital to us that we should continue to strengthen our regional alliances, to build up our population, to develop our resources and to play an everincreasing and responsible part in our region.
I was pleased to see, and I am sure many people were pleased to see, the assurance in the Governor-General’s Speech that there would be a review of income tax rates, particularly as they apply to the middle and lower income groups. I have talked to many people in my electorate and elsewhere on this subject. As an accountant I am interested, and I feel that we are on the right track in attacking the problem of reviewing the rates of income tax, particularly as they affect the groups I have mentioned. They are undoubtedly hard hit.
– It has taken von a long time to realise that.
– If the honourable member had a little more experience he would realise that it would be better to listen and then he might learn something to his advantage. I suggest that the opportunity be taken as soon as possible to have a thorough review of the whole field of taxation, not just as it affects middle and lower income groups. Others in the accountancy profession and members of chambers of commerce would like to see a thorough review and not just a piecemeal review of the entire taxation structure. One tax that I would like to see abolished is payroll tax which is a bad tax and wrong in principle. I would like to see the Commonwealth vacate certain fields of taxation. 1 have advocated this both to the Government and in public. I would like to see the fields of gift duty and estate duty vacated by the Commonwealth just as it vacated the fields of entertainment tax and federal land tax some years ago, leaving these fields open to the State governments. The States need to be given more fields of taxation from which to draw. It is the essence of democratic government that State governments should have more responsibility than they have in relation to the raising of the moneys which they spend. I am pleased thai more moneys are being allocated to the Stales for the remainder of this financial year. 1 suggest that hy 30th June the States will be in a much better position as a result of the recent Premiers Conference. I do not suggest that everything in the garden is completely right, but we are moving in the right direction.
For a long time it has been part of the Government’s programme to develop Australia on the basis of growth with stability. Admittedly “from time to time the road gets a little bit rocky, but we are on the right track and we have kept a straight path. We are going to continue that straight path into the future, bearing in mind our responsibility for the welfare of the Australian people as a whole. I emphasise that. There is do discrimination, as the honourable member for Lalor said, on ihe part of this Government in favour of the rich against the poor. I doubt whether in the history of Australia any government has shown a greater concern than this Government for the needs of those people who are most in need of help. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) have repeatedly, at election time, in this House and in other places, shown that it is this Government’s deep concern to seek out areas of need in the community and to help them to the best of its ability. Surely there is nothing wrong with that. Unlike the Australian Labor Party this Government can claim that it has never reduced the pension. The Labor Party cannot claim such a record because on one occasion it actually reduced pensions:
Education will become more and more an important matter of government in the 1970s. Our former Governor-General. Lord Casey, said:
A better educated Australia is a stronger Australia.
Speaking in Brisbane 2 years ago Lord Casey said:
The speed of Australia’s economic advancement depends on the provision of the necessary numbers of skilled people.
I might interpolate that the migrant flow is, of course, greatly helping this situation.
– You would not-
– If the honourable member had been reading the Governor-General’s Speech instead of opening his mouth so much he would be better informed than he is. Special grants have been announced for educational research and for the construction of teacher training colleges. This is good. These are all marks of progress in the field of education. I am confident that each year we will see greater progress in all fields of education.
I wanted to speak about the very important matter of conservation but I can touch on it only briefly because I have devoted much of my time to dealing with the speech of the honourable member for Lalor. I refer particularly to the very good work that is being done by the Australian Conservation Foundation of which the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, is President. I have in my hand a newsletter issued by the Foundation of which I am a financial member, being very interested in this subject. The newsletter, dated January 1970, contains an account of a symposium on conservation in relation to the Australian coast. It reads:
The Australian coast must henceforth be viewed as a national responsibility, requiring the allocation of Commonwealth funds.
The Australian Conservation Foundation, which organised the symposium as the third in its national series, was asked to prepare a statement urging all States and the Commonwealth Government to recognise the special importance of planning the future development of the coast.
The recommendation, passed unanimously by over 100 professional experts, academics, conservationists and other members of the public, read:
This symposium recommends to the Australian Conservation Foundation that it should prepare and pass on to the Governments of all States and the Commonwealth a statement urging that the coast be viewed as a national responsibility.
If time had allowed I would have liked to quote a few very interesting and significant passages from speeches that were made during the course of the symposium. One leading authority in the field of science and conservation, Dr F. N. Ratcliffe, the
Scientific Secretary of the Australian Conservation Foundation in Canberra made some very interesting remarks indeed concerning postwar changes and the conservation problems in a developing country. A little later in the symposium some very valuable and helpful information was given on the same subject and some remarks on the general1 problem of water pollution in coastal areas were made by Senator Davidson, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee of Inquiry on Water Pollution. Senator Davidson said:
There is now a growing awareness of the problems of environmental pollution . . . throughout the world.
I am sure that Australia will not be lagging in dealing with these problems. We scarcely open a newspaper these days without reading of some aspect of the dangers and problems caused by pollution of the water and the air. These problems will1 call for the devotion of our best brains, and I am sure that during the next few years great progress will be made in dealing with this very important problem of pollution, which is affecting this country and so many other countries of the world.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). Before I proceed I feel some preliminary comments are in order. It is somewhat nattering to find that the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) devoted approximately 60% of his speaking time to the Australian Labor Party and Socialism - albeit a somewhat illinformed discussion on the subject. Indeed, his appreciation of Socialism is as profound as his knowledge of his electorate, which explains why his electors deserted him in such enormous numbers in the last general election, just as his listeners today desperately departed from this chamber when he commenced his speech. He asked me to indicate my attitude on nationalisation. There are only a few things I want to say very quickly on this subject because it will take up time I want to spend in discussing other subjects.
First of all, nationalisation for Socialists or anyone is merely a tool. There are a wide range of tools available to achieve the sort of society which we aim at achieving - an equalitarian society based upon the assumption that people have equal rights and that these equal rights ought to be available to all people from birth. This is a philosophical value and quite distinct from the situation that exists in our community today. One has only to look at the lack of opportunity in education because of socio-economic disadvantages. I cite this as merely one symptom of what 1 mean in order to uphold the view I put forward. But 1 mention to the honourable member for Ryan that nationalisation is only a tool1. I am not greatly attracted to the tool because it is a somewhat cumbersome tool. I am much more attracted to the system of public enterprise competing against private enterprise. If public enterprise succeeds under that system it establishes its own justification and establishes a case foi Socialism based on evolutionary progress.
I am encouraged in this view that we ought to develop competing public enterprise by the efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), because after all no Socialist can quibble with his proposition for a Finance Development Corporation. I, as a Socialist, am greatly thrilled at his Socialist proposition to set up a film development corporation. These are the sorts of things that we Socialists are concerned about and which we want to project into the community. If it has the imprimatur of a conservative party, so much the better. The case for Socialism is making great progress indeed. Before I leave this point on nationalisation, may I point out to the honourable member for Ryan that it is quite wrong to become fanatically disconcerted, as he tends to do, at the mention of the subject of nationalisation as though it were some sort of left wing plot. In fact, right wing administrations have often found it desirable to use nationalisation. The nationalisation of the coal mining industry in Great Britain was recommended, from memory, in about 1938 by a Conservative Government. It would have been proceeded with if the Second World War had not intervened. I leave the honourable member for Ryan with those thoughts and with some new ideas. Although they are old ideas in the books of politics, they are apparently foreign to him.
I want to support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Lalor. It is distressing to see the situation which has developed in the parliamentary procedures of this country whereby Ministers work so assiduously to avoid informing the Australian public, as it is their elected responsibility to do, on what developments have taken place in the administration of important national matters such as health, the economy - which is most important of all - primary industry, defence and the other subjects which the honourable member for Lalor mentioned when speaking to the amendment which is before the House.
This is not a new trend. There is nothing novel about it. For example, in the last Parliament the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) with great devotion avoided every effort by the Opposition to bring him. into the Parliament to discuss health policy as.it is administered by the Federal Government. In fact, in the last session of the last Parliament his total speaking time in debating periods was about 15 or 16 minutes. This surely must be a record low contribution from a Minister whose portfolio was a central issue in the election. One wonders how recreant the Government must be in its implicit assumptions when even now, after the election, it fails to discuss in this House .and to outline to the people what its objectives are and what its progress has been in handling the development of health policies. After all, 54% of the Australian public according to a fairly recent gallup poll supported the Labor Party’s policy on health insurance. This ought to be a sobering thought for the Minister.
In any event, the proposal involved in this amendment flushed him out briefly today at question time. He made sortie sort of wan explanation that there has never been any disagreement between him and the Australian Medical Association on the way in which reimbursements would be made to contributors. At least, this seems to be the total of what he was trying to explain. Yet this has been the major concern in the national Press. Just how will the Government mobilise ils health policy under the new proposals? How will it put into effect its common fee concept? We have not had any explanation of how it is to be done. We are assured by the Minister for Health that the AMA is sewn up and that the medical profession is in his pocket. But is it? Dr Peter Arnold of the General Petitioners Association writing in the ‘Daily
Telegraph’ of 16th March this year pointed out that there are 900 members in his association out of the 6,000 general practitioners in Australia. That is, about 15% of the general practitioners in Australia are in the General Practitioners Association.
These people have stated categorically that they will not support the Government’s proposal on common fees with its differential arrangement in relation to specialist treatment and general practitioner treatment. It seems rather odd for the Minister for Health to come into the House and blandly assure us that there are no problems with the Government’s proposed health scheme. He did not assure the House that the scheme was about to be implemented. That is the specific factor that we want to discuss in the House. He brought into the House a few weeks ago a statement on his proposed health policies in which he made certain assertions. He has been forced to hesitate before proceeding any further because clearly neither had these assertions been thought through fully nor had they been negotiated fully with the professional organisations which will be involved as a result of the changes.
I have some queries that I would like to direct to the Minister for Health if I had the opportunity. He is evasive. He retired to his lair to sulk after the mauling he received from the Nimmo Committee report, and we find it extremely difficult to flush him out. I would like to ask him some questions about the common fee. How was the common fee struck? I have in my hand an extract from the supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia’ of 7th February 1970 dealing with submissions made by the AMA to the Government on the most common fee. We have rather surprising anomalies.
For example, under the heading of Midwifery* we find that a confinement, including anti natal and post natal care costs SI 00 in New South Wales for the services of a specialist whereas in Tasmania the cost of this service is only $50. A caesarean section and post natal care service in New South Wales costs $120 whereas the cost in Tasmania is only $70. Again, this service is performed by a specialist. We want to knew: are these the common fees? How have they been upheld?
A specialist service for a varicose vein excision, long saphenous costs $80 in New South Wales and $55 in Tasmania. A nasal septoplasty or submucous resection treatment in Victoria costs $90 while the same treatment in Tasmania costs $60. A nephrolithotomy operation costs $175 in New South Wales and Victoria and $100 in Tasmania. Again, a prostatectomy, suprapubic, operation costs $200 in New South Wales and $150 in Tasmania. A similar type of service of an endoscopic nature costs $180 in New South Wales and $80 in Tasmania. I would point out to the House that I am selecting these items at random. An operation for lens extraction (cataract) in New South Wales costs $220 while the charge in Tasmania is $150.
How is this common fee developed? How will it be applied in Australia? Was there in fact any responsible assessment by the Government pf what the true common fee is as it operates in the community at the present time or was this a stab in the dark estimate by the Australian Medical Association. I am not suggesting that it was. But I would like to know because the disparity is so glaring. A tremendously greater degree of cost is imposed on people in States like New South Wales and Victoria than is the case in Tasmania. My own belief is that the AMA and the people of Australia would have been far happier if an independent body had been set up to inquire into and establish what the common fees were or are in this community.
Again, in spite of all the claims of the Minister for Health, the hard fact is that a patient receiving treatment in a doctor’s surgery will be still required to pay 23% of the cost of that treatment and a patient will be still required to pay 24% of the cost of a home visit by a doctor. It is quite apparent that the Minister for Health has been far from candid with this House and with the Australian community in discussing this matter.
I refer again to the statement of the General Practitioners Association. If 15% of general practitioners are to refuse to co-operate with this scheme, that 15%, especially if it was concentrated in one or two areas of large population, could destroy completely the operation of this scheme.
What does the Minister propose in this sort of situation? Does he propose to apply recommendation 15 of the report of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, commonly known as the Nimmo Committee Report, which reads:
That doctors who wish their fees to be eligible for medical benefits should agree to participate in the scheme; that, as a condition of this agreement, they follow a practice of informing their insured patients at the time of a first consultation of the amount of their own fees for any further medical treatment recommended and the amount of the established common fees; that medical expenses incurred to doctors who elect not to participate in the scheme be not eligible for medical benefits.
This was what the Government was proposing to do. The Australian public is entitled to know whether this is what the Government will do. The Australian public is entitled to know whether, if 15% of doctors refuse to join in this scheme, as apparently 15% of doctors are proposing to do, a patient who goes to such a doctor will be covered under the proposed amendments by the Government. There is no suggestion, not even a murmur, from the Minister for Health as to how he proposes to handle this point.
I would like the opportunity to question the Minister on why there was such a failure to cost accurately the proposed amendments. At election time, the only definite amount stated by the Prime Minister was $16m_. This, we were assured, was the total amount involved in the proposed changes. Since then, we have discovered that a further $ 13.5m will be borne by the Australian tax paying public. To this we must add $24m which contributors will be required to pay. In addition, Slim will be required for the subsidy scheme for low income earners. That makes a total of $64.5m. This is $40m more than was the initial proposition for the total alterations by way of changes to medical benefits refunds and subsidies for low income earners. What suddenly generated this hidden increase of $40m? This is a lot of money. It is a tremendous amount of money. It is 40 times more than what the Government is prepared to provide to fund the Australian Film Development Corporation.
It is a large amount of money, lt is approximately enough money to meet the cost of 160 secondary schools. I repeat: it is a lot of money. Why was there such a serious error in the calculations by the Government at election time? Did the Government in fact intend to deceive the Australian people? Is this the end of the spiralling cost of health insurance in the community? Of course it is not. Already it is anticipated, according to the statement presented to the House by the Minister for Health, that further changes to hospital insurance will occur. Given these changes, further increase will be needed to be borne by Australian contributors to the insurance funds and by Australian taxpayers.
On this score of increased costs, let me mention one of the factors which is not mentioned much. A contributor in New South Wales on the cheapest scale for hospital treatment - and that is in the public ward section - will be required to pay $1.45 per week if he wishes health insurance to cover him. The contribution that he will be required to pay if he wishes to have medical insurance to cover private ward treatment will be $1.95 per week. That is nearly §2 a week. This is a substantial amount of money to surrender to prop up this gravely inefficient and extravagantly expensive scheme which the Government is trying to preserve.
Other recommendations, which were involved in the report of the Nimmo Committee have been passed over quickly by the Government. I refer first to recommendation 5 which provides:
The Minister for Health says that this will be a matter for protracted discussion. Recommendation 8 reads:
That the Commonwealth and State Governments work toward the integration of outpatients services into the health insurance scheme.
That is a reasonable enough proposition and one which should not involve too much trouble, because, after all, State authorities running public hospitals would be quite enthusiastic about this alteration. But no recommendation is made by the Minister nor does he propose any positive action.
That the Commonwealth agree to pay the full Commonwealth hospital benefit (at present $2 a day)-
Instead of 80c per day - . . to hospitals in respect of all public ward patients in Queensland as long as Queensland’s present policy of free public ward treatment without a means test is continued.
This has cost the State of Queensland $1.5m already for the year 1966. The Minister for Health cannot suggest seriously to this House and to the public that there would be any delay on the part of the Queensland Government in negotiating on this recommendation. In fact, when the report of the Nimmo Committee was released originally, the Queensland Minister for Health was wildly enthusiastic. He said that this was a great chance and that it would mean an extra few million dollars a year towards the cost of supporting the public non-paying hospitals in Queensland. So. the only delay is caused by the reluctance by the Federal Government to act on this proposition.
Recommendation 17 is a fairly significant recommendation in relation to the problems of the moment. Recommendation 1 7 reads:
That there be adopted a policy for the gradual elimination of the honorary and concessional services rendered by the medical profession.
At the present time, one of the complaints is that most of the increases in charges for medical services are going to specialists. On the other hand, one ought to be fair to specialists. Under the system of honorary and concessional services imposed on them, specialists provide their services at public hospitals either free as honoraries or at a concessional rate. They are surrendering their professional time. They ape receiving no return for this work. We must recognise that there is a limit to what a man can do in a day. If he is losing income in one section of his working period, he must make it up in another section. This means that the specialist, to make up for his honorary or concessional services, charges a higher rate for his services to the paying public. The present system of public ward treatment based on honorary and concessional services is fashioned on a Robin Hood concept - taking from the rich to subsidise the poor. This practice operates inequitably in many cases. The variations in the fees charged for the better-off clients are not equitably distributed according to their income levels. Quite clearly, what the Government should do is uphold recommendations 5 and 17 at least of the report of the Nimmo Committee and so provide means test free public ward treatment to eliminate this obnoxious practice of using honoraries and concessional services through specialists in our hospitals.
The next subject that I want to discuss is that of reserves in hospital funds. In 1967, according to evidence submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, these reserves amounted to the enormous total of $55.4m. Significantly, this figure was $10m lower than the figure quoted by the Minister in reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, but according to the wildly variable calculations of the Government $10m out is neither here nor there. In any event, this amount of money in reserves was enough to provide 78% of the contributors to hospital insurance funds - that is, better than 4 in 5 - with a full year’s average claim for daily fund benefits.’ The existence of this enormous amount of money has never been justified by the Minister. This enormous amount of money held in reserve in the hospital funds is enough in fact to provide 4 contributors out of 5 with a full year’s average claim for daily fund benefits. If we calculate it in another way, it was the equivalent - I am using figures from the submission by the Department of Health to the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs - of 8.31 million bed days in 1966 and in 1966 the total number of bed days used was 14.6 million.
We are used to having the Government and the Minister for Health trying to justify the rather feeble argument that the enormous amount of money is held in hospital reserves on the basis that one day we might be afflicted by some sort of huge epidemic, but on the basis of these figures clearly the resources available in this country would be incapable of absorbing that sort of money in any event. We would be in a situation of national disaster and all sorts of resources would have to be mobilised. Talking about reserves for such an eventuality is absolute rubbish. Let me put it in another way. In 1966 there were 6.3 approved hospital beds, that is, public and private, per 1,000 of population in Australia - a total of 7,600 beds available. Yet we had salted away in reserves at the contributors’ expense- dead money - the money equivalent of 8.31 million bed days. It is absolutely ridiculous and the Australian public deserves some justification from the Government for the way in which they have been fleeced through the practices which have operated in conjunction with this system of hospital insurance. There were 110 claims for each bed available in 1966 in private and public hospitals. Unless the Minister was proposing to put in double beds and stack the people into them in tiers I do not know how he ever expected that we could use up such an enormous quantity of reserves.
I would like to know from the Minister what contingency plans he has in hand to prop up his scheme of health insurance in the event of a significant number of withdrawals. Let me impress upon honourable members that what the Government is proposing to do is increase the costliness of contributions by between 10c and 15c a week depending on the States, but in fact this is the lowest rate of increase. If one is already on a lower rate of contribution to a medical fund the total increase might be as high as 40c a week. I have already had a number of letters from people who have said: ‘I have just discovered I am paying less than the maximum scale for medical benefits and its suits me to do this. I am certainly not going to pay the full scale and I will be withdrawing.’ The Nimmo Committee report stressed this point. It stated
Health insurance contributions are already as high as most people are prepared to pay.
This is the finding of the Nimmo Committee and yet the Government proceeds along blandly and does the very thing which it is cautioned not to do - it increases the costliness of the scheme. If there is a significant number of withdrawals of contributors from the scheme then quite clearly the scheme will have further funding problems.
Let me bark back to the problem of reserves. The Government is now talking in terms of reducing the reserves to a total of 3 months’ contributions and to effect this reduction the funds will reduce the contribution by members. But this, it appears to me, would induce people to leave funds which do not reduce contributions and to join other funds. The Government is going to create for those funds which are unable to reduce their rate of contribution a sort of problem that the Government argues it is trying to avoid, that is, the destruction of some funds. Of course, the central recommendation of the Nimmo Committee was that there be regionalisation of operation of the various funds and that competition between the funds in the same area was inimical to the success of the funds.
I have mentioned to the House the cost of contributions. In New South Wales it will increase from $1.45 to $1.95 or nearly $2 a week. Under the Government’s scheme the cost per year at the cheapest rates - this is for public ward treatment - will be $75.40 a year. A man on $3,000 a year supporting a wife and 2 children will save $1 6.84 after paying tax, leaving $59 that he has to pay. Under the scheme which is proposed by the Labor Party based on a 1¼% levy on taxable income he will pay only $29.05 a year, that is $30 per year less than the Government is proposing he should pay under its scheme. Now, which scheme is more equitable? Which scheme is based on justice and on social need? We are proposing that those people on $3,000 a year will pay $30 a year less than they would pay under the Government scheme. Of course, it would be even less than that if the group’s income was lower than that and 75% of income earners earn $3,000 a year or less. Quite clearly our scheme will provide lower costs for 4 out of 5 people for comprehensive health services. This alone upholds the argument of the Labor Party that our scheme is based on need and is costed according to one’s ability to pay. These are arguments that we want to debate with the Minister for Health and we regret his reluctance to appear in this House to do so.
Debate (on motion by Mr England) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the legislative power necessary to deal with vessels and their cargoes in cases where there is pollution or threat of pollution to the Australian coast or costal water by oil. During the last 2 weeks, on several occasions I have referred in the House lo the tanker ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ which struck a submerged object in the eastern end of Torres Strait on 3rd March 1970. The vessel was extensively damaged and in the initial stages a considerable quantity of oil was lost. Under the influence of the north westerly monsoon this oil moved out to sea and apparently has dispersed through the action of wind and waves. Further minor oil spills have occurred since, particularly during the transfer of oil from the tanker. These have been treated in the vicinity of the ship with detergents which have been flown into the area by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft at the request of my Department, or by commercial means.
The tanker ‘Leslie J. Thompson’ was in the immediate area and in ballast, but the transfer of oil from the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ did not commence for several days. Eventually the ‘Leslie J. Thompson’ obtained a full cargo from the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ and sailed for Brisbane on 11th March. Since then there has been a period of some 7 days during which time no transfer operations have taken place, lt does not appear that another relief tanker will be in the area for several days. As a result the Oceanic Grandeur’ still has 30,000 tons of oil on board and unless early action is taken to provide further tankers to take oil from the vessel it may remain in the area as a potential danger to the islands of the great Barried Reef and the fishing and pearl beds in the area for some time. ‘
This incident has highlighted the fact that under existing legislation the Commonwealth lacks the necessary power which would enable it to deal effectively with such an incident. It has demonstrated the need to provide the Minister with powers to take urgent and effective action to ensure there is no delay in the removal of a potential hazard. It has also indicated that the Commonwealth lacks any authority to recover under its own right costs which it has in curred in taking action to prevent the discharge of oil or mitigate the effects of a spillage.
The Bill, which honourable members have before them, or will shortly have before them, provides the Minister for Shipping and Transport with the necessary legislative power to do these things. It allows the Minister to direct a shipowner or other interests to take specific action, such as charter a ship or remove his vessel, and provides a penalty where a direction is not complied with. It permits the Minister to take action in the event that a direction to a shipowner or other interest is not complied with and to recover the cost of such action. The risk of permitting the vessel ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ to remain in the area of the Barrier Reef without real endeavours being made to have her discharged as quickly as possible will be immediately apparent to honourable members. Accordingly, I would wish the present Bill to be passed expeditiously so that its provisions may be applied in the case of this vessel if necessary. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
– ls leave granted for the second reading debate to continue forthwith?
– Leave is granted.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Bill that has just been introduced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair). However, honourable members have not yet received a copy of the Bill and I, as spokesman for the Opposition, have received only a patched up copy indicating the Government’s intentions. Opposition members would appreciate an assurance from the Minister that within 6 months the measure will be reintroduced so that we may seek to amend it if we consider that that is necessary. We have not had an opportunity to study the Bill. It came into my possession only at 12.50 p.m. today. We would appreciate some assurance from the Minister that a further opportunity will be afforded to honourable members to study it and if need be to move amendments. We accept that there is a potential crisis and that a lot of damage could be caused to pearl beds and marine life if action were not taken now. However, before proceeding 1 would appreciate some assurance from the Minister.
– I would be prepared to guarantee to the honourable members that time will be afforded to him to introduce a private member’s motion, which would enable him to propose any amendments he may wish to make to the Bill. I would think that procedurally that would be the easiest way to return the Bill to the House.
– Would we have an opportunity to debate and vote on it?
– Yes - to debate and vote on whatever the motion is.
– Would that be within 6 months?
– Six months, yes.
