27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth.
That due to higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions, are finding it extremely difficult tolive in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30 per cent of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Union policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
The Average Weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition; so that our Citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– On behalf of the right honourable member for Lowe I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of electors of Lowe respectfully showeth:
That they are gravely concerned at what they consider to be the adverse effect on moral standards in the Australian community of the increasing portrayal and description of obscenity, sexual licencepromiscuityandviolence in filmsbooks, magazines, plays and, to a lesser extent, television and radio programmes;
That their concern arises partly from the fact that historians, such as J. D. Unwin and Arnold Toynbee, have shown that nearly all nations which have perished have done so because of internal moral decay; and partly because obscenity and indecency are contrary to the teachings of Christianty which is the acknowledged religion of more than 80 per cent of Australians, besides being part and parcel of the law of the land’ (Quick and Garran in ‘Commentaries on the Australian Constitution’, page 951); and
That in accordance with the findings of the Australian Gallup Poll, published in the Melbourne Herald on 14th November 1969, the majority of Australian citizens want censorship either maintained or increased -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on censorship of films, literatture and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to preserve sound moral standards in the community.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The right honourable gentleman will recall that in his speech opening Parliament on 3rd March the Governor-General announced that an investigation would be made to see whether there was scope for improving the procedures for the handling of certain types of tariff cases. I ask him whether this investigation has been concluded. If so, has any legislation or ministerial statement been prepared?
– There were certain proposals, and with my approval Department of Trade and Industry officials have conducted discussions with the Chairman of the Tariff Board to see whether he thought that there would be advantages, in respect of expedition and efficacy, in improving procedures for the handling of Tariff Board cases. At the moment I am not able to tell the Leader of the Opposition of the final decision. I will put myself in a position to do so and give him an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Recently the Minister and the Chief of the Naval Staff visited North Queensland inspecting. I understand, possible sites for a naval patrol boat base. I ask the Minister whether any decision has yet been made on this matter.
– The short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes. The Government has decided to establish a patrol boat base at Cairns for a number of reasons, but principally because it is closest to the most favourable opening in the Great Barrier Reef and to the area where surveillance duties will be discharged. Accommodation will be provided there. It is proposed at the moment that 3 patrol boats will be based at Cairns. It only remains for me to observe that the advocacy of the honourable member for Herbert in this matter has been persistent and has paid off handsomely.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, by referring to the fact that the city of Canberra as well as providing an excellent example of metropolitan planning, has stable and even falling land prices. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is mainly due to the acquistion, subdivision and planned development of land by the Government, or rather by a Government agency? Does the Government propose to pursue the same policies in the development of Canberra’s satellite city of Tuggeranong? Does the Government consider that similar action by State governments is any less desirable? If so, does the Government consider that the States have the resources to carry out such planned development? If not, is the Government willing to discuss with the State governments the feasibility of setting up revolving funds so that the State governments can acquire lands for urban development which will be both orderly and free from land speculation?
– Undoubtedly the acquisition, subdivison and planned development of land by the Government here in Canberra have had the effect of stabilising land prices. Indeed, this subject is dealt with, if the honourable member would like to go into it in any greater depth, in the 13th report of the National Capital Development Commission. The Government proposes to provide this same approach and the same policies for the development of Canberra’s new towns including Woden and Belconnen currently and Tuggeranong in the future, and we trust that this will have the same beneficial effect in the Territory under our control as it has had in the past. I do not think it is proper for me to comment on what States should or should not do within their own areas of responsibility as sovereign States. I would have thought that if this commended itself to the State from which the honourable member comes that Premier might have sought to take some action along these same lines, particularly as he was left with a surplus by the outgoing Government.
– My question ls addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Last week on Thursday, 17th September, the Minister gave information on the increased national wages bill should unions’ claims for 4 weeks annual leave be granted. In view of his answer I now ask him: Is it also true that many claims now being made by unions on behalf of some or all of their members seek a 35- hour week? If so, have any estimates been made of the added costs which would follow from a general 35-hour week?
– Yes, estimates have been made and, as I pointed out in the answer to the question regarding 4 weeks annual leave, the cost depends upon the method adopted by employers to maintain the volume of production. There are 2 ways of doing this or a combination of each. One way is to employ new labour, and that is not easy when there is a tight employment situation. The other way is to work overtime. The cost of working overtime is greater than the cost of employing new labour. I think that probably the method adopted would be a combination of each way. The estimates are: If employers sought to maintain the volume of production by employing new labour the cost would be between $ 1,400m and $2,000m a year. If they did it by working overtime it would be between $2, 100m and $2,900m a year. To put it into percentage terms the increased unit cost for the first way - that is, by employing new labour - would be between 9 per cent and 13 per cent. For the second way - by working overtime - increase of the unit cost would be between 134 per cent and 19 per cent. As the unit cost is the prime factor in prices it could be expected that there would be an increase of something like those percentages in prices overall.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport Is the Minister aware that the Tasmanian Government is withholding approval for the construction of port facilities at Stanley and on King Island until a decision is given by the Federal Government on the location of a deep water port of King Island? Further, is the Minister aware that a contract has been signed and the keel laid for the vessel to operate from these ports, the construction being undertaken at the Cairns shipyard in northern Queensland? Will the Minister give urgent consideration to the 2 reports submitted by MacDonald, Wagner and Priddle and Maunsell and Partners so that port installations can be commenced and completed for the vessel to operate the triangular Stanley-King Island-Melbourne service as from next September? Is the Minister in a position to advise me of the Government’s decision in this matter?
– I am not aware of the Tasmanian Government’s alleged action in delaying commencement of any port facilities. Indeed, my understanding as far as the King Island facilities are concerned is that the Peko-Wallsend group has progressed quite considerably in the construction of the new port at Grassy which is expected to come into operation in time to receive the ship being built by Captain Houfe. This ship will operate on the triangular service of which King Island and Port Stanley are 2 principal ports. So far as the new ship to be built by Captain Houfe is concerned, I understand that construction has already commenced. I had an opportunity to look at the yard some weeks ago and I believe that with deliveries of steel having commenced, there is no reason to expect any undue delay in completion of that vessel which, as the honourable gentleman’s question intimated, is due for completion about September 1971.
As to consideration of the respective reports of Maunsell and Partners and MacDonald, Wagner and Priddle, the position is that the report by MacDonald,
Wagner and Priddle was commissioned jointly by the Commonwealth and State governments and considered by them. The other report was produced as a result of the intervention of the Peko-Wallsend group because of its concern to ensure adequate . port facilities for the development of its scheelite deposits and mining rights on the Grassy side of King Island. The Prime Minister has corresponded with the Premier of Tasmania and advised the Premier that the decision as to the location of a port is predominantly one for the State Government. It is my understanding that the Tasmanian Government has had discussions with Peko-Wallsend and it is as a result of those discussions that the port construction at Grassy has been pursued. I would think that in those circumstances the responsibility for further port developments on the mainland of Tasmania rests with the Tasmanian Government and it is upto it to pursue the matter according to its priorities.
-I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether the Government decided in June last to examine requests for import controls on cheese. Is Australia the only country with an open market for cheese despite the existence of a world surplus of dairy produce and heavy subsidisation of the Australian dairying industry? Did cheese imports in 1968-69 amount to 13 per cent of the total Australian consumption, representing an increasing proportion of Australian consumption? Do countries from which imports are being made into Australia restrict entry of Australian dairy products to their own markets? Can the Minister inform the House what progress has been made in the examination of import controls and what action has so far been taken in this important matter?
-I understand that the information contained in the honourable gentleman’s question is essentially true except for perhaps 2 points. The Government took action before June on the importation of non-cheddar cheeses, in fact, representations were made by the industry and trade unions which were concerned with the alleged dumping of non-cheddar cheeses in Australia. In April I referred the matter to the Tariff Board for examination and report, after having established that a prima facie case of dumping of non-cheddar cheeses existed. Then on 8th September we began collecting cash securities to cover dumping and to protect local industry and local employment from goods exported from exporting countries on or after 8th September 1970. The honourable gentleman asked whether all countries that export to Australia have restrictions on Australian cheese. That is not my information. I understand that some of them have. If the honourable gentleman knows of any circumstance where countries with which we have a trade agreement are restricting Australian imports, it would be his duty to inform my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, who would look into the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Has R. W. Miller and Co. Pty Ltd over recent years made application to the Australian Shipbuilding Board to build three 60,000- ton tankers for the carriage of crude oil and/ or petroleum products around the Australian coast? Has approval been given for the building of 2 of these tankers? Why has the Government delayed approving the third tanker? Will the Government give an assurance that the application by this Australian owned company will not be prejudiced in order to meet the wishes of substantially foreign owned oil operators?
– First of all I should make it clear to the House that the Government’s only role is in terms of the provision of subsidies. The Government is not in a position to deny the right of an individual company if it should seek to build a vessel in Australia and could find a yard capable of building that vessel. The application made by R. W. Miller and Co. Pty Ltd, together with applications that have been made for another 4 tankers of very considerable size - 60,000 to 70,000 tons - have been received by the Australian Shipbuilding Board. These tanker applications will probably mean that there will be an excess tonnage available for the movement of crude oil. It could be said, if the Commonwealth were to provide a shipbuilding subsidy on each one of the tankers, that the subsidy would be provided for vessels in excess of requirements. It might bc difficult for those vessels to be employed on the Australian coast. The applications for subsidy made both by the Miller company and by each of the other applicants for ships are now under examination by the Government. When I am in a position to reply to the honourable member and to the company and to advise on what subsidies will be provided on the vessels I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the Government’s decision to increase the total dairy subsidy this year to $46,250,000 mean that the previous arrangement by which the Government accepted responsibility for underwriting the return to producers at 34c per lb no longer applies? If so, what will be the return to producers on any production that exceeds the 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese that has been arranged, and how will that be channelled to the producers? Is the voluntary restraint proposal of the Australian Dairy Industry Council likely to achieve its target? Even if it does - which seems most unlikely - will the Minister make a statement very shortly covering the extent of the Government’s support for next season so that dairy farmers may plan their breeding programmes to optimise their returns for the next season?
– The Government had negotiations with the dairy industry at the beginning of this year and discussed the serious problem of overproduction, or production surplus to what could be disposed of. We stated to the industry that we were not prepared to underwrite the guarantee of 34c per lb of commercial butterfat for unlimited production. In the course of negotiations with the Australian dairy industry it was agreed that the Government would provide a guaranteed price of 34c per lb up to a total production of 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese. But in providing that guarantee we stated that there was an obligation on the dairy industry to restrict its production to that level and that no finances would be made available for production in excess of those amounts. If the dairy industry produces in excess of those amounts it will have to make its own arrangements for finance because the Commonwealth will not be involved and I cannot say what factories will pay their suppliers if they exceed that production level.
We gave this guarantee on a 1-year basis on the understanding that the dairy industry would have a deep look at how it might control its production or restrain the increase in production that is taking place. We suggested that it look at the possibility of quota arrangements. The dairy industry at the moment is consulting with the universities to try to formulate a satisfactory scheme. It is having its own internal discussions and I am hoping that by about November this year the industry will have brought forward some proposal that can be studied by both the Government and itself.
I want to emphasise that there is a serious long term problem for the dairy industry. It must somehow or other gear itself to be able to control its production in an orderly fashion. If Britain should enter the European Common Market we will have to find alternative outlets for the butter that we presently dispose of in Britain. There will be a serious problem. Production will have to be tuned back because there is no other available outlet. It is up to the dairy industry to recognise this problem and to try to come forward with a plan.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed reports that Malaysia’s new Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, has called for the neutralisation of South East Asia with guarantees from the Soviet Union, China and the United States of America? What validity is there is Australia’s forward defence policy of containing Communism, which is based on the alignment of Malaysia against Communism and therefore against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China, especially when Malaysia is seeking guarantees from these 2 Communist powers for its own future? How does the right honourable gentleman reconcile Australia’s forward defence policy with a policy of guaranteed neutrality for Malaysia?
– I did notice what the new Prime Minister of Malaysia had to say upon this matter. 1 point out to the honourable member that it is this Government which has taken the diplomatic initiative in an attempt to guarantee the neutrality of Cambodia, which was invaded.
– I want an answer to my question.
– It is no use twisting your face up like that. Cambodia is a country in South East Asia which was invaded by the Vietnamese, and we did take the diplomatic initiative in endeavouring to protect the neutrality of that country. These are simple facts. The fact that attempts by. ourselves and the other countries engaged with us in that diplomatic initiative had no effect upon those who sought to invade and who are invading that country speaks for itself. I think we would all be pleased if there were no risk of invasion, no risk of fighting to any of these countries in South East Asia. I think that history shows that it would be very unwise indeed to assume that, because one seeks to see that there is no invasion, no invasion will in fact take place from Communist sources.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the decision to release Mr J. Ross from Sale on advice received from Mr Justice Smithers. 1 understand that this advice was obtained after Mr Ross had refused to comply with and recognise the National Service Act and that the information received by Mr Justice Smithers was obtained in substantially a form of private hearing with Mr Ross. In these circumstances will the Minister indicate whether he bad expected Mr Justice Smithers to undertake this form of procedure and whether such forms of procedure are likely to be repeated should further cases of a similar nature arise?
– The honourable gentleman and the House will recall that I publicly stated in June last thatthe regulations would be amended to enable me to refer cases to magistrates where a person claimed to be a conscientious objector but who refused to make application in accordance with the Act. I told the House that in due course the regulations would be amended. At that time one man was in a unique position. This was Mr Ross, who was in prison at Sale. Because he had been convicted and imprisoned he no longer had a liability to serve. The amendment of the regulations deals with persons who have a liability to serve. It was therefore decided that so far as it was possible to do so we should reproduce the same opportunity for Mr Ross to have his claim that be was a conscientious objector tested as would be available to other people in the future. However, people in the future would be referred to a magistrate and if dissatisfied they could go on to appeal to a judge. To make sure that this matter would be disposed of as expeditiously as possible a judge was appointed to inquire into this case. However, the judge was not bound by any rules of procedure. Therefore, he proceeded in the way in which he opted to proceed at the time.
I emphasise that Mr Ross was in a unique position and that the circumstance will not arise again in the future. There will be one of 3 ways in which a man’s conscientious objection claims will be determined in the future. Firstly, he may make application in the normal way and his case will be determined. Secondly, his case will be referred by me to a magistrate in which case, if he co-operates, the magistrate can determine the matter. Thirdly, if upon prosecution before a magistrate the man raises a conscientious objection, counsel appearing for the Crown will be instructed to invite the magistrate forthwith to determine the matter. Thirdly, if upon objection. Therefore, any man who claims to be a conscientious objector must have 3 opportunities to put his belief to the test. In any case a person claiming a conscientious objection will certainly be able when appearing before the court to have the matter resolved by means of the third alternative that I mentioned. So the matter should be determined in 1 of the 3 ways.
So far as the future is concerned, I expect that the normal procedures will be conformed with and that there will be a hearing in open court and on sworn evidence. That is my expectation. There is no reason for me to expect otherwise because, as I emphasise, Mr Ross was in a unique position.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Did the Australian Capital Territory police have a photographer present at the Moratorium demonstration outside Parliament House on Friday last who appeared to make a full photographic record of the demonstration and the people participating in it? Did the Minister, in answer to a question on 21st August last, say that the police had decided to take their own photographs of marches or demonstrations because unofficial photographs had been used against them? In view of the fact that the demonstration last
Friday was peaceful and no breaches of the law occurred, will he assure the House that the films will be destroyed? If he is unable to give an assurance that the films will be destroyed then to what use will the police put the films?
– I am unable to give the honourable member that assurance forthwith because I simply do not know whether in the process of time there may or may not be some court case. The honourable member will recall that on the previous occasion when I answered a question along these lines I said this practice had arisen simply because demonstrators themselves had their assistants taking photographs of them in certain postures during the course of these demonstrations to try to prove that there had been violence or that the police had acted in a rather rough manner, and for their own protection the Australian Capital Territory police, following the practice of States, adopted the policy of having their own photographers present to support any case before the court. Implicit in the honourable member’s question there seems to be some suggestion that for some reason or other the police photographs will show something different from photographs taken by any other person present. I really do not understand why the honourable member should object so much to a police photographer taking photographs as many other photographers do on the day. There seems to be no basic difference whatsoever. Insofar as the future of the photographs is concerned, I have said that I am unable to give him any assurance. I do not know what is going to come out of any demonstration until the process of time has passed.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen the report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald’ under the heading New Wool Sale Plan’? Can the Minister give any indication as to when the Government will make a decision on the statutory marketing authority in line with its announced intention to examine all aspects of the proposal and operation put to it by the industry with a sense of urgency? Is hd aware of the dangers in delaying the Government’s decision, thereby resulting in speculation and a lack of confidence in the industry and in the wool trade?
– Yes, I did see the statement in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this morning.I opened my newspaper and saw the headline ‘New Wool Sale Plan’ and thought: ‘This is of interest; I will read it.’ I read it only to find that it was supposed to be the wool plan thatI have before the Government. But I did read with particular interest that this article stated everybody’s point of view. I thought: “That is interesting; maybe I missed the Cabinet meeting.’ But all I want to say is that that was a purely speculative article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and one must accept it as that. I have no comment to make on the plan that is at present before the Government. I realise the importance of handling it quickly and I am sure the Government will handle it without avoidable delay. Yesterday the Prime Minister answered a question in relation to another rumour that the Government was considering suspending the auction sales. This again was a rumour. It is important to have this question finalised quickly one way or the other and I am sure the Government will do so.
– The Prime Minister was reported as saying, over the weekend - and I will paraphrase bis remarks - that such political activities as demonstrations and the Moratorium were unnecessary and that we should rely on the ballot box as the democratic method. In 1967, 89 per cent of the people of Australia voted for the Commonwealth to take full responsibility for the Aboriginal people. The fact is that the Government has shirked this task. What faith can we have in the ballot box or any other democratic process when the Government neglects such an emphatic public demand?
– IfI can correct the paraphrase of the honourable member for
Willsforastart,whatIsaidoverthe weekend was that this country was either governed by the results of the ballot box or by people taking to the streets, which is quite a different matter, and that we should be governed by the ballot box and not by actions in the streets.
– Well get on with the job.
– The interjection is a good indication that the honourable member has no answer to what I have said. He suggests that I should move on to the next part. The next matter he raised was when he made the quite truthful statement that the people had given to the Commonwealth Government the authority to deal with Aboriginals. 1 would point out to him that since that time the amount of money voted by this Parliament for the good of Aboriginals has increased enormously and that in this last Budget, in spite of the requirement to contain inflation, again we saw an increase for this purpose. Nobody can claim that this Government or the Minister responsible has been in any way recreant in helping Aboriginals with money voted from the taxpayer by this Government through this Parliament.
-I understand that lobbyists who work for secondary industry interests are wining and dining the Prime Minister tomorrow. Will the Prime Minister assure me that, as he tackles the oysters, he will not forget the parlous position of the rural sector of the economy whose development has been inhibited by carrying on their bent backs at least some of the interests at the feast? As he embarks on the roast duck, will he remember that the sound development of Australia depends on the ability of both primary and secondary industry to supply the exports that a developing economy demands and so depends on our having a cost structurelow enough to enable us to compete with our overseas competitors? As the hot-house strawberries are ushered in, will he realise that a lot of other interests would love to give him a luscious meal and that our only regret is that we cannot afford it?
-I think that the honourable member must be referring to an organisation which is composed of the national heads of a variety of industries throughoutAustraliawhohavedoneme the honour of suggesting I might eat with them. I did not know it was only going to be a 3-course meal. However I would point out to the honourable member that this very organisation only recently gave a meal to the Minister for Primary Industry who spent his time there impressing on these people the parlous state of many sections of rural industry. That gave the opportunity for that which is in the honourable member’s mind to be brought home to those in this group. As I embark on the roast duck 1 will not need to remember the . requirement for Australia to make sure that its costs do not rise to such a level that they take us out of overseas markets. I will not need to do that because 1 am always conscious of it and have made this known on a number of occasions in public as any honourable member of Parliament, whether modest or immodest, will have noticed. I accept the apology from the honourable member for his inability to provide me with a meal at some later stage but, despite that, I will ask him to dinner at some time.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the article on pollution by the Minister for the Army in the ‘Australian Quarterly’, which has been widely reported in the Australian Press, calling on the Commonwealth Government to act to control the polluting of our environment? Does the Prime Minister agree with the honourable gentleman’s views? If not, why not? If the Prime Minister does agree with those views, why was not any mention made in the Treasurer’s Budget speech of action to implement the recommendations of. the Senate .Select Committee on Air Pollution and also the recommendations . of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution?
– The honourable member comes from New South Wales and will know that that Government is embarking on a programme of pollution control made possible by the greatly enhanced revenues given to that and to other States by the Commonwealth Government. The question of the reports of the Senate Select Committees is under examination. .
– My question also is directed to the Prime Minister. Perhaps we are trying him out today to make sure he is in good form for tomorrow’s luncheon. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that because of the number of select committees which have been appointed and are likely to be appointed in the future there is at present a great shortage of space to accommodate committee meetings and working areas for committee staff? I understand that plans have been formulated and approved for the National Capital Development Commission to provide some essential extensions to the rear of Parliament House. Will the Prime Minister, please, give the final go-ahead signal for those proposals in order to alleviate as soon as possible a situation which has now become acute?
- Mr Speaker, I think this question is a question saying: ‘Are there going to be additions made to Parliament House?”
– As soon as possible.
– That is what it boils down to after all that verbiage. I think that that, being a matter of policy, will be reported to this House in due course.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Is the agreement on prices entered into by members of the Commonwealth Quick Frozen Vegetable and Fruit Processors Association an examinable agreement under the Trade Practices Act? Has the agreement been entered in the Register of Trade Agreements and is it currently under examination by the Commissioner of Trade Practices? Is this a subject upon which the Act permits the Attorney-General as the responsible Minister to keep the House informed? Or does the Act merely permit members and other Ministers, such as the Minister for Primal y Industry, to make statements prejudging the matter in the House?
– I suppose I should start by thanking my honourable friend for doing me the compliment of asking me for a legal opinion. I am bound to say, however, that I would refrain from offering an opinion on the question whether this alleged agreement to which the honourable gentleman refers is an examinable agreement or not for the fairly good reason - I think he will agree with me - that I have not seen the agreement. I have read some newspaper reports. The honourable gentleman will know that there is often a difference between what is in newspapers and what is fact, and I do not say that in any derogatory way of the vast section of the Press.
– What? A former QC for Packer!
– Order! 1 have suggested to the House previously this afternoon and yesterday that interjections are far too numerous.
– But that was a good one.
– I agree.
– Order!I would inform honourable members that I do not intend to ask and ask and ask for their cooperation. I would suggest that, for the remainder of this question time and tomorrow, interjections be kept to a minimum. I call the Attorney-General.
– Yes, let’s restore some dignity.
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will cease interjecting. If the honourable member offends again, I will name him. I call the AttorneyGeneral.
– Mr Speaker, 1 am given to understand by the report that I read in the Press that the Commissioner of Trade Practices has the matter which the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned under his consideration. I. am bound to tell the House that I have, however, refrained at this stage from instituting any specific inquiry to the Commissioner as to what he may or may not be doing or is or is not doing because, as I see the position, it is not my function as Attorney-General in the first instance to seek to influence the Commissioner as to any course that he should or should not take. The Commissioner has his own discretion which he ought to exercise for himself, certainly in the first instance. However, I shall follow, with interest, such investigation as the Commissioner may make. While the Leader of the Opposition has suggestedthatsomeone may have prejudged some issue, I do not know really whether there is any basis for that suggestion. I certainly have not made any prejudgment of the issue at all.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. On what date didthe Minister approve of the recent regulations which led to his request on 10th August 1970 for Mr Justice Smithers to examine whether Brian James Ross in fact held conscientious beliefs which did not enable him to undertake military service? In view of the Minister’s statement that there are still no regulations which authorised his reference to Mr Justice Smithers, will he state why this innocent young man was permitted to serve 11 months in prison before the Minister bothered to take any action to have his case examined? Finally, in view of the fact that Mr Justice Smithers made his report to the Minister on 7th September 1970, how does he explain the fact that Mr Ross was permitted to remain in prison for 14 days after the learned judge had found that Mr Ross holds conscientious beliefs which do not allow him to engage in any form of military service?
– I cannot tell the honourable gentleman the date on which I approved of the regulations. Can somebody help me with the date?
– It was 20th August.
– It would be about that date. I accept the date as being 20th August. 1 donot remember the precise date. Then the honourable gentleman proceeded with his question in a way which rather indicated that be had misunderstood what 1 bad said. Tomorrow I will provide him with a copy of today’s Hansard so that he can have the full details. There was no misjustice to Mr Ross; indeed, the very reverse of it. Mr Ross at all times had the opportunity to have his claim to be a conscientious objector tested before he was convicted. He refused to take that course, and at that time there was no power which I or anybody else possessed to refer mutters to a magistrate for determination. That power was granted by the amended regulations which were approved on 20th August, as I understand it.
– They did not give it to you. You said that they did not.
– The honourable member has asked his question and will cease interjecting.
– There seems to be some misunderstanding, and it is worth clarifying the position, Mr Speaker, with your indulgence. There was no power which I or any other person possessed to refer to a magistrate the question as to whether or not a man holds a conscientious objection to the degree that he is exempt from service, until the alteration to the regulations. Prior to that date he himself had to make the application. After that date there were 2 things running parallel - either he could make an application himself or the matter could be referred by me.
– Not once he was in gaol.
– That is right. Once he was in gaol it could not be referred, either before or after the amendment. The amendment of the regulations has no relevance to that. This man, Mr Ross, was in gaol at a time when there was no power to refer the matter. The probability is that had that power existed at some time in the past, Mr Ross refusing to make the application, his case would have been referred, but that course was not available as a means of determining the issue until 20th August by which time Mr Ross was in prison.
– It is still not-
– Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh-
– But he is not answering the question.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh has asked his question and he has supplemented it by interjecting on 3 occasions. If the honourable member offends again 1 will deal with him.
- Mr Ross was therefore in a unique position and the Government decided that it would do what it could to reproduce the situation. Accordingly Mr Justice Smithers was appointed to inquire into the matter. The fact that the honourable member cannot understand this is, I am afraid, not my responsibility.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1966, I present the Annual Report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. The Report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 I present the Third Annual Report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970 together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1970, I present the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– I move:
That Government Business shall take precedence over General Business tomorrow.
The Standing Orders provide that on alternate Thursdays when the House is sitting General Business shall take precedence over Government Business. It is a long standing practice of the House that while the main Appropriation Bills are being debated - we are now at the stage of considering the Estimates of the main Appropriation Bill - it is the wish of the House to go on to Government Business which, of course, is the Estimates debate. This has been the practice for a long time and this motion gives effect to that practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 18 August (vide page 104), on motion by Mr Hulme: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill 1 would like to suggest that it may suit die convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Post and Telegraph Bill 1970 as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest that you. Mr Speaker, permit the subject matter of the 2 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? As there is no objection i will allow this course to be followed.
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
That all the words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and that a Joint Select _ Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office’.
There are 2 Bills before us. The first, in the words of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), seeks to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act in order to adjust certain postal and telegraph charges. The second Bill seeks to deal with proposed variations in telephone charges and other variations which require amendment of the postal and telegraph regulations. Firstly, I want to say something about the concept of the Post Office as a department or as a corporation. 1 know that this is a matter on which there are considerable differences of opinion. In recent times in Great Britain the Post Office has been reorganised. I wish to quote from a document entitled Reorganisation of the Post Office - Command Paper 3233’. It reads:
Traditionally the Post Office has followed the organisational pattern of a central government department. This pattern is not appropriate for the successful management of a large service industry liles !hs Pest Office.
That was the view expressed in the white paper prepared by Her Majesty’s Government in 1967, but the change did not take place until September 1969. I have always thought that in the United Kingdom they order some of these matters better than we do. They have proper discussion and inquiry before a change is made. That is what the Opposition is suggesting should be done here. We do not indicate at this stage whether the existing organisation is better or whether a corporation would be better, but we do suggest that the issue should be made the subject of inquiry by a joint select committee which could take evidence from those in a position to know whether the Post Office would be better as a corporation or as a department. If the Post Office was a corporation there would be certain changes in the relationship of the Minister to what might be called the day to day activities of the department - that is a term used in Great Britain - as against what might be called the policy of the department. The day to day activities would be subject to management by the corporation and not subject to the scrutiny that might exist where the Post Office is run as a department. On the other hand, in regard to finance and matters of policy the Minister would still be answerable in Parliament.
I do not want to traverse this matter in great detail because, unfortunately, the time of this debate has been limited. In order to give some of my colleagues an opportunity to speak 1 will not take the full 45 minutes I might otherwise have taken. Therefore I will not expand to any great extent on this other than to draw the attention of the House to the British white paper - I suggest to those who are interested that they might read it - and ‘he sort of things it is thought the corporation would do better than the existing departmental organisation. I must confess to being a great admirer of the efficiency of the Post Office. Like other big concerns it makes mistakes but when one takes into account the vast amount of business that is transacted I think it is a more than reasonably efficient unit The last year for which full statistics are available is the year 1968-69. I suppose tomorrow the Postmaster-General will probably publish the accounts for 1969-70.