– Having received that assurance, we On this side of the House will not oppose the measure. However, before proceeding to a vote, I should like to bring several matters to the attention of honourable members. The first is the laxity on the part of the Government in not introducing a Bill to tighten up the Navigation Act in sufficient time for honourable members to give full consideration to it. An amendment such as this should not be introduced in this hurried fashion. Nearly all shipping in Australian waters is engaged in trade and commerce with other countries and amongst the States and therefore can be made subject to Commonwealth laws. However, the Commonwealth has been most dilatory and diffident in enacting such laws. There is little doubt that, both under the trade and commerce powers and the external affairs powers in the Constitution, it could have implemented the international Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil in 1954. The Menzies Government took the attitude that complementary State legislation was required. The Commonwealth did not pass an Act until 1960. The States, with South Australia bringing up the rear, took 2 more years to pass their Acts. Accordingly Australia did not gain the benefits of the Convention until 29th November 1962. On 1 1th April of that year amendments to the 1954 Convention were adopted by a conference of contracting governments. The Government still took the view that complementary State legislation was required. The Government passed the amending Act in 1965, Western Australia in 1964 and Queensland in 1967, and the other States have still to act. So honourable members can see that after 8 years Australia has been denied the benefits of the Convention of 1954.
The Government has been given any number of warnings by the accidents that have occurred overseas. For instance, in the last 10 years oil1 tankers have been involved in more than 500 accidents throughout the world. That is an average of 50 accidents to tankers each year. Most of the accidents have occurred when the tankers have been either entering or leaving port. These warnings have been apparent to the Government. It had the example of the ‘Torrey Canyon’, a 120,000 ton tanker that went aground in similar circumstances to the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’. When the ‘Torrey Canyon’ went aground, about 100,000 tons of oil were discharged on to the sea. The British and the French governments were involved in considerable litigation when they tried to obtain compensation or part compensation for the damage that resulted from that accident. They tried to mitigate the damage by bombing the tanker and setting alight the oil that was discharged on to the sea. However, all their efforts were of no great avail. It was subsequently proven that the detergents used on that occasion caused more damage to marine life than the oil would have caused if it had continued to discharge on to the sea.
As a result of that accident on the British coast, the British Parliament set up a parliamentary select committee to investigate the problem. The select committee made certain recommendations. Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, presided over a committee of scientists in the United Kingdom, and made some strong recommendations. The major projects recommended by this committee have been listed, but it is obvious that the Australian Government has not taken much notice of them. The committee recommended further research into means for speedy transfer of the cargo from a stranded tanker; methods of firing oil in stranded tankers and on the sea surface; effects of natural factors on the movement, dispersal and destruction of oil at sea; oil sinking, scavenging and gelling agents; more effective but less toxic detergents; detergent spraying and other cleansing equipment; mechanical methods of removing oil both from the sea surface and from beaches; cheap and effective booms, primarily for protecting harbours and inlets; and the effects of pollution on marine life, sea birds and coastal vegetation, and ways of minimising them.
What has the Department of Shipping and Transport done to implement some of the recommendations of this committee? Admittedly the recommendations were not made to the present Minister for Shipping and Transport or his predecessor, but they were made public. They were available to governments throughout the world. The Australian Government should have realised that something had to be done and done very speedily to try to meet the situation that had developed. I repeat for the benefit of honourable members that in the last 10 years tankers have been involved in more than 500 accidents. Surely this should have been sufficient to prod the Government into some activity. lt is also interesting to find in the report of the committee in the United Kingdom reference to the effects of natural factors on the movement, dispersal and destruction of oil at sea. This is very much apparent when we take into consideration the accident in June 1948 to the tanker ‘World Glory’. This tanker foundered in a heavy gale off the South African coast about 45 miles north east of Durban and some 45,000 tons of oil were discharged into the sea. A south west wind was blowing at the time and the only conclusion that one could reach was that the oil would drift away from the South African coast and create no problem. But notwithstanding that there was an offshore wind blowing the oil did not drift away from the South African coast. It was found, within a very short time, that the oil slick, covering 50-odd miles, had moved in the direction of the coast and was only 15 miles from the coast. This is an incident for which no explanation has yet been given. It is not known why, with the prevailing wind blowing off the coast, the oil should move against the wind. The committee chaired by Sir Solly Zuckerman recommended that this should be one of the things examined. In the case of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ the monsoonal wind was blowing the oil away from the ship and away from the Australian coast. The circumstances were the reverse of those in the South African case some 22 years ago when the oil slick backed up against the wind.
As the Minister for Shipping and Transport has said, Australia has been fortunate in the case of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ in that there has not been a large loss of marine life in the Torres Strait area and that there has not been considerable damage to the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent islands. 1 bring these few points to the attention of honourable members and the Minister because his Department has been seriously lacking in initiative previously in not doing something about this matter. We know of so many cases that have occurred in recent years that the Department should have taken some positive steps. The Government now is trying to do something about this situation. It should have realised right from the time that the ship was damaged on 3rd March that action was imperative. It took 8 days for the ‘Leslie J. Thompson’ to obtain permission to offload some of the cargo. It is obvious that the Chinese owner of the Oceanic Grandeur’ is not the least bit interested. It is all right for the Government to say that the owner of the vessel lives in Tokyo and has been hard to contact. The Department may have been trying to contact the owner but obviously he. did not want to be contacted. 1 put the question to honourable members that if they had an asset worth $1 4m, a ship that had been holed and was resting on the bottom of the sea, a ship with a cargo of oil worth something like $800,000, would they not be interested? Would they not want to know what was going to happen to that asset, the ship, and its cargo? Of course, they would want to know. But in the case of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ the owner was not concerned. He had certain salvage rights and the question of insurance and many other things were involved. It is obvious thai the owner did not give a damn about what happened to the marine life off the coast of Australia. All that he and his company were interested in - and I understand he is the sole owner of the company - was the asset. He was not worrying about the damage caused to the Australian coast.
The same thing happened iri the case of the ‘Torrey Canyon”. The British and French governments endeavoured to obtain compensation and were unable to do so. They had to take over one of the sister ships of that company when it sailed into Singapore. They had to take out a writ over that ship before they could get a settlement. If they had not done so they could have whistled for any compensation so far as the company was concerned. This is typical of the attitude of the people who own and operate tankers in the world today, and oil represents the major commodity now carried on the seas.
This Government has been sadly lacking in its responsibilities in not having brought to this Parliament legislation to enable it to cope with events of this kind. Australia for too long has been adopting the attitude that this sort of thing - eventualities such as tankers being holed, as has happened in other places - could never happen here. Therefore I feel, as I have said so many times this afternoon, that the Government has been remiss in its responsibilities for not taking action earlier.
Referring now to the penalties set out in this legislation, there is to be a penalty of $2,000 a day which may be imposed on an owner who fails to carry out the directions of the Minister. Have we any assurance that the courts will impose such a fine? There was a case recently in the port of Newcastle in which a tanker accidently discharged about 700 gallons of highly inflammable petrol. The magistrate who heard the case said it was obvious that the company operating the tanker had been careless. It was obvious also that severe damage could have been caused as a result of the petrol being released into the water. Yet what sort of fine did the magistrate impose? He fined the company $200 whereas the Act provided for a maximum fine of $2,000. Therefore whilst the Government may write into the legislation a penalty of $2,000 per day for every day that the owners fail to comply with the Minister’s requirement, the fact is that the matter is still in the hands of the courts. If a magistrate imposes a paltry fine of $100 or S200 a day, such as in the example I have cited, I do not think it will be sufficient when we are dealing with assets worth $14m. Tankers are not going to get smaller. They will get larger and accordingly the cargo they carry will’ be worth more and there will be more of it. Therefore I think the Minister should give this matter further serious consideration notwithstanding this proposed fine of $2,000 for each day that the owner continues to breach the law. This fine is totally inadequate. Some of the owners of tankers would laugh at a fine of $2,000 a day.
I have indicated the intention of the Opposition to be brief in this debate but there are several other honourable members on this side of the House who would like to say something about it. The Minister was going to make a statement last week about this matter. However, because of the conditions laid down by the Opposition - namely, that we required 2 hours notice of a statement to be made by a Minister - he did not do so. There are some interesting facts about this case which clearly indicate that somebody was taking a risk in operating this tanker. I do not think the Minister would object if I quoted figures relating to the case because they are readily available. He referred to them in reply to a question about this matter and I will not be breaching any confidence if I use them. It has been disclosed that on the day on which the ship was operating in this channel the water depth was supposed to be 37 feet, yet subsequently it was found to be only 34 feet. The tanker at that stage would have been drawing in the vicinity of 38 feet or 39 feet. Therefore the operators were trying to take a tanker drawing about 38 feet or 39 feet of water through a channel which, according to the charts, was only 37 feet deep. From what I can make of the information available at the time of the incident the tide was pretty close to low water mark. Therefore the pilots were trying to take this tanker through a channel which was of insufficient depth.
Another point to be made is that it is time the Government examined the question of allowing tankers, particularly oil tankers, to use the waters between the Great Barrier Reef and the coast of Queensland, having in mind the possibility of the ship being holed and the Reef being severely damaged as a result of the spillage of oil into the sea. The Minister should be closely examining this matter. There should be a prohibition against such ships using these waters. In the interests of the Reef, ships should be forced to take the long way round. If ships are to be permitted to use these waters then the obvious thing to do is to allow the oil companies to drill in them. The prospect of damage by drilling is equal to that of damage from ships being holed.
We must consider also that tankers today clean their tanks in these waters. It is a well known fact that they do this at sea. Instead of collecting the oil and disposing of it in the approved manner they pump it over the side. It is estimated that approximately 2 million tons of oil a year is being discharged into the sea by ships, with no attempt whatever to prevent pollution. And yet, tankers can use the waters between the Barrier Reef and the coast, clean their tanks and pump the water back over the side which can cause damage to the Reef. These are some of the things that we have to look at. As I said earlier, while we realise there is a problem as far as the Oceanic Grandeur’ is concerned, we do not oppose the Bill. We will give the Bill a speedy passage so that the measures that are necessary in this legislation can be put into effect as quickly as possible.
– I would like to say a few words on this subject. I support the remarks made by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). It would seem that there has been a glaring gap in Australian law with respect to an emergency such as has arisen and for that reason the Opposition supports the Government in putting this Bill through all stages as quickly as possible. However the Opposition cannot help but wonder at the delay that has occurred from 3rd March, when the accident took place, to the present. We wonder what would have happened if the tanker had had an accident in the Whitsunday Passage - a passage which is used extensively by heavy shipping - or near the Great Barrier Reef. Would we have waited all this time before taking action?
I would have thought that under the defence power in the Constitution the
Government would have some right to act with respect to an emergency such as this. It is not just a question of pollution; it is a question of causing danger to installations and shipping lanes, let alone the biological dangers to the Reef itself. As the honourable member for Newcastle said, serious thought has to be given to banning at all time the passage of tankers, which are getting bigger and bigger, through the Barrier Reef channels, particularly as a lot of these channels are still uncharted and, as is well known, the bottom of the sea bed moves to some degree with the coral growth. After a cyclone in an area it is always noticeable that the sea bed of. many places are affected, particularly those around islands and the submerged reefs.
I support the honourable member for Newcastle and ask that the Government treat this matter as serious and that every consideration be given to bringing forward every possible piece of legislation which will allow the government of the day to act, and act fast, in the interests of Australia. If this ship had been caught, for example in a cyclone in the Whitsunday Passage or a passage in the Barrier Reef, what would have happened? If this legislation is the answer, T would have hoped that it would have been introduced before this. I would hope that the Government would act first and worry about legislation later, if there had been an emergency in the Burrier Reef itself.
– in reply - Two matters have been raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) to which 1 perhaps might allude. The question was asked as to why the legislation was not introduced earlier. I think honourable members will be aware that last year at Brussels there was an international legal convention on marine pollution damage. At that convention two new conventions were adopted, one which would give countries the right to take such measures on the high seas as might be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to a country’s coastlines, because of pollution or threat of pollution of the sea by oil following a maritime casualty. The other is proposed to give to private persons the right to adequate compensation in respect of oil pollution damage occurring in such circumstances.
These conventions, unfortunately, are not yet at the point of being signed or ratified. Consequently the extensions which we would ultimately seek to introduce in the terms of these conventions and the control of pollution are at this point beyond the constitutional power of the Commonwealth.
What we have done in this legislation is to insert a clause to ensure that this measure is supplemental to those control measures which are at this stage enforced by the several States of the Commonwealth. This will mean that, instead of acting in any way instead of the State legislation, this Bill will supplement the powers that are held by the several States and consequently will enable, in respect of all those areas that are within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, action to be taken against ships where there is either pollution or threat of pollution. I think that insofar as this new convention has been promulgated, when it is in a position where it can be ratified by the Commonwealth of Australia and necessary legislation is passed through this House, then based on the external affairs power the constitutional capacity of the Commonwealth to cover noxious cargoes from vessels which at this stage cannot be included by this legislation will be substantially increased. I think, from the statements by the two previous speakers, this is the objective towards which they would also be working.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would like some clarification and assurance from the Minister in regard to the $2,000 fine which may be imposed when the master or the company responsible for a ship fails to carry out a direction. I am referring to proposed section 329g (1.). Could the Minister give some indication as to why an amount of $2,000 was imposed? Does he consider the fine adequate, having in mind that we are dealing with vessels that can be worth anything from $5m or $6m to $50m or $60m? Could the Minister say whether this maximum fine is adequate?
– Obviously it would be difficult to prescribe an adequate figure relevant to the value of the ship. It is for that reason that, rather than rely only upon the penalty and the quantum of the penalty, we have sought to do two things. Firstly, we have sought to act by way of notice. In the event of a future maritime casualty it would be my belief that a notice should be immediately issued. That would immediately give powers of direction to the Minister for the time being. Those powers of direction provide to the Minister not only the right of direction but on failure to implement that direction he himself can take steps to minimise the effect of possible pollution and to recover the cost of such action from the master or the ship owner. In order to secure the return and payment of such charges there is provision under proposed section 329h to ensure that a charge can be placed on the ship so that any expenses or other liabilities incurred by the Minister can be reclaimed from the ship. By virtue of the exercise of that charge, I think the quantum of the $2,000 a day can be seen in its proper perspective. The essential thing is that rather than think in terms of the penalty we should think of both the necessary action to minimise pollution and the implementation of the steps that may be necessary to ensure that no pollution is caused. Our objective in this legislation is to ensure that, failing steps being taken by the master and shipowner concerned, steps can and will be taken by the Government to ensure that the necessary minimising of pollution is achieved and that the costs of doing so can be recovered against the shipowner. In that context the amount of $2,000 - particularly as it is $2,000 a day for subsequent days on which oil escapes and the notice has not been complied with - can be seen in proper perspective and does not appear inadequate.
– Whilst I accept the assurance of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) that the objective of the Bill is to prevent pollution and assist in preventing the continued discharge of oil, whether it be cargo, or fuel, I think the Minister should take into consideration that in the Navigation Act there is provision for a sliding scale of penalties for the overloading crf ships. If a ship is overloaded the sliding scale takes the amount of overloading into consideration. I am wondering whether a similar type of penalty could be imposed here, if a 5,000-ton ship goes aground and is holed, obviously the amount of oil that can be spilled into the sea is much less than it is from a 100,000-ton ship which is damaged. What concerns me is the lack of cooperation by the master and the owner of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’. There was a serious lack of co-operation by the master, acting in the interests of the owner, as the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech and in other places. It took some days before the master was prepared to offload any of his cargo into the ‘Leslie J. Thompson’, which was lying alongside.
We have the same situation at the moment. The master of the ship will not permit the removal of the cargo. About 30,000 tons of oil is still in the ship and the master is sitting pat, obviously under the directions of the owner of the ship. I think that the larger the ship, the larger should be the penalty. I am not pushing the point at this stage by way of amendment but I think that while the Bill is between this House and another place, the Minister should give serious thought to the matter and examine the possibility of an amendment in order to introduce some form of sliding scale, of penalties. I know that the Bill has been introduced hurriedly and that the Government is trying to get out of a jam. The Opposition is trying to cooperate. We do not want to delay the Bill unnecessarily but I think that the possibility of a sliding scale to provide for a larger penalty for a larger ship or load should be looked at.
– I am prepared to look at the matter raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). However, I think he needs to consider firstly that a maximum fine is provided for, and that the actual amount to be imposed in any particular instance would be determined by the courts.
Secondly, this legislation is supplemental to State legislation. I know that in some circumstances very substantial fines are levied for pollution. It could well be that, taken in conjunction, the fine is far greater than appears in the Bill. I have taken on board the suggestion made by the honourable member although at this stage I think that the teeth of the Bill lie not in the penalty but in the right to ensure both that the pollution will be minimised and that the cost of minimising the pollution can be recovered from the shipowner. To my mind it is in that provision rather than in the penalty that the teeth of the Bill are to be found.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 549).
– The debate before the House arises out of the Speech delivered by the Governor-General at the outset of the Parliament in which the Government stated to a joint meeting of both Houses, through the Governor-General, what the programme before the session and beyond the session - indeed running through the life of the Parliament - would be. In accordance with the practice of the House a Committee was appointed to bring up an Address-in-Reply motion. That motion was handled very well by the mover and the seconder. Its terms were to express loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and to thank her, through the Governor-General, for delivering that Speech. That is the motion that has been before the Chair and has been debated over a period of more than 2 weeks.
Today when the debate was resumed the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) gave notice that he would move an amendment. He duly moved that amendment, and it was seconded. The words of the amendment were:
But this House is of the opinion that the Government should be censured because despite the long break since the last effective sitting of the
House Ministers have refused to report to the Parliament on the negotiations concerning Commonwealth and State finances, the national health scheme, the problems of productive marketing and reconstruction of primary industries, the state of the economy, the development of New Guinea and the failure of the Fill.
The operative words which apply to ali the individual matters are ‘have refused to report’. The entire amendment, which uses the word ‘censure’ and hopes to imply censure simply by the use of the word, is that the Government has refused to report. A censure motion does not become a censure motion simply because the word ‘censure’ is used.
Standing order 110 states that:
A motion of which notice has been given or an amendment which expresses a censure of or want of confidence in the Government and is accepted by a Minister as a censure or want of confidence motion or amendment shall, until it is disposed of by the House, take precedence of all other business.
The operative words are: ‘and is accepted by a Minister’, lt is to be said here and now that the Government does not accept this amendment as a censure. It would be ridiculous to accept it as such. It will be regarded purely as a proposed amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and will be treated as such.
Speaking to the amendment which has been moved, I shall deal with the matters which are raised. I again draw the attention of the House to the operative words - ‘Ministers have refused to report’. The first matter about which Ministers are said to have refused to report is described as negotiations concerning Commonwealth and State finances. Let us examine this matter to see whether there has been a report on this subject. The Governor-General’s Speech, which was heard by all honourable members in the Senate chamber and which is available in printed form for their perusal, dealt quite succinctly and broadly with the subject of Commonwealth and State financial relations. Following the delivery of the Governor-General’s Speech there was a meeting in public in Canberra, in this very place, of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Premiers and their advisers. The meeting was held around the table at which I now stand and was open to the public. The proceedings were reported by the Press. It is true that a transcript of the proceedings will not be available until later, but the point I make is that at this time there is nothing to report other than what has been reported. Further discussions are to take place. Further consideration is to be given by the Government. The time for reporting will be geared to the availability of appropriate matters to report.
I remind the House that questions have been asked in the Parliament on this subject. On 3rd March, the day on which the Parliament was opened, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was asked a question. As far as my researches carry me that is the only question that has been asked about Commonwealth and State financial relations. When we remember that honourable members opposite have the right each day at question time to ask as many questions as are asked by Government supporters, members of the Opposition cannot be very concerned about this matter if they have not asked questions. In these circumstances to make this matter the basts of a censure motion is ludicrous.
The next claim made in the amendment is that Ministers have refused to report on the national health scheme. Nothing could be more ludicrous. The subject was covered in the Governor-General’s Speech. In case the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) has not seen it I have brought into the chamber a statement, comprising 26 quarto pages with 12 quarto pages of attachments, which was delivered by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in this House on 4th March, the day after the Parliament was opened. I put it across the table for the information of honourable members opposite. After the Minister had spoken a member of the Opposition put the Opposition’s view on this subject.
It is next alleged by the honourable member for Lalor that Ministers have refused to report on the problems of production, marketing and reconstruction in primary industries. This matter was dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech. On 5th March the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) initiated a debate on this subject as a matter of public importance. I think 2 honourable members from each side of the House participated in that debate, including the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who referred to wheat stabilisation, the sugar agreement, dried vine fruits and war service land settlement. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) participated in the debate and made a very valuable contribution. [Quorum formed.]
The next item is the alleged refusal of Ministers to report on the state of the economy. The Governor-General dealt with the State of the economy. Since then a number of questions on the subject have been addressed to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and to the Prime Minister. The right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) asked the Treasurer a question about interest rates. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is spokesman for the Opposition on economic matters, asked the Treasurer a question on Tuesday 10th March. On Wednesday 11th March the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) asked the Treasurer a question about interest rates. On 11th March the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) asked the Treasurer how he reconciled what he had said in the Parliament with something which the Governor-General had said in delivering his Speech. On Tuesday 12th March the Leader of the Opposition asked the Treasurer a question which the reporters of Hansard - not I - have headed Australian Economy’. The Treasurer made quite a lengthy reply to that question. On the same day a matter of public importance was raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. The subject was interest rates. The honourable member spoke for 15 minutes and the Treasurer replied. It was a very good speech from the Treasurer, setting out in some detail the issue of interest rates.
The next matter dealt with in the amendment is the alleged refusal of Ministers to report on the development of New Guinea. This was an unfortunate subject for the Opposition to select because honourable members will recall that the GovernorGeneral dealt with it at length. Probably there has never been a more extensive reference to Papua and New Guinea in a speech by a Governor-General. In addition, on 4th March, the day after the GovernorGeneral delivered his Speech, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) made a lengthy statement dealing with constitu tional development in Papua and New Guinea. He described how constitutional development would proceed and how the people of the Territory would be able to make a greater contribution towards the running of their affairs and to participate in government. I am sure that honourable members opposite have copies of that statement, but again, lest there be any difficulty, I have brought with me a copy of the statement for the benefit of honourable gentlemen opposite.
The final matter which is specifically referred to is that Ministers have refused to report on the failure of the F 1 1 1 . The Fill was the subject of a statement, by leave, by my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), on 5th March. At that time he said these words which are worth recalling:
All aircraft were then grounded, and save for seven aircraft since released for special flight test purposes, remain grounded.
A number of committees, including the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board ad hoc Committee, were established to advise the Secretary, Department of Air Force on the many scientific and engineering aspects of the problem. To assist in the Australian evaluation as affecting F111C aircraft, three scientists of the Aeronautical Research Laboratories of the Department of Supply were sent to the United States of America to augment the engineer staff of the Royal Australian Air Force Project Manager.
As the fault in the D6ac steel material of the wing pivot fitting had been undetected by the nondestructive testing methods used during manufacture, the conclusion was reached that faults could exist in other D6ac steel components . . .
Then the honourable gentleman said that these issues had not been determined by scientific investigation and by submitting the aircraft to tests. He continued:
The Government has decided that I should visit the United States at an early suitable opportunity to discuss the whole matter with the United States Secretary of Defence. Mr Laird has himself said that the United States must consult with the Australian Government on any modifications to the Fill contract. All aspects of the matter will be canvassed. I emphasise that no decision can yet be made concerning the future of our F111C because the scientific and engineering problems have not yet been resolved. The purpose of the visit is to canvass the possibilities concerning the F1I1C.
If that is not a Minister’s report to the Parliament I should like to know what a report should contain. On 10th March the Minister for Defence submitted a long defence statement, and a good one which has been the subject of debate in this Parliament. Until yesterday 8 questions have been asked on the economy, 5 on New Guinea, 3 on the FU 1, 13 on primary industry and, in respect of Commonwealth-State finances, which gets first billing in the amendment, 1 has been asked.
– Who asked it?
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports. That shows what importance the Opposition places upon Commonwealth-State financial relationships. Honourable members opposite have had 9 days of questions and have managed in that time to ask I question about CommonwealthState financial relationships. There have been a bare 3 questions on national health. No wonder so few questions have been asked on this subject. My colleague, the Minister for Health has announced what the Government proposes and has said that legislation will be presented during this session, and legislation will be presented in this session.
The Government does not accept this amendment as a censure, lt cannot acquire the character of a censure motion when it fails in 2 things: Firstly, it fails in alleging a failure to report when, upon examination, it is disclosed that there have been reports on all the matters mentioned. Secondly, it fails because it should have within its terms, standing on its own, the character of censure. One cannot put into a motion the character of censure merely by using the word ‘censure’.
The Speaker’s list shows that the honourable member for Lalor was to speak. Tn fact, the Speaker’s list uses his name, J. Cairns. When this debate was called on the honourable member rose and said: ‘I move a censure’. The Opposition cannot think much of its prospects of success when I did not know about it until I heard the honourable member say: ‘I move a censure’. Were honourable members opposite ashamed of it? Probably they were. If they were not ashamed I think that the reality is that there has been a little bit of fisticuffing going on in the Caucus room. The Leader of the Opposition is sitting at the table now, no doubt trying to recover the position. Who would honourable members expect to move a censure motion? The Leader of the Opposition! But what has happened today? The Leader of the Opposition has entered the chamber and presumably wants to try to rescue the mover and seconder of the motion from the error of their ways. 1 have no doubt that the matter was discussed in Caucus or by the Caucus executive and that honourable members opposite were split. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition feels very embarrassed.
I am informed that for the first time in the history of this Parliament from the Opposition side has come a purported censure motion which was not moved by the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In fact, on only one occasion in the history of the Parliament has a purported censure motion been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and that was in 1952 when the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was hitting his straps in far finer form than now and at a time when the Leader of the Opposition, the late Dr Evatt, was on a decline. The Leader of the Opposition. Dr Evatt, sat in the House while his Deputy moved the censure motion in 1952, and that was understandable. That is the only occasion in the history of the Parliament when a censure motion has been moved other than by the Leader of the Opposition, and on that occasion it was moved by his Deputy. But what happened today? In walked a member, unannounced, and rather shamefacedly said: M move this censure motion.’ Where was the Leader of the Opposition? In fact after the honourable member for Lalor had been speaking to this great censure motion for 4 or 5 minutes he emptied the House most effectively. Here was an exciting censure motion, and everybody went off for a cup of tea. Where the Leader of the Opposition was I do not pretend to know, but no doubt when he rises to speak he will make a powerful statement defending his own position and saying: T was not drinking tea, I was preparing the powerful statement which I am now going to deliver.’ For all these reasons the House should regard this not as a censure motion but as a misformed, ill-conceived amendment which can be regarded only as frivolous to the greatest degree.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– 1 move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and the censure amendment having precedence until disposed of by the House.
The honourable gentleman who has just resumed his seat, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), was speculating on what might have gone on in the Labor Party , to account for the present procedure. In fact, he interrupted my reading of ah article in today’s ‘Courier Mail’ which is headed ‘Lib Ginger Group Has a Win. Set back for P.M. Backers’. It would be too invidious for me to relate to honourable members what was going on in the Liberal Party this week. The Minister has just come into the House after a Cabinet meeting, which was hurriedly called when the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) moved his amendment of censure. The Standing Orders state and have always stated that an amendment of censure or of no confidence may be moved in the same way as a motion of censure or no confidence. It is ludicrous for the Minister, to use the term that he used again and again, to say that the Standing Orders do not permit an amendment of censure to be moved. Of course they permit it to be moved. We moved it and the Government were caught on the hop. I did not say ‘on the hops’; I said ‘on the hop’.
After it was moved there was not a Minister to be found in the House. They all went into the Cabinet room and it was found that none of them was in any shape to answer this motion. It is true that all last week and the Thursday of the first week of the sitting we have been debating the Address-in-Reply. Not one Minister has spoken in that debate, despite the fact that a great number of things have happened outside the House since the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was composed and after the debate on the Address-in-Reply commenced. We know some of the things which have occurred since then. For instance, the economy, which was in fine balance, suddenly became overheated. Is this not something which should have been debated in the Parliament, or is this a matter which should be only a matter of outside speculation or Liberal Party contention? Not a single Minister has spoken in the Address- in-Reply debate, and all these matters for which they are responsible are accordingly not being debated in the Parliament, lt was found that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was in no shape to take part in a debate today. It was found that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) was not going to bestir himself on behalf of the Prime Minister. The same applies to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). It was found that it would be imprudent in the extreme for the new Treasurer to be let loose in an overheated economy, so he could not speak.
The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the displaced Treasurer and now the new Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) was not going to come in and help those who had displaced him. Of course, he was to make a speech on external affairs last week. Under the ordinary precedence of departments or personnel, as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, he would have been the first Minister to make a ministerial statement in the new Parliament. But he did not do so because the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is closer to the Prime Minister, so the first slot was given to the ministerial statement on defence, and the Minister for External Affairs has to wait until tomorrow night to make his statement. These are the only 2 Ministers who have made or who have undertaken to make ministerial statements. They have not spoken in the Address-in-Reply. No Minister has entered the debate. It is not only because they are unwilling to answer the matters that have been raised but because in many cases they are incapable of answering them this afternoon or at all.
Let us look at the comparative performance of this Parliament. The House of Commons in Great Britain last year sat on 164 days; the House of Commons in Canada sat on 161 days; and the House of Representatives in the United States of America sat on 186 days. The House of Representatives in Australia sat for only 51 days last year. We sat for well under a third of the time of the British or the Canadian lower houses and scarcely a quarter of the time of the United States House of Representatives. Under the Gorton Government we sit for less and less time.
The Leader of the House suggested that we should bring matters up as matters of urgency. We have. Five times we have raised matters of urgency this year. The honourable gentleman has mentioned the subjects we raised. Every one has been a substantial subject, and not only one Minister but other conscientious or competent members of the Government should have wanted to speak, but every one of those urgency debates was gagged after one speaker from each side. At least last year the average number of speakers from our side and the Government’s side on urgency matters was 4, and never during the last 10 years, for which I have taken out figures, has there been less than an average of 3 speakers on the Government side or on the Opposition side in debates on matters of public importance. Last year the average was 4 a side. This year we have raised 5 matters of public importance, and each time the debate has been gagged after one speaker from each side has spoken. We have not run away from these matters. Honourable members from either side of the chamber can raise matters of public importance. Just because private members opposite are prevented from doing so or because Ministers deter them from doing so, are we on this side of the House also to be prevented from debating these matters? So far, we have had one quarter of the time that was given last year for each matter of urgency.
The Leader of the House also referred to questions. Let me give the record of questions in recent years. During the 2 years Mr Holt was Prime Minister 1 put 49 questions on the notice paper for him. I received answers to 42 of them, and the average lapse of time in receiving answers was 60 days. Last year and the year before, when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister, I put 72 questions on the notice paper for him. I received answers to 66 of them. The average lapse of time in getting these answers was 85 days. I repeat that under Mr Holt it was 60 days. This is as good a barometer as one could hope to see of the inefficiency of the new encumbent. If members look at the notice paper they will see that most of the unanswered questions have been put on again.
– How many?
– Nearly 500 1 thinksome of which were on the notice paper a year ago. The Parliament is being deliberately stalled because of the incompetence or worse of the present Ministry right from the top as ohe trickles down. We have an inefficient Ministry. They gag debates on matters of public importance and delay giving answers to questions. In the British Parliament the universal’ practice is to answer questions on notice within 2 working days after they are placed on the Notice Paper. I emphasise - 2 working days. If one is not answered within that time the Speaker, as guardian of the privileges of the House, wants to know why there is a delay.
I have dealt with the excuses that the Leader of the House has given in this matter, but let us look at the matters which are mentioned in the amendment of censure that we have moved. There have been negotiations on Commonwealth-State finances. These, we are led to believe, have led to the greatest dispute in the Liberal Party in its history. This is a matter upon which the 7 Liberal Treasurers in Australia are at loggerheads and in relation to which the 5 Liberal1 Premiers and the 1 Country Party Premier have all publicly roundly condemned their Federal Liberal Party and Country Party colleagues. This is not the first time that the question of placing the power to raise income tax in the hands of the States has been raised under a Liberal Federal Government. Sir Robert Menzies in 1953 offered to give income tax powers back to the States. Dr Evatt, my predecessor but one, asked that a statement be made in this House upon that subject. Sir Robert Menzies made the statement conceding that this was a matter of prime importance in our federation. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald’ a month ago. He asked: ‘What is to happen to our federal system? Are our 7 Parliaments to have no debate whatever on Commonwealth and State financial relations? Is this to be a matter purely for the Executive?’ The Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer do not make a statement when our Parliament resumes after the longest effective recess since 1937. The Premiers have had no debates in their Parliaments on this matter. The whole question of Commonwealth and
State financial relations is a matter of dispute within the Liberal Party. Therefore, we as elected persons should leave it in decent silence to them!
Surely we are all concerned about this matter. All elected persons should be. It is typical of the Liberals that they will never consider the role of local government including local government authorities and semi-governmental authorities whose debts now cost as much to service every year as the debts of the States and between a quarter and a fifth of whose revenues are taken up in servicing those debts and between a fifth and a sixth in statutory charges to State government bodies such as those responsible for town planning, fire fighting, main roads and so on.
None of these matters can be debated in this Parliament unless we bring them up for discussion as matters of urgent public importance. We speak on them for a quarter of an hour and then the debate is gagged. The subject of Commonwealth and State relations is the greatest issue, so we are led to believe by every Premier and every State Treasurer, the greatest issue so the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and the Minister for External Affairs would have had us believe when they were contesting the leadership of the Liberal Party, and yet this greatest issue is not debated in this Parliament at all.
Let me come now to another matter, receipts tax. No Bill has come up on receipts tax. The Treasurer suggested that receipts tax could be increased tenfold. Queensland has to increase the tax fivefold to bring it to the level of receipts tax in the other States. If Queensland followed the Treasurer’s advice, people there would be paying 50 times as much in receipts tax as they pay now. What is to be the position of the receipts tax? It is still being paid illegally without any constitutional foundation in 5 of the States. Queensland has hanging over its head the fact that this new tax will be made retrospective, apparently, to last November. Yet this matter cannot be discussed in this Parliament.
I turn to the question of the negotiations with the doctors and State Health Ministers. Of course, there was a statement on health benefits and, with typical elegance, the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) throws it across the chamber and, with typical dexterity, he misses at the first throw. This was made on 4th March, a fortnight ago. Since then, there have been negotiations with all the State Health Ministers and since then - the most recent occasion being yesterday - there have been negotiations with the Australian Medical Association. But we are not supposed to ask about them. All we have to do is to ratify these negotiations in due course. Take it or leave it. The proposals will be introduced as a money Bill. We cannot amend that Bill and we are expected then to increase by tens of millions of dollars the contributions that must be made by Australians if they are to receive any assistance from their Government in paying their doctors bills or their hospital bills. Discussions would have taken place, I would have thought, with the State Health Ministers on the subject of hospitals. Hospitals are the core, the basics, of any health scheme. They are much more important than the archaic, inequitable, discredited’ insurance system that Sir Earle Page handed on to his successors. We are told nothing about these negotiations.
Our Federal system is being increasingly distorted by this argument that anything that goes on between Ministers, Commonwealth and State, is confidential to them and that nobody in any elected parliament can debate these matters until they come in cut and dried in the form of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. Then, if anybody ventures to move an amendment, it is taken as a matter of confidence. So, increasingly now we have in our Federal system the same situation that we have as regards international treaties. The Parliament is faced with a convention, a treaty or an agreement and nobody can amend it or the whole agreement falls. This practice was started not by the Present Prime Minister - I do not want to attribute to him any innovation; I cannot think of any - but by Mr Holt. He introduced this practice. He was the first one to use the argument in this way. Whenever we asked a question on notice about any matters under discussion between Federal and State Ministers, the answer was: ‘This is confidential. I have not the consent of the Premiers to release it and
I therefore cannot answer the question’. This practice applies apparently to the negotiations on hospitals with the State Health Ministers at the end of last week. 1 mention now the economy. Here, and particularly in the rural sector, we need some form of leadership from the Federal Government. We have the situation not only in dairying and in wheat but also apparently now even in wool where the producers are given no indication of how much they can fruitfully produce, how much the Government believes that they will be able to sell and for what the Government believes they will be able to sell it. Where can this information come from? Is the individual farmer or the individual company to make a guess at it, a stab at it, or has not the Government some responsibility to give advice and leadership.
The Minister for Primary Industry does not venture to speak. Indeed, it will be remembered that no debate took place on any of these matters last year, with one exception. That was the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams. Once the other place resolved that there should be a better sampling of opinion before this embargo was lifted, the debate was never resumed here. When the House was in recess, the whole matter was put through. Again, none of the matters concerning the economy - the rise in interest rates which took place after the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, the rise in fees at universities, and the projected rise in petrol prices - can be the subject of debate in this House. Now we are told that there is to be an increase in Post Office charges but that we should not inquire about this matter. It would be impertinent for us to expect any Minister, even so senior a Liberal Minister, so senior a potentate in that Party, as the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to comment anything about it.
There were some matters concerning Papua and New Guinea which ought to be debated. I asked the Prime Minister a question this afternoon as the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Public Service. I asked him whether he was aware that 4,000 New Guineans employed in the Commonwealth Public Service are exempted from its provisions. They cannot get retirement benefits; they cannot resort to arbitration; they cannot appeal on promotions; and they cannot appeal on discipline. The right honourable gentleman did not know there were 4,000 indigenous employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. He was not aware of the fact. I thought that he had taken some belated interest in this matter. I thought that, at least, he would have looked up the position of indigenous employees under his own jurisdiction in his own Department in the Commonwealth Public Service.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I was giving reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended to ensure that no other business is dealt with by the House until the AddressinReply and the censure amendment are disposed of by the House. In other words, I was giving reasons why Ministers should be flushed out and made to account to the Parliament for the matters listed in the censure amendment. I had come to New Guinea. We have, over the 3 weeks of this session, had a very great number of trumped up questions to Ministers from their supporters. There have been two questions put from this side, one to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and one to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The Minister for External Territories asked that the first should be put on notice and the Prime Minister had not heard of the subject matter of the second one. This is not good enough treatment on a great matter.
Great issues are involved in New Guinea: the future of 24 million people in that country; Australia’s reputation in the world; the relations between Australia and her nearest neighbour; and the test of whether Australia is a real member of this region. Yet from the Government there has been a series of these organised questions - not, as the Prime Minister said before the House met, as to what my colleagues and I said to a public gathering of 11,000 at Rabaul but as to what we said in a private gathering . of . 1] persons. I mentioned to the 11 persons the misgivings I had found in the Gazelle Peninsula and in particular the misgivings concerning the wounding of an indigenous youth. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) said that this was an accidental wounding. The circumstances upon which 1 commented were revealed in the committal proceedings for 2 patrol officers on charges of causing grievous bodily harm. The youth concerned still has a bullet lodged in the base of his lung.
The evidence was reported in the only English language daily in the Territory, the Post Courier*, of 8th December. The evidence given by a sub-inspector of police against these 2 officers on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm was:
They fired downwards al the target from a distance of about 11 feet. There was a very wide spread of about 3 feet in height and 2 feet wide of the area showing bullet holes. The distance from the doorway to the target is about 11 feet. One bullet hole can be seen in the table having completely missed the target.
The sub-inspector said he took 370 rounds of ammunition from one of the defendants, Bloxham. He said the other defendant had said he drank 2 glasses of vodka and orange and 3 bottles of beer after work. This other defendant said he fired the revolver because he had never used one before and was curious. Thus we have 2 patrol officers, with 370 rounds between them: one never having fired a revolver before; having drunk some vodka and beer after knocking off work in the afternoon; practising at a target at a distance of 11 feet, which they missed by distances between 2 and 3 feet. I would hope that persons who were entitled to bear arms in that Territory were more accurate than this.
When 1. asked the Minister for External Territories what rules had now been made about the use of firearms by patrol officers he said: ‘Put it on the notice paper’ but he has not answered the question yet. The people in New Guinea were well aware of these allegations and they were surprised, to say the least, that in these circumstances the 2 patrol officers were put on their own recognisance to come up for trial before the Supreme Court. By contrast, 3 indigenes on charges of assault were not granted bail pending their trial before a lower court - the District Court - constituted by a magistrate. Of the 3 indigenes 1 was the principal of a school and 1 was a former officer of the council concerned. Were they going to fly the country any more than the patrol officers? 1 mention these matters because there has been no opportunity to debate them. The Ministers have gagged every urgency motion. I have somewhere between 40 and 50 questions on the notice paper about New Guinea and the Minister for External Territories, after a fortnight, has answered 2. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) answered 1 after only a week.
The answers that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) gives for not treating this matter as a matter of censure are: ‘You have urgency motions. You have questions’. Members have been given no opportunity whatever to debate the matter which has arisen most frequently at question time, and when the Minister is asked about the use of firearms he does not know about it. One would have thought that with this record of conduct by young patrol officers drinking at an hour like this - completely incapacitated to do their job, let alone carry out pistol practice - there should be some reasonable opportunity to debate the matter. I mentioned last week that the Minister still1 had not answered a case about which I had written to him over a month ago - 5 weeks ago now - where a patrol officer had assaulted, we were told, a local government councillor in East New Britain.
Look at all the more important, wide ranging matters concerning New Guinea; the fees for high schools put up this year; the wages - the lowest, it appears, in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean areas, 40% at the highest of those which are paid to Australians in the same job; and the decline of workers associations, in a country where nearly every employer is an Australian and nearly every employee a New Guinean, where accordingly every industrial dispute becomes a racial dispute. In the whole Territory there is 1 factory and 1 garage in any town owned by New Guineans. There are no taxis owned by New Guineans in the whole of the Territory. This is a country where there is land hunger, where there is a tack of political education, where the people have come to believe that Australians are determined to retain economic dominance over them as neighbours and to preserve social1 privileges over them as fellow residents.
How appropriate it now is that whereas the spokesmen for this Government used to be members of the Australian Country
Party, worried on the exports of New Guinea’s primary industries, those now concerned are the members of the Liberal Party Mining Committee - from manganese to mammon. The Government is now interested in New Guinea because of the mineral wealth there.
This and the other matters which I have mentioned earlier have all arisen in the 13 days since I first spoke to this Address-in-Reply. The only opportunity that honourable members or the public will have to hear Ministers account for these matters or any others is to carry this motion. It will1 flush Ministers out and make them account in this place.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) came into the House this afternoon and, with characteristic disregard for fact or truth, said that a Cabinet meeting was hurriedly called today to deal with the censure motion, as it has been called. Mr Deputy Speaker, let it be known by the House that there was a Cabinet meeting this afternoon. Let it also be known by the House that the Cabinet meeting had nothing whatever to do with this amendment. The amendment was not even mentioned, because the decision that it did not amount to censure was taken long before the Cabinet meeting was held. There was no necessity whatever to talk about the amendment. The honourable gentleman is prepared to make statements unsubstantiated in any way at all, because he fails to recognise the requirement in this place that when an honourable member stands and speaks in it he ought to be able to answer for what he says. If the Leader of the Opposition knows now that there is no justification for his statement, one would hope that he would apologise. But I think that may be a hope beyond the slightest dream of realisation.
Let me remind the House of another statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. I brought into the House a statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). I said: ‘If this is not known, 1 will give it to the Opposition’. I tossed it across the volumes of statutes and Hansard. The honourable gentleman, with his oratorical flourish, said, referring to me: ‘With his characteristic elegance’ - that was very nice, but there had to be a sting - ‘he threw it across but, typical of him, he missed with his first throw’. Let me remind the House that the honourable gentleman does not miss with his first throw. I should say that 70% of honourable members were in the House on the night he picked up a glass of water and threw it. There was no elegance in that action, nor has there been elegance on occasions when he has made deliberate, premeditated attacks on individuals hoping to hurt them. We have become so accustomed to his attempts to hurt in a personal way that we now let his efforts wash off us.
Throughout the speech he made this afternoon, he was wanting to make imputations about the personal habits of honour.oble members on this side of the House. We have become used to that, too. It needs to be said that the aspect of the Leader of the Opposition that makes us dislike him is his feline character. When he feels that he is in a bit of a tight corner, when he is not sure of himself, the claws come out and he scratches, hoping to hurt. That is the feline character that we have seen over the years and it is the characteristic that we most dislike. The Leader of the Opposition came into the House with pique because of the amendment that the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) had moved against his wishes. He came in to try to save the position. When we announced that we could not accept the amendment as a censure, because it did not have the merit of a censure, the honourable gentleman rose in pique and moved:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and the censure motion having precedence until disposed of by the House.
Apparently the honourable gentleman did not look at the Orders of the Day. This is Order of the Day No. 1 and will continue with priority over other Orders of the Day until disposed of. So I tell the honourable gentleman that, misfounded as his motion is. I. will not take up the time of the House by dividing on it. We will agree to his motion. We will suspend Standing Orders. When I sit down, it needs only that the question be put and we will support it. This debate does not need to be given priority and I do not propose to take up the time of the House with divisions when so many honourable members want to speak on the substantive issue.
It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition has not even spoken, on the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor. He has been speaking to a motion to suspend Standing Orders, which we will accept. He has not supported the mover and seconder of the amendment. That is an indication of the importance he attaches to the censure amendment. He has tried to save the position by moving that Standing Orders be suspended. T am prepared to say that that is his purpose, but T think the reality is that he performed so badly when he spoke on the Address-in-Reply that he wanted a second go. He chose to have a second go by speaking to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. That indicates the importance that he places on the amendment. By his actions he says that it is not a censure motion. That is what we say. There is no disagreement. We will agree to the suspension of Standing Orders and I will not talk to his motion for half an hour, as he did.
I think it is worthwhile reminding the House that we have before us an amendment seeking to censure the Government. The terms of the amendment have to be read to appreciate the lack of depth in it. lt says that the Government is to be censured because Ministers have failed to report to the Parliament. Then it names some matters on which they have failed to report. One is Commonwealth-State finances. There was a meeting of State Premiers around this table-
– I rise to order. I think it is necessary to keep order in this debate. The Minister is agreeing to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, but he is now going back to debate the amendment censuring the Government. Tn fact he is reading from the amendment. He has already spoken on that matter and I submit that he is now out of order in speaking again.
– If I may, 1 would speak to the point of order. I find it rather dimcut to understand how New Guinea and men having target practice can come into a debate on the suspension of Standing Orders. However, the Leader of the Opposition was making so little impression on anybody that I let him go.
– There is some substance in the points of order taken by both the honourable member for Lalor and the Minister for Labour and National Service. To a degree there was an element of irrelevance, if I may put it in that way, in the -speech made by the Leader of the Opposition and I suggest that this may also be so with the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service. The suggestion I make is that irrelevant matters be kept to an absolute minimum.
– I have been speaking for about 10 minutes and I will not transgress for half an hour. :as the Leader of the Opposition did. T move:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Original question, relating to the suspension of standing orders, resolved in the affirmative with the concurrence of an absolute majority.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) [8.20J- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Before the sitting was suspended for dinner the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) gave every indication to the House that the Government would not agree to debate the censure motion moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). In fact anyone who listened to the news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission tonight would know that it reported that the Minister for Labour and National Service had refused to accept the censure motion. J do not know what happened during the dinner adjournment but one thing is certain and that is that the attitude of the Minister has changed greatly during the last 2 hours. I am not certain of what happened to him. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) gave him some orders. But certainly there has been a complete reversal of form by the Minister, compared with what he said before the suspension of the sitting.
Now, Mr Deputy Speaker, in view of the fact that the Government accepts that the Opposition has a case for a censure motion, it is my intention to devote my time to one of the provisions of that motion. I refer to the refusal of Ministers to report to the Parliament on the problems of production, marketing and reconstruction in primary industries. We heard a lot from the Minister for Labour and National Service, in defence of the Government, about measures taken by the Government to bring before the Parliament debates on primary industry.
– You sold out.
– I will present to the honourable member for Hume the true facts relating to primary industry. Firstly I will refer to the dairy industry. Despite the importance of the reconstruction scheme for the dairy industry we find that the Government has refused to allow any debate on the subject. Despite the serious financial position of that industry we find that the last time that the Government initiated a debate on it - and it is a most important industry - was on 5th April 1967. It is quite obvious, Mr Deputy Speaker, that honourable members representing the Australian Country Party are not listening to this debate. The dairy industry was debated in this Parliament on 5th April 1967 when the Government introduced legislation relating to the dairy industry stabilisation scheme. The Government introduced legislation and therefore was forced to debate the industry. That happened approximately 3 years ago, when the Government announced its grandiose scheme to reconstruct and rehabilitate the dairy industry. The Government consistently refused to debate this subject in the Parliament in 1967 and 1968 despite repeated questions about it.
On 20th May 1969 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) paid us the courtesy of making a ministerial statement in the House in which he presented the lat est details of the dairy industry reconstruction scheme. But were either members of the opposition or back benchers on the Government side allowed to debate the subject in the Parliament? No. And this was despite promises made by the former Leader of the House, the former Minister for Air, who informed us on 2 occasions that the matter certainly would be brought on for debate. I think that the dairy industry reconstruction scheme was mentioned 3 times on the ‘Daily Programme’ for the House of Representatives but debate on this important proposal was never permitted. As I said earlier, the last time that the Government initiated a debate in this Parliament on the dairy industry was on 5th April 1967.
I now turn to the wool industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service told us that the wool industry was debated in the Parliament following a ministerial statement on the export of merino rams. All honourable members know what a farce that debate turned out to be. The last time that the Government initiated a debate in this Parliament on the wool industry was on 4th May 1967. At that time it was initiated by the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), the occasion being the debate on the Wool Industry Bill. That was the last time that the Government initiated a debate on the wool industry. Certainly it initiated a debate in May 1969 on the export of merino rams, but what happened? When the matter was dealt with in the Senate the Government was defeated. Because it was an election year and tremendous opposition against the proposal was being built up throughout Australia, the Government forgot all about it until after the election. The breeders got together in numbers and exerted pressure on the Government. Then the Minister for Primary Industry, in a back door manner, suddenly issued a statement saying that the Government would permit merinos to be exported following the partial lifting of the merino ram export ban. However, so far no merinos have been exported.
There still has not been a continuation of that debate in this House despite the events and actions which have taken place since the Government suffered defeat in the Senate and since it decided to lift the ban. Surely there should be a ministeri1 statement in- this chamber so that wc can debate the consequences of the Senate rejection of the Government’s decision to lift the embargo.
It is recognised also that the poultry industry is in serious financial trouble but the last time that a debate took place in this Parliament on that subject was on 22nd September 1966, nearly 4 years ago. That was the last time that the Government initiated such a debate despite the fact that its supporters who have poultry farmers in their electorates know full well the crisis being engendered in that industry. We know that the Australian Agricultural Council rejected a comprehensive stabilisation plan but still there has been no statement here on the poultry industry.