– I regret that I will not. lt will take a couple of weeks.
– I note that last year they were presented to the House on 25th September. I thought perhaps that might be the case. Other than that I have to rely on the figures for the year ended June 1 969. They give some idea of the vast undertaking that the Post Office is. Its balance sheet shows that its assets exceed $2,000m. By far the larger part of those assets is employed in the telecommunications side as distinct from the postal side of the undertaking. In terms of the total turnover, a rough sort of assessment is that about one quarter is found in the postal service and the remainder, which is slightly less than three quarters, is found in the telecommunications service. The figures which the Minister gave in connection with the Budget show that without an adjustment in charges the trading results for 1970-71 would show an anticipated loss of $llm. That loss would be made up of a loss on the postal side of the activities of $30m and a profit on the telecommunications side of $ 19m. At least on one side of the activity, the part with the greatest mechanisation, there is a profit of $19m while on the other side, the part with the greatest intensity of labour, there is a loss of $30m.
Of course some of the increased charges will go to that part which makes a profit. The overall results are being scrambled, and the profit that is made on the telephone side will be used to help to subsidise the loss that is made on the postal side. I want to point to some of the rather curious kinds of philosophy that at the moment seem to interline the operation of the Post Office. 1 want to point to some of the anomalies and inconsistencies that exist. The first is that one part makes a loss and the other part makes a profit, but part of the increased charges is on the postal side, which will certainly diminish the loss, and part is on the telephone side, which will augment the profit. The Postmaster-General intimated that the overal estimated result for 1970-71, taking into account the proposed new charges, will be that the loss on the postal side will be reduced from $30m to $9m but the profit on the telecommunications side will increase from $19m to S39m, making an overall profit of $30m for the 12 months.
In this debate I do not want to go down the line of earlier argument again. I still hold the view that I have espoused here before, that this situation is arrived at after the Post Office has already had to make a provision for what is called ‘interest’ on the capital that is employed in it. Looking at the figures in Statement No. 3 - Estimates of Receipts, 1970-71, which forms part of the Budget papers, one sees the table entitled ‘Other Revenue’ shows that for the year 1968-69, the amount set aside for payment by the Post Office as interest on capital was $94,591,000. For the year 1969-70 it had increased to $106,354,000. In 1970-71 it is estimated that the receipts by reason of the interest component, the expenditure to the Post Office and the receipts to the Consolidated Revenue will be $122,503,000. In my view that shows that the Post Office is not a bad sort of undertaking commercially, either, on a capitalisation by now in excess of $2,000m. I suppose it is probably about $2,200m now. The last figures available show it to be in excess of $2,000m, and the new capital developments in that year were over $200m. So a return of $122m on a capital of about $2,200m, before computing profit, is not bad. It is about 6 per cent on the total sum involved.
This amount allows the telephone side of the activities to show quite a handsome profit and the other side, in my view, not a very significant loss. On its old reckonings the Post Office would have shown quite a substantial profit 10 or 15 years ago, before the interest component was introduced. One of the complaints from this side of the Mouse is that in many respects the Post Office is not only being used as a public utility but it is also being used as a taxing machine. The profit that is made on it and the interest that is charged today mean that taxes somewhere else have to be so much less. I know that there is a lot of circular argument in this kind of thing and there will be a lot of illustrations of the circular argument when I indicate some of the effects of the increased charges, particularly as they operate on publications. I make the point that even after the inclusion of more than SI 00m, or about 16 per cent of the total turnover of the Post Office, for the one item, interest, which is a fairly substantial component, the telephone side still shows a profit.
I can understand the argument that is advanced for the postal side, lt is said that this is a field of activity which is largely manual. Somewhere among the maze of figures that one has to contemplate to be able to understand the position, it is said that on the postal side labour costs make up about 70 per cent of the total costs of the undertaking. Therefore if wages rose and there were no increastd productivity in the wage one would think that there was a logical case for increasing charges to meet what was really 70 per cent of the total costs. It is pointed out that in the last year for which figures are available, with a 1 per cent increase in the labour force the post office did 6 per cent more business. It would be a pretty crude index to suggest that, because labour represents 70 per cent of total costs, if wages go up by a certain amount charges should go up to meet that 70 per cent of costs. I do not think that argument quite holds water when one takes into account that labour is employed in association with a certain amount of machinery and technical assistance. There is a productivity factor. If productivity for this year reaches 5 per cent the Post Office will be doing better than many other branches of industry. Overall productivity in Australia during the year was less than 3 per cent, so the Post Office has not done badly. To suggest that additional charges should be imposed in respect of telephones, which is the side of the Post Office that makes the profit, is certainly breaching the philosophy expressed in relation to postal charges, that is, that charges should be increased to cover costs. Telephone operations, after meeting threequarters of the interest component of $100m, still showed a profit of $)9m last year and it is estimated that they will show a profit this year of $39m. What kind of philosophy is behind the increase in telephone charges I do not know.
I suppose honourable members have received, as I have, letters from various people that point to what they regard as anomalies in the increases in postal charges particularly for registered mail and periodicals. I have here three or four samples of such letters. I have one from K. G. Murray Publishing Co. Pty Ltd, one from Page Publications Pty Ltd, one from Thomson Publications Pty Ltd and another one from the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. They all point to what these bodies regard as anomalies in the proposed increases in postal charges for certain periodicals. The charges on some periodicals will go up by 20 per cent but in some cases the increases are of the magnitude of 200 per cent. It has been suggested that there does not seem to be much logic in the varying increases. If the reason for the increases is the need to cover costs, why increase the charge on some articles by 20 per cent and on others by 200 per cent? The increased postal charges on some items will place a significant burden on voluntary organisations and professional organisations.
The letter I received from Page Publications Pty Ltd refers to a journal that is of some interest to some people here. I refer to the ‘Australian Worker’, the official organ of the Australian Workers Union. It comes out fortnightly and has a circulation of over 59,000. Its present annual postage bill is $19,214 and it is expected that the annual postage bill will now be $42,172 an increase of 120 per cent. Another trade union journal is the ‘Printing Trades Journal’, which is a monthly publication with a circulation of 41,300. Its present annual postal bill is $4,128. Its expected annual postage bill under the new rates is $9,912, an increase of 140 per cent. The ‘ETU News’, which is the journal of the Electrical Trades Union, is a monthly publication with a total circulation of 58,970. Its present annual postage bill is $3,258. It will rise to $14,148, an increase of 300 per cent. Of course the magnitude of the increase depends to some extent on whether the journal is a big one and falls within a certain weight range when it is posted in bulk. The gentlemen of the Press may be interested in the ‘Journalist’, which is the organ of their trade union. It comes out monthly and has a circulation of 6,500. Its present annual postage bill is $390. It will rise to $1,560, an increase of 300 per cent.
It is hard to know how this sort of thing can be justified. The Minister indicated that some articles are charged ic whereas the minimum cost of handling them is 1.7c. So articles on which the charge has been increased by only 20 per cent will still be carried at a loss but many others will be now carried at a substantial profit. Why should trade union journals be used to subsidise religious and charitable publications, which attract a much lesser rate? That question demands an answer.
I can quote other examples. The letter I received from K. G. Murray Publishing Company, which I assume was sent to all honourable members, states:
This letter is unique. It is the first that this wholly Australian, 34-year-old company has ever written to ils parliamentary members.
The letter then goes on to list some of the publications of this company. They include
Australian House and Garden’, ‘Australian Country’, ‘Tailor and Men’s Wear’, the Textile Journal of Australia’, ‘Wheels’, Australian Outdoors’, ‘Seacraft’ and Flair’. One is rather astonished at the number of publications in existence. In fact I have come across one that I never knew existed before. It is called ‘AARDS’. It contains details of business, Press, staff and union publications and lists literally thousands of publications that circulate in Austrafia that are of particular interest often to quite small groups but which nevertheless are important as a means of communication in professional, union, cultural and other sorts of bodies.
There is another disturbing factor in the letter from K. G. Murray Publishing Co. The letter is signed by Mr Geraghty as the General Manager. He states:
In many cases it will be cheaper to print overseas and distribute through the postage of the country in which the printer is located as do overseas journals whose procedures require distribution in Australia. Where previously only books were sent out of Australia for printing, a flow of magazines out of the country has now commenced.
I simply point to the fact that only a few weeks ago in this House we sanctioned a bounty to protect the publishing industry in Australia against this very thing. It was found that books that had previously been printed in Australia were being printed more cheaply in Hong Kong or Tokyo and were then being sent here. The overall cost was cheaper. The bounty was introduced to allow the survival of some publishing companies which would otherwise have been destroyed. These postal increases will accentuate that kind of thing and this practice will be extended to magazines. One firm has indicated that postage accounts for 30 per cent of its total costs, including printing. That is so in many of these undertakings. The postal bill for some publications will now go up by 300 per cent. I understand that publishing firms and others interested in publications sought to have an interview with the Minister to point out some of these anomalies but that they were not able to arrange a mutually suitable time. I hope that before this measure is finally passed by the Senate the Minister will still find time to see these people.
– I saw a deputation from the printing trades people a fortnight ago.
– If the Minister saw them, that is fair enough. My information is that some of the groups at any rate, when they sought an interview, were told that no time was available, which does not seem to me to match the Minister’s usual courtesy in these matters. I hope that if my information is correct - it may relate to a group different from the one he saw - the Minister will see these people. I understand that they would have liked to see him. They did not expect that this measure would come on as quickly as it did, I did not expect it to come on until late this week. Nevertheless I know that the new charges will operate from 1st October and I suppose that the Minister wants to have the legislation passed by then.
A few Saturdays ago I attended one of those pleasant functions that come on at this time of the year, lt was the opening of a bowling club. I received a free plug from a member of the Victorian Bowling Association. I do not know his name offhand but the Victorian Bowling Association always sends a delegate to the opening of a club. The delegate made the point that the postal increases will mean an increase of $9,000 per annum in the cost of circulating the monthly bowls journals. I am told that the ladies bowling association is faced with a similar sort of impost. The increased cost has to come out of the subscriptions paid by ordinary people in the community. I sometimes wonder where charges of this kind begin and end. Because of the increases in postage charges union subscriptions will increase. However, subscriptions paid to unions are allowed as tax deductions and some of the increase therefore is borne by the revenue. I think occasionally that these sort of things should be more carefully considered. Businesses write postal expenditure off as an expense. The profit of a business is either reduced or the price to the consumer is increased to keep the profit at its former level.
Postal charges are being increased by a government that claims to be fighting inflation. What can be more inflationary than this sort of thing? The increase of $42m this year will add perhaps another percentage point to the rate of inflation during the coming year. Having regard to the increased telephone charges, there is no justification for increasing postal charges and loading this increase onto an undertaking that is already profitable. I simply ask those who support the philosophy of the Government to look at a few contradictions. One contradiction which runs contrary to what the Government is doing in regard to newspaper periodicals is what the Government has proposed in the field of country telephone services. I have no objection to the country telephone service being made as cheap as possible, but if the Government is subsidising, as it is, the first 15 miles of telephone service under the new arrangements at less than actual cost, this practice is contrary to the argument that is being used about periodicals. I am not objecting to the country telephone service being conducted in this manner. However, I am pointing to the inconsistency of what is being done and the fact that to cover up some of these other things the Government is putting a much higher impost on periodicals.
Let us contemplate what this increase means to the Australian Workers Union, which I have referred to before. If this union still intends to publish its journal the cost to it will be another $23,000. How many new members does the AWU need to recruit to pay the extra $23,000? These are the sorts of things that I think have not been examined. Of course, people for whom postage rates have increased by 300 per cent, 200 per cent or 100 per cent point to those people whose rate has gone up by 20 per cent and say: ‘Why could we not all have gone up by about 40 per cent? Why do we have to bear these heavy increases?’ The Government has made a fairly philosophical distinction between the 2. I was rather interested to see the following remarks in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General:
These concession rates represent, in effect, a substantial subsidy to the publishing and printing industry and to many organisations, ranging from religious, charitable and welfare organisations to social and recreational clubs. Whilst the fostering of a strong publishing and printing industry in Australia is important, this function is not appropriate for the Post Office.
The speech continued:
Similarly, the activities of the many organisations helped may be desirable, but again it is not the role of the Post Office to support religious denominations, charitable bodies, educational, scientific and technical institutions and the like.
The Government will continue to subsidise organisations in the religious category because even with 20 per cent–
– We are subsidising the lot.
– Yes, and this has been done in the past. I suppose people do not get newspapers as freely by post now as they did in the past. But basically I suppose there would have been no Post Office at all if it were not for the simple letter that most people send through the post. There is no doubt that the simple letter would pay for itself at a charge of 5c. But this charge will be increased to 6c. In the Post Office mechanism there are areas of profit and there are areas of loss. However, there does not seem to be any single philosophy as to what has been chosen to be increased and what has been left alone. The Government has even given a new subsidy to country telephone users. There seems to be some warrant in this case because the telephone section of the Postmaster-General’s Department makes a profit anyway, and it will make a larger profit as a result of this activity. But this is by the way.
I would like to conclude on one matter because I have taken a few minutes longer than I intended to take. As a citizen I would be happy if I did not receive half of the mail that is delivered to me. I have in front of me 3 documents that were delivered to me on 1 day. One reads:
Dear Mr Crean,
When we asked our computer who among the friends of Reader’s Digest in the Middle Park area should be selected to receive 5 lucky number contest ‘cheques’ the answer came back immediately:
Mr. F. D. Crean
The same day I received a letter addressed:
Dear Frank Crean’. The letter read:
You and a group of Middle Park residents are being invited to subscribe to Time at the special introductory rate of only 12c a week. in the samemail I received a letter addressed: Dear Mr Francis Crean . The letter stated:
You and a group of Albert Park SC6 residents. . . .
The Post Office is a bit behind with its post code Sc6. The letter went on to say that I was invited to subscribe to Time’. All 3 letters came on the 1 day. I would have torn them up but I wanted to use them as illustrations. I wonder whether this mail pays for itself. I am inclined to think it does. The Government of course is virtually turning the Post Office into a distributor of trade circulars. In my view that is not the function of the Post Office. It may be - I think this is what has happened - that it is cheaper to do it this way than some other way. I am inclined to think that the Government is making a rather inefficient use of quite skilful services by allowing this sort of practice. The mail I get some mornings must weigh pounds. Half of it finishes up in the waste paper basket. It is a pretty curious exercise to consider that even though I might throw this mail into the waste paper basket the distribution of such mail is profitable to the Post Office. I do not think anyone could justify rendering a service such as that. If this was not the case we could think of some funny things we could do which could yield a profit to the Post Office. Fertile imaginations could think of many things. But when the end product finishes up in the waste paper basket I am inclined to think that the time has come when we should put a stop to this kind of practice.