I have dealt with some of the major industries and now will refer to the dried vine fruits industry. A statement on this subject was made on 10th September 1969. It has never been debated. The matter has not been brought forward during the life of this new Parliament. We know also that the apple industry is in a serious financial condition but the last time it was debated in this Parliament, on the initiative of the Government, was on 6th November 1968 when we dealt with the Apple and Pear Export Charges Bill.
That is the record of this Government. If we look at all those industries - wool, dairying, wheat, poultry, dried vine fruits and apples) - we find the same sorry story. We just cannot get this Government to initiate debates on those subjects despite the seriousness of the problems facing primary industries. If we take for an example the wheat industry, honourable members will know that it was one of the difficult problems in this Parliament last year to get a debate on that industry.
– When you had the chance you had one speaker.
– When was that?
– On the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill.
– The Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was debated more than 2 years ago. After that Bill this crisis developed in the wheat industry. Discussion on this matter has taken place outside of this Parliament. Every time the Minister for Primary Industry was asked to make a statement that we could debate no statement was forthcoming. The only way that we could debate wheat quotas and the crisis in the industry was by taking the opportunity afforded by Grievance Day. lt is significant that we have had no debate this year on the wheat industry crisis itself. We had the Loan (Australian Wheat Board) Bill but the Speaker of the House made it very clear that we could not discuss matters outside the provisions df the measure itself. We were not allowed to. discuss quotas or the serious problems within the wheat industry although the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) was able to transgress and rove a little wider. He made very clear what he thought of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government with respect to the crisis in the wheat industry.
One would think that the Country Party would give some leadership in matters affecting primary industry. Is the Country Party not aware of the criticism it is getting throughout Australia with respect to leadership? Is it not aware that it has been asked by farmers and farmers organisations to give some leadership, to take some new positive action in inculcating some new ideas and some new thoughts? As I said last week, the Government acts like some ventriloquist’s dummy; it waits all the time until the industry organisations put forward a proposal. But when they do so the Government does not necessarily act on it. We have had the great fiasco of the reserve price plan. What happened at the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the socalled parliament of the wool industry? This organisation met and talked at tremendous length and made its momentous decision. What did the Government do? It took a referendum and the parliament of the wool industry was defeated. That was the last we heard of the reserve price plan. Since that time the financial position of the wool industry has deteriorated further and further. It is important that the Government give some leadership on these cases.
Sugar is another great industry. It is true that there have been some lengthy debates on the sugar industry in the Parliament, but only because a considerable volume of legislation has been enacted with respect to the industry. The International Sugar
Agreement, the Commonwealth-Queensland Sugar Agreement and the various supplementary agreements and ministerial statements relating to the domestic price of sugar provided opportunities for. debate but they were enforced occasions. This industry is now approaching also a very serious problem. We can now add the sugar industry to the wool, beef, poultry and dairy industries because once again we shall be faced with a serious problem of over supply. I refer to the problem of a possible tremendous surplus though it will not be due to the fault of the sugar grower who has played the game and kept his acreage within the confines of his assignment. Because the grower has been blessed with good weather for once it looks like being one of the best seasons ever.
In my own area of Mackay we look like having a surplus of about .1 million tons of cane. But this is a major problem for the whole of Australia because sugar is just as important in northern New South Wales as it is to my area in northern Queensland. What is the Government going to do about the tremendous surplus which could come at the end of the year? The Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen has advised all cane growers to resign themselves to the inevitability of acquisition being restricted to peaks only. In other words, every ton of excess sugar above peaks can be destroyed as far as the Queensland Premier is concerned. The expression of this sort of pessimistic view is simply the voice of the Sugar Board and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd which take the worst possible view of this problem. But why is not the Government vitally concerned with this problem because it was the Government of Australia that negotiated the International Sugar Agreement? Why has the Government not taken some leadership and told the House what it intends to do or what it is planning to do at the end of the year with respect to this surplus?
Any decision which the Queensland Government, the CSR or the Australian Sugar Board takes that would lead to the large scale destruction of cane will be opposed at the highest possible political level. If the Commonwealth Government were to turn a blind eye to this problem and in fact endorsed the attitude of the
Queensland Government or the Australian Sugar Board by allowing large surpluses of cane to be destroyed - to be ploughed in at the end of this year - the Opposition would have no hesitation in seeing that this matter was raised in the United Nations because this destruction of food would infringe the basic rights and principles of every civilised nation. The deliberate destruction of food by government action is something to be deplored.
– What would you do - break the new international agreement?
– It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Cowper does not know even the basic elements of the International Sugar Agreement. The Agreement, in case the honourable member does not know, allows for a maximum storage capacity of 20% of the previous year’s total production, including excess sugar which means that something like 450,000 tons of excess sugar can be stored under maximum stocks under the provisions of the International Sugar Agreement which this Government elected under the alternative provisions relating to this particular clause. Therefore, while it is within the permissible rights of the Australian Government to allow for stocks up to 450,000 tons, there is no case for the destruction of sugar in Australia.
What we want is for the honourable member for Cowper to get up in this Parliament and give his views on this matter. But how can he do so, unless he himself initiates an urgency debate because his own leader, the Leader of the House, refuses time and time again to initiate a debate on the sugar industry? Something has to be done now with respect to sugar surpluses. The Government should be working out a plan whereby it can acquire this excess sugar and not infringe after the next year the terms of the International Sugar Agreement. This can be done by perhaps a system of credits for mill areas because no-one knows what the next season will bring. The areas that have surpluses of sugar today are the areas which are highly susceptible to drought. The Bundaberg district, for example, was ravaged by drought last year. This year it will be blessed with a reasonably good season. The Mackay-Burdekin district, the greatest concentration of cane growing in Australia, has a good season.
But who knows what the position will be next year? Therefore, it is essential that methods be worked out whereby the Government will be able to acquire these stocks.
What we want in the Parliament is a debate on these matters. Almost every day we read in the newspapers of the crisis and the unrest in the wool industry. It is a disgrace that it has been 3 years since we have had a wool debate in this Parliament. The ex-Minister for Primary Industry initiated that debate. I have said in this Parliament before that when the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) was Minister for Primary Industry this Parliament had debates on wool. He was not frightened to get up and initiate a debate in the Parliament. I would say, with all credit to him, that perhaps what will go down against his name will be the reserve price plan. The Parliament and the Cabinet should have backed him by going ahead and enacting the legislation. The referendum was a negative step. The Government is not consistent. On the one hand it argues that the Australian Wool Industry Council, the parliament of the wool industry, makes these decisions. Why does the Government not back it? It did so with the merino embargo for a while but it did not do so when it came to a decision on the all important wool price.
Both the Parliament and the Australian primary producers have been treated with the utmost contempt by the Australian Government, because despite the growing financial crisis in the primary industries the Government refuses to exercise even the slightest semblance of leadership. All the industries that I have mentioned - wool, wheat, dairy and poultry - are in serious trouble. The export beef industry in northern Australia is walking an economic tightrope. Mention was made here today in questions and in the answers given by the Minister for Primary Industry that some alleviation has been given to the beef producers in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberleys in the first 10 weeks of the season under the diversification plan. I want to know what has happened to the producers in north Queensland. It is well known that some juggling has been going on in the meatworks in the Kimberleys. The Katherine meatworks deserves consideration: there is no question about that. But what is the propriety of giving alleviation to the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys and not to Cape York Peninsula or the Gulf of Carpentaria? There is absolutely no propriety whatsoever. lt is all right for Victoria and other States to bemoan the fact that there has been alleviation, but let it be remembered that until 1958 the amount of beef exported from Victoria was virtually nil. It was not until the advent of the American market that the beef position changed drastically in Australia. We saw great increases in beef production in Victoria. The Minister should be initiating a debate in the Parliament on beef diversification. The basic differences in the diversification scheme between the north and south of Australia is that there are no alternative means of production in the north. Beef is produced, and that is all. The majority of beef producers in northern Australia are exclusively beef producers; they have no alternative. They are not producing beef complementary to wool or fat lamb production as in the south. It is beef and beef only. Their market is the export market. They are walking an economic tightrope.
The Government always adopts the negative policy of wait and see. Since 1946 we have seen 4 or 5 of the worse droughts ever witnessed in the north and one of the worst droughts that has ever been witnessed in southern Australia. But is there any plan to defeat or minimise the effects of drought? The Government’s policy is to wait and see what happens and hope that somebody with a magic wand will make it rain. Is this the action of a responsible Government? As I have said before, the Government’s contemptuous disregard for the problems of primary industry has been clearly illustrated by its deplorable record in this Parliament over a number of years, in the instances that I mentioned with respect to initiating debates. Let us hope that we will see some semblance of leadership for primary industry, because in general the primary industries today have never been worse off in real, economic terms since the depression. It is all right to say, as some people have said, that there is no such thing as a price cost squeeze, because productivity increases are greater than the increase in costs. The facts of the matter are that important sectors of all primary industries producing for the export market are in serious trouble because productivity is now lagging behind the rate of increases in costs particularly on many of the small properties.
On some properties it is physically economically impossible to increase productivity at a faster rate. With this overheated economy that we are supposed to have we can expect a further increase in inflation which is going to drive out the relatively small producers and make it more and more difficult economically for them. Let us hope for some Government leadership in this Parliament.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– At the moment we are debating the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, to which an amendment has been moved. As the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) correctly pointed out, the amendment deals with the alleged refusal of Ministers to report to the Parliament on a number of matters. The Leader of the House dealt adequately with most of the 6 points that were raised. I find it hard to understand how the question of health came into this amendment, because 1 had the task of posting away quite a number of health statements issued by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and I know what the postage bill was. We are here on the 8th working day of the sitting and we have reference in the amendment to one thing only: The refusal to report and to add statements to a notice paper which already includes, for the 8 days, 23 Bills. The Bill that was introduced this afternoon makes it 24.
I do not deny for a moment that the matters which have been raised are major matters. They have a very real import, and 1 intend to touch on some of them. I hold that the Leader of the House has been correct in drawing attention to the amount of discussion that has taken place on these matters already. Since about 5 o’clock we have covered the whole field in the debate. We have dealt with hours of sitting, the number of questions asked and the number of sitting days in various parliaments across the world, and we have dealt with censure debates. Right through I listened with interest to see if anything would be said on what 1 hold to be the most important responsibility of the government today, and that is defence. 1 did not hear it. Do we take it from that that the Opposition is satisfied with the Government’s policies on defence and with the progress made? That is the only conclusion that one can come to. On the subject of primary industry we had an urgency debate. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) took part in the debate. There again I did not hear one constructive suggestion coming from the Opposition. Their whole approach was either to pull down or to criticise. I think people are looking for more than that. They are looking for something to put In the place of criticised legislation. I listened with very close attention to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who has just resumed his seat. He talked about the Government’s policy and asked what action the Government was going to take. There again there was not one constructive suggestion that would have pleased anybody on the land. There may have been a suggestion from the Opposition that the problems of the sugar industry should be taken to the United Nations. I do not know whether this would have given much relief to the people of Queensland or northern New South Wales.
The debate on the Address-in-Reply is an opportunity for honourable members to spend 25 minutes discussing any problem that interests them. It would be interesting to analyse the speeches that have already been made from the other side to see how many members of the Opposition have dwelt on the problems mentioned in the Opposition amendment. My constituents do not give mc the impression that they want to hear lengthy speeches. What they want is action. The Government is paying close attention to this nation’s problems and action is taking place. Of all the matters for which this Liberal-Country Party Government is responsible defence has absolute priority. The Governor-General in delivering his speech dealt briefly with the history of Australia’s discovery by Captain Cook. He then referred to the bi-centenary celebrations and the forthcoming Royal tour. The Speech then passed quickly to
Australia’s future. I was pleased to note that very early in his Speech the GovernorGeneral said:’
The Government continues to support the principles of the .United Nations.
The Governor-General then passed immediately to the subject of defence and forecast that a statement would be made on the subject by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). That statement was made last week, ft was a comprehensive statement, dealing with our long range strategic policies. It listed the priorities and new proposals for the infra structure of the defence forces, lt dealt with fixed installations necessary for any possible military operations. It gave details of proposals for airfields and naval bases. The statement emphasised the basic premise that aggression must be seen to be unsuccessful. That is the basic theme of our entire defence strategy.
The next important matter dealt with by His Excellency and upon which I wish to say a few words is the state of the economy with particular emphasis on the expert primary industries. Before doing so I would draw the attention of honourable members to the January issue of the ‘Treasury Information Bulletin’. Constantly recurring throughout that document are such expressions as ‘growth in demand’, ‘significantly fewer registered for employment’, unfilled vacancies up’, ‘private investment spending 15% higher’, ‘consumer spending buoyant’, ‘retail sales up 7%’, and ‘registration of passenger vehicles 10% higher*. As you would expect under these conditions, the consumer price index is 2.8% higher than it was 12 months ago. Something which I always regard as very significant and which I often look foi is the level of savings bank deposits. They have increased 7.5% over last year’s figure to a remarkable total of $6,940m or about $556 per head of population. But it cannot be said that the export primary industries are enjoying the level of prosperity that exists throughout the rest of the economy. Last year rural output declined by 4% . This was probably due to a reduction in wheat production in the previous year and to a decline in sugar production. A man named John Brunner wrote in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 2nd June 1969:
Australia’s rural scene today could best be described as a fair average quagmire from which not everyone is going to be extricated painlessly.
The same man applied the domino theory to our rural industries. He described how the low returns from wool have caused a switch to wheat. Anybody who knows anything about the primary industries knows that this is correct. Some say that the wheat domino is toppling over. I still have faith in the wheat industry provided it is correctly controlled, and that is the policy of this Government - to co-operate with the industry in controlling it. Whatever happens to the wheat industry obviously has an effect on the growing of barley, oats and coarse grains.
The shift from dairying has thrown extra weight on the beef cattle industry, but at the moment the industry can take it. The comparatively flourishing state of this industry is not due to low costs or even to costs being held; it is due in the first place to increased efficiency on the part of the cattle producer and secondly to world demand, which is sticking to us. I have referred to the efficiency of the cattle producer. To those who would pass derogatory remarks about the Government’s actions I would point out that the industry has been helped to a large extent by this Government’s policies. It has been helped by the hard negotiations entered into by the Department of Trade and Industry. I think immediately of exports to the United States and Japan. The market diversification policies have been of considerable assistance to producers. More and more trade posts have been set up throughout the world. I think there are now 46 fully operative trade posts in 35 different countries.
I call to mind the recent sale of 30,000 tons of beef to Russia. A lot of people were amazed to hear of that sale. There are prospects of sales to such eastern European countries as Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia. I am pleased that of the 30,000 tons of beef sold to Russia 2,000 is to come from the Lachlan Valley County Council abattoir in Forbes in my electorate. This order will mean increased sales for producers in the area from which the abattoir draws its supplies. It will mean additional pay - overtime pay - for the slaughtermen employed at the abattoir. The order will assist the meat operator to overcome his market diversification problems and, incidentally, the Russians will get some pretty good beef. 1 have referred to increased efficiency. This has been encouraged by legislation brought down by this Government. In 1960 the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee was set up at the request of the industry to carry out research into the beef industry. In 1966 sheep meats were brought within the scope of the Committee’s investigations and the Committee was renamed the Australian Meat Research Committee. A levy on stock slaughtered was called for and this Government provided a matching grant. Now another small slaughter levy has been imposed to assist the processing industry. Again, this will be matched by the Government. All of these policies are designed to assist the industries concerned. Those affecting the cattle industry have been of great value to it. The investigations being conducted into the processing industry will be of direct benefit to that industry. The efficiency of the industry, aided by the Government in the form of research grants, subsidies on superphosphate, taxation incentives, and assistance to find markets, coupled with increasing world demand, arc enabling the producer to keep ahead and to increase production. The prices at which he is currently able to sell enable him to maintain a reasonable gap between costs and prices. But I am afraid this is not so with other primary industries. Wheat has been hit with both barrels - increasing costs on one side and a decline in world demand with over supply on the other. The wheat industry certainly does not share in the prosperity that has been depicted.
Wool is probably the industry of greatest concern to the Australian primary producer at the moment. The price has now declined to the point at which it was about 20 years ago. If we adjust the price to the marked increase in the prices of all materials and services which go into the production of wool the real value of I lb of wool is very much below what it was 20 years ago. If we go further and take into consideration present trends we find that the price of all inputs needed for production has increased repeatedly by from 3% to 5% annually. Who is to say what will happen to wool prices in the future? The week before last they were shocking in Brisbane. Last week they opened firm in Sydney compared with the previous Sydney sale but towards the end of the week they dropped another cent and we note that the average price is now about the 39c mark. To sit back and adopt a Micawber type attitude will result - and I do not exaggerate - in derelict farms, displaced people, a hastened movement from the country to the city and financial ruin, no less, for a lot of people. One check on this is a concerted drive on efficiency in some of the secondary industries, particularly those which provide input materials for the use of primary industry, such as steel products, phosphate, chemicals and this type of thing.
Some people are not fully- aware of the situation and if there are people who feel that the present unrest among farmers is some sort of passing phase or peculiar phenomenon which will pass with (he effluxion of time they had better get rid of that idea straight away because this time the effects could spread. I have in my possession a cutting from an issue of the Daily Telegraph’ of last December. I will not go through it in detail but I. epitomise it by saying that it refers to a spokesman of the firm of Massey-Ferguson (Aust.) Ltd who speaks of curtailed production, severely depressed farm machinery markets, substantial reductions in the work force at Bendigo and substantial reduction in activity at Sunshine. I quote this article because unless this situation is corrected now it can spread. A representative of the International Harvester Co. of Aust. Pty Ltd has said that last May his company saw the writing on the wall for it regarding tractors and machinery for wheat. He spoke about gradually cutting down on production.
I refer to an article which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 6th March 1970. That newspaper does not make many mistakes. It says that land prices in the central west and west of New South Wales are falling sharply. It puts the causes down as drought, low prices for wool and fit lambs, wheat quotas and the cost price squeeze. It gives some examples. Some seem to me to be exaggerated - I will be fair about this - and not representative of the real position, but I know . from personal observation and from mixing with bank managers, professional men and agents that in some areas properties are selling for below the Valuer-General’s valuation. I mention this because of remarks I have heard in this House.
From my knowledge of the rural1 economy I would say that the Government’s decision to authorise and to guarantee the payment of $1.10 as a first payment on next season’s wheat up to a set quota, which all farmers should know shortly, is the factor which will turn rural recession, affecting not only the producer but all who depend on him, into a comparatively stable situation which will provide a basis upon which a gradual1 corrective policy can be implemented. I cannot understand those people who talk of inflation in country areas - those who fear any form of inflationary trend - because of this payment for wheat. They just do not know the position of rural industries. As to corrective action, we know that rural industries and the Government have been active in seeking further markets overseas. Unfortunately the wool industry is still split in its approach to major changes in handling and marketing procedures. Some minor changes have been agreed to . but in the past the Government has twice offered to underwrite a changed marketing plan for wool and on each occasion the Government placed no limit at alt on the ceiling of its contribution yet the industry refused the offers. I can say from my knowledge that the Government realises that primary industry is greatly disadvantaged because of the increasing cost of input materials. It is realised that these increases are caused, to some extent, by deliberate Government policies which, for a start, are designed to increase Australia’s population. Of course, it is important to provide jobs for the increased population and the Government has done this in the only possible quarter, namely, secondary industry. This leads to increased numbers being employed in the tertiary or service industries. To the extent that increased population expands the home market primary industry has been assisted but I am afraid that the result, on balance, is against it. Therefore the Government now stands ready to continue the assistance that has been provided in the past in many forms by way of subsidy, bounty and concessions. There is some pessimism at the moment about the possibility of the wool industry coming forward with a plan for Government co-operation in the rehabilitation of the industry. It appears to me that the industry is fairly active at present in its study of various projects.
As I said a while ago, the Government and industry have combined in arrangements to set up a wool marketing corporation. This is active co-operation between the Government and industry. Financial assistance will be available for improved wool marketing arrangements and also for wool promotion and research, but this is only scratching the surface of the marketing and handling problem. Other moves are continuing in the Government and in the industry itself. In New South Wales alone some people have been seeking a royal commission to actually define the position. But I think most of us know it. A major mass meeting is being held in Moree next Saturday where it is expected that thousands of growers will attend with one idea in view - to discuss the compulsory acquisition of the wool’ clip. I know that the Executive Committee of the Graziers Association of New South Wales will put forward to its general conference next month a development incentive arrangement for consideration. Who knows but that this might provide a plan for an interim period in which the whole industry will have to get down to basic bedrock values and plans.
I did want to speak in particular on one or two problems of great importance to all rural industries. The one which I particularly wanted to mention but which I will not have time to break into is the matter of rates payable by the man on the land. This matter has been referred to by honourable members on this side of the House before. I wanted to give some detailed information to back up my claim that the primary producer is already heavily taxed and that his rates have almost reached the stage where they are unbearable. The position has been aggravated in New South Wales by the recent valuations of the State Valuer-General. It may be said that this has nothing to do with the Commonwealth. It does have some thing to do with the Commonwealth. I have here a letter from the Treasurer which is well marked now. In it he says, amongst other things:
Valuations by the Valuer-General for State death duty or stamp duty purposes are ordinarily accepted without question for Commonwealth estate duty or gift duty purposes.
So valuations are of great concern to the Commonwealth Government. When I get the opportunity to put figures in front of the Government later it will see that valuations are a difficult problem. I hope that the Commonwealth will look at valuations made by the Valuer-General’s Departments and make its own assessment of whether they have been carried out effectively and on a fair basis.
– Before calling the honourable member for Kingston I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– First of all, 1 should like to thank the electors of Kingston for showing their confidence in me by electing me to represent them in this Parliament. I shall do my best to justify their confidence by representing their interests and by representing the interests of all Australians. The 1969 election results showed a remarkable change in electoral fortunes from 1966. In my electorate of Kingston, after allowing for the redistribution, the swing from 1966 was 16%. The average swing throughout South Australia was 14%. Why did this swing to Labor occur? The answer to this question would depend on whom you asked. 1 shall quote only 2 answers, that of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and that of the Premier of South Australia. On the night of the Federal elections the Prime Minister, in a television interview, was asked how he viewed the big swing to Labor in South Australia. His reply was:
It has a good deal to do. 1 suppose, with the feelings against the State Government.
The following day the South Australian Premier, Mr Hall, was quoted in the Adelaide Press as saying that the Prime Minister’s remark that the big swing to Labor in South Australia was caused by dissatisfaction with the State Government was said on the spur and in the stress of the moment. He went on:
Events around Australia show there is nothing in that contention. Even the Australian Labor Party candidates who were successful pinned their success on Federal issues.
So the Prime Minister thought that it was the State Government’s fault and the South Australian Premier thought that it was the Commonwealth’s fault. I have not quoted these 2 conflicting viewpoints for party political purposes but merely to illustrate a conflict between the present holders of office in the Commonwealth and in the States. Within the framework of their own concepts of federation, the present problem is irreconcilable. The upshot of this conflict between governments is that the State governments at present lack the funds to carry out their traditional responsibilities. Lacking power to levy income tax, the State governments are dependent on Commonwealth generosity to carry on. The problem has been that the money refunded to the State governments from income tax revenue is not sufficient to cope with the increased State government commitments. The State government’s commitments are rising because of increased demands in quantity and quality. Not only is the population increasing but there are rising expectations in standards of education, hospital facilities and other communty services. Not only have the State governments’ usual sources of revenue failed to cope with rising commitments, but increasing amounts of their budgets are taken up in repayments of capital and interest, because the Commonwealth has transferred most of its debt burden to the States.
How is this impasse to be overcome? The State governments have sought to remove their financial straitjackets by a return of their powers to levy income tax. The insistence by the Commonwealth on retaining uniform tax is regarded as centralist. Centralist’ to the present Liberal Party and Country Party Premiers means dictatorial, bureaucratic and other less polite adjectives. The argument of the State government”! centres on what they call the rights of the Governments of the sovereign States’ or, more simply, ‘State rights’. As so called State rights loom so large in this conflict, it is worth considering what they realy mean. T believe that the State rights issue is a counterfeit issue. Whether you are discussing off-shore oil, education or housing, state governments do not have rights. Neither does the Commonwealth Government have rights. No government has rights: governments have only responsibilities. Only the people have, rights, and the people of the States, of course, are the people of the Commonwealth. .
A state of impasse now exists in the Commonwealth-State financial relationship in spite of the - concessions’ gained by the States at the last Premiers Conference, and it will persist ‘as long as governments cling to the meaningless abstraction called government, rights’. The present dispute between the Commonwealth and State governments must be resolved according to the needs of the people, not the jealousies of those in political power. The concept of the divine right of kings was rejected many years ago. It is high time that we did the same to the divine rights of governments. 1 would like to relate these thoughts to specific issues. I think most, honourable members will agree with me on the importance of education. The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should assume direct financial responsibility for all schools, whether they be primary, secondary or technical schools or preschools. An Australian schools commission analogous to the Australian Universities Commission should be set up to examine the requirements of all Australian schools, Government and non-Government, and recommend appropriate Commonwealth payments according to needs. Whenever I discuss this matter publicly I usually get a question from a teacher something along these lines: ‘There is enough paternalism and bureaucracy in the State Education Department already. Will not Commonwealth intervention make this worse?’ I think this is a valid question, but the answer is a clear no. The Commonwealth, through an Australian schools commission, will not decide how each $1 will be spent in each school throughout Australia. This approach would be quite wrong. This has already been demonstrated by the Government’s grants for science blocks. In this case the Commonwealth predetermined the priorities. The only apparent basis for this, as far as I can see, is that here was a way of obtaining maximum kudos for a minimum outlay. As a result anomalies occurred. For example we have science buildings and laboratories but not enough science teachers. By this arbitrary determination of priorities the Commonwealth showed a very high-handed attitude. It is not surprising that this lofty attitude to the tying of grants is resented by officers in the State education departments. With some justification they look upon the Commonwealth as a Johnnycomelately in education, anyway.