– Like parliamentary debates.
– Well we have shortened them and that may be a good thing. But when we have an undertaking as significant as the Post Office with a $500m turnover, a capital of $2,000m and accounting for at least 24- per cent of gross national product I think it is worthy of some interest in this House.
One of the Government’s arguments for keeping the department instead of having a corporation is that members may ask questions and debate matters connected with a department in this House. But how much opportunity do they get. This debate will be gagged at 6 o’clock.
– It is a shame.
– Well, it is a shame. In my view this is the manner in which many important matters are treated and I for one make no apologies for taking the time that I have. I repeat that the Opposition will take a vote on the amendment when the gag is applied.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– You can reserve your right to speak.
– I will speak now. Like other honourable members I will be raising my objection to the limited period that has been allowed for this debate. I rise to support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and to support his remarks strongly criticising the increased postal charges that will result from the amendments contained in this Bill. Telephone rentals and other increased charges amount to $42m for the remainder of 1970-71 and they will amount to $53m for a full year. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) announced the increases in his second reading speech and he told us that there would be an increase of lc a word on the ordinary telegram rate bringing the charge to 48c for the first i2 words and 4c for each additional word which, of course, represents an increase of 331 per cent with a double rate for urgent telegrams. Existing telephone rentals are to be increased by $7 per annum and the service connection fees are to rise from $30 to $40 despite the fact, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, that the telecommunications section of the Post Office showed a profit last year of $19m.
Included in the increased postal charges is an increase from 5c to 6c for the first ounce of a letter or postcard. This represents an increase of 20 per cent. We should remember too that it was only in 1967, if I remember correctly, that this charge was increased by 25 per cent. Of course it is now being increased again. Like the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, I have received quite a lot of correspondence from different bodies drawing attention to the anomalies that exist in this legislation. The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, for instance, draws attention to its position and I will just quote one paragraph from its letter. It says:
That periodicals for motoring organisations are specifically listed in category ‘B’ (bulk postage) now means an added $16,000 to our journal postage bill in the next 12 months - an increase of 200 per cent. Because of the function of the publication in disseminating news and informatior on matters affecting most of the community I suggest that a reclassification into category ‘A’ would be justified.
There axe letters of a similar kind dealing with other aspects of the same matter. This ms been referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and there is no need for me to go into them in any detail. But it is clearly indicated, as he pointed out, that some anomalies exist when the increases range from 20 per cent to 200 per cent. There are other increases, of course, but I do not propose to deal with them in detail. Priority mail has certainly made an improvement in the speed of postal deliveries and we hope that this keeps up. But I am sure that we as members still get plenty of complaints about other postal services. I know I do. But I must say that when I receive complaints and refer them to the Department they are thoroughly investigated and a courteous reply is always received. But that does not alter the fact that the service is not all that it should be. We know, of course, that in some areas there has been a reduced service in recent years.
The Postmaster-General told us in 1968 that letter deliveries were to be reduced from 3 to 2 a day wherever that service was operating and later a further reduction took place to 1 a day to all centres outside the inner capital city areas. It is true that priority mail at an increased charge overcomes this to some extent, but looking at the overall picture the Postmaster-General’s Department is not keeping pace with our growth of population and the rapid increase of business as a result of that growth This is a difficult problem but it is one that has to be faced. It is being faced, of course, in some other countries which have similar problems but which are trying new methods of administration. We have suggested in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that a joint select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and practicability of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office. The Postmaster-General has previously opposed this proposition and I suppose he will do so again during the course of this debate. But I ask him whether he is satisfied with the existing post office organisation.
Is there not a lesson to be learned from the re-organisation of the Post Office that is being undertaken in the United Kingdom and the United States? These countries have already taken steps to reorganise their post offices into public corporations. I think that we should at least be doing something along the lines suggested by our amendment to look into the practicality and desirability of such action in this country. The only reform that has been introduced here, if one can call it that, is to establish a fund into which the profits, if any, are to be paid instead of going into Consolidated Revenue. The Post Office has no power to borrow and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs must continue to go cap in hand to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) for funds. The shackles remain and the Post Office continues to be hamstrung. The British Government some years ago established a Post Office trust fund on similar lines to what was done by the Postmaster-General recently, but it was found that that did not solve the problem. The Government went further and gave the British Post Office the power to raise loans. The British experience showed that this did not solve the problem and legislation was then passed to establish a public corporation. The necessary Bill was passed by the House of Lords on 14th July 1969.
The steps taken here are of little or no use in the re-organisation of the Post Office. In my view similar steps to those taken in the United Kingdom and in the process of being taken in the United States are necessary. In the weekly compilation of Presidential Documents of 2nd June 1969 the President of the United States in his Message to Congress said this:
Two years ago, Lawrence F. O’Brien, then Postmaster-General, recognised that the Post Office was in ‘a race with catastrophe’, and made the bold proposal that the postal system be converted into a government-owned corporation. As a result of Mr O’Brien’s recommendations, a Presidential Commission was established to make a searching study of our postal system. After considering si! .’…….,;… thi Commission likewise recommended a government corporation. Last January, President Johnson endorsed that recommendation in his State of the Union message.
One of my first actions as President was to direct Postmaster-General Winton M. Blount to review that proposal and others. He made his own first-hand study of the problems besetting the postal service, and after a careful analysis has reported to me that only a complete reorganisation of the postal system can avert the steady deterioration of this vital public service. I am convinced that such a reorganisation is essential.
The arguments are overwhelming and the support is bipartisan. Postal reform is not a partisan political issue, it is an urgent national requirement.
That statement could be adopted almost word for word to describe the present situation of the Australian Post Office. The vital difference, of course, is that our Postmaster-General does not seem to be doing very much about it. I draw attention again to the final words of the President’s message:
The arguments are overwhelming and the support is bipartisan. Postal reform is not a partisan political issue, it is an urgent national requirement.
This applies to Australia. On 12th August of this year President Nixon signed into law an Act to reform the United States postal system. The Act sets up a corporationstyled federal agency, the United States Postal Service. Top level management decisions will be in the hands of an 11-man board of directors. Nine governors will be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The PostmasterGeneral and his Deputy PostmasterGeneral will be the other 2 members of the 11-man board. Modernised buildings are planned as well as a greater degree of mechanisation for processing the mail, better management techniques and improved transportation arrangements. It is expected that there will be higher morale among postal workers as a result of better pay. greater opportunities for advancement and more satisfactory working conditions. The employees will remain government employees. They become members of the postal career service but they retain all rights they now enjoy under the civil service unless changes are made by provisions of labour contracts negotiated between the unions and the board of governors.
Authorities in Australia have made similar recommendations. They are people who should know something about this matter. Mr F. P. O’Grady, for instance, a former Director of Posts and Telegraphs who retired about 4 years ago believes that the Australian Post Office should be a public corporation. He said so after he retired. After his retirement he was able to make certain statements that he could not make when he was head of that Department. After his retirement he was in a position to criticise the existing organisation of the Post office and he did so and I want to refer to some of his statements. In the
Australian’ of 30th October 1967 he is reported to have said: 1 think a public corporation would have a different approach to the public if it were given truly wide financial powers. It could arrange its business in a different way. At the present time a purely government department must adhere to the budgetary system of Parliament. In effect, you must not anticipate parliamentary approval for years ahead.
Later in the report he said:
This lack of knowledge of the future has always plagued the engineer in the Post Office in Australia. The Post Office has always been debarred from long term planning. A statutory corporation given proper financial powers would be able to make long term arrangements with banks or other suppliers of funds and it could so arrange its affairs that it could commit itself to very high capital cost projects which would not come into use until 5 years ahead and would still have sufficient funds for bread and butter items.
He went on to point out how the public corporation might be empowered to raise money through the Commonwealth loan fund system, lt could raise money as do the State electricity commissions in some States - with approval to go to the market separately. It could also borrow from banks. The reason for bad staff relations in the Australian Post Office is not difficult to find. To a large extent it can be attributed to the existing set-up. lt has a staff of over 100,000 and yet the administration has no power to deal directly with the wages claims of its employees. The unions must first place their claims before the Public Service Board, then before the Public Service Arbitrator and, in the last resort, before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. During this tortuous route the Department of Labour and National Service has its say. Here we have delay pyramided on top of delay and, of course, it certainly is one of the factors that causes such a lot of discontent within unions that are associated with the Post Office. On this very point Mr O’Grady said:
J have found myself completely humilitated when union deputations called on me. No matter what my views I was required to keep a poker face and not let them think by nod or wink that 1 was sympathetic to their case.
He had to wait until his retirement before he could say this openly. He went on:
It would seem that if the Post Office is to be made into a truly business undertaking, the number of outside bodies having a say in such important matters ought to be reduced to a minimum. T believe the Post Office should have only 2 bodies concerned - the Post Office managers themselves and the Full Court. There should be no other intermediary because this at best results in prolonged delays and at worse causes unnecessary friction between employees and management.
Mr O’Grady said also that if the Post Office is to be put on the basis of being a true business undertaking in reality and not just in name, divorcement from the Commonwealth Public Service Board would be quite essential. From discussions with unions associated with the Post Office it seems that all but one support the view that the Postmaster-General’s Department should be divorced from the Public Service Board and made a separate department controlled by a public corporation. The union that objects is concerned with its lines of promotion in the Public Service, which is important to that union. We cannot blame it for being concerned about the situation but that should not be an insurmountable obstacle to any reform that may be necessary to improve the postal service. The other unions consider that if the proposed reform took place there would be better service to the community and industrial relations would improve.
I have already drawn attention in the Parliament to the document relating to the re-organisation of the Post Office in Britain. This was referred to also by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. It was presented to the House of Commons by the Postmaster-General in March 1967. In paragraph 3 on page 3 of that report it is stated.
The Government concluded that the process begun in 1932 should be carried to its logical conclusion. A public corporation should be created to run these great businesses with a structure and methods designed directly to meet their needs, drawing on the best modern practice.
Paragraph 6 of the document reads:
The Post Office is a major department of State. Practically the whole of it is involved in the constitutional change. This is an undertaking without precedent. However, Post Office services are an integral part of the nation’s life. In addition to communications, the Post Office provides part of the machinery of the social security system, and many other kinds ot business are transacted at Post Office counters. The Government’s objective is to create an authority which will be responsible for developing the most efficient services possible, at the lowest charges consistent with sound financial policies; carry on in a worthy manner the Post Office tradition of service to the public; develop relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way.
These passages emphasise efficient service at the lowest charges and good staff relationships. On page 12 of the document there is reference to the authority developing relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way. Paragraph 52 reads:
Without detriment to the responsibilities of managers to manage, the Government will expect the Corporation to promote the most constructive relationships between the management and the staff. The new Corporation will not be taking over an industry marked by bad industrial relations: On the contrary, a fine tradition of cooperation and consultation between the management and staff has been built up in the Post Office. The Government will expect the Corporation to ensure that this develops further in the new conditions and to set the highest standards in relationships with the staff.
We know that staff relations have been pretty bad in Australia for some considerable time and it is something in respect of which we should be able to learn a lesson. The Post Office Corporation in the United Kingdom actually commenced operations on 1st October 1969. The responsibility for the day to day running of the Corporation lies wilh a board of 8 members whose chairman is appointed for a 5-year period. The Minister for Posts and Telecommunications - formerly the Postmaster-General - retains overall responsibility. As a public corporation the Post Office has new powers to borrow from sources other than the Exchequer, but the bulk of its finance still comes from that source.
The amendment that we propose provides for the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office. The argument used against it is that the Opposition is already bound by its platform to support a public corporation, but we are not hidebound about this matter. 1 personally believe that a public corporation should be established, but if a joint select committee, after hearing witnesses, recommends otherwise, our present attitude could be altered if thought desirable. Such a committee may recommend something entirely different. For instance, it may recommend that only the telecommunications section be placed under a public corporation and not the Post Office itself. If it did, that certainly would have a big influence on the future attitude of the Australian Labor Party.
The important point is the establishment of the joint select committee that we are suggesting to inquire into the desirability and practicability of the public corporation to which we refer, bearing in mind what is happening in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Whatever is done, nobody can deny that reform is needed urgently. But before reform takes place, a full scale inquiry must make some recommendations as to what should be done. That is why this suggestion has been made in the amendment moved. I express my regret again that I must cut my speech short because other speakers wish to debate this subject and because the time permitted for this debate has been reduced considerably.
– It is unusual for a Minister to enter at this stage of a debate. Usually any reply that he would desire to make would be made at the conclusion of the second reading debate. But under the present circumstances, in which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has moved an amendment, I believe that in relation to the matter of that amendment I should make comment at this point and should indicate that the Government will not accept the amendment which has been proposed. It is not my intention to deal with the various matters which have been raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports or the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) in relation to the Bills which are before the House but rather to speak in terms of the proposal for the establishment of a statutory corporation, which the Opposition has put before the House this afternoon as an amendment to the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1970.
I must confess that I was a little surprised that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, in moving this amendment, said very little in relation to it. It could be reasonably interpreted by us who listened in the House and by those who read the Hansard report of his speech that really his only reference and his only justification for considering a statutory corporation for the Australian Post Office was the statutory corporation status of the British Post Office, The honourable member went on then to deal with the matters which were in the Bill. The honourable member for Stirling has said a little more in relation to the statutory corporation. I believe that, if I say that the Government will not accept the proposal, I should give reasons why the Government is not prepared to accept it. This, sir, I propose to do.
I commence at the point of argument that the British Post Office is the desirable basis on which we should establish a similar operation in Australia. Let me remind the House what in fact is within the actual British Post Office operation in terms of charges and in terms of provision of interest on the money which is invested in the Post Office there and then apply that principle to the Australian Post Office. Recently, in March last approximately, the British Post Office decided that it would require a 10 per cent return on capital invested in telecommunications in lieu of the 8i per cent return which had been the earlier rate. If we apply a return of 10 per cent on $2, 190m which is the amount invested in the Australian Post Office in the telecommunications field, we arrive at a figure of $2 19m as representing that interest return. If we apply the British Post Office basis of 2 per cent on expenses in relation to the postal services, which in Australia totals $173m, the figure is $3.5m. So, the target of the Australian Post Office in the financial year which we have just ended would be a surplus of $222.5m. Is that what the Australian Labor Party asks for?
– That is including the interest.
– Wait a minute; I will come to the other. I merely ask a question: Is that what the Australian Labor Party is asking for?
– We asked for a committee.
– May I indicate what has happened in the Australian Post Office in the last financial year. Interest was $106m and the profit achieved was $2m. This means that SI 08m is the amount which we have received in return on money invested or, in the case of the postal services, turnover. So, the figure under the basis laid down by the British Post Office is more than twice what we in fact obtained in Australia. This is being criticised by the
Opposition in this debate. I ask the question again: Is it the British Post Office principle that the Australian Labor Party wants accepted in a statutory corporation sense in relation to the Australian Post Office?
– We want a committee.
– That is a reasonable proposition to put to the Opposition-
– Order! The honorable member for Stirling will cease interjecting.
– He is asking me; I am telling him.
– On the other hand, the honourable members opposite left it to me to analyse the factors. Because honourable members opposite in fact said little as to their justification even for wanting a select committee I therefore desire to analyse the factors related to it. The honourable member for Stirling said that the British Post Office has removed itself from the political area. Has it? Has it moved out of the political area? I have always assumed that one of the reasons - supposedly one of the good reasons - for a statutory corporation is that there would not be an analysis in the Parliament in relation to its activities and there would not be questions of the Minister day by day in relation to its activities as we understand such questions in Australia. What happened when the British Post Office put up postal rates? What happened when it increased telecommunication rates? I invite honourable members to read the Hansard reports of proceedings in the British House of Commons and the British House of Lords. The Hansard reports are full of criticism and comment by the British Opposition in relation to that action being taken. And do not tell me that it was just one side of the House which objected. When the telecommunication charges were increased, the British Labor Party was in government and the Conservative Party did the criticising. When postal rates were increased, a change of government had occurred so that the position was reversed. Both sides had a go on these subjects. The point I am making is that these matters were dealt with in the Parliament. No-one will tell me that sometime in the future under some imaginary statutory corporation status there will not be criticism in this Parliament of increases if there in fact be increases in postal charges one way or the other.
The next point I make is this: What sort of a statutory corporation is the one proposed? What is a statutory corporation? This term has not been defined this afternoon by the Opposition. In fact, it has never been defined by the Opposition. Some sort of assumption is made that it will be something which already exists in another field. If I may try to put to the Opposition what in fact could be regarded as a basis for a statutory corporation, let me put it in these broad terms: In the broadest sense, a statutory corporation is an organisation established by Parliament to operate on a similar basis to a private corporation with the same obligations as a private corporation particularly in regard to the payment of Government levies, for example, income tax, sales tax, payroll tax, etc. Then I go on, because there are some variations which could be applied. The statutory corporation could be a form of organisation which contains a management board, all the members of which may be drawn from outside the service, or some drawn from outside and some from inside the service. In other ways, the organisation would remain a portion of a department of state. Or the statutory corporation could be an organisation which is completely divorced from ministerial control, apart from the presentation of documents to the Parliament, and is managed by either of the combinations which I have described. Or it could be a corporation such as the Overseas Telecommunications Commission where management is conducted by a board but the Minister is left accountable to Parliament, even for the detailed operations of the organisation.
What does the Labor Party mean when it says: ‘We want a statutory corporation’? It cannot have all those things. It can have one, or it can have alternatives. It would have been reasonable to expect the Labor Party, in putting before the Parliament the proposition for the appointment of a select committee on which we as members are asked to vote, to indicate the types of statutory corporation on which we should exercise our judgment, but it has not done anything of the sort. I think that the nebulous way in which the proposition has been presented to the Parliament does not justify Parliament’s consideration of it.
The question of finance obviously enters into the matter. I speak particularly of raising capital. It is very easy for the honourable member for Stirling to quote what was said by Mr O’Grady, a former DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs. It is suggested that one can go to the banks to secure long term finance. But the provision of long term finance is not a part of the operations of banks. It has been suggested that one can go onto the public market. Let us stop for a moment to consider that proposition. The Commonwealth is charged with the responsibility to raise loan moneys for the States and for itself - 80 per cent for the States and 20 per cent for the Commonwealth. In 20 years not one penny of the money which has been raised in that way has come to the Commonwealth because it has not been able to borrow sufficient money for the purposes of the States.
Semi-governmental authorities also raise money on the public market. Within the normal financial structures of the community, local authorities seek money from these financial institutions. If we disregard the question of interst, which is what the Labor Party suggests, we would want between $3 50m and $400m a year to run the Post Office. The Commonwealth cannot raise enough money for the States, but the Labor Party says that we should superimpose another requirement of $350m to $400m a year. Does the Labor Party believe that the Commonwealth would be able to raise that sort of money? Does it believe that this up and down operation is the basis on which to run a business organisation such as. the Post Office which must know, year by year on a planned basis, what finance it will have available if it is to give the community an organisation which is sound in nearly every respect that could be named? The Labor Party ought to take a real look at this sort of philosophy.
I suggest to the Labor Party that it should have a talk to members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association because it has a view, which is different from that expressed by the Labor Party in this House, regarding the establishment of the Post Office as a statutory corporation. It is hardly necessary for me to say much more in relation to the question of interest, but I want to make one point, which I think is important: If we were to cut out interest and reduce telecommunication charges, there would be an increased demand for telephones which it would be impossible to meet. The Labor Party may say that that is only because of a lack of ability to manage the affairs of the Post Office. With overfull employment in Australia, we just do not go out onto the highways and byways and seek technical people to work in the Australian Post Office. I am bound to say to the House that at the present time it is almost impossible for the Post Office to meet the demand which is being made on its services because it is impossible to get technical people to do installation work and the cable work associated with it. If we were to increase the demand for telephones I believe that we would get into a terrific mess in a comparatively short time. The Labor Party can say that there is mismanagement in the Post Office, if it likes. I say that it is not mismanagement. The management of the Post Office has been geared to principles which have been accepted by the Parliament and which have been interpreted by the management. I believe that I should make this point to the House. 1 have only 2 or 3 minutes remaining. The honourable member for Stirling referred to inefficiency in the Post Office. There is inefficiency in every business organisation in Australia. There is not unnecessary inefficiency in the Post Office. There is not inefficiency in management and there is not inefficiency on the part of the employees. I am quite prepared to stand here or anywhere else in Australia and give full credit to the employees of the Australian Post Office for the wonderful job which they do for the Australian community. If honourable members try to suggest to me that there is some new element of human infallibility because a letter disappeared or a postman put some letters under a culvert or threw a bag of mail over the Princes Bridge into the Yarra River, and that this is the fault of the Post Office, I say that it is one of the things which you must come up against when you are dealing with human beings. Where there appears to be inefficiency and where in fact letters do not seem to get to their destination, I assure honourable members that it is not because of lack of willingness on the part of the Post Office staff.
There is more inefficiency in outside business in relation to postal matters than there is in the Post Office. Honourable members who are Victorians only have to cast their minds back to what happened in relation to a horse that did not turn up for a race on a Saturday afternoon. The Post Office received a great blast. The trainer of the horse said that the letter had been posted on the previous Tuesday but that the racing committee did not receive it. We made a check. The trainer did not even post the letter. He gave it to someone else to post. When we checked with that person he told us that the letter had been posted on the Saturday morning.
– Did the horse win?
– There was no horse running. I do not know how it could have won. That is the sort of thing which industry does. On the night this happened the Press laid the blame at the door of the Post Office, but the Press generously withdrew its comments and made a full explanation the following week. I believe that there is no justification for suggesting that the Australian Post Office should be operated as a statutory corporation. I have given some of the reasons why I say this. The Labor Party has given no reasons why the Post Office should be operated as a statutory corporation.
– The only aspect of his speech upon which I can congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is his footwork, because he very neatly sidestepped everything which was raised by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He did not in any way endeavour to justify the charges that he intends to pass on to the public who use the services of the Post Office. He asked the following question: Does the Australian Labor Party want to introduce the concept that has been adopted for the British Post Office? But of course that is not the question that is under discussion. If we are talking about the amendment then we are talking about the setting up of a committee to inquire into removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public
Service Board - that seems to be the crucial part of it - and establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office. In drawing assumptions from that all the Postmaster-General is doing is prejudging or presupposing the findings of such a committee. I do not think it is the prerogative of the Postmaster-General or of any honourable member in this House to prejudge the findings of the committee.
The Minister also made reference to interest charges of the Post Office. I will deal with that later. I would now like to say briefly that I do not think that it matters very much whether interest is charged or not charged. I do not know whether the Australian Labor Party has an extremely firm policy on this but the point is that it is paid. It is a charge on the people who use the Post Office and the services it provides. If it is not charged in this way the Government will raise the funds by revenue in order to balance its Budget and it will come out of the pockets of all Australians. My own opinion is that every Australian receives a benefit from the Post Office, including those people who do not directly use it; so one way of raising the money is probably as equitable as another.
In regard to the demand for telephone services the Minister said that if there were a greater demand for telephones the installation of services would be greatly delayed. The area in which I live is only 9 miles from the City of Melbourne and it has been established for about 12 years. It is not an entirely new area; yet there is a delay, as I found out the other day, of over 2 months for private telephone services and for business services in Glenroy, which has been established for many years, the delay is still a month. The Labor Party would be the last body in this House, I would think, to suggest that employees of the Post Office or any other employees are inefficient, lazy and indolent. We have always contended that employees are industrious.
– Only the bosses are lazy.
– That is quite right and I think that this will be made very clear if the honourable member cares to listen to what will be said. And I am surprised to hear an honourable member from the other side of this House agreeing that Government enterprise is more efficient than private enterprise.
– I was only putting words into your mouth.
– With the greatest respect to the honourable member it was the Postmaster-General who said this. The Post Office has certain peculiarities that are probably made very manifest. It operates in a virtually monopolistic area. It is perhaps the most vociferous consumer of capital. It is highly mechanised in some areas and in other areas it is very labour intensive. It provides a service to the community through its many and varied communication systems which are rather unique. The community has come to rely on the services of the Post Office to such an extent that modern miracles wrought by the Post Office are taken for granted. I am not convinced even by the words of the Postmaster-General, which were very few, nor by the Bill now before the House that there is any justification for the increased costs of postal services. The attitude of honourable members opposite towards the way in which Government undertakings should be operated is well known. They insist that all Government undertakings should be - in fact, must be - conducted on a business basis. My observations of honourable members opposite leave no doubt in my mind that their interpretation of ‘business basis’ is that an undertaking must show excessive income over expenditure. In other words, it must make a profit. Anybody in his right mind would insist that full attention be paid to efficient operation. In fact, great emphasis must be placed on efficiency and effective administration but the making of a profit by itself is not necessarily a measure of efficiency.
As I said earlier I am not one of those who would reject Government enterprise as being not comparable with private enterprise. Indeed, I believe that on a fair basis of comparison Government enterprise will come out in front and that there are quite a few practical examples of this. The only qualification I would make at this stage is that there is a difference between governments. Some governments manage their affairs better than others. Whether a government is competent or not does not detract from the way in which employees comport themselves and carry out their duties. Employees of the Australian Post Office, in common with all employees, are loyal, diligent and industrious. Because of this it is doubtful whether any extra efficiency can be effected without detracting from the service provided. I believe that the Postmaster-General said much the same thing but in slightly different words. In his second reading speech the Minister referred on 2 occasions to wage increases. I hope that I am not being too sensitive on this question but the second reference in the comparison used could easily be taken to mean that the wage increase is the major contributing factor to the need to increase postal charges. I do not think that I have especially misread that reference. I have already referred to the loyalty, the diligence and industry of the staff of the Australian Post Office and there is no reasonable argument to support the proposition that these employees should subsidise the postal services of this country by being satisfied with a wage level that suffers considerably by a comparison with the salaries and wages earned by their brothers and sisters in other industries. These employees are entitled, as every section of the community is, to maintain their earning capacities. They should be able to do this without criticism being levelled at them and blame being placed on them for the need to increase postal charges.
The Post Office is a community service and probably more of a community service than any other. It serves all and not only those who directly use its obvious services. Yet the cockeyed reasoning of honourable members opposite, clouded by Liberal Party philosophy or perhaps its lack of philosophy, depending on how one looks at it, is clearly that those who use the service will pay for it and if the service can be subsidised by a cowed work force hindered by an archaic wage fixing tribunal and a work force that is discouraged from seeking wage and salary increases then so much the better. Postal charges, probably more than any other item in the Budget, cannot be considered in isolation. Because the Post Office is a community service it deserves special consideration and the criterion that should be applied is that postal charges should be kept to as reasonable a level as it is possible to keep them so that they remain within the financial reach of as many potential users as possible. This is not to be taken as meaning that taxpayers should be subsidising commercial enterprise so that they may enjoy the decided advantage of cheap postal rates.
I refer now to the people who use the mail service as a cheap method of distributing their advertising material. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned this matter earlier. It is obvious from the remarks that have been made that other people receive as much advertising material as I do through the mail but this material is very useful for me as it provides an economic fuel with which to stoke my incinerator. Treating this as a separate matter, I would like to repeat that postal charges should be considered in conjunction with the Budget as a whole. I can still hear the cries from our Conservative opponents of: ‘Where would you get the money?’ I think that honourable members on this side of the House answered that question very ably during the course of the debate on the Budget. It was said then that it is not a question of ‘Where would the money come from?’ but that it was a clear question of priorities. The Postmaster-General has gone some of the way in sorting out mail into A class and B class. Perhaps I may not be in agreement with his classifications but at least this is a step in the right direction. Like so many other items in this pedestrian unimaginative Budget, postal charges are being used to bolster the national income in a devious way. Any increase in postal charges will be passed on to the end consumer, so the Government will once again make its contribution to the spiralling price wage situation.
My colleagues have made pertinent and full reference to the charge levelled against the revenue of the Post Office and called interest on capital’. I suppose that in the long run it does not matter very much how the books of account are kept, and whether interest is charged on capital when the capital in fact comes from annual revenue is of little consequence in my mind, except that it strikes me as a little dishonest to raise revenue in this way. The main argument in favour of this method seems to be that Government enterprise should not enjoy any advantage over private enterprise. I disagree with that argument. I do not believe that the so-called private enterprise society can work andI do not believe the function of Government is to make sure that it works by loading its own enterprises with an unnecessary burden so that it can be said that Government and private enterprise are competing on equal terms. There are legitimate concessions that can be made available to Government enterprises. They should not be denied to them merely because the Government is prepared to support the inefficiencies and duplications of the free enterprise society. I regard the interest rate levelled against the Post Office in this category. It is an iniquitous charge.