In my view the function of the Commonwealth should be to formulate national policy and what might be termed ‘social and economic priorities’ such as how education will be used as an instrument of social and economic welfare. Expenditure within each school would remain in the hands of the State authority. So broad priorities would be determined at a national level, but this would not mean centralisation of all educational policy making. In fact, I believe much of the decision making should bc decentralised. Many teachers complain that centralised control makes them feel that they have been treated like schoolchildren. I believe that there should be active participation in decision making not just by the teachers, but by the people about whom the decisions are made; that is, the students themselves.
What are these socio-economic priorities which the Commonwealth Government should determine? A national education policy should enable every individual to develop and to realise all his or her abilities and to use them to best advantage. Nobody should be denied access to complete education merely through lack of finance. Some honourable members probably will say that this sounds trite and that nobody could disagree with this attitude. But, it is not the policy of the Government. In answer to a question during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said, in relation to university fees:
Frankly, 1 do not see why those not at university, but at work, with houses and the like to pay off, should have more money taken from them to pay university fees to people not good enough to get scholarships.
Put another way, this means that only the most gifted students should receive Government assistance. Some students, although not in the top echelon, who could enter and pass a matriculation, university or technical course, cannot afford to do so. At the same time, other students who do not really need financial help are receiving it.
This is an elitist education policy and it is based on a false premise. It assumes that money spent on education is money dissipated. In truth, Mr Deputy Speaker, education is a highly productive investment. In fact, some economists believe that expenditure on education is more productive than expenditure on fixed assets. I am not saying that the economic argument is the only basis for educational expenditure. As far as 1 am concerned, it is not the main one. But I do make this point in rebuttal of those who look at education expenditure from a purely economic standpoint. I have here another illustration of the attitude of this Government. It is an extract from a letter written by the present Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) to a constituent of mine. The Minister said:
As regards the allocation of Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships, I emphasise that, in the selection of scholarship holders, no distinction is made between candidates on the basis of what school they attend. Awards are made in open competition and entirely on merit.
This is not the same concept as that of Sir Robert Menzies - not that I wish to appear to be an apostle of Sir Robert Menzies - who stated that the scholarships were created to ‘benefit those who might otherwise miss, through family circumstances, the final 2 school years’. This attitude is clearly the more just one.
If we are setting out to give everybody an equal opportunity in life, we should bear in mind that, if we give a child from an underprivileged family the same education as a child who has an adequate home environment, the child from the underprivileged family will make less of that same education. Therefore, to give both children the same opportunity in life, we must give additional educational assistance to the underprivileged one. In other words, if we are to have discrimination in education, it should be in favour of the underprivileged. I can think of no better place to start than with the Aboriginals. Australia cannot afford to have any section of its people under-educated. If 25% of its people are under-educated, it is not to just their disadvantage; it is to the disadvantage of the other 75% as well. The Government has recognised this in respect of the nonGovernment schools by its per capita grants. How about a fair deal for the Government schools as well?
I wish now to discuss another problem which is related to the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and State governments. That is the problem of the cities, a problem which should really be called ‘urban mal-development’. While individual Government members have acknowledged the existence of the problem, it has not yet received official recognition from the Government. The only thing in the Governor-General’s Speech which could be a reference to urban problems is the reference to a proposed Bureau of Transport Economics. It is not clear at present what its scope will be but, assuming that urban transport is to be one of its responsibilities, I shall say something of this Bureau later. 1 wish to refer particularly to urban transport, not because transport is the only consideration in planning cities but because there is an alarming tendency to put cars first and people last. The task for responsible government must be to decide the needs of people and then to plan cities according to these needs. In such plans, somebody, sooner or later, must make a responsible decision on the relative place of public and private transport. The motor car, invaluable as it is - in fact, many would say indispensable - has now become our master instead of our servant. Cannot we have the motor car without having this devastation of suburbs by freeways, the planned obsolesence with waste of resources, smog, noise and the road toll with its cost in lives and money? What form of insanity are we suffering from that the motor car is allowed to rule our lives?
In my home city of Adelaide, the need for a remedy to this social illness has become apparent by the now infamous Metropolitan Adelaide Transportation Study or the MATS Plan. This plan was based on projected population trends and traffic flows. Although representatives of several Government bodies were on the Steering Committee, the Highways Department is the only one whose influence is apparent in the whole plan. It looks as if the planners merely asked: ‘How can we fit more cars into the metropolitan area?’ The ultimate results, if this nightmare is allowed to proceed, will be miles of concrete carving up suburbs, and the destruction of the city area, which largely will give way to parking areas. The absurdity of the whole idea is made apparent by the planners’ own admission that the freeways are not going to improve the traffic congestion anyway but that they will only stop the present, situation from getting worse. Where will we go from there? Will we have more freeways? Or will we have more deaths on the road?
And what about smog? This matter has had some attention from the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution. The Senate Select Committee has recommended that some attention be given to controlling exhaust emissions from cars. But, even if the report of the Committee is acted upon, the effect of anti-pollution measures should be quite clear. The Committee looked at the possibility of an electric car being evolved, or a car powered by steam. After-burners were studied and carburettor modifications were considered also. These result in more complete fuel combustion. So too does the use of liquid propane for fuel. But, whatever these ingenious proposals can do in reducing smog, they still cannot prevent consumption of oxygen and production of carbon dioxide. It is the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide which may be the most sinister of all effects. The only way that this can be controlled is by reducing the amount of combustion taking place. An enormous wasted combustion occurs in our cities with each individual motor vehicle bearing an average of only 1.2 persons per vehicle trip. Surely, the most logical way of overcoming this is by increasing use of public transport for commuters; in other words, to have more people per vehicle. So, let us commute by public transport and keep our motor cars for other purposes than driving to work.
So, here is a major task for governments, Commonwealth and State, to save our cities. As the cities swell like malignant growths, time is precious. Unfortunately, urban planning is in its infancy. The first urgent need is a body to co-ordinate the activities of all government departments and semigovernment authorities. Government departments have been very well described as working on parallel lines, and parallel lines never meet. There could be no better example of this than the Metropolitan Adelaide Transportation Study. This was released in 1968. At the time, the planners said that all aspects of urban development had been taken into consideration, such as how private and public transport relates to different forms of land use. This is to be expected. Our roads and railways are planned after we have decided where we will put our residential areas, our shops, our factories, our schools and our parks and reserves.
Adelaide’s transport planners assured us that types of land use had been properly considered. But now an extraordinary document has appeared in Adelaide entitled ‘Adelaide 2000’. In it, the State Planning Authority is asking for suggestions from the public on how Adelaide should develop. Should we have metropolitan districts; or high rise development; or decentralisation; or satellite towns, and so on? The State Planning Authority intends to bring down a revised development plan for Adelaide in a year or so. I wonder if South Australians realise the significance of this. A system of freeways is a fait accompli - yet the city which those freeways are meant to serve has not yet been planned. Surely this is a case of putting the cart before the horse.
The need for Commonwealth Government involvement is vital and urgent. In the case of this transportation proposal, although all the South Australian governmental and semi-governmental authorities put their heads together, they could not provide a plan for a city for people. The problem is not in any way due to the individuals in the government authorities, it is just that the problem is too great. No single State, and certainly not a small State like South Australia, has sufficient facilities to make an in-depth study of all the ramifications of urban planning. The Australian people must pool their resources. I am not talking about the Commonwealth just taking an interest in this matter, I am advocating really massive Commonwealth involvement. The Governor-General’s Speech mentions a proposal to set up a Bureau of Transport Economics. The title makes me apprehensive. If the Commonwealth is only going to study urban transport in isolation from other urban problems, it will only be perpetuating the problems which already exist, not only in Adelaide, but in Sydney with its outline plan, and to a lesser extent in other cities as well.
The Commonwealth so far has shirked its responsibility. The Government goes all out to people the cities, with its immigration programme, but then washes its hands of what is to become of the people. It leaves the State Governments to house them, educate them, and provide them with community services. I hope the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth will set up a department to pool the nation’s resources and skills in the field of urban development, and to provide funds and advice to the States, as well as acting as a co-ordinating body. On a practical level, one of the first things which needs to be done is to remove the system of tying grants to the States specifically for roads.
I have already mentioned arbitrary predetermined priorities in relation to science blocks for schools. It is equally stupid in the case of road grants. Funds should be spent where they will satisfy a need, not where someone thinks they might buy votes. For that matter, I cannot see the logic in the suggestion that all petrol tax revenue should be allocated to roads. I fail to see why the requirements for road funds in any one year should coincide with revenue from petrol tax for that year. It would be equally sensible to spend all excise from liquor on improving breweries. There is a clear need to reorientate commuter traffic into public transport. This is a political decision which will have to be made sooner or later. It is better sooner than later. This matter must not degenerate into a party political issue. I hope that ad members in this House will speak with one voice to save our cities from destruction. We are spending millions and millions of dollars annually to defend our country from a supposed foreign threat. It is high time we spent a few dollars on defending our cities against the real threat - ourselves.
– We listened quietly tonight to the maiden speech of the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) and I congratulate him on it. Not only members on his side of the Parliament share some of the feelings he has expressed. It will be interesting to hear next the maiden speech of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). However, might I remind members of the Opposition that the last election recorded the loss of their ninth election in a row in the 20 years from 1949 to 1969. The Australian Labor Party - the great Party that during the last 50 years has been elected to power on only 3 occasions - last year racked up its ninth loss in a row.
I am quite confident that after the next election it will be 10 losses out of 10. I refer to the last election and draw attention of the House to the remarks of the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on health matters, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He is an appointed spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on health matters but I would like to draw his attention as a fell’ow Queenslander and somebody who I would like to believe is interested in the welfare of the people of my State to a statement made by his leader during the last election campaign.
Ladies and gentlemen - I beg your pardon, Mr Acting Speaker. I know that there are no ladies and very few gentlemen here but I am quite sure that after the next election the former member for Kingston will be returned and a couple of other ladies will be elected to this side of the House and we will again be blessed with feminine company. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) went on television in Brisbane on a show called ‘Meet the Press’ and, looking squarely at the cameras, said in his familiar way to the questioners, when asked whether Labor’s proposals would destroy Queensland’s free hospital scheme: ‘No. no’ and went off on to another subject. It amazes me how a man in his position, a man of so-called credibility, can go before a television audience and without blushing for one moment deny such an important thing, because the people of Queensland, if the Labor Party had been elected, would most definitely have lost what I understand to be and what most Queenslanders understand to be Queensland’s free hospital scheme. For the benefit of new members of the Opposition I might explain that in Queensland no matter how much money a person earns he can go along to the Queensland Government’s free hospitals and not pay a single cent for treatment. This scheme has been maintained during the last 12 to 13 years by the Queensland LiberalCountry Party State Government.
The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition meant that every Queenslander would have had to contribute i% of his taxable income for health insurance. In circumstances where a husband and wife were working. thev would have had to contribute up to $100. This to me means that people would have had to pay for a service they are now, and have been, getting for nothing. How the Leader of the Opposition could have thought that Queenslanders were so dim witted that they would swallow his half baked story I will never know. But I was told the story of how this point was raised with the Leader of the Opposition and he said: ‘But this does not matter. There are only 18 federal seats in Queensland and with a little white untruth we can pick up enough in the other States to ensure a Labor victory.” But how wrong he was. The people of Queensland stood firmly by the Government and returned all but one of the sitting members. There is a lesson in this not only for the Leader of the Opposition but also for all members of the Australian Labor Party. This Party was once a great Party. I have a comment here - I am not going to read from a newspaper, Mr Acting Speaker - from an ex-Labor man. He became an ex-Labor man only the other day after 40 years as a member of that Party. The comment reads:
Digger Dent resigns after son sacked.
Here we have a reference to the Brisbane City Council. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane holds the highest Labor office anywhere in the country. Now, is that not a condemnation? The Leader of the Opposition was prepared to sacrifice the free health scheme of the State in which a man holds the highest office at present held by the Labor Party. There is not one Labor man left in any high office in any other State. But this - and mark this closely - is what Digger Dent, the father of an ex-Australian Labor Party alderman and himself a member of the Australian Labor Party for 40 years had to say:
To be a Labor alderman these days you need sticking plaster across your mouth and a strong right arm in Caucus.
He makes reference to his son and he says:
Roy was very outspoken on a number of matters but the hatchet men finally got him.
I wonder what is in store for the Leader of the Opposition. We saw today how he dissociated himself completely from this wobbly censure amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr I. F. Cairns). He was forced into the position where he just had to speak because the front was wide open and he knew that he had been beaten. It was either speak up or get out of the No. 1 job. So he took the easy way out. He came in and spoke. Yet he did not deny the claim of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) that he had been forced into this position.
Last night the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) spoke about the Leader of the Opposition and tonight I want to read something more about him. The Leader of the Opposition blossomed like a rose at the beginning of 1967 when he took over from the man to whom he had been loyal, the man he supported and the man whose every order he obeyed without flinching. But as with all flowers, the petals fell away. The Leader of the Opposition also has fallen away and the great spirit and his forthright approach to the Federal Executive of his Party, which many Australians admired, have now disappeared. He bucked like a calf at the branding iron and then after a little time realised that he could not continue in this way. I have what is purported to be an extract from the letter he wrote to his superiors, whom he described as the 12 witless men. These people are in the organisations outside the parliamentary Party.
– The honourable member should not-
– The honourable member for Sturt will speak next, so he should wait his turn.
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting. I understand that he will be the next honourable member to speak. He will then want the courtesy of the House.
– The letter written by the Leader of the Opposition says:
Many members of the Party and its affiliated unions have been angered at the public attack I made on some decisions and members of the Federal Executive.
These are the 12 witless men. It continues:
I have already given an unreserved apology in writing to the Executive for the personal reference 1 made. I am glad a special Federal Conference has been called.
Heaven forbid. But mark the words that follow:
I now undertake to work within the framework of the Party and to accept the decisions of its properly constituted authority.
That was a complete sell out of the spirit that many Australians admired. I can assure honourable members opposite, who are sitting here in their bloom tonight, that after the next election their petals will droop and this Liberal Party will be returned to its previous strength under the leadership of our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
Honourable members opposite are barking. If they want to hear a little more about their leader, I will read it to them. An article appeared recently in the Brisbane Telegraph’ under the heading ‘Whitiam Junior Beats Dad with Poll Point.’ It referred to a 19-year old boy who went to his father and said: ‘Dad, I want to get married.’ His father said: ‘Son, you are too young.’ The son said: ‘Father, you have advocated marriage at this age in the Parliament.’ The Leader of the Opposition became alarmed. Many of my constituents have been alarmed by Labor’s proposals on this issue. But the Leader of the Opposition had disarmed himself and did not have a weapon that he could use to exercise some control over the age at which his son could marry. I might add that I have here the ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party as approved by the 28th Conference 1969, which was held in Melbourne. The previous issue of this booklet had the photograph of the Leader of the Opposition on the front cover. I have been told that because of his behaviour his face has been struck from the front cover and some printed words have been substituted for it. This is the man whom honourable members opposite expect to lead the nation in the future.
The new members on the Opposition side should note carefully the difference between the Australian Labor Party on the one hand and the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party on the other. Opposition members must stay with their own side. Honourable members on this side of the House may, for reasons of their own, cross the floor and vote with the Opposition. I know that members of the Australian Country Party can speak for themselves, but we as Liberals cherish this right. We have the right to think for ourselves. Opposition members would rue the day they crossed the floor to vote in a division. A new member sits where the former honourable mem ber for Batman sat. I refer to Sam Benson, who was a capable and fine man and an extremely sincere man. He crossed the floor and had to pay the price of political oblivion. He was prepared to stand up for his rights. The new Opposition members should keep these points in mind and remember that they do not have the freedom that we have. However, they always have the right to apply for membership of the Liberal Party. If they do we will give their applications sympathetic consideration.
At this time I would like to turn to the Governor-General’s Speech, because, as all honourable members are aware, this is the debate on the Address-in-Reply. We should dismiss completely the amendment moved this afternoon by the honourable member for Lalor, who was formerly the member for Yarra. The amendment was rather insignificant, but of significance is the fact that this is the year 1970 and the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook’s discovery of the east coast of Australia. It is 182 years since this country was first settled, and we have come a long way in that time. Very shortly we will have a visit from Her Majesty the Queen. Only 2 years ago I stood in this Parliament and advocated that we have a new national anthem. I think I was the first to make this suggestion in the Parliament. At that time I suggested that we incorporate a reference to ‘God Save the Queen* and ‘God Save Australia’ in our national anthem. In recent times I have mellowed a little and I now believe that we should have our own anthem with a reference to Austrafia only. The present national anthem could be used on special occasions. I hope that somebody will take advantage of Her Majesty’s visit and say to her: ‘Your Majesty, would you mind terribly if we changed our national anthem? We are trying to build a nation here.’
– She would be most gracious.
– As the honourable member for Cook reminds me, she would be most gracious. I am sure that, with the knowledge of what Canada has done, she would understand that this nation is trying to emerge as a separate identity. Our flag is a continuing symbol of our heritage and our present standing. I would very much like to have the present flag retained, lt stands for what Australia stands for and, with the Southern Cross, and the Union Jack in the corner, it is symbolic.
I have only 10 minutes remaining to me. In raising the subject of defence now, I do not want anyone to believe that in my view this is its proper position in my speech. Defence is the most important subject of all. Earlier tonight the very likeable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) referred to the Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party. I would like to draw the attention of the Parliament to the positioning of defence in Labor’s platform. It contains 29 items and defence is twentythird and foreign affairs is twenty-fourth, lt is a little like the Melbourne Cup. Anyone who had his money on a horse that came in twenty-third or twenty-fourth would not be very happy and I suggest that the people of Australia have every reason not to be very happy with the way that Labor treats the subjects of foreign affairs and defence. If we turn the page we see another reference to defence. It is contained in the resolutions adopted by the 1969 conference. Some 61 items are listed and our involvement in Vietnam, which Labor so violently opposes, is fifty-fifth and defence is fifty-sixth.
The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) said tonight that we should defend ourselves against smog in our cities. Certainly I am in favour of living in a clean environment, but I am more in favour of continuing to keep our country free and thus provide the opportunity to clean up the environment. The Australian Labor Party has its priorities out of order. At the moment they look like chess pieces tipped over. Let us look back to 1966. If the Australian Labor Party had won the election that year, today we would be the most lonely nation in the world. Labor’s policy would have meant that, like the person who cut off his hand with a meat axe and was fingerless, we would be without fingers and friends. Australia today, a nation of 13 million people situated in this part of the world, cannot afford to go alone. Whether we like it or not we have to work very closely with people we believe we can rely on. Even though as a result of my recent visit to the United States of America, I do not consider that country to be the greenest pasture in the world, I believe we can rely on it as a friend and ally. The lavish and wild statements made in the past by members of the Opposition and their Leader is whichever one it may be on a particular day, the honourable member for Lalor or the honourable member for Werriwa - have tended to turn away American friendship.
I recall debating the subject of Vietnam in 1965 and listening to Australian Labor Party speakers claiming that it was purely an internal affair in South Vietnam.
– A civil war.
– Yes, a civil war and no more. Today members of the Opposition at least concede that there is some interference from North Vietnam. They talk about this war as though the Vietcong had won. I have come to the conclusion in recent years, Mr Speaker, that there are some members in the Australian Labor Party who wish for a Communist victory in South Vietnam. I am not referring to all members of the Australian Labor Party parliamentary wing but there are definitely some who wish for this. When we look at what is happening in Laos and Cambodia today-
– I think we will all volunteer and go over there.
– If the honourable member for Wide Bay wishes to sign up he can do so. I have been through Laos and Cambodia and have seen for myself what is happening. The point is that the people in those countries are not trying to provoke war. All they want is to be able to live in peace. The people of South Vietnam want the right to determine their own destiny. But the Communists in North Vietnam and, I concede, a number of Vietcong in South Vietnam, are intent on continuing harassment and on putting off the day when the people of that part of the world will be able to live in peace.
Unfortunately many members of the Opposition do not recognise that the stand taken in Vietnam is a stand involving two different great powers. It has been suggested from time to time that Vietnam is merely a pawn in the game. To a degree 1 think all of us can go along with that statement because in Vietnam the Russians and the Chinese are testing the United States of
America to see how far the United States will go. Unfortunately South Vietnam is the testing ground. Had the Australian Government done as the Australian Labor Party suggested and pulled out 3 or 4 years ago, and had the United States done what the Labor Party has been suggesting for years, there would be no worries in South Vietnam today. Perhaps there would be no worries in any other part of Asia from outward appearances because that part of the world would have fallen under Communist domination. It is up to the free nations to play their part in trying to secure a just world peace. I do not believe the suggestions of honourable members opposite that we should pull out and ban conscription. [Quorum formed.]
Before we were rudely interrupted by the honourable member for Newcastle drawing attention to the state of the House, I was about to mention that the importance that the Australian Labor Party places on foreign affairs is best illustrated by what happened at the conference - the bikini conference - it held at Surfers Paradise. I have with me the Party’s ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’. In it defence and foreign affairs run a very poor last. I repeat again that they are dealt with as items 23 and 24 out of a total of 29 items and items 55 and 56 out of 61 items. The Australian Labor Party would prefer to live in a hairy-fairy world and just talk.
-Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member is trying to make his speech against great difficulty.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Australian Labor Party would prefer to present policies that completely and totally exclude foreign issues. I say again, as I said earlier, that it boils down to this: If Austrafia was not prepared to do everything in its power to remain secure then things such as health, education, rural problems, wheat problems, road development, air pollution and so many others just would not matter. I sincerely trust that at the time of the next election the Australian people will show the Australian Labor Party what it really thinks of it. The vote that that Party received at the last election was just something to get it going again. After 8 losses in a row its members were becoming rather disheartened and needed bucking up. Without any more ado I remind the honourable member who is next to make his speech that on this side of the House we exercise freedom as to how we vote but on bis side members are completely and totally gagged.
-Order! Before 1 call the honourable member for Sturt I would remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech. I ask that the usual courtesies be afforded to him.
- Mr Speaker, firstly I want to thank the electors of Sturt for electing me to this House as a member of the only national political party in Australia. Before dealing with honourable members on the Government side of the House for some short period of time in the manner in which they have seen fit to carry on since I have been in this chamber, I want to refer to the suggestion of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) about writing another national anthem for Australia and including the words ‘God Bless the Queen and Australia’. He should also include ‘God Bless the Federal Parliament’. If we have to listen to speeches such as he has just made we will need God to save us.
I want to deal with the problems of my electorate which is in metropolitan Adelaide in South Australia. It is at the moment developing far faster than any other area. Because of this development one is reminded each hour of the day and night, when one wanders through the electorate, of the inadequacies of this Government in the field of State finances. Sludge from septic systems has been allowed to run down the streets there over a period of years because this Government has not measured up to its responsibilities towards local government organisations in South Australia. What good is it to go to the local council which can go only so far in a short time and expend money that it has. Of course, local councils are then forced to borrow at very high interest rates and to arrange loan programmes to continue necessary works.
There is a high percentage of young home owners in the electorate and they, of course, have the burden of establishing new homes. The homes savings grant that this Government introduced some years ago has never passed the needs and the requirements of the younger members of the community today. The Bill that is about to come before the House in relation to the grant will do nothing to remedy the situation. The Government can take no honour or credit for that. There is a complete lack of services in many parts of the metropolitan area of Adelaide as a result of this Government misunderstanding the requirements of people.
The honourable member for Kingston dealt with the question of education tonight so there is no need for me to discuss that matter. There are social service inadequacies that would take me some hours to relate to the House. I suppose, from the point of view hat has been expressed by members on the other side of the House, that one would be wasting one’s time in attempting to do so because they are completely out of touch, completely out of contact with the electoral problems of the Commonwealth today. That was why so many of them in South Australia lost their seats at the last election. Recently in Canberra the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) met delegations from business interests in Australia, as he so often does, to hear their point of view. This was followed by a meeting with the president and officers of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. They also came up to Canberra to put their views. 1 thought that something ought to be done for that fairly large percentage of the overlooked members of this community who are completely reliant upon government handouts for their very existence. I sent the following telegram off to the Prime Minister:
In view of the fact that recently representatives of all business interests and in addition a delegation of workers’ representatives have placed their views before you I urge that you meet representatives of the various pensioner organisations in order to permit them to present their views regarding the falling standard of living forced upon them by the ever increasing cost of living and lower purchasing power of their low pension rate. Recognising that pensioner organisations have not sufficient funds to permit travel to Canberra I suggest further that assistance in this regard be made available to recognised representatives of these organisations by the Commonwealth. All in the community are no doubt aware that people in this category are unable to present their case before any wage or cost of living tribunal and have to rely solely on infrequent handouts by the federal Government.