There are substantial reasons, apart from those I have mentioned, to support the intent of the amendment, that is, to remove the Post Office from the retrogressive policies and attitudes of governments of the type we are now enduring. I commend the amendment to the House. Comparisons have been made and undoubtedly will be made in the future - I think the Postmaster-General made some between the Australian Post Office and the British Post Office. I would suggest it is dangerous to start making comparisons on this basis. Comparisons should only be made between things that are like. There is no real similarity between the British Post Office and the Australian Post Office except that they are both post offices. In the same way I believe there is little comparison between a Shetland pony and a Clydesdale draughthorse except that they are both horses. Therefore it is very dangerous to make comparisons on this basis in order to place figures before us of comparative situations and say: ‘This is the situation in the British Post Office. Does the Labor Party want the same sort of situation in Australia?’ Nothing could be more ridiculous than a comment such as that. The Labor Party in this and in all matters is interested only in seeingthat the most efficient and equitable way of operating a service to the community is found. It is to this end that the amendment was moved. Once again I will read the amendment for the benefit of honourable members and I will emphasise that it seeks appointment of a joint select committee. The amendment reads:
That the Bill be withdrawn and that a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage th business of the Post Office.
I commend the amendment to the House.
– One thing 1 like about the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) is that he is honest and, unlike some other members of the Labor Party who try to pretend that the socialisation plank in their platform no longer exists, particularly at election time, he is one who has always come out and admitted both in this House and elsewhere that he would like to see socialisation in Australia. One of the aims of his being in Parliament is to see that this is so. 1 find it rather strange that the Opposition should have moved this amendment to the Bill. As Socialists who believe in the nationalisation of services it is surely a little incongruous that honourable members opposite should desire to remove the control of the postal service from a government department to set it up as a pseudo-private statutory corporation. This surely is a reversal of form. I suppose a statutory corporation is, after all, the closest a Socialist can get to private enterprise within the limits of his conscience. Perhaps it is a grudging admission by the Socialists that private enterprise is not so bad after all. It is possible, of course, that the Opposition is so bereft of arguments against this Bill that it has moved this amendment as some sort of red herring to divert attention from the real matter before us today or. perhaps, lacking any true policy on this matter, it has decided to emulate the now defunct Wilson Labor Government in England. It has heard somewhere that the British Labor Government set up a statutory corporation to run the Post Office in that country and, as good Socialists, it has decided that Australia should follow suit. When one reflects on the economic mess into which the Wilson Government plunged Britain and when one thinks of the way it was swept from office by the British voters, I do not think it is an example which the Australian Labor Party should wish to follow.
It has become necessary for the Government to bring forward this Bill today because the Post Office will show an anticipated loss for 1970-71 of Slim. There will be a loss in postal services of $30m which will be offset to some extent by a profit in the telecommunications section of Si 9m. The Government is faced with two alternatives. It either increases postal charges so that those using the postal services pay the cost of their use or it allows a loss to occur and makes the loss good from Consolidated Revenue; in other words, subsidises the users of the Post Office from taxpayers’ funds. If the Opposition could point to inefficiency or wastage on the part of the public servants who work in the Post Office it may be justified in opposing the increased charges. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) endeavoured to do this but we, as members of Parliament, all get complaints from time to time about postal services. I agree with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) that it is inevitable in an organisation the size of the Post Office, handling the vast volume of business - some 2.700 million articles a year, I believe - that some errors or mistakes will occur. But from my own experience I would say that the employees in the Department do a very fine job. 1 think that proof ot the way in which the Post Office has endeavoured to absorb the increased costs by greater efficiency is the fact that although Post Office business increased by 6 per cent in 1969-70 the staff increased by only 1.1 per cent. It is more than 3 years since there was an increase in the basic postage rate and during this period there has been an overall increase in wage rates payable to postal staff of something like 29 per cent and although, as 1 have shown, the Post Office has been able to absorb some of this increased cost in wages it obviously cannot absorb all the increases any more than a statutory corporation or private enterprise can. As some 70 per cent of the cost of the postal service is a labour cost, it is obvious that the postal side of the Department is the one most adversely affected. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, the basic postage rate will have risen by only 45 per cent compared with increases in postal wage rates of 100 per cent. I do not know whether the Labor Party holds the view that the workers in the postal services should not have received these increases - apparently it accepts their increases. If so it must accept the fact that either postal rates must go up or the general taxpayer must meet the loss and subsidise those who would use the postal services. I believe that those who use the facilities of the Post Office should pay for that use.
The average taxpayer, 1 suppose, would not write more than 3 or 4 letters a week and the increase in postal charges will not mean much to him. However, as we all know, there are organisations and business houses pouring out thousands of publications a week to further their own point of view - the honourable member for Melbourne Ports gave some examples of this - or to increase their sales. I maintain that if they wish to do this, they are quite at liberty to do so, but they should be prepared to pay for the services they use and not expect the ordinary taxpayer to subsidise their effort.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) listed 4 firms that had written to us. I think all members of Parliament have received these letters.It is a fact that 7,600 newspapers and periodicals are registered with the Post Office. Last year 158 million of these articles were posted at an average charge of 1.7c each. The postal charge on 75 million of them was only1/2c to lc. The postal service lost $9m last year in this category alone. I wonder how many of these publications ended up in the waste paper baskets, unread. All of us as members of Parliament Know that every day our desks are piled high with literature that we do not wish to receive, that we do not have time to read and that we possibly have no interest in reading.
A letter received from Page Publications and one from Thompson Publications listed substantial percentage increases which they said had been made in the postage of their items. Because the base figure of1/2c is so low, any major step towards reducing the concession would naturally appear to be a considerable percentage increase. However, in absolute terms, the increases are reasonable. On a I oz publication there was an increase of 11/2 cents; on a 2 oz publication there was an increase of lc; on a 3 oz publication there was an increase of11/2c; and on a 6 oz publication there was an increase of 21/2c.
Whilst these organisations feel they want to pump out this information, I do not think they have very legitimate reasons for complaint.
A letter was also received from the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. The automobile associations post about 19 million magazines annually. Any increase in rates will have a substantial effect on their postage bills. At present these organisations are paying postage of lc to11/2c a copy and the increase proposed is generally about1c to11/2c. Expressed in terms of the individual member’s annual subscription of between $5 and $6.50 it represents between 9c and 18c extra a year.’ It is not the role of the Post Office to subsidise motorists’ service organisations. Nevertheless, the rates proposed are still only 30 per cent of normal printed matter rates. Because my wife and I both need to drive cars we receive 2 copies of the RACV journals each month. I am quite sure that they end up in the waste paper basket unread. I wonder how many other families do the same sort of thing. If they do and if these organisations wish to send their magazines 1 do not think that the ordinary taxpayer should be called upon to subsidise them.
Let us look at the question of interest. How often do we hear from people who perhaps do not understand accounting procedure’s - I presume that the honourable member for Burke is one of them - that the Post Office should not have to pay interest on capital which it borrows from the Treasury? Vincent Matthews of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ published an article on postal charges last Saturday in which he said:
We are not likely to he convinced that the way the Post Office puts up its charges is justified until the Department is run as a business instead of a public service department with so little say in the control of its finances and management.
Surely Mr Matthews and others must
Knowthat all business andindustrymust pay interest on capital borrowed. Every accountant and business man recognises that interest on capital borrowed is a legitimate charge against profit. Even the ordinary wage earner buying his own home must pay interest on capital borrowed. This applies to private enterprise and it applies equally whether the Post Office is a Government department or a statutory body. Other government business activities all pay interest on capital borrowed. The Postmaster-General mentioned Trans Australia Airlines, Qantas Airways Limited, the Snowy Mountains Authority, the Australian National Line, the Government Printer, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Commission as some which readily come to mind.
– Only because this Government made it so.
– As I said- if the honourable member had been listening - it is a sound, accepted accounting principle. If the honourable member likes to talk to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who is one of his colleagues and an accountant I am sure he will explain it to him. Even if the Postmaster-General’s Department became a statutory authority it would find, in line with other statutory authorities, that interest on capital borrowed would need to be paid. Some of the statutory authorities I have mentioned are also required to meet various indirect taxes. If the PMG became a statutory authority it would be consistent for it to meet these charges also, which would not help in keeping down postal prices. On the contrary, it would add $20m to the cost of running the Post Office which would be equivalent to lc on the basic postage rate. Even the British Post Office, as a statutory authority, is required by Act of Parliament to show a return of 10 per cent on investment in its telecommunications services, and 2 per cent on expenditure in its postal services. I understand that TAA, which is closer to home here in Australia, is required to show a reasonable return. For 1968-69 this was set at 7.5 per cent.
Although a statutory corporation might bring more benefits, it is hard to see that the customer would not be required to pay more. If the Treasury decided to diverge from sound financial practice and not charge interest on capital borrowed by the Post office, what would be the position? Obviously the cost of running the Post Office would fall, but Government revenue also would fall by the same amount. The Budget position would then have to be adjusted by one means or another, perhaps by reducing Government expenditure on things such as pensions, education, defence, national development and health. The Opposition might not object to a reduction in the spending on defence, but I think they would be the first to squeal if that reduction occurred in pensions and health. Alternatively, the Government would have to increase taxation to make up for the loss of revenue. Thus, the taxpayer who may not use the facilities of the Post Office more than once or twice a week would find himself subsidising the costs of big business enterprises which use those facilities thousands of times a week. I do not think that this can be justified. I cannot see how the Labor Party, which has said it is the champion of the small man but which I doubt, could justify the small man subsidising big business. We have all seen in the past how the Labor Party can change its ideals quite easily when it suits its purpose, so I suppose it could easily do so again.
The charging of interest on capital loaned to the PMG by the Treasury gives a correct relationship between the prices of communication services and other commodities. It is a legitimate financial charge. I do not believe that it is the role of the Post Office or the taxpayer to subsidise business, the printing and publishing industry or the activities of institutions, organisations or societies no matter how desirable their activities may be. In moving the amendment the Opposition has made quite a point of saying that it is not necessarily asking for a statutory corporation but that it would like a committee to be set up to look into it. The Opposition asks as part of its amendment that the Bill be withdrawn. Does it expect the Bill to be withdrawn and the Government to sit down and wait until a committee is appointed and makes its report? If so, the loss to the taxpayer in the subsidy that he would have to pay towards the Post Office would continue at the present rate. The choice facing the Government today is either to maintain the present rates and subsidise the loss of $llm with taxpayers’ funds or to increase the postal charges, as is proposed in the Bill, so that those who use the facilities of the Postal Department will pay the cost of that use. I believe that in making the latter choice the Government has made a financially wise and just decision. I support the Bill and I oppose the amendment.
– I listened with interest to what I could hear of the speech made by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). It seemed to me that apart from his absolute equation of the terms ‘nationalisation’ and ‘Socialism’ there was little to answer. I would like to remind the House of some figures that have been mentioned before in relation to the expenditure and estimates of the Post Office. In 1968-69 telecommunications showed a profit of $18m, while postal services accounted for a loss of$10m, giving a net profit of$8m. In 1969-70 telecommunications showed a $22m profit and postal services a loss of $15m, giving a net profit of $7m. The estimates for 1970-71 without any adjustments show a$19m profit for telecommunications and a $30m loss for postal services, making a total loss of$11m. With the increases proposed in this Bill we are told that in 1970-71 the telecommunications profit will be lifted to $39m and the postal loss will be only $9m. So there will be a $30m net profit.
This is consistent with the twofold role of the Post Office. Firstly, telecommunications, which are predominantly a commercial undertaking, show a profit and the postal facilities, which are predominantly provided as a public service, are run at a loss. There is nothing novel about this. In the home of private enterprise, the United States of America, telecommunications fall within the province of private enterprise. The Post Office itself, which runs at a substantial loss, is run by the Government. The White Paper on the re-organisation of the Post Office in the United Kingdom, which has already been referred to, clearly shows the same sort of realisation in that country. On page 5 in paragraph 15 it states:
The Corporation will inherit a number of public services which cannot be made financially viable at any reasonable level of charge.
It then goes on to give examples of this.
I realise that there have been a number of royal commissions on this subject over the years. There have been an ad hoc committee, inquiries by the Public Accounts Committee and numerous debates in this House. They all illustrate the basic difference between the approach of the Government and the approach of the Opposition. This is a widely held view, quite apart from any political considerations. The Government prefers to retain the Post Office as a department of state but wishes, despite the fact that political decisions of the government in power will be overriding, to conduct it as a commercial undertaking. The Government has accepted the view of the ad hoc committee of 1961 with regard to interest. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) pointed out the extent of this interest. It amounts to $106m per annum. Paragraph 65 on page 17 of the majority report of the ad hoc committee, referring to interest, states:
The reason for this view is conceptually a very simple one. It is that the use of interest-free money is worth something in addition tothe money itself: That is to say, the recipient of an advance obtains a financial advantage greater than the amount of the advance. In other words, if interest is not chargeable on an advance, an advantage is obtained by the recipient at the expense of the provider. It follows that the noncharging of interest on any part of the net advances that have been provided to the Post Office would mean, for the purpose of Term of Reference 1 (a), the conferring of an advantage on the Post Office at the expense of the provider of the funds - in this case, through the Treasury, the taxpayer - thus transferring a cost from the Post Office to the taxpayer. If the Post Office had obtained its finance from some financier other than the Treasury, it would unquestionably have been required to pay interest.
But I think we should look at the minority report. Paragraph 26 on page 54 states:
The justification for the majority view is said to be ‘conceptually a very simple one. It is that the use of interest free money is worth something in addition to the money itself. We do not think that this is a valid or even a currently accepted theory of interest.
The report then goes on:
For our purposes, it is sufficient to say that interest may, in the context with which we are concerned, be treated as the price which the owner can exact from the use of money. When the community, as taxpayers, provides money for the community, as Post Office customers, it is a matter of judgment whether a price for the use of the money should be exacted from the customers.
This is what we are trying to say. The taxpayers lend the money and then pay interest on it. I will not pursue that any further as it has been mentioned previously on numerous occasions. The Opposition feels that the Post Office may better operate as a public corporation; so we have asked for a select committee. Not only have we moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading calling for a select committee but we are also opposed to the increases in post and telegraph rates and intend to vote against the second reading of this Bill if our amendment is not carried. I think it should be made clear that we are opposed to those increases.
We realise that the financial complications of the Post Office are a rather frightening morass to the ordinary individual. The clear presentation of its financial report is a tribute to its staff. A lot of problems arise because the Post Office provides services that otherwise would or may be provided by private enterprise only at exorbitant charges. Yet at present they are considered as part of the loss of the Post Office. Let me give some of the advantages of a public corporation. These are not meant to be all inclusive by any means. Firstly, it would allow greater freedom in long term planning. This does not decry the technological advances that have been made by the Post Office already. But being so dependent on political policy determinations and lacking any ability to borrow for development, either in the short term or the long term, the Post Office is inhibited as a commercial undertaking. Other public corporations borrow money and make long term plans for development. This greater freedom would contribute to the success of the Post Office as a commercial undertaking.
Secondly, much development work in the area of communications is carried out by the Post Office. Whilst the know-how, skills and techniques are present, there is nowhere for them to be used except in the Post Office. Surely in this area the Post Office should be able to compete with private enterprise on the open market and to tender competitively for projects, allowing the return to be used for the benefit of the users of the Post Office services. Thirdly, a large proportion of the employees have been trained and have acquired skills in procedures of the Post Office - training and skills which in many instances have little use in outside industry and commerce. It would be more appropriate to have the Post Office separate from other Public Service departments and not to have determinations on the wages and conditions of its employees made by the Public Service Board. This would lead to greater ease of recruiting and a happier and more productive employer-employee relationship.
Fourthly, it is obvious that because of its public service aspect the Post Office, if it were a corporation, should and could attract a subsidy or grant from the Government to compensate it for the cost of the public service so given. The honourable member for Deakin said that perhaps this might be needed; I say, it might be a desirable thing. We should have a look at some of these public service factors. For example, for some time pensioners have had a concession of a one-third reduction in their telephone rental. With the proposed new annual rentals this concession will still remain.
However, let us have a look at what it does to charges for the pensioners. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) supplied a table in his second reading speech. It shows that in class 1 the pensioner’s annual rental will be increased by 17.4 per cent. In class 2 the increase will be 28.1 per cent, and in class 3 it will be 42.5 per cent. If we take it in actual amounts, it means that out of the $26 per annum increase in the pension pensioners will have taken from them for annual rental an additional sum of $4.68 in classes 1 and 3 and $4.66 in class 2. Therefore, 18 per cent of their increase is gone on I item from this Department.
The other increases in the Post Office might well affect them in much the same way. These increases have come from an area that makes a substantial profit. It might be said that this group of people should not need to have telephones to any great degree. When debates are held on social service matters we hear from many honourable members on both sides of the House about the loneliness, the illness and the dispair among this group. The telephone service may well be the instrument that is lifesaving in some cases. At least a telephone adds some quality to life by reducing boredom. As I have said before, many people who are affected in this way are old persons who suffer illnesses. They might have acute episodes of illness and in many cases the availability of a phone is lifesaving. When speaking in debates on social service bills we talk about the need to visit these people and the need to relieve their boredom. This instrument in many cases provides the personal contact that is so necessary in assisting these people. In fact, this is one of the reasons why we oppose this sort of increase in such a profitable area of communications.
We can go even further. Massive housing developments have been built I know of a tenant who recently was transferred from a housing commission home to a single person’s flat which was situated in a block of housing commission flats. This person applied for her phone to be transferred. She was told that she would not receive a transfer for some months because no cables were available. Surely with proper planning a corporation in association with the housing commissions could implement forward planning to ensure a reasonably adequate supply of telephone lines when buildings were constructed. A similar public service aspect is shown with the subsidy that is given to rural users whom the Post Office is now assisting with the first 15 miles of line. I do not object to this, but is this subsidy really a legitimate charge against the Post Office? Or should we see it as a contribution towards decentralisation and rural development? Should we say that general revenue is used for this purpose to help the corporation to carry out these sorts of things? These are a couple of public service elements in a section of the Post Office which shows a substantial profit. 1 now would like to move to the postal section where the massive loss occurs. If one forgets about interest charges one finds increases of 20 per cent. Here again we have a service which, without exorbitant charges, cannot run at a profit. In fact, if steps were taken to improve the efficiency of methods and the conditions of employees the loss would be even greater. At the moment one cannot rely even on letters posted at this House arriving at one’s electorate office or letters posted in Northcote travelling the 3 miles to Reservoir, if recent experiences of mine are any criteria. The position of the business Press has been raised by some of my colleagues. It has been pointed out that increases vary from 40percentto140percentandthatin many cases it is cheaper to produce and post from overseas. In his second reading speech on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill the Postmaster-General said:
While the fostering of a strong publishing and printing industry in Australia is important, this function is not appropriate for the Post Office.
I agree. But in the face of more and more business printing being done in overseas countries, particularly Asian countries and posted from there, surely we have some responsibility to preserve our industry. Something must be done to do this. Even special grants to some sort of public corporation or a subsidy from the Government will be worth while in these circumstances.
The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) talked about the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria journal. This Government cannot evaluate the amount of work that organisation does for road safety and the amount of money that it saves by assisting governmental departments in this way. The Postmaster-General also said in his second reading speech in regard to concessional rates for journals:
Similarly, the activities of the many organisations helped may be desirable, but again it is not the role of the Post Office to support religious denominations, charitable bodies, educational, scientific and technical institutions and the like.
Yet, these are the bodies which legislation passed in this House so often relies upon for voluntary initiative in such matters as housing, homes for the aged, sheltered workshops and meals on wheels. In fact, if they do not show voluntary initiative these areas do not receive benefits at all. The Government relies on these bodies to show initiative and if it gives them responsibilities it has a like responsibility to assist their operations. This need not necessarily be done through the Post Office, but the Government has a responsibility to assist them. A corporation could handle this matter. After all, the Government’s attitude is rather different when it comes to presorted bulk postage where substantial discounts are given. As has already been said, most of this bulk postage is used for advertising promotion of the worst passible kind in which there are many traps for the innocent. I could give details of these. I instance the offering of bait prizes and so on. This business is a darned racket. The quantity of advertising material received by doctors under the bulk postage rate and the cost it must add to drugs alarm me. Even if we made these firms pay more for this type of mail I doubt whether we would stop them from choking our letter boxes with it because it is a much cheaper form of advertising than the Press, radio or television and it is more direct.
I have spent a little time pointing out the service aspects of the Post Office. This is what makes the running of this department of State as a commercial undertaking so difficult. Setting the Post Office up as a public corporation with its definite commercial and service functions would allow proper commercial practices and even appropriate grants to be paid to compensate for its service aspects. My colleagues have outlined the reason for the amendment that has been moved and for our opposition to the increases contained in the Bill. Perhaps the new charges may have occurred whatever organisation was set up. Yet there seems to be no effort to differentiate between the commercial undertakings of the Post Office which are profitable and the public service aspects which leads to loss. One cannot feel confident unless there is a complete change in the functional concept of the Post Office. There is a need for sensible financing and for a change in the conditions for staff and the service given to the people.
– I see I have exactly 6 minutes to deliver the policy of my colleagues in the Australian Country Party on this all important matter of increased postal charges.
– You have 16 minutes.
– 1 note, through an interjection, that I now have 16 minutes. I would like to make a very distinct observation that as a result of the introduction of this Bill honourable members this afternoon have had to decide whether they would protect the user of the telephone branch of the Post Office or the taxpayer. Each year we read in the various newspapers throughout Australia and in other documents that the Postmaster-General’s Department as a whole has shown a profit or has shown a loss. In many instances we read that it has shown a small loss. But I have found great difficulty in finding a balance sheet that is simple enough for the average person in the street to understand. Certainly, such a document is not found in our metropolitan Press. Little mention is made of capital expenditure. I recently noticed with interest an article that appeared in a current affairs bulletin entitled ‘The Post Office’. This document sets out the earnings, the working expenses, the interest and the net profit or Joss since 1957. It is quite a good document and quite a good statement showing just where we are going. But, as I said, there is no indication of our capital expenditure, which is all important.
If we want to find out how much we have spent on capital works we have to make a very thorough study and 1 would urge upon the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) that this information should be made more readily available for the average person in the street because, after all, capital expenditure is a very important item. However, in this special document we see that capital expenditure for the year 1969-70 totalled $353m. The estimate for this year is $404m. That is a lot of money, but I think if people cannot really see what is going on in regard to this expenditure we will always be in trouble trying to convince them that these increased costs that are introduced from time to time are justified. I can make quite a strong case for opposing increased postal rates and telephone charges. This is very easy to do, but on the other hand it is equally easy to justify them. In defence of the increases I think that we should have a look at a few figures and make some comparisons. Way back in 1920 a telephone call cost the equivalent of lc. In 1949 this was increased to 1.7c and in 1970 it is 4c. In other words, in 50 years we have had an increase of only 400 per cent. Looking at the postal charges, we see that in 1920 when the minimum wage was the equivalent of $7.10 the postage rate was 1.7c. In 1970 the postage rate under the new proposed charges will be 6c whilst the minimum wage is $42.40. The minimum wage has gone up by about 600 per cent while postal charges have gone up by 400 per cent.
Coupled with these increases in price we have had an increase in services. The first one that comes to my mind is air mail services. I was interested to note in a document put out recently by the Postmaster-General that if a person is prepared to pay a small sum and have a letter classified as priority paid mail it is possible to post a letter in Melbourne and have it delivered in Sydney 5 hours later. That is during the day. If one posts it in the evening then it takes a little longer. Naturally one has the overnight service but if the letter is posted at 6.15 p.m. it can be made available in letter boxes at 7 a.m. the next day. I wonder how long it took a letter to travel from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa in 1920, possibly 40 hours. So this alone is an improvement. I believe that generally speaking, services right throughout the land are improving but some are not keeping pace with others. I refer to some of the mail deliveries in certain rural areas where a letter can take anything up to 24 hours to get from, say, the metropolitan area to a country post office before it is even considered for sorting or distribution.
We have heard quite a lot in this debate today about increased costs for the carriage of periodicals, newspapers and so forth, but I checked on a few figures and 1 found that in 191 1 a Sydney daily newspaper sold for the equivalent of .8c an edition. Today that same newspaper is selling at 7c. This is an increase of something like 800 per cent. So I do not believe that some of the people who are complaining about a small increase can say that their complaint is justified. When making comparisons with other countries - I am referring to the postage rates for ordinary mail - we find that in the United States of America it is proposed that the ordinary letter rate will be the equivalent of 7.1c. In the United Kingdom it is 6.3c, in Germany 7.3c, in France 6.4c and in Sweden 9.5c. So I say that whilst these increases are somewhat distasteful they can be justified. I am also informed that the periodicals that are carried at reduced rates resulted in a loss to the department on this service of something like $9m last year. So I come back to the original question: Who should cover the cost, the taxpayer or the beneficiary, the person who is using the particular service? I was also informed - 1 think the Postmaster-General made this statement - that lc paid as a contribution to postage is the equivalent of 15 seconds of a post office employee’s time. This is certainly a very short period indeed.
There is one point on which 1 would like to congratulate the Postmaster-General. 1 refer to the section dealing with the various classifications of newspapers and periodicals. I do not have time to go through them, but the idea of classifying them into A and B categories is of great advantage to many of these newspapers, particularly those going to rural areas where people have no other way of having a newspaper delivered, as do the people in certain country towns and even the people in the metropolitan area who do not pay any postage at all. I believe that this classification will be of great benefit to people in rural areas. I do admit that I would have liked to have discussed further the question of the upgrading of country telephone services. I believe that this is one of the features of this section of the Budget and one which will be of great assistance. But like all these other alterations, this costs money and no doubt if we are going to be on the receiving end then someone must pay for it.
Finally 1 turn to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He wishes to set up an inquiry into the establishment of a public corporation to run the Post Office. I want to say quite categorically right from the start that I reject this idea entirely. To my mind the Post Office is a public utility. It is a developmental unit established for the benefit of Australia as a whole, particularly as it affects rural areas. It is ridiculous to think that every little post office in Australia ought to be a paying proposition. It is ridiculous if one thinks of what it would cost to post a letter to some outback centre. I believe that the policy of the Department is ‘service before profit’ and this must continue. The Post Office has proved beyond all doubt that it cannot pay its way. How could a corporation pay its way? Much has been said this afternon about the corporation which conducts the business of the Post Office in the United Kingdom. I think the Postmaster-General said that it was expected to show a profit of 10 per cent. What would our postal charges be if the Post Office had to make a profit of 10 per cent on its operations? Interest payments alone amount to about $108m annually at present. If the operations of the Post Office continue to expand, as we would want them to expand, that interest bill will increase annually. This year we will be paying about $404m tor capital works. Can any honourable member tell me what the interest payments will total in another 20 years? How could any corporation make the operations of the Post Office pay?
My colleagues from country electorates and I would support one goal - a uniform trunk line rate. To achieve this we should commence by expanding the extended local service areas in such a way that many of the people who have only a trunk line access to their nearest business centres can enjoy the local call fee. In no circumstances should we support any increase in trunk line charges. I give a warning to the Government that if further increases in trunk line rates are proposed it will not necessarily have my support. Why should country people and country business people have to pay more to conduct their businesses than do our city friends? If honourable members study the figures that are available they will see that about a quarter of the Australian population pays half of the trunk line fees in this country. This is an unjustifiable penalty on people who live outside our capital cities. Any move towards rectifying the situation would receive our support because it would improve the position. I note that my time has expired so I conclude by saying that whilst it is easy to put forward a case opposing any increases, in most instances the proposed increases are justified. 1 certainly reject the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. My opposition is based on some of the comments I have made and more particularly on those answers that were given to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports by the PostmasterGeneral this afternoon.
– I will try to make as many points as possible in the short time that is available to me. I support the amendment. However in doing so I protest on behalf of the sporting bodies, trade unions and associations, such as the Royal Automobile Club, which have been so severely affected by the proposed alteration in the system of postage relating to magazines. Increased charges will range from 100 per cent to 300 per cent. This is an unequal increase when one considers the fact that other postal charges have increased by 20 per cent to 30 per cent. We must bear in mind that the associations affected have also to meet the 20 per cent to 30 per cent increases on their normal mail to members - in sending out notices, accounts, and the like. However, let us consider the magazine field. Australian companies employ many people who rely almost entirely on the publishing of magazines specialising in certain fields. They have created a healthy local industry but with the increased charges the volume of pub lications must decrease. Some publications will no doubt become unprofitable because of the increased postal charges. In many cases it will be cheaper to print overeas and distribute the magazines through the postal services of the country if which the printer is located. This is done already with some overseas journals which require distribution in Australia. Whereas previously only books were sent out of Australia for printing, a flow of magazines out of Australia for printing and postage has now commenced.
I instance the situation of Australian publications which are published in New Zealand. They can be mailed from New Zealand for 3c whereas it costs 17c if they are printed and distributed in Australia. This is driving business away from Australia and is killing the Australian printing industry. The Postmaster-General’s Department will suffer a loss in the volume of its business because unions and other organisations will find it impossible to mail their journals. They will rely on central office distribution and on workshop shop stewards to hand them out. The Australian Bank Officers Association, with a distribution of 34,000 journals, will be faced with a postage charge of $7,210, or an increase of 200 per cent. The Association of Australian Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsmen, with a distribution of 6,000 journals, will have to pay $3,113 in postal charges - an increase of 175 per cent. So it can be seen that this is not a matter that can be taken lightly by these organisations.