In due course it came to be placed on the notice paper. I received a reply to question No. 268, which was phrased somewhat differently from the telegram, but in which 1 asked the Prime Minister:
Will he, in the same way as he confers with representatives of business and workers’ organisations, agree to meet representatives of pensioner organisations to hear their views in relation to their financial predicament.
The Prime Minister’s reply was as follows: (it) The Government confers with representatives of various national organisations on a regular basis in order to keep itself informed of the views on developments in the economy of those who are actively engaged in commerce and industry.
And I am talking about pensioners -
These consultations are not to enable representatives to put views to the Government on the needs and wants of their own particular organisations
Not much - and are therefore not analogous to the kind of meeting you suggest. However, Government Ministers have from time to time received deputations representing pensioners in order to hear their views. In addition written submissions are received from various pensioner organisations, and indeed from a great variety of organisations, about their needs and wants. These have been and will continue to be given the utmost consideration by the Government in preparing the Budget each year.
I want to take honourable members minds back to the second last paragraph which states:
These have been and will continue to be given the utmost consideration by the Government in preparing the Budget each year.
In other words, what the Prime Minister is ignoring - and he is not in the House tonight - is that the cost of living increases that have been inflicted upon these people over the last few months are completely ignored, and he could not care less. Nor could his Government care less. They go to the people and say that they have a social service policy. This is the most typical hypocritical thing in the world to say. It is absolutely hypocritical. This is the Government that claims to have done so much for the pensioners down through the years. Its contributions so far in giving a grant for the provision of homes for the aged is also hypocritical as is its party which forces pensioners, if they want to go into these homes, to sell . . .
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, you rightly pointed out to honourable members that this was a maiden speech and that courtesy demanded that we do not interject. Would it not be in order to suggest that the honourable member should not be provocative so that we would not interject?
– It is usual to extend the courtesy but if a member, of course, becomes over-provocative in a maiden speech he is not entitled to the protection of the Chair.
– Because this system forces people who have homes of their own - and of course this is particularly where only a single pensioner is concerned - they are induced by this scheme to sell up their property and pay $2,000, $2,500 and sometimes $3,000 to get into these places. This is no more than what I would describe as key money.
In fact the previous member representing this electorate - a member of a board - had the effrontery to have letters sent to aged women - women as old as 85 years - a week before this federal election threatening them with expulsion and eviction into the streets. It is all right perhaps for the honourable member for La Trobe to take this point of order against me and to say that I am being provocative. I have told the facts of life.
Now, let me deal again with the hypocritical attitude of this Government in regard to the means test Honourable members opposite have no regard for the people whom they purport to represent. In November 1969 a letter was sent to the Prime Minister from a pensioner organisation in the Commonwealth asking questions on the means test. The Prime Minister replied as follows:
You will be aware that in my policy speech . . .
I might say at this point that when the Prime Minister was addressing the electors at a public meeting in Perth during his campaign he referred to them as an Adelaide audience. He was somewhat out of touch with geography. It is all right to go on with this type of thing, I suppose, when you forget what your policy speech is and you do not have a policy. You even forget where you are standing. The Prime Minister said:
You will be aware that in my policy speech I said that the government would continue to make general improvements in the Social Welfare field as and when we can responsibly do so, without causing inflation or increasing the tax burden. I also mentioned that the government regards the task of increasing the help given to poor families as being of greater importance than the abolition of the Means Test.
The fact that the means test is applicable makes them poor and the Prime Minister cannot even recognise that.
Coming away from that situation, we have heard much being said by the Country Party members about defence because they do not want to talk about the rural population. They have been turning the cheek for 4 or 5 years. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) came into the House the other night and delivered a tirade against the Opposition. The Minister may be referred to as molecule because after all I suppose he has little substance. However, the fact is that the Country Party stands here today and suggests that there ought to be a general blessing so far as the rural industries are concerned. The Prime Minister, in a speech that he delivered the other day to the Australian Mining Industry Council, boosted up what we were going to get out of minerals and said that we would no longer be required to be carted along on the wheat and the wool situation. He seems to be somewhat out of step with his Country Party colleagues.
I would not be opposed to the amount of money that is being poured into the country if I thought that ultimately it would do a great deal of good particularly in the provincial cities scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I do not see the mineral boom as being our salvation, as the Prime Minister does. In a project like Hamersley, while it is producing great wealth and extremely high profits - remember ‘Dig a Million, Make a Million’ on Channel 2 - it does not employ very many people at all from the time they put the hole in the ground until the Japanese get the iron at the port of loading. What concerns me is that when we get to the situation where we are not selling the products of the rural community, then a larger amount of the community is affected than would be affected by a mineral project. That is what is important to me.
It seems to me that the Country Party has led these people by the nose for years. It owns radio stations and newspapers and it has been brain washing them for ages. It is very difficult to help people in the community who are not prepared to help themselves. The old farmer and the wheat and wool growers are taken by the Country Party like the farmer takes a strainer post in the corner paddock. He puts it in the ground, strains it up tight, and it is there for ever and a day. These people have not been taken into consideration yet the Government tells us that it has done so. It should go amongst the people it represents and tell them how they are being sold down the drain by the bounty system given to the fertiliser companies, ft is all very well for Bombshell Barnes of Bougainville-
-Order! 1 realise that the honourable member is under some stress and strain in making his maiden speech, but he will withdraw that remark about the Minister.
– I shall withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker, and I would suggest that the Minister not be so provocative. Mr Minister, you-
-Order! The honourablemember will resume his seat, i suggest that he directs his remarks to the Chair and not to individuals on the other side of the House. Also I would request that honourable members give the honourable member for Sturt an opportunity to make his maiden speech without interruption.
– The farming community today is nol being told by the people who represent them who is fleecing them. The Conference Lines of ship owners started off in the 17th century as pirates on the high seas, and they are pirates today to every man and woman in this community. What did this Government do about it? The Leader of the Country Party trotted off overseas with a black bag in his hand and with £stg40m or $40m in dollar bills to buy into the Conference Lines at the same time as the Russian shipping line was putting into Australian ports and saying that they were prepared to carry the wool of this country for 15% less than the Conference Lines would. This is true. The other shipping interests endeavoured to to gang up on them but they were not successful. I made a prediction the day I was in Sydney when there was something of an argument about this. The prediction came true. Whilst that was going on, what was said by the Conference Lines ship owners, the old pirates who ought to be tugging their forelocks and straightening their smocks every now and again, because their thinking is so old? They said to anybody who dared ship through the Russian shipping line that they would put a surcharge of about 30#> on the wool so that they could not ship with that line. But what happened? These anti-Socialists on my left saw the Russian shipping line, and the Russians entered the Conference Lines.
This afternoon the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) asked a question in this House. He has seen fit to make great play of the fact that 4 members of the Vietnam Committee in Adelaide had resigned. 1 was rather interested, because the honourable member for Angas had written a letter to the Secretary of the Vietnam Committee, Dr Bluett, quite recently and the letter revealed that he had some doubts about the Government’s present policy in relation to Vietnam.
Opposition members - Oh!
– Order! Honourable members may not interrupt a member who is making his maiden speech. I suggest to all honourable members that it has been a well established practice in this House for many years that an honourable member should be permitted to make his maiden speech without interruption. I deplore the fact that I have had to be on my feet to protect the honourable member from his own colleagues in making his maiden speech.
– In addition to all these matters, honourable members opposite see fit to drag out the old Communist bogey once again. They attempted to drag it out during the recent elections but the Prime Minister was advised by some of the Press at that time to put it well away. It seems to be the only thing that they can hitch onto. Honourable members are saying a lot about trade unions and the like. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) recently attacked the Leader of the Opposition in regard to this matter. I recall the statements of a previous speaker who made a great play about the individuality of members of the Party opposite. He has forgotten Mr St. John who took an independent stand an the opposite side of this House and the Government did everything it could to ensure that he was not returned to this chamber, lt is no good the previous speaker saying that none of us would run that risk. 1 want to quote from the Minister’s speech about the easing of the merino export embargo. That was not something that the Government thought up. it was something that the industry recommended to the Government. It asked the Government to implement a partial lifting of the merino export ban. We will forget about the rest of the contents of the Minister’s rather lengthy speech and turn to the last paragraph. He said:
But today we see the rather appalling position where the alternative Prime Minister of this country has been inching trade unions to act against a Government.
That means taking control out of the Government’s hands by using trade unions as a weapon. Relate that to the first paragraph and it is contradictory and completely so. The Minister said in the first paragraph that it was not a Government decision, and he is more than inferring there that it was some organisation within the primary industry that did it. He quite boldly goes along with it and says that this is the correct and the proper thing to do. But at the end of his speech he thinks of Bob Hawke and he starts to lose his balance, as it were, and goes off to the other end of the line. On that particular aspect he became contradictory.
I have received letters from spastic children’s organisations in areas adjacent to my electorate asking me to raise in this House the problem of these unfortunate children born with deformities. The organisations are fearful that any measures which this Government might bring down will discriminate against such children and prevent them from receiving the benefits to which they are entitled, forcing the organisations to rely heavily on public subscriptions. This has been a government of discrimination - discrimination against migrants, discrimination against the farmer, discrimination against the worker, discrimination against the pensioner and discrimination in the matter of defence. Fancy this Government saying anything about defence. If it were true in 1963 that Australia urgently needed the Fill, the present ministry must be the most guilty collection of men ever to sit on the Treasury bench - even more guilty than the Tory Government, if 1 may so describe it, which was in office at the outbreak of the Second World War. Government supporters have often alleged that the Labor Party was not interested in the defence of this country until Russia became involved in the war. What rubbish. Government supporters have criticised the Fortress Australia concept. I remind those who sit opposite that it was Fortress Britain that saved the world. Mark you that. At one time during the last great conflict the only active front anywhere in the world was that patch of sand, dust and rock called ‘Tobruk’. It also was regarded as a fortress.
Honourable members opposite have reflected on trade union ballots. How many Government supporters know how the votes were cast in the election of their Prime Minister? We are led to believe that only 3 men saw the completed ballot papers. Honourable members opposite do not know whether they got the leader for whom they voted. Who checked the votes? Nobody. Do not tell me that they were without dissension on that day. They most certainly had dissension on that day. So they should not cast aspersions on people on this side of the House when they in fact have not done their own hair.
– I acknowledge the vehemence of the maiden speech of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). I am sure that being a sensitive man he will be glad to have it over. 1 am sorry that he did not acknowledge the hard, detailed and persistent work of his predecessor, Mr Ian Wilson who, as chairman of the Government members social services committee, played a major part in the introduction of the tapered means test legislation and other humane legislation and who had a deep involvement in national issues. I hope that the honourable member for Sturt will try to achieve such practical results himself. He seems to have a very simple view of economics but to be quite practised and able at loud and superficial abuse. I must take this opportunity to refer to the incorrect, ungenerous and most unfair remarks he made about the former honourable members for Sturt, Sir Keith Wilson and his son, because the Wilson family has made a tremendous contribution towards providing homes for the aged in South Australia. The efforts of this family and other people have been so successful that they have received on behalf of South Australia about 30% of the entire Commonwealth contribution for homes for the aged which, as honourable members will know, is provided on a basis of $2 for $1. And we must not forget that South Australia’s population is only 9.4% of the total population of the Commonwealth. Tomorrow when he reads his remarks in Hansard I ask the honourable member for Sturt to consider whether as a representative of the people of South Australia he should let those remarks stand on the record and not place on it the whole truth.
– He is not listening.
– The honourable member can read in Hansard tomorrow what I have said. The introduction of overseas investment capital into Australia continues to be a highly charged political subject. Many are the emotions aroused and these, too, must be recognised and considered since they are factors influencing the flow and employment of overseas capital. As with many another subject, those interested in national affairs, both inside and outside the Parliament, believe that their view is the policy which would best cater for Australia’s interests. Yet perhaps this subject contains more shades of difference than most. I want to use this opportunity to look at some aspects of foreign investment and Government policy and to offer a few remarks for consideration because while the overseas capital we are receiving is far from overwhelming, it is a most important stimulus to the growth of the Australian economy. This stimulus is most necessary if we are to develop our natural resources, justify our occupation of this huge country, have our standard of living improve at a fast rate and put ourselves in a position where we can play our part in world development and affairs-diplomatically, economically and, if necessary, militarily, particularly in South East Asia.
A matter involving such political considerations deserves the continuing interests of all Australians. After all, Australia has nearly 3 million square miles of land and within it are undeniably vast natural resources of every type. On the other hand, our resources of labour are small due to our relatively small population. The work force in that population is, as we all know, fully extended at this time and that is an economic and political achievement of which the Government parties are rightly proud. Indeed, a major problem for government today is firstly to increase the labour supply and secondly to encourage the most efficient use of the existing work force into avenues of higher priority to our economy. The increase in our labour resource by immigration, announced recently by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) at 180,000 this year, is regarded as the greatest rate of increase which this country can satisfactorily absorb. It is greater than the rate of increase in any period of United States history.
This leaves us to consider the third resource, which is capital. The opportunities for investment in Australia are so numerous that the investor is presented with a bewildering choice. If the Australian economy has earned its income for the year and the people have lived off it, at, incidentally, a very high standard of living by world standards, there remains that amount of the national income which is available for investment. I refer to national savings. To this is added overseas borrowing. This aggregate sum is nowhere near enough for adequate capital investment growth in this country. For many years Australia has been devoting about 25% of its gross national product to fixed investment, public and private. This means that one quarter of the available production has been devoted to the future. Few countries can claim so much, and so it is that Australian governments for many years have encouraged investment in Australia by overseas companies, although the avenues for investment are many times greater than investment from all sources. Actually the sum received from overseas is not huge. Investment in industry, rising from $250m to $400m over the last 5 years, represents only about half the amount spent on roads in Australia - about 10% of the investment by Australian private companies. Of it United Kingdom investment represents about 45% and American investment about 40%. The United Kingdom investment is older and much of it is hidden by Australian representation, lt is the American segment about which we hear so many emotional appeals to our nationalism and warnings of losing our heritage. Some of these are so unreasonable as to amount to an expression of anti-Americanism, and thus I want, in these remarks, to refer particularly to United States investment. There is no doubt that particularly over the last 2 decades all types of overseas capital - direct investment in industry and portfolio investment - have greatly increased and facilitated the rate of Australia’s development. Domestic savings, which generally account for between 85% and 90% of total investment, comprising almost all the investment in public utilities, housing and other social needs, have been supplemented by this means and Australians have been able to live beyond the income available from domestic sources.
Let us look at a few brief facts. Firstly, as I have mentioned, the sum itself, although important investment, is not huge. In a comprehensive 1966 survey set out in American Investment in Australia’, Dr D. T. Brash shows that, in the management of American companies, less than 10% of the senior executives of American establishments in Australia are United States personnel, and most have complete replacement programmes. The setting up of major capital works and new products supply is usually carried on with a large amount of Australian autonomy, even in wholly owned subsidiaries. Further, it was found that while the American parent companies laid down budgets and cost accounting techniques, the parent provided much technical training and the very substantial benefits of management techniques which, as is widely known, are highly developed in the United States. More than 50% of the com panies regarded the information coming in as absolutely essential to their operation, and this is hardly surprising as the United States has had long experience in such a wide variety of industries and most comprehensive research programmes over a staggering range.
Know-how of great complexity is available - designs, blueprints, patents, formulae, work method manuals and personnel training. We have much to learn from this, particularly in its application to individual industries and specific practical instances. It is of immeasurable benefit to Australian industry and to our standard of living because it is the result of years of experience and research by an inventive people of the most industrialised country in the world. It is made available at insignificant cost to Australian establishments. The absolutely fundamental importance of expertise to most foreign investment in Australia must always be remembered. It is not only money, it is knowledge. It was also found that American companies in Australia spend far more on research within Australia than Australian companies and, generally, they are more prone to conducting staff training programmes. Most American establishments in Australia have resulted in the situation of expansion to local industries, enlarging the scale of operation to economic levels and creating much demand from supplier firms, resulting in higher standards of production. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Mount Isa Mines Ltd and the Comalco company are examples of this - of inefficient, weak or failing companies which were expanded and made more efficient. It has resulted, because of the diversity of their activities, in breaking down what were or could have been monopolies within Australia.
Foreign firms compete on the Australian market without special advantages. Coming in they have no special control over our resources. They have to bargain, buy and tender within the Australian framework. They have no guarantee of property rights or repatriation capital. After all, foreigners take the risk that if they ever have to leave, the factories, oil refineries, wharves and railways remain here. These matters are in the hands, from day to day, of the Australian Government; though being an honourable people we do not wish to go back on our agreements or act unfairly. But theirs is the risk when a company sets up an establishment, negotiates for it, pays for all its establishment, manages it and puts it into production. If it makes a profit, and only then, the Government takes 45% of that profit in company primary tax. That is a sort of share farming agreement, if they make losses, of course they suffer them all.
In Western Australia mining ventures have, under agreement, opened up many remote regions in dramatic examples of economic decentralisation based on industry. They have built wharves, towns, rail tracks, schools, police stations and all the facilities, and on the profits they pay their taxation. Many of these agreements provide for progressive refinement of the minerals. A fully integrated iron and steel industry in Western Australia will result from the iron deposits, and iron pelletising was processed years before that was required by the agreement. I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) encourages the processing of minerals in Australia. I am sure that this attitude will commend itself to all Australians as a middle term objective since it will result in greater export income, more employment opportunities for highly economic industries and, consequently, more funds available for State expenditure on education, social services and health. It is important for us all, in making demands for increased expenditure and a sharing of the nation’s wealth, to look to the income side to ensure the necessary increase of available finance.
By way of including two common criticisms, I refer firstly to the restriction of exports. It is claimed that when foreign firms set up an Australian establishment to produce in Australia, the foreign parent company may not permit export to other regions where they have factories and that this restricts our exports. Where is the basic validity in this? Generally if exports to those countries had been permitted from abroad we would not have the industry in the first place and so surely we are better off. It is more likely that our own high labour costs and tariff policies are a greater barrier to exports. We are also told, without any specific example that I can find, that there is a certain amount of tax evasion by foreign firms. My own respect for the efficiency of the Taxation Branch is such that 1 should be very surprised if any foreign companies are successful in that respect. A basic truth is that in the overwhelming number of cases profits, after tax, are not distributed in dividends overseas but are reinvested here. Large firms have a progressive investment programme.
It is worth remembering that in recent years both the British and the United States governments have sought to restrict much of the capital exported into developing countries like Australia. It is a valid assumption that if those governments have come to the conclusion that it is unfavourable and undesirable for them to be exporting capital it is very likely to be in the interests of Australia to import it. It is a further fact, which arises in negotiating, that in many competitive industries, such as steel and rubber, international conglomerate companies simply will not enter into joint ventures or joint ownership because of their fear of losing technical secrets. So the question arises, if a firm demands 100% control in the equity, whether we say ‘stay away’. Of course, many foreign companies are large exporters who consequently generate considerable export income for Australia’s own use.
We often read articles in which it is assumed that if only governments were tougher in negotiation all woul’d be well. I believe that much negotiation so far has been tough, with sensible use of business judgment on the presently known facts and practical influences. The Western Australian Government has obtained enormous benefits for Western Australia and for the whole nation without giving any more than necessary. But the obvious and major cost is, of course, the payment of interest, dividends and royalties overseas. Payments of this kind must be accepted. Naturally we hope them to be reasonable and minimised by Government encouragement which will not deter further investment.
As an expression of the emotionalism to which I have referred I note that most heated criticism is of payments to the United States and not the United Kingdom. Some American companies attract particular abuse but, nationally, we are interested in the aggregate receipts and the aggregate payments. Therefore it is most
Important to note the Treasury document dated 2nd April 1969 stating that total dividends, interest and undistributed profits payable overseas in 1968 represented 1.9% of the gross national product - about the same as 10 years ago. Income payable at 7% is approximately the same as the rate of return on investments by Australian companies. Income payable abroad in 1964- 65 amounted to S333m. This increased to $629m by 1968-69. When, therefore, Australian equity can be gained or preserved by measures which allow Australian companies to borrow abroad, such equity gain means less expenditure of profits earned overseas in the long run and is to be encouraged.
Sometimes foreign capital is not offered on fair terms. The Government rightly has a flexible policy to enable it to look at each case on its merits. Industry is so variable that tight rules lead to keeping out desirable investment. In the past the Commonwealth Government has acted to preserve Australian ownership and control of firms in certain industry sectors which for special reasons of national interest or importance could not be permitted to pass into foreign hands. For example, overseas banks, television and radio are governed by statute for obvious reasons. In recent times the Government acted to prevent foreign takeover of MLC Ltd, when for a minute investment a tremendous quantity of Australian assets would have come under the control of a foreign company. These interventions can be regarded as only right and reasonable.
The Government has encouraged, and no doubt should continue to encourage, Australian equity to be offered to foreign investors - we cannot force it to be taken up - using measures which will not deter the general flow. 1 suggest that the Government, both with its guidelines, principles and otherwise, properly considers matters as they come through departments and even the Reserve Bank of Australia, which exercises relevant power in this field; and that it would be most foolish of us to chase away industries and lose the great advantages to be gained from foreign investment and foreign know-how through fears unfounded. The recent guideline policy on loan investment raisings is a broad formulation to elaborate on Treasury policy expressed in a document entitled ‘Overseas Investment in Australia’ dated April 1968 in respect of borrowings and to encourage - not attempt to force - Australia’s equity by giving an incentive. We would all like to see more Australian investment but, as I pointed out earlier, we have nowhere near enough of our own.
We recall the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the Vernon report. Tt has a celebrated list of pros and cons of foreign capital investment in Chapter II; but it must surely have started with a prejudice because it recommends a large number of restrictions based on a projection of the increase in foreign investment at the rate of 9% per annum at constant prices. For the years estimated so far nothing like that flow has come into Australia and nothing like the implied conditions prevail here. The Committee’s conclusions were erroneous. As Professor L,dell said, they are theoretically questionable and factually inadequate. This was a case of prejudice overcoming objectivity. Indeed the whole overtone of this section is hardly objective and uses such emotional phrases as ‘on the tiger’s back’. Incidentally, the Vernon Committee’s estimate of mineral exports against the import of capital was a mile out. It estimated mineral exports at $330m in 1975. Today they are $759m and, as the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) disclosed a fortnight ago, projections show minimum mineral exports of nearly $2,000m per annum by 1976-77. In my view that figure will be greatly increased, perhaps to 10 times the Vernon Committee’s estimate because of the various mines which are not yet passed the feasibility stage. This type of caution, or even pessimism, in estimates does not help anyone’s plans.
Of course there are wide areas of judgment yet open in this field. But let us always remember that the United States of America itself was built up on foreign capital, mainly British, and expanded into the industrial giant it is today. In order to think more deeply about the emotional appeals that are made from time to time that we must have only Australian investment or that the majority content in every foreign investment must be Australian or that we must create barriers to all or most overseas investment, let us look at these matters fairly and squarely. Large investing companies making decisions in London and New York have many alternatives, but Australia is at present appealing. It is politically stable. It has great potential for economic expansion and its governments have conducted a policy of allowing a fairly free flow of capital.
After all, if you propose to invest capital you want to know that you can get it out again; otherwise it is a particularly onesided affair and unattractive. That is the reason why New Zealand suffers in this respect. It might often be, if you do not get certain conditions which seem to you to be essential or even fair and the Government lays down impossible ownership or control conditions, that you would just as soon go to the next place on your list. So a responsible government, whether it is a negotiating party or whether it is considering general controls, will have to ask itself whether the economy really needs that particular industry for general investment before it makes the going too tough. If a government lays down inflexible rules to apply in every case, not only will the conditions not fit every type of industry but I believe it will very quickly be found that the overall inflow has dropped. As has been said many times, capital is a shy bird. There are many opportunities in the world, and if Australia is too difficult foreign investors will go elsewhere. That is certainly the general attitude of Australian business to investing in New Zealand - and quite understandably.
As I said before, emotions run high. There seems to be a fear around that we will lose control over our own resources. Can this be? Surely there is no such thing as American business. There can hardly be any real influence on. much less control of, Australian government by United States business. United States interests are numerous, diverse complex and politically unco-ordinated. They have few interests in common. Matters of interest between governments in the modern world are too important and expensive to be influenced much by private enterprise investments. Indeed, the evidence is rather that those United States firms which are established would like tariff barriers against their compatriots to preserve the status quo.
In summary, there is such a mammoth sum required to meet the opportunities which our natural resources present and our own capacity for investment from savings is so small that we must encourage foreign capital on a reasonably fair basis. While there can be no argument as to the interpretation of that principle, I am convinced that a fairly free flow of capital should be maintained. Those demanding Australian participation seem unaware that harsh measures would frighten away many projects, and there is simply not the investment capital available in this country to only because it has provided finance for numerous enterprises and activities which might have otherwise not have been initiated or the establishment of which might have been delayed, but also because it has allowed Australian industry to keep abreast of the latest projects and techniques. From it Australia lives better and grows faster, participate in every scheme, even if it were desirable. Speeches about losing our birthright, far from helping, only cloud the issues.
We must continue to consider this whole matter with a view to trying to improve Australia’s position, taking care not to frighten investors away, not to lose through baseless suspicions and not to repel opportunities for rapid expansion in the certain establishment of Australia as a great nation of the world. Over the years investment has been of tremendous value to Australia not
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Before I call the honourable member for Banks I would like to remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– I would like to thank the people of the Banks electorate for showing their confidence in me to act as their representative and at the same time to pay a tribute to my predecessor, Mr Eric Costa, who was their representative for a period of 20 years. Eric Costa was a diligent and sincere member of this Parliament. He gave of his best during the whole of his service, and this included a period of time when he was not blessed with good health. I am certain that he had the respect of every member of the Parliament, both Government and Opposition. My intention is to attempt to give the same type of representation as Eric Costa. If I can do this I will be more than happy.
Turning to the Governor-General’s Speech, my main concern is not so much what was in it but that which was not in it. Subjects of great moment were either not mentioned or glossed over with a lot of pious platitudes. Of course His Excellency cannot be blamed for this. He was only propounding the advice of his Ministers. The blame must lie fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government. Government supporters, both personally and collectively, are the guilty men.
Not one word was in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of any planning for clean living and not one word was there in regard to the problem of water and air pollution. Running through the Banks electorate, there is, or was, a beautiful river - the Georges River. It was a beautiful river until 1962 when tests showed that bacterial pollution rendered it unsatisfactory for swimming. It was even too polluted for fish to live in it. The causes are well known: Contamination by sewerage and pollution by industrial wastes. It is not too late to act but the Commonwealth Government must play its part.
Let us look at some of the causes of this pollution. I mention first Bankstown Aerodrome, which is Commonwealth property. This is a large airport and an industrial complex built on land owned by the Commonwealth. Hawker De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd is one the many industries established in this area and on this site. A sewer is available for the whole of this area but the Commonwealth chooses not to connect the Bankstown aerodrome area to the sewer line. Instead, it is still utilising a wholly inadequate septic tank system which was installed by the Americans during the 1939- 1945 war. Not only is it inadequate but also it is wholly inefficient. Believe it or not, this inefficient septic system is allowed to drain into the Georges River. All that is required is the connection of the available sewer line to prevent one of the causes of pollution. The same sewerage position applies to other Commonwealth instrumentalities in the area including the East Hills Migrant Camp and the Holsworthy Military Camp.
The Government has a grave responsibility to put its own house in order. The
Commonwealth has a prime obligation to assist in overcoming the whole problem of pollution. It is of no use for the Government to put its head in the sand with the excuse that pollution is a State responsibility. The States have not the finance to tackle this problem. The Commonwealth Government could well take a lead from the Nixon Government in the United States of America, which is providing $8,929m during the next 5 years to construct waste treatment plants and to provide sewerage. The time for talking about the horrors of pollution has passed. The time for action is now.
As a first step, the very least that the Government should do in the national interest is to set up a permanent research Organisation, on similar lines to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to deal with the investigation into the methods of disposal of solid, liquid and gaseous wastes. Information gathered by this research organisation might be made readily available then to all bodies which have to deal with this problem. It is also a vital necessity for the Commonwealth Government to assist the States financially for the specific purpose of providing additional sewerage installations. In the Banks electorate alone are tens of thousands of unsewered homes. I have been living there for 20 years and I still have not a sewer available. Heaven knows, this is not a luxury; it is a basic necessity.
This Government has failed also to acknowledge the fact that it has any financial responsibility to assist local government. The well is running dry. Ratepayers have reached the end of their financial road. Local government has had to take on many additional responsibilities including such things as day nursery facilities, pre-school1 kindergartens, public libraries, senior citizen centres, youth centres and the like are universally accepted now as being within the province of local government. What is needed is a direct financial contribution to local government authorities, not by way of loan moneys but by a direct share of the overall growth revenue of this country on a similar basis to the tax grants to the various State governments.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission was set up originally to advise the Commonwealth on the fairest way to help the smaller States to provide services and opportunities equivalent to those of the larger States. This Commission now has to worry only about the smallest State, Tasmania. It is nearly at a loose end. The experience of this Commission should be utilised in assessing and recommending direct capital grants to local government authorities. The Commonwealth does not pay even council rates in respect of land that it owns. But it does not stop at having the temerity to utilise the services which are paid for by the rate paying public. I could use a word to describe this attitude, but I am afraid that it would be classed as unparliamentary.
A typical example of the vagueness and offhandedness of this Government is the following extract from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech:
The progressive income tax scale and other aspects of the taxation system which affect particularly the lower and middle income earners are being closely studied to enable fulfilment of my Government’s aim to put before Parliament specific provisions for relief in the next Budget
Let us have a close look at this problem. Let us look at the grossly inequitable share of the tax burden which is borne by this section of the tax-paying population. The following information is taken from the published reports of the Commissioner of Taxation. The latest public break-up of statistics is that for the income year ended 30th June 1967. In that year, the total income tax assessed to individuals was $1,834,000 in round figures. There were 784,000 taxpayers earning between $4,000 and $10,000 per year, out of a total number of individual taxpayers of 4,900.000- odd. In other words, this middle income group comprised 16% of the total number of taxpayers. Looking at the taxation figures, we find that this 16% paid 37% of the total tax levied. When the latest figures become available we will find that the present position for this overtaxed section of the community is even worse.
This is a shameful situation. Government members have every reason to hang their heads in shame. They have let this situation develop over the period of the last 20 years without doing the slightest thing about it.
It was only when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) bought this matter into the light of day that the present Government, at long last, decided to have a look at it. What is the Government doing about it today? To quote the Governor-General’s Speech: ‘The matter is being closely studied’. Just how long does the Government need to do something in this matter. It has certainly done nothing since 1955 when the taxation scales were last reviewed. What has happened in the intervening period? We have seen a state of galloping inflation with gradual wage increases. Who has gained from this? It is Government revenue, of course.
Let me now particularise the position as it affects the individual taxpayer. By way of illustration, I take the case of an average lower and middle income earner and contrast the income tax paid by him in 1955, which was the last year when tax scales were varied, with his position in 1969, the present position. These figures are factual and are not something that I have dreamed up. Firstly, a junior accountant in a bank received $2,650 per annum in 1955. He paid $360 tax, or 13% of his income. In 1969, in the same position of junior accountant, the salary was $4,950 per year, due solely to the inflationary spiral. The tax payable was $1,120, or 22% of his income. This is an increase from 13% to 22%.
The salary of a junior manager in a bank in 1955 was $3,250. His tax was $520 or 16% of his income. In 1969, with the same inflationary spiral, the salary for the same position of junior manager was $6,050 per year. He pays SI, 565 in tax, 25% of his income, an increase in taxation from 16% to 25%. The tax position has started to get even worse. The salary of a manager of a bank in 1955 was 53,700 a year. He paid S656 in tax or 17% of his income. In 1969 because of the same inflationary spiral the salary for the same position was $6,950. He pays $1,960 in tax or 28% of his income, an increase in tax from 17% to 28%. lt gets even better. A junior inspector in a bank in 1955 received a salary of $4,200 a year. He paid S823 in tax or 19% of his income. In 1969 the salary for the same position - the inflationary spiral again - was S7.800 a year and the tax payable was $2,357 or 30% of his income. Up it jumps from 19% to 30%. Is it any wonder that Government supporters opposite are hanging their heads in shame, or should be?
The illustrations that I have just given are indicative of the situation in other fields of employment - schoolteachers, public servants, the lot. All have been affected by this spiralling tax burden, even the basic wage earner. In 1955 he paid 6% of his income in tax and up it jumps in 1969 to 11%. Something needs to be done to relieve this crushing burden and it needs to be done now. Let the Government bring down a supplementary Budget and not wait until after the end of this financial year. The need is urgent. At the same time, why is there not some relief in the way of allowable tax deductions? Why is a deduction not allowable for fares to and from work? The cost of fares is now a big item in the ordinary person’s budget, even more so when the shortage of land and its high cost in areas close to the city forces the average person to live further away from his place of employment. All that is required is a specific provision in the Income Tax Act to allow the deduction. And what is the attitude of the Government? The former Treasurer, the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in a letter dated 17th November 1969 - as late as that - to the Taxpayers Association, following representations by that body, said:
The Government did not see fit to introduce the amending legislation required.
One of the reasons he give for not doing it was:
It would subsidise the expenditure of persons who choose to live considerable distances from their employment and use expensive means of transport.
How unrealistic can one get? The honourable member for Lowe chooses to live about 5 miles from Sydney. I wish he would give the same choice to the people who are financially forced to live as far out as East Hills, Blacktown, Campbelltown and Gosford and have to travel to Sydney every day for their work.
I hope that the present Treasurer, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr
Bury), will be a little more sympathetic. Why is the taxation deduction for student children only allowable whilst the child is under the age of 21 years? Surely this is an unrealistic provision when a child, under our more advanced secondary school system, stays at school until 18 or 19 years of age before going to university. Even if undertaking only a 3-year university course graduation would not normally take place before the age of 22 or 23 years. If the Government was the least bit sincere in its stated desire to encourage home ownership one would think that it would allow a taxation deduction for interest paid on housing loans. This type of deduction is allowable in the United Kingdom. It was introduced by legislation many years ago. If council and water rates in respect of private residences are an allowalble deduction, why not interest on housing loans?
Surely the meanest provision is the limitation of the deduction for funeral expenses to an amount of $100. Apparently the Treasurers we have had over the past 20 years have never had to foot the bill for the funeral of a dependant. I can well remember the words of one of my constituents who had just buried a young son. He said:
I never realised that it cost so much to die.
And one cannot even claim a deduction for the funeral expenses of a mother or father who was in receipt of an age pension. It is my considered opinion that we have reached a low ebb in our social consciousness when this type of situation is allowed to exist.
I would like to draw a contrast between the attitude of the Government in these matters with its attitude towards legalised tax evasion. It is a fundamental principle of equitable taxation that the contribution of each individual to the State should be equated to his ability to pay. This principle was first enunciated by Adam Smith centuries ago. Few would deny that the real burden of taxation now falls much more severely on the person who can least afford to pay it. This Government has shown a complete inertia against changes in the taxation laws. There are so many loopholes in our revenue laws that the Income Tax Act could conceivably be described as a horse and buggy Act in a jet age economy. Skilled legal advisers and accountants can drive a horse and cart through the loopholes that exist in it. It is a sorry state of affairs when even the senior members of the Taxation Branch administration are frustrated to such a degree that they publicly describe it for what it is, a social evil. This statement was made by the Second Commissioner of Taxation, Mr P. J. Lanigan, in a paper he delivered at the conference of the Taxation Institute of Australia in Canberra in May 1969.
Why does not the Government take immediate action to close up the loopholes which are only available to those with wealth who can afford the cost of expert advice, or is it only interested in slugging the little man who has neither money nor influence in the right quarter? There are hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue being legally evaded by such devices as dividend stripping techniques, acquisition of loss companies, formation of companies on Norfolk Island or the provision of the shelter of public company status to a private company. There are so many other devices being used that they are too numerous to mention. If the Treasurer is not aware of this legalised tax evasion and really wants to know all about these devices then I suggest that he call for a report from the Commissioner of Taxation. I am certain that this very respected and capable gentleman would be most happy to acquaint him of the facts.
This Government has also failed to face up to its responsibilities in the area of the taxability of capital gains. It should be quite clear by now that the taxation of capital gains is essential to block any loopholes effectively. Those who make substantial capital gains in the stock market, in real estate or in other areas increase their ability to spend money just as much as those who earn wages or derive an income from the carrying on of a business. Exemptions could be permitted for profits made on sales of taxpayers’ homes and for articles of personal property. If capital gains were included in taxable income, the portion of the total income of the wealthy that is subject to tax would be dramatically increased. This would distribute the tax load much more fairly than it is being distributed today. The Treasurer could counter with the statement that the existing provisions of section 26a of the Income Tax Act are adequate. In fact, in answer to a question on the taxability of share sales put to him by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) on 10th March this year in regard to this vexed question he said:
It has in practice caused very few of the difficulties which theoretically have been raised by members of the public and the Press.
How wrong he is. I can assure the Treasurer that he has never been further from the facts. Prior to being elected to this Parliament I was employed in the Taxation Branch in the technical field for some 28 years. He tells us that it is not difficult to establish with certainty what was in the mind of a person when he acquired shares or other property. He is completely at variance with the experience of the officers of his own Department. There is only one answer and that is to follow the recent example of our sister country, Canada, and impose a progressive capital gains tax. This Government should take the uncertainty out of this vexed question. Even the ‘Australian Financial Review’ is an advocate of a capital gains tax.
This Government is again on trial. At the last general election the Government was charged with mismanagement and incompetence. It was acquitted, not because it was not guilty but because it had a stacked jury. The votes of the jury, the electors, were not of equal value. It was elected with a minority of votes. Taking as a criterion the programme of the Government’s future activity, as enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech, and the Government’s performance in this House since I have been here, the decision of the jury at its next trial, stacked or not, will be guilty and the Government will be banished to the Opposition benches.
That the words proposed to be added (Dr J. P. Cairns’ amendment) be »o added.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question relating to the Address-in-Reply resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to deal tonight with 2 issues. The first is the question of the location of an airport to replace Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
– Is it near Bourke?
– I know all honourable members are interested in this matter.
– It is to be in the Chifley electorate.
– It will not be in Chifley. I think I may know where it is to be located. It is time that the Government was a little frank with the House and advised us what is happening. I know that there is a Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. I know a lot of investigations are supposed to be taking place. But it so happens that as late as last August a preliminary survey was conducted in the LondonderryRichmond region by the Department of the Interior at the request of the Department of Civil Aviation. It was a preliminary survey for an airfield. There is a Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond at the present time yet I ask honourable members to keep in mind that the survey was requested not by the RAAF but by the Department of Civil Aviation.
Those honourable members who know the base at Richmond are aware that it has an east west runway. The proposal, according to these very strong rumours which are floating around, is that another strip will be constructed, a north south strip, running out through the Londonderry area. Even though it was recently stated in another place that no decision had been reached about an aerodrome to replace KingsfordSmith airport, I understand that such a survey has been carried out and that it relates to the next airport to he built in New South Wales. There is a certain amount of logic in this belief. Incidentally, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) need not ‘be worried because this site is not in the Chifley electorate.
If the rumours are true then the question of airport noise becomes of very great importance to the townships of Richmond and Windsor, irrespective of the electorate in which the airport is built, and also to Penrith and the area running out to Mount Druitt, a very fast developing area in my electorate which houses many workers. I am beginning to wonder whether this Government is adopting the attitude that that area does not matter and that it can construct an airport in an area occupied by workers. Perhaps the Government believes that it does not matter about accidents or aircraft noise or anything else so long as it moves Kingsford-Smith airport to some other area. Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, I pose these questions to the Minister: Does the Department of Civil Aviation propose to construct a north south runway at Richmond? Is it a fact that the Department of the Interior, as late as last August, completed a preliminary survey for such an airstrip? If so, is it proposed that it should be a substitute for Mascot airport, or is it to be an alternative combined RAAF-Department of Civil Aviation airport? If it is ether of those 2 things, what action does the Government intend to take to protect the nearby residents from aircraft noise, etc.?
I think this is an important issue and 1 raise it tonight hoping that some information will be given to honourable members as to why the survey was conducted. Is it simply a normal survey? Is there a reason behind it? Is there an intent behind it? Is this to be the next airport in New South Wales?
I should also like to raise a matter relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department. Recently I wrote to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) - I am very happy to have received this reply from him - asking for figures relating to outstanding deferred applications for telephones State by State, as well as the number of connections of telephones State by State. The figures are very interesting indeed. I find that in New South Wales we have 1,018,582 telephones already connected out of a total for the Commonwealth of 2,620,114. In other words, New South Wales has 38.8% of the total telephone connections in the Commonwealth. With regard to long term deferred applications - that is, applications deferred awaiting some kind of equipment be it cables, exchange equipment and the rest - I find that New South Wales has 5,733 deferred applications out of a Commonwealth total of 8,802. In other words, New South Wales has 65% of deferred applications compared with 38.8% of connections in the Commonwealth. The position is simple. If the Postmaster-General ensured that supply kept pace with demand the outstanding applications iti New South Wales would be between 38% and 40% instead of 65%.
Let us look at the position in the Minister’s own State of Queensland. Whilst New South Wales has 5,733 applications outstanding, Queensland has only 469. It would appear that the Minister is looking after his own State of Queensland very well indeed whereas in the State of New South Wales where the greatest sections of commerce, industry and population exist very little is being done to overcome delays. Let me speak of my own electorate. No attempts are being made to repair the large number of public telephones which are out of order. The reason given is that there is a lack of the necessary equipment. 1 know that there is a problem of vandalism, but when will the Department catch up with the problem? What is the reason for the lack of equipment? Is it because the finance and the wherewithal are not being given lo New South Wales? I think the answer lies in the figures supplied to me in this letter bearing the Minister’s signature which I hold in my hand. I remind the House that 65% of long term deferred applications exist in New South Wales whereas 38.8% of total telephone connections are in that State. I repeat that if New South Wales was being given a fair go by the Postmaster-General in the matter of finance, equipment and the rest, that State would have only 38.8% of deferred applications instead of 65%.
I ask the Minister to have a look at this matter. I think it is high time that the problem was overcome in this modern economy, this affluent economy, this economy in which there should not be any problems in respect of the connection of telephones which surely are a normal modern requirement. I leave it at that. I ask the Minister to reply to my questions. I should also like to be informed whether the survey in the Londonderry area is an indication that the next airport in the State will be located there. If it is, what action is being taken to protect residents not only in the immediate area but in the surrounding areas in other electorates?
– Tonight I desire to raise a matter which is both urgent and important to the wool industry. It concerns about 50 rams which seem to be in limbo at present. I refer, of course, to the lifting of the embargo on merino rams. At present rams that were sold to foreign buyers are in some sort of limbo. The Government is meanwhile allowing matters to drift and the increasing requests by wool growers for the matter to be referred to them by referendum have continued to be ignored. Following the lifting of the embargo, about 50 rams - there is some dispute as to whether the number is 48 err 53 - were sold to overseas countries. Ten were bought by Communist China and others were destined for various countries, including South Africa, Argentina, Italy and Romania. The ban was lifted in defiance of the Australian Senate; it was lifted in defiance of the expressed opinions of Victoria and Western Australia; it was lifted in defiance of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Victorian Farmers Union and the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales.
Honourable members might well ask who was in favour of the lifting of the ban.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has been under the strongest private pressure from sectional interests to whom he and the Government have surrendered on this issue. Publicly he has said he was acting on the advice of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This body should be recognised for what it is - a clumsy amalgam of interests sponsored by the Commonwealth Government and which is simply not representative of the wool growers of the country. The two New South Wales farmer and grazier organisations and the Victorian Farmers Union can claim to represent 56.6 % of the industry, and they are against lifting the ban. But of course, they are a minority in this clumsy and unrepresentative conference. If there is any lingering doubt about this being so I would remind honourable members that the Conference voted 36 to 17 for a particular kind of reserve price scheme. This was put to a referendum and defeated by the growers. So it can be seen that the Conference - which at most could be used as a sounding board - cannot and should not be cited as an authoritative voice of wool growers on matters such as this.
The Minister for Primary Industry has gone on record as saying that the protests against the lifting of the ban were simply stimulated by the Australian Labor Party. The ban was, he reminded everyone, a Labor Party decision. So the Minister claims in an extraordinary fashion - and I do not real’ly think he believes what he said - that all the farmer bodies in the two States of Victoria and New South Wales are simply acting on this matter as agents for the ALP. This is absurd rubbish and he knows it very well. It is true, and let me place it on record, that Mr Parker Maloney, Minister for Markets in the Scullin Government, brought in the original proclamation banning the export of stud sheep at the instance of the Labor Government away back in 1929. But it was supported at that time by all political’ parties and most of the grower organisations. Incidentally, it has been pointed out by the Minister that the last consignment before the ban was 5,000 merino sheep destined for Russia. I think it is interesting for the House to know that from only 363,000 sheep in 1923 Russia has boosted sheep numbers to 90 million sheep today and most of them have been bred from Australian stock.
The wool growers against the lifting of the embargo feel that the Australian producer, already struggling with sharply rising costs, would have difficulty, if the ban were lifted, in securing top quality rams at reasonable prices. They foresee - this is their thought - that 15% of the top rams could leave the country when they are most needed to maintain and improve the quality of Australian flocks. A member of the Committee for the Retention of the Embargo on the Export of Merino Rams, Mr P. G. Medway of Gunning, states that the southern American nations have the land, the experienced Australian station managers and in many cases their own laboratories, and they are ready, willing and geared to expand with the help of Australian merino rams.
So it can be seen from what I have said that there is widespread opposition by the industry itself and even by the man in the street. A poll was taken at the Sydney show and 95% of the people polled said that they were against the lifting of the embargo.
– That is what the Graziers Association of New South Wales wants.
– That is a very interesting comment because at the present time that Association is described by the Minister for Primary Industry as really an agent of the Australian Labor Party. I knew that honourable members would be surprised. Against this background the Opposition’s plea for a referendum of growers is surely sound, proper and reasonable. Tonight I reiterate the plea that has been made and the appeal that has been made for it to be accepted by the Government.
There is an urgency about this situation which I want to mention. The 50 rams that were bought by overseas interests are still here due to the fact that the trade unions concerned will not handle them. This follows a request by the graziers and wool growers who are in opposition to the export of merino rams. The Minister for Primary Industry has sought to mislead the nation on this point. He says that the unions acted at the instance of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Minister knows, as we all do, that the growers and the unions combined on this occasion. His attempt to give the leadership of all primary producer organisations concerned with this matter to the Leader of the Opposition is perhaps an unconscious recognition of the fact that the Minister has abdicated leadership. lt is now feared by the growers - this is a point I want to stress in my submission to the House tonight - that the Government intends to try to circumvent the black ban by facilitating the export of semen. There has been an embargo on the export of semen since 1950. There is the further difficulty that the present know-how just does not permit semen to be carried at all effectively.
– What does the Seamens Union think about this?
– The Seamens Union is standing firm. But science is making dramatic advances these days. What is impossible today is possible tomorrow. So the growers have the worry that this relaxation could be undertaken now and could lead to possibilities of the effective export of semen in the future. But to lift the ban for any group of foreign buyers in any case would contradict the recent request by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which the Government adopted, to ban fertilised ova leaving the country. The Minister said in a recent statement that anyway all these bans imposed by the Government in support of the original decision have not been very effective. If he is planning in the interim, as is feared by many of the growers, to lift the ban on semen and the ban on fertilised ova - the utilisation of fertilised ova is technically possible and feasible - this wit] mean the beginning of the dismantling of the whole structure which the industry has been concerned to see maintained for at least 2 generations.
Semen from the 50 rams now bought by. overseas interests could produce 150,000 lambs. Again I stress that we have not the know-how to bring the two necessary ingredients together. But, as I have said, this problem could easily be overcome with the present rate of scientific advances. After all, 50 million sheep are bred each year by means of artificial insemination in Russia and a great deal of research is under way. To end the confusion and the fears held at this time, surely the Government should do the right and proper thing, and consult the growers by referendum.
If it is willing to allow growers a referendum on other matters which perhaps do not seem so important to it or do npt seem to affect the Government’s position in any particular way, surely it is right and proper to concede a referendum on this matter. If the Government does not do so, one must assume that the growers will be granted a referendum only when it does not matter or when the Government feels that the growers will do exactly as it wants them. to do. Unless this thought is to gain credence and acceptance in the countryside, on this matter surely - above all other matters - there should be a decision for a referendum to end the fears, confusion and the doubts which exist at the present time.
– I rise to bring before the attention of the House a matter which I regard as being of the most urgent importance to my electorate - certainly to at least half the people living in that electorate, that is, in the city of Bendigo. A decision was made recently by the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) to transfer from Bendigo the Army Headquarters Survey Regiment which has been in Bendigo since 1942. What the Minister has decided to do will inflict very severe damage on the city of Bendigo. I am particularly concerned about it and I request the Minister to give very serious reconsideration to the decision that he has made, because it is of such vital importance to Bendigo.
Since 1942 the Army Headquarters Survey Regiment has been situated in Bendigo. The military personnel engaged at ‘Fortuna’, the historic property at which the regiment is located, numbers some 240, and 17 civilians are employed there also. The decision that has been made by the Minister for the Army is to transfer 240 people within the next 5 years. I cannot say at this stage how many more people will be involved in the transfer. I do not know how many of the 240 are married. I think it is safe to assume that another 500 dependants will go with them. Consider what this means to my city. We are being faced with a depopulation to the extent of 750 people approximately, and that is going to have a very severe and drastic effect upon the economy of Bendigo.
I want to stress that the Army Headquarters Survey Regiment in Bendigo is one of our most precious industries. We simply cannot afford to lose it. It ranks with some other government industries such as the Victorian Inland Meat Authority, the railway workshops and the ordnance factory, as enterprises which are vital to the maintenance of the population and economy of Bendigo. For these reasons we simply cannot accept the decision that the Survey Regiment should be transferred. What will be the economic effects of the removal of the Regiment? It is probably a safe bet to suggest that up to $lm less could be in circulation in Bendigo as a result of the removal of these 240 soldiers. This will have a pretty severe effect on our economy. If they consider it, honourable members will see how serious the matter is and why I am raising it in the House tonight. A lot of people in Bendigo will be affected, including shopkeepers, businessmen, builders and the farmers round about. Almost every sector of the economy will be hit by the decision.
It is particularly important that the population of Bendigo be maintained. I want to set my argument tonight against the background of what has been happening in Bendigo. People in Bendigo are particularly concerned with the economic development of that city. That is a fair enough thing to say about any provincial city in Victoria or any provincial city in Australia. The point is that we are particularly concerned about it. There is one thing upon which almost all people in Bendigo agree, that is, the need for more industrialisation and an increase in the population of Bendigo. We are trying to increase the population to 100,000 people so that the economy can become self-generating. Honourable members can imagine what effect the withdrawal of 750 people would have on the economy of Bendigo.
We are trying at the moment to sell Bendigo and are using the slogan: Put the go into Bendigo. If we allow the population of Bendigo to be decreased by 750, obviously we will be suffering a very severe setback. Bendigo has just recovered from one severe blow through the winding up of a local industry of which we were very proud. I refer to Massey-Ferguson (Australia) Ltd. The closure of that business was at least partly the result of the Government’s policy for primary industry. Against the background of that economic situation and our desire to increase the population of Bendigo I ask the Minister to reconsider the decision he has made. I ask him to reverse that decision and allow the Survey Regiment to remain in Bendigo. If the Regiment leaves Bendigo there will also be indirect economic effects. It is probable that 17 civilians will lose their jobs. All sorts of industries and businesses will feel the effects because of the amount of money that will be taken out of the local community. One can expect therefore that employers will be correspondingly under pressure to limit employment opportunities in future.
The main argument 1 have so far put forward in opposition to the removal of the Regiment from Bendigo has been economic, but there is more to it than that. To us in Bendigo, the Army headquarters of the Survey Regiment is a Bendigo institution. II is regarded as part of Bendigo. It was established in 1942 and has remained there for 28 years. Soldiers and officers have established homes in Bendigo, have raised their families there and have made friends in the community. All this will be sacrificed if the Survey Regiment is removed to Bonegilla. There is a great deal of disruption in the life of military personnel in normal circumstances and the maximum effort should be made to ensure that soldiers and officers are subjected to a minimum of disruption. It strikes me that the Army has a positive genius for disrupting family life and preventing soldiers from becoming too closely tied to a local community. I believe that the Survey Regiment is located in an ideal situation at ‘Fortuna’. The Regiment is very closely integrated with the people of Bendigo. I believe that you simply could not find anywhere in Australia a better relationship between military personnel and civilians. That is worth very serious consideration.
Some Army camps are located a fair distance from cities and a sense of tension and mutual suspicion develops between the military and civilian community. But that is nol the case in Bendigo. The Survey Regi ment is very closely connected with the people of Bendigo and that is very much to be preserved.
– Where is Bendigo?
– It is the centre of Victoria. At least, it is so far. I have been struck by one other thing. So far as I can see, to date this Regiment has been an independent and self-sufficient unit. I am wondering why it is to be suddenly changed after 28 years. What has happened? ls this unit no longer independant and vitually selfsufficient? What arguments can be made for its removal from Bendigo? The Minister has put forward some arguments. 1 have placed a question on the notice paper to elicit further information as to the exact reasons for the change. The rather glib explanation I have so far is that technical, administrative and logistic economies are to be made by the Army. I have no doubt that I will be informed at length as to what they are.
The Government should not be concerned purely and solely with the interests of one arm of government. It should not be concerned solely with what it believes to be the interests of the Army. There is more to government than just that. The Government must appreciate the interests of its various arms in relation to the interests of the people as a whole. For that reason the people of Bendigo should be given very serious consideration. For that reason 1 should like the Minister to reverse his decision. He has said that he intends to transfer the Survey Regiment from Bendigo. He said in a letter in reply to me that he would reconsider the future Army use of ‘Fortuna’ I am very grateful for the understanding he gave in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ tonight in reply to Vincent Matthews. The article quotes the Minister as saying:
But we are planning to continue using the buildings which will be left vacant at Fortuna, Bendigo.
But that is not enough for us in Bendigo because we are determined that the Survey Regiment should be retained there, lt is vital to the economy of Bendigo. If it is removed the city could lose 750 people and the economy of Bendigo could suffer a setback from which it might take several years to recover.
– The matters raised by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) are receiving my attention. The honourable member referred to a statement attributed to me. which was published in today’s Melbourne ‘Herald’. The statement is not quite correct, as the honourable member will be aware, for my present views on this matter were set out in a letter to him dated 12th March. I have also received representations from Mr Jock Granter, a member of the Victorian Legislative Council. The honourable member for Bendigo is aware of my undertaking to discuss the questions posed in my letter with the Council of the City of Bendigo. I hope to be able to advise ihe honourable member tomorrow of a suggested date for that discussion.
– Last night 1 informed the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) that 1 intended to complain about the provision of an office for my use in Bunbury, a town within my electorate. I regret having to raise this matter, which is extremely parochial, but I do so because my patience has been exhausted. My success at the election held almost 6 months ago was apparent as early as 2 or 3 days after the election. At that time I informed officers of the Department of the Interior that I would require an office in my electorate in the town of Bunbury. I confirmed this requirement with the Department only a few days later when my predecessor conceded defeat. The choice of site was made on the afternoon of 7th November, following the declaration in Bunbury of the poll for Forrest. An officer of the Department, accompanied by Senator Wilkinson and me, inspected available office space and we decided upon the desired site that afternoon. 1 admit that some short delay in starting on the building may have been caused when I learned that a Liberal Party senator had applied for an office adjoining my proposed office. However, this could have caused no delay in ordering equipment laid down for provision to members of Parliament. In any event the uncertainty was very short lived. It was due to my experience of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Perth, where one can hear normal conversations conducted in adjoining offices on all sides of any office. However, the ownerbuilder of the office block assured me that the offices would be satisfactorily soundproofed. I sent a letter dated 8th December to the Department s ating that I desired the office chosen on the day of the declaraion of the poll. It was not until 6 weeks after writing that letter that ministerial approval was received. The Minister having spelled yes to the request at the average rate of one letter of the alphabet per fortnight, the matter could then proceed to the Executive Council. Executive Council approval had to wait a further 2 weeks and was not given until 9th February of this year. Work was then able to proceed quickly, the only delay occurring towards the end of the work because funds had been released for all building and furnishing requirements except the provision of carpet.
I sent a telegram to the Minister seeking an immediate release of funds to allow the job to be completed. I had earlier requested that the office be ready for occupation when Parliament resumed on 3rd March. In fact, the construction work, carpet laying and other work was completed by the weekend preceding 3rd March. My secretary moved from Perth, where I had been using a temporary office which involved me in two trips a week each of 250 miles in order to deal with mail and other matters. But upon inspection I found that my office was far from ready for occupation. In fact, if I had not had a most understanding and dedicated secretary I could have been faced with a staff walk-out. We had telephones, due solely to the efficient service given in the Bunbury region. But although it had been known for 5 months that I would require an office and all those things prescribed as equipment for parliamentary offices, I had only a stationery cupboard, a coat rack, a bookcase and a crate of glass. My secretary could hang up her coat and lay down her purse, but she had no chair, no table, no photocopying machine and, worse, no typewriter. Fortunately we had the crate of glass for my secretary to sit on and on which to sit her old portable typewriter to do all her work. Of course, further equipment arrived in the first week - we received our fans and our radiators. Still at that point we had not 1 chair, 1 table, a copying machine or, again, a typewriter.
Although that had been the situation after 5 months, I did not raise the issue. The reason I raise it now is because I am faced with having to employ a girl part time to catch up with the work that has accumulated since my secretary has had to work with a small very inferior typewriter which will type only 3 readable copies at a time, even when set on the table which has since arrived. However, we still urgently need a chair for my secretary, a photo-copying machine and a typewriter. We have required these things right from the time of the election, nearly 6 months ago. The inconvenience suffered defies imagination and therefore the handicap we have borne in endeavouring to serve an electorate in which there has been a tremendous lack of service in the past is hard to appreciate.
The delay that has caused me and my electorate so much inconvenience in this matter differs only in degree from the inconvenience and uncertainty which face my electors in the matters of shipping and transport insofar as Albany and Bunbury are concerned and in the field of primary industries, especially, although far from exclusively, in the dairying sector, with the unfulfilled promise of dairy rationalisation. I suppose that taking the matter in the perspective of Country Party administration 1 have no complaint at all, because for 3 years, without apparent result, the dairy farmer has been promised dairy rationalisation to correct a situation brought about by his 20 years of progressive economic decline under this Government. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) announced 3 years ago that containerisation was to bring about a revolution in shipping, resulting in cheaper freights and cost-free feeder services from outports, but one of the major ports in Western Australia is still waiting for some definite word from this Government as to what containerisation is going to mean to it. Although these things have developed under a Country Party administration, I cannot allow a similar situation to develop in my office. I have a mountain of work to do and it is laid down that I shall have the equipment with which to do it. I have waited 6 months and I do not intend to wait 3 years with no end in sight, as have my dairy farmers and the people of Albany.
– I crave the indulgence of honourable members who are unaware of an article published in an editorial of the ‘Cessnock Eagle’ on Friday, 6th March. If the facts contained in the article are true - I have no reason to doubt them at this juncture - I think Government supporters should hang their heads in shame. Honourable members will recall my question addressed to the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) today. In brief, I asked the Minister whether the Australian Government had aided or co-operated in any way in having Australian soldiers, either before or after discharge, serving as mercenaries in Laos. The Minister said that he was not aware of the report in the newspaper to which I have referred and asked me to give him a copy. I immediately obliged. The article referred to is too lengthy for me to read in full to the House. It contains, to my mind, a shocking indictment against the present Government, an indictment on which any Australian magistrate, on having the evidence before him, would find a prima facie case made out against the Government and call upon it to answer the charge.
The article alleges that the Australian Government has for the past 2 to 3 years had men involved in the war in Laos and that it would probably deny this emphatically. It alleges further that it is well known among foreign correspondents and military commentators that mercenary troops have been working in Laos for the past few years. Most of the troops are either New Zealanders, Australians or South Africans. The article states that when on leave these mercenaries hang out in the tenement flats of Earls Court, London, waiting for their next job. They spend much of their time at the Zambesi Club and are ready to talk to sympathetic looking journalists. The soldiers regard themselves as soldiers fighting for a cause which gives them no reward except money. They stated that they are well and truly covered by a comprehensive insurance scheme and that when one of them has his brains blown out his family is well cared for. The article states that they resent the nasty publicity they received in Nigeria and the Congo.
They were interviewed by two young and forthright journalists whom I shall name. One was Kenneth Brass, formerly of the
Sydney Morning Herald’ in London and now believed to be with the London ‘Daily Mail’. The other was a young Australian journalist, Brian Hungerford, who is now in Australia and who was formerly attached to the United Nations. These 2 journalists interviewed the mercenaries at the Zambesi Club at Earls Court. The soldiers stated that they were New Zealanders, South Africans and Australian. They said they were financed in part by the Australian Government to carry out their operations. They complained of being treated as thugs and murderers on their return to England. One soldier, believed to be an Australian, is reported as having said:
We are just soldiers. We have the same problems other soldiers have. We are only fighting boongs but boongs with rifles are dangerous.
This is a disgraceful statement to be attributed to any mercenary, particularly an Australian. The soldier said:
We are getting 10 quid a day, or 70 quid sterling a week and a pay-off al: the end. We were bought to do a job like hold an airfield for 3 days so that the Government troops could make a Formal attack.
The mercenaries said these things at the interview. They also said:
All the dirty work we do. See, we can get in when the normal uniform troops cannot make it. That’s why some of our boys are in Laos. The Aussie or the United Slates Governments cun’t send in ordinary troops wearing uniforms. All the coons would start screaming in the United Nations about intervention and neutrality and all that.
They are attributed as having said this to the 2 journalists I named. They also said:
We’ve lost a few of our blokes around the Vietnam border. The bloody Chinks keep crossing over to get around the back of the Yanks. It’s our job to keep them occupied all the time. We do too, but we get no thanks for it. Our top man is Colonel Peters. We all reckon he is a great man.
I might inform the House that Colonel Peters is now a retired former high ranking British soldier. He is alleged to have played a part in recruiting mercenaries to fight in the Congo and Laos and in Nigeria prior to the ending of the war. He is credited with recruiting most of these mercenaries in Johannesburg. I do not know whether the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) or the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) know him personally; they probably do. Colonel Peters is alleged, by one of the mercenaries, to be a man who has high ideals about the world. The soldier said:
He doesn’t want the boongs or the Commos to take over and he’s prepared to go to any lengths to back his ideals. One of our brigades in the Congo got rid of 1,000 boongs in one day. We bloody soon settled the nasty little situation there.
According to the article the mercenaries did not get any thanks for it and they complained about cold treatment on their return to London. They boasted of high pay but of not being welcome and having to depend on the Australian-South African organisation in London to arrange accommodation for them, the article stated. It is this organisation that probably members of the Government are patrons of. The organisation is reported as buying a terrace of houses in which 300 Australian, New Zealand and South African mercenary soldiers are domiciled when they are in London on leave. This interview took place, as I said, with 12 or more mercenary soldiers at the Zambesi Club, Earls Court, London. The man who gave most of this information was an Australian soldier who had done 2 years Army service and became restless. The resultant interview when reported in the United Kingdom Press and by ihe British Broadcasting Commission surprised many people. They learned that the Australian Government was paying professional mercenary soldiers to do dirty work. The Australian mercenaries were proud of their achievement and profession and what they were doing on behalf of the Australian Government, the article said, though they regretted that the ordinary campaign medals associated with normal military adventures were not for them. Yet the United States and Australian governments claim they are not involved in the war in Laos.
To me this article has something of a true ring to it. This Government told untruths in the past about our involvement in Vietnam when the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pinned down the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Therefore I demand a forthright and honest answer from the new Minister for the Army who is generally respected and is held in high esteem on this side of the House. So far he has not to our knowledge been contaminated. The Australian people want to know whether this is true or not. The world wants to know and the United Nations wants to know, and I am sure the people of New Zealand want to know whether this information is true. I am seriously concerned about whether the Government has been hemmed in by the activities of the American Central Intelligence Agency. Has that agency subverted this Government, as it has other governments in other countries, into supplying mercenary soldiers for Vietnam, Nigeria, the Congo and Laos? If so, the Government should be honourable enough to admit it. 1 ask the Minister for the Army to tell the truth because eventually the truth will come out. If the allegations are true - and at this juncture I believe that they are - then this Government has gone far beyond the bounds of the common decencies. It has deliberately betrayed the Australian people and it is devoid of all moral worth and is totally unfit to occupy the Government benches in this Parliament.
– Before calling the honable member for Hawker 1 remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech and I would ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesy.
- Mr Speaker, the matter I wish to raise will nol require the courtesy of the House on this occasion. I -rise to join hands with my parliamentary colleague in New South Wales, Mr Cox, M.L.A., and to draw the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) to the question - and I underline the word question’ - of the activities of a particular insurance company under the name of Motor Marine & General Insurance Company. I indicate that that company is in fact a non-tariff company and is registered, as I understand it, in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. Its South Australian address is 40 Pirie Street, Adelaide, and it commenced operations initially in April 1966. My purpose, along with members throughout Australia who have received numerous complaints - and I add mine to them - is to express concern about the policies, attitudes and methods with which this company handles its claims. It is my belief that many people who take out policies with this company are being unfairly and unjustly treated.
I want to cite a particular claim. There are many more instances that I could sub mit to the Parliament. The claim I wish to refer to is a clear example of the type of treatment this company metes out to its clients. I preface my remarks by stating that I personally can substantiate the facts to be submitted, for I have perused all the correspondence exchanged between the constituent, her solicitor and the company, together with the evidence which supports both the claim and the complainant. A Mrs Maloney of 7 Gum Terrace, Clovelly Park, was riding in a vehicle which was involved in an accident on 25th November last year in South Road, Clovelly Park, South Australia. It was not an accident involving another vehicle. She swerved crossing the road, her vehicle hit the curb and rolled over. She promptly lodged an accident claim with this company, and I will quote the correspondence and what transpired. A letter dated 16 January 1970 from the company to Mrs Maloney reads:
We refer to the accident involving the above vehicle, and advise that recently an independent assessor-
I might indicate that the independent assessor was from the company’s office in Sydney - checked your vehicle at our body works.
As a result of this inspection it was found that the unit was fitted with a bald tyre and as such rendered the vehicle unroadworthy.
Therefore, as this is a breach of your policy conditions, we regret to advise that we are unable to admit liability for your repairs in this particular instance.
The solicitors acting on behalf of the constituent received the following letter from the company - and I quote only the relevant passage:
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 5th February 1970 and note with interest the comments regarding the tyre report. We have today forwarded a copy of our file together with your correspondence to our Directors and upon advice from them we will contact you further. Please withhold any action if our answer is not available within the 7 days time limit you have specified.
The reason given for the rejection of the claim was that the vehicle had one bald tyre. The constituent went to some considerable trouble and got assessors from 5 reputable companies in Adelaide to undertake an inspection of this vehicle. The 5 companies reported and are prepared to go into Court to say that the tyres on the vehicle at the time of the accident were roadworthy. The sole ground upon which the insurance company rejected the claim was the fact that it said that the vehicle had one bald tyre. Correspondence from the company subsequently has not indicated any change of this ground. At the moment the matter rests between the solicitor and the company on the understanding that they will engage an independent arbitrator. The company is reluctant to go to this extent at this point of time.
Let us look at the set up of the company. Its premiums are much lower than those of other companies in the same field, particularly in South Australia. In fact the woman’s premiums for a vehicle with what they call a No. 2 rating was $23.45 per annum. A No. 2 rating is given to a vehicle in relation to which no claim has been made within the preceding 6 years. All the other insurance companies in South Australia, which conform to a standard rale, have a premium of $42.29 for a No. 2 rating. In effect this company’s premium was $18.84 cheaper. From the information J have handed to the Minister with respect of the dealings of this company in Western Australia and New South Wales - and its activities have been reported in the papers throughout New South Wales today - it clearly appears to me that this company balances its budget by offering low premiums and by rejecting a percentage of claims. Obviously, because of its low premiums this company attracts those people who can ill afford to contest rejected claims.
Generally a rigid code of ethics is applied by tariff companies, particularly in relation to life insurance. As T understand the position, they are watched closely by the Commissioner of Insurance in Canberra. Insofar as general or non-life insurance companies are concerned, there is practically no legislation, either Commonwealth or State, which appears to give adequate protection to the public in this area. Those who conform with the standard rate charged would have met this claim unhesitatingly if it had been lodged with them. I am convinced that other insurance companies would welcome an immediate inquiry into the activities of this company and would welcome legislation or regulations which would protect the integrity of those companies in the general non-life field which over the years have built up the confidence and trust of the public. Above all, an inquiry would give the public the protection it deserves. Companies of this nature deserve investigation and inquiry and deserve to be the subject of public scrutiny. I ask the Minister to take the appropriate steps to initiate an inquiry into this company’s activities - particularly this claim - to protect the public from the improper actions of this company, and to raise this matter with State Attorneys-General or their representatives to ensure that adequate and protective legislation is given to the public in this regard on a Commonwealth basis.
– I compliment the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) on having made his maiden speech. I am sure that we shall all look forward to hearing from him again in future. I listened with attention to what the honourable gentleman said. However, I am confronted with a difficulty in meeting his principal request, which is that I carry out some investigation or cause some investigation to be carried out into the activities of the company, the name of which he mentioned. I. must confess that I am confronted with an initial difficulty and that I do not quite see a way round it at the moment. The difficulty is that the company, according to the facts stated by the honourable gentleman is not registered in the Australian Capital Territory or in any other Commonwealth territory. That really ties my hands. Let me be careful to say to the House that I am not expressing any view whatsoever, because it would be wrong for me to do so, as to the validity or otherwise of the allegations that have been made in the newspapers about this company or about the allegations that the honourable gentleman has made tonight. It would not be proper for me to canvass the merits of the matter. As I see the position, however, the company not being registered in the Australian Capital Territory or in the Northern Territory, I would have difficulty almost amounting to impossibility in doing anything about the matter. However, I will consider the matter when I read the Hansard report of the honourable member’s speech tomorrow and let him know if I change my mind. I do not think I shall.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.18 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date’ the information on the International Labour Organization given in the answer to me on 9th May 1963 (Hansard, page 1272).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Convention No. 99 - Minimum wage Fixing Machinery (Agriculture), 1951 - Ratified on 19th June 1969.
Convention No. 122 - Employment Policy, 1964- Ratified on 1th November 1969.
April 1964- Nos 26, 32, 62, 81, 111
April 1965- Nos 26, 32, 62, 81, 92
April 1966- Nos 32, 62, 81, 92, 111
April 1967- Nos 32, 62, 81, 87, 92, 98, 100, 111
April 1968- Nos 32, 58, 62, 81, 87, 92, 98, 99, 100, 111, 112, 122, 123
April 1969- Nos 13, 32, 58, 62, 81, 87, 92, 98, 99, 100, 111, 112, 113, 123, 124.
In addition, a meeting of the Commonwealth and State Labour Departments in October 1969 considered all unratified Conventions and in particular Nos 13, 32, 47, 52, 58, 62, 81, 87, 92, 94, 98, 100, 101, 106, 107, 109, 111, 112, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124, 127.
Trans-Continental Railways (Question No. 64)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
(a) The Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company runs a passenger train between Chicago and Los Angeles having an average speed, over 2,222 miles, of 55.5 miles per hour on the eastwards journey and 52 miles per hour on the westward journey.
The decrease in distance in the journey via Broken Hill is 267 miles.
Before the standard gauge between Kalgoorlie and Perth was completed, the average speed for passenger trains via Melbourne varied between 30.3 miles per hour (Southern Aurora) and 35 mites per hour (Intercapital Daylight Express).
An improvement in average speed has been achieved by the replacement of low speed, narrow gauge track in Western Australia with 70 miles per hour standard gauge track, and in South Australia with 60 miles per hour standard gauge track. It has also been helped by the reduced in-transit times made possible by eliminating three changes of trains.
(a) New South Wales- 70 mph
On the South Australian sector, pending consolidation of the track, an overall speed limit of 45 miles per hour has been imposed, with further restrictions where the track conditions warrant and when daytime temperatures rise excessively.
The Commonwealth Railways also impose a speed restriction of 45 miles per hour on sections of their newly laid welded track during periods of excessively high temperatures.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What progress has been made in preparing and publishing statistics of income received and capital repatriated by Australian companies from operations and investments in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Bureau of Statistics (Papua and New Guinea) published on 21st October 1969 a Statistical Bulletin on the flow of investment between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and overseas countries in 1967-68. A copy of this Bulletin is available in the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
As the Government has named the first diesel locomotive for the Indian-Pacific train after the Right Honourable John Grey Gorton, current Prime Minister of Australia, will he ensure that a similar tribute is paid to a former great Prime Minister and also a locomotive engineman, the late Right Honourable Joseph Benedict Chifley.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The locomotive named recently after the Right Honourable the Prime Minister commemorates the introduction of the first of the new ‘CL’ Class 3300/3000 H.P. diesel locomotives to Commonwealth Railways and was not necessarily associated with the commencement of the ‘IndianPacific’ service. Since the introduction of diesels to Commonwealth Railways in 1951 it has been customary to commemorate each new class of locomotive by naming one of them after the Prime Minister of the Day, or the Minister occupying the Shipping and Transport portfolio. Your suggestion that a similar tribute should be paid to the late Mr Chifley will be borne in mind.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows
The quotas were intended and designed to cope with unprecedented problems of marketing and storage and to avoid a worsening of the situation which, if unchecked, would have led to widespread hardship in the industry.
As far as Western Australia is concerned the quota of 86 million bushels has been exceeded by deliveries in only four seasons. In fact prior to 1965-66 the largest quantity delivered had been 67 million bushels.
The allocation of quotas to producers is a matter for State authorities. I do not have information on individual quotas.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Wheat (Question No. 252)
Br Patterson asked the Minister for Pri mary Industry, upon notice:
In the event of hard wheats being grown extensively in southern Australia, what markets exist outside of Australia for this wheat if its protein content is below 11 per cent.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Wheat Board has informed me that buyers of medium protein hard wheats invariably seek a minimum of 12% protein level; and that hard wheats below that level virtually must be regarded as being in the f.a.q. category.
Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Question No. 273)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What amounts by way of (a) lump sum payments and (b) cost of hearing aids have been paid out by Commonwealth Railways as compensation to employees for loss of hearing due to noise.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Has any approach been received from the Government of Victoria for Commonwealth assistance for the extension of standard gauge rail links to Victorian provincial centres.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No such approach has been received from the Government of Victoria.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
As the benefits of a uniform rail gauge link from eastern to Western Australia become more tangible, what plans has the Government for a similar uniform rail link from Northern Queensland to the south.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No proposals have been received from the Queensland Government for a uniform standard gauge link from Northern Queensland to the South.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Can he give any information relating to the investigation by Commonwealth Railways and private consultants into the proposed new railway link from Alice Springs to the present East-West railway.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
An interdepartmental committee is examining the advantages and disadvantages of the use of various combinations of road and rail to provide a new link between Port Augusta and Alice Springs.
Drafting of the Committee’s report is nearing completion and it is expected to be available for consideration by the Government shortly.
An announcement will be made as soon as the Government has reached a decision.
asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The State Ministers at the meeting undertook to raise the question of appropriate legislation for child restraints which their respective State Governments.
Papua and New Guinea - Ordinances (Question No. 158)
MrhitlamskedheMnister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700318_reps_27_hor66/>.