With a quote of 24c for postage of some magazines one wonders whether it will not be a profitable exercise for private courier services in metropolitan areas to effect deliveries of such magazines, for those magazines will cost almost as much to mail as do parcels. Every automobile club, every trade union or association, every religious organisation and every sporting body will be hit with increased postal charges on their information books. We should bear in mind that these bodies are big users of other postal facilities. The growth of these organisations brings further business to the Postmaster-General’s Department. Surely it would be logical, and good business practice, to set a reasonable standard charge for their magazines as a business promotional effort. These bodies are constant customers and such a standard charge would help defray their costs.
No-one has yet convinced the Parliament that the Post Office is handling these publications in the most efficient and cheapest way possible or that it has attempted to effect economies to avoid passing on costs. This is perhaps the pity of the system as it exists and which would no doubt improve if our amendment is carried. This would lead to a reorganisation of the Department. Is the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) not aware that it is often more efficient to employ private parcel deliveries and courier services? Is he not aware that this is cheaper in many instances? Reorganisation of the Post Office is needed urgently.
Another alarming aspect is that charges for telephone installations will be increased without detailed attention having been given to rebates in such charges to age and invalid pensioners who, because of age and infirmity, find it absolutely necessary to have the telephone facility. Some arrangement should be made between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Social Services whereby this facility can be made more readily available to these people.I received representations from an aged married couple both of whom suffer heart complaints. They sought a waiver of the telephone installation fee. This was not possible and it was only through the generosity of other people that they were able to have the telephone installed. This was a case for urgent attention since the telephone was a vital need from the medical viewpoint. Although one does not expect the Postmaster-General’s Department to be a charitable institution, one does expect Government provision to cater for this type of problem. If this is to be a Government department which is, on occasion, subsidised by the taxpayer, one should be entitled to expect service to taxpayers of lifelong standing.
ThePostmaster-Generalhasmade wide questioning reference to what the Labor Party wants - to what type of statutory authority would be most desirable - yet he did not offer a solution. Therefore it is obvious that the amendment must be carried to enable a joint select committee to be appointed to conduct the widest possible inquiry and to answer not only the questions posed by the Minister for his guidance but the detailed questions raised by Labor speakers who have been influenced by the public unrest at the increased postal charges. Not only could the committee do that but it could vindicate the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department and satisfy the public that the Department is being properly managed. It could satisfy the employees of the Department that they are receiving the best possible administration in their interests. These people have devoted their lives to this service. They have studied to improve themselves in the interests of the Department and the public. They are entitled to the best possible administration with promotional opportunities in a viable business organisation with a future. I appeal on their behalf to the Government to accede to the request for a joint select committee. Its appointment would enable everybody’s questions to be answered and would ensure proper guidelines coming forward for the future of the Department. The operative words in the amendment are: to inquire into the desirability and practicability’. Nothing will be changed until a full and proper inquiry has been conducted. I commend the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 3
In Com mil tee
Consideration resumed from 22 September (vide page 1483).
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed expenditure, $28,112,000.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $77,867,000.
Department of Trade and Industry
Proposed expenditure, $40,030,000.
– Last night I was speaking about the ability of Japan with its improved economy to purchase more of our meat and I desire to caro’ on from that point. Our meat industry must be prepared to produce, to pack and to market food to meet the exacting requirements of the sophisticated high income of the Japanese population and this requirement is vastly different from that of traditional markets. The accent on the Japanese market at the moment is towards higher quality. We must do all that we can to find new markets for our meat. The Australian Meat Board is very active in overseas and domestic sales promotion. It is interesting to note that the Board in 1969-70 expended $210,400 on overseas promotion and $158,100 in the domestic market, making a total of $368,500. The Commonwealth Government matched the overseas expenditure SI for $1. Over $400,000 was expended on total overseas promotion by the Australian Meat Board. lt is also interesting to note at this point that despite the drought in Queensland and northern New South Wales stock figures in Australia have reached very high levels. As at 30 June 1970 Australia’s sheep population was 181.3 million and the beef cattle population was 21.99 million. I understand that these figures are an all time record. Constructive moves are under way by primary producer organisations in Australia for a national lamb marketing scheme. The Government should take further action to assist in increasing our sales of lamb on both the domestic and export markets. The Australian meat industry must take great care to ensure that meat is not over-produced, particularly beef, and a situation created which would undermine the stability of this very wonderful industry.
– lt is easy to identify the villain of the piece in the prevailing rural crisis - namely, inflation. Certainly the farmer faces many other difficulties and problems but if the value of the £1, now of the $1, had been maintained the farmer would have ridden out those difficulties and problems. Inflation, is, today, the killer of primary industry and particularly of export primary industry. The word ‘killer’ is by no means too strong because in rural areas today farmers and townspeople alike are literally battling for survival. Many have already gone down in the unequal struggle; ruin faces many more. Strong measures are needed now if the rural economy is to be preserved. The emphasis of course is ‘now’. It is already almost too late. The present situation in rural Australia is unprecedented except during the depression. But of course this is happening not in depression but while the great cities of Australia are booming. The country is being denuded of capital and of people but the great metropolitan areas are growing faster than ever. Sydney and Melbourne will have 5 million people by 2000 A.D., just 29 years from now. There may then be tourist tours of abandoned country ghost towns.
A stranger might ask why the metropolis flourishes while the country languishes. Why has inflation so savagely hit the primary producer and not the secondary producer? The answer is simple. He who runs can read it. It is because a system of automatic checks and balances is built into the secondary economy of this country. It operates to preserve an Australian standard of living and an Australian way of life for the secondary worker and it is strongly approved by the overwhelming majority of right thinking Australians. Mainly this system operates through the Arbitration Courts and tribunals, through the Tariff Board and tariff inquiries, and fairly recently also pretty strongly through the collective bargaining system. Prices rise and wages are increased to meet that rise. Prices are then increased again because of the higher wages. To meet competition from imports higher tariffs are imposed on goods from overseas. Higher prices again bring higher wages, and so the vicious spiral goes on. Everything is paid for in ever depreciated currency. lt we look back over the last 20 years we see the astonishing effect of the continuous inflation in this country. Money today has less than a quarter of its value that very little time ago. The system, even in the secondary sector, does not work smoothly. It jerks along and it is inefficient. There are side effects injurious to everybody and particularly injurious to particular sections such as those people on fixed incomes. But in general terms it promotes in the secondary sector an affluent society, full employment, record profits and record spending. That is the position in Australia today in the secondary sector but since it does not apply to the rural sector the effect there is the reverse, as can be plainly seen. This situation is necessarily, I believe, one of grievous and mounting concern to every country member of this Parliament. Everyone knows now that it should never have been allowed to develop, but. Sir, if I may coin a phrase, it is no use crying over spilt milk. The LiberalCountry Party Government took office 20 years ago on a pledge to restore and maintain the value of the currency. Had that pledge been honoured the rural community would not today be facing this desperate position. Tt is history now that this solemn pledge was shamefully dishonoured but I think that some Country Party members are not altogether to blame for this.
– That is generous.
– I will be more generous in a moment. With hindsight now it is clear that Country Party members then should have adhered to their pledge and insisted that the Liberal partners in the coalition also adhered to it or that they would step out of Government and go on to the cross benches. It is perfectly clear now that that is what the Country Party representatives in this Parliament should have done at that time before the inflationary spiral got out of hand. It would have been to the good of Australia.
– It would certainly have strengthened the Labor Party.
– I do not think the honourable member who has interjected would disagree. It would have been to the good of Australia if that spiral of inflation had been halted then, but the fruits of office were sweet to the Country Party. Some of its members were reluctant to give up their ministerial salaries, their cars, their staffs and their privileges. 1 suppose this was human nature. They pocketed their pledges, they stayed in the government and they excused themselves by saying that they were keeping Labor out anyway. As you doubtless know, Mr Chairman, they have been trampled on by the Liberal Party ever since. That was the time they had to take their stand. When they failed to take it the Liberal Party measured them for what they were and has treated them with disdain and trampled on them politically in this Parliament ever since.
– They got what they deserved.
– They did. That is a rather cruel and ruthless statement, nonetheless it is a fair one, but the people they represent did not get what they deserved. The people were betrayed because these men had promised that if they were elected to government they would ensure that the value of the currency was restored and maintained. Now, of course, it is too late for them to retrace their steps and the situation is really out of hand. The value of the currency cannot now be restored to what it was no matter what Party comes to office. What then is to be done now in the crisis affecting the whole of the rural economy?
– Get rid of the Country Party.
– Certainly it will be necessary greatly to reduce their numbers, but I hope that amongst present members of the Country Party there will be rebirth of the spirit which animated the great Australian Country Party of past years.
– The once great Party.
– Yes, the once great Party. When I look across at the Country Party benches today I think of men such as Sir Earle Page, Tom Paterson, Percy Stewart, who represented the seat later represented for some time in this House by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), and W. G. Gibson. These were men of political independence and courage. I disagreed with many of their policies and many of the things they did but at least they were men who would stand up for what they believed and they would fight for the people whom they came into this Parliament to represent. They would not allow themselves to become the tools of subversive forces in this country, as present members of the Country Party have. I wish members will emerge in the Country Party now who, before it is too late, will take this situation in hand. A Federal conference of the Australian Country Party will be held in Canberra next weekend. What member of the Country Party is prepared to go to that meeting and say: ‘We must be prepared to retrace our steps and we must separate ourselves from this Liberal Government which is promoting inflation and ruin in country districts throughout the whole of Australia’? As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) asked, is there one of them who has the courage to say: ‘Let us step out. Let us at least go back on to the corner benches and endeavour to re-earn the respect of the Australian people”?
There was a time when no member of the Country Party would have been seen dead encourating Communism and other subversive forces in this country. What a change we see today. There is no greater and better way to encourage Communism than to promote conditions of despair, misery and disillusionment with democratic political parties. We have today a rural economy almost in total ruin. We have the Country Party quiescent while the destruction of the rural economy proceeds and it is thus encouraging the Communists and other revolutionary forces to promote their evil and insidious plans for the future control of Australia. As I see it, the logical step now would appear to be to extend to the primary sector the measures which already operate in the secondary sector so as to preserve an Australian standard of living and an Australian way of life for all Australians - the country people as well as the people in the metropolitan areas. I know of nobody who would be prepared to deny to rural employees the standard which is applied to city employees and noone - no decent thinking Australian at any rate - would deny to the primary producer an adequate price for his labour and his product, but he is not getting it today. As in the secondary sector, so in the primary sector.
These things could be laid down in detail by competent tribunals after study ing all the evidence, providing a guaranteed living standard for every Australian prepared to work with his brain and with his hands. What a glorious difference that would make to life for the Australian country dweller. When I go through the countryside these days I am appalled by the conditions which the ordinary decent Australian living in the country is enduring and the utter despair with which he views his political representatives from the Australian Country Party. I have heard some Country Party members say: This is very good in theory but it would bc too difficult.’ Surely it would be worth trying. Surely Country Party members who know that this is the minimum need of their people could even now stand up and make a fight for it. I have heard the objection raised that farmers’ representatives would have to put their case for payable prices to a tribunal. That objection might have been taken when prices were payable but today they are completely unpayable and the farmer knows that he needs to claim justice and he needs political representatives who will fight for it. 1 believe that some Country Party members have endeavoured to obtain this kind of action but they have come up against a brick wall of opposition from the Liberal Party bosses who always want to keep everyone else down so that the big secondary monopolies they represent will be sure of record profits. It is a tragedy that the Country Party has so meekly accepted the present state of affairs.
– We were meant to be discussing the estimates for the Departments of Customs and Excise, Primary Industry and Trade and Industry, but it seemed to me that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) spent most of his time on politics and in trying to join the Country Party with the Communists instead of getting down to discussing the estimates before the House. However, he did say that inflation is the killer today of primary industry. 1 am afraid I do not find myself in agreement with him. I realise that no-one wants inflation and that inflation or rising costs makes it difficult for the man on the land but the real killer for the man on the land today is not the fact that his costs have gone up. They have probably doubled in 15 years. The real killer is the enormous drop in the price of wool. I have experienced the price drop from 45c per lb average one year to 34c the next year. That same wool today would probably bring of the order of 26c per lb. That is the real killer. We know that inflation and increased costs present difficulties but they could have been faced when the price of wool was reasonably stable. They cannot be faced when there is this considerable drop in the price of wool. Apparently, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro then went on to say that the farmer is not getting a price that he ought to get today and this could be laid down by tribunals. It is ludicrous to think of a tribunal fixing the price of wool. You would know the cost of production and you would say: ‘It costs me this much to produce. I am selling it at X plus 10c a lb. If you do not like it you can leave it. That is the price at which it has to be sold.’ We know too well what would happen in the case of wool. They would leave it, obviously, because the situation has been reached where synthetics can replace and have replaced wool in large measure. It is completely unreal to believe that the price can be set by a tribunal or by anyone else and that we can say: This is the price. If you do not want it you’ will not get it.’ What would happen then would be that we would not sell any at all. We have to meet the market.
It is all very well for the honourable member to say that the Government is responsible for inflation. I ask: Have Australia’s costs increased at a higher rate than world costs? Of course they have not. Although our costs recently have been going up higher than we would want to see them go up, I believe that the Australian economy has been managed extremely well in the last 20 years. In the early 1960s we had a period of very great stability. I can recall when the ‘Financial Times’ of London awarded Australia the prize for the best managed economy of the year because we did have such stable prices. The primary producer has managed to meet these increased costs that he has had to face by the amount of research that has been done, by the fact that today he can produce more for the same cost, by extension services, by promotion and by trying to make wool a better commodity which will sell better. 1 did not wish to speak on this particular line. 1 wanted to speak on the topic of meat. But before I get on to that I want to mention 1 item referred to by my friend and colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) last night. It is good to see a member from a city electorate which does not contain very many wool growers taking an interest in wool. It is obvious that he has taken an interest in it and has tried to put forward some suggestions. The one thing that I took exception to in the honourable member’s speech was mentioned when he talked about the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who, he said, referred to the Ord River scheme and to cotton which we cannot sell. How on earth does anyone get the idea that we cannot sell cotton? Today we sell every bale of cotton that is produced. Most of our cotton is sold in Australia. Only a few years ago we imported tens of millions of dollars worth of cotton a year. Today we are not only self-sufficient but we have a little bit left over for export. It is true that we do import some long staple cotton of the Egyptian type, but even this has been grown in the Ord River area. As I say, we have a few thousand bales left over for export which, out of a total crop of 50 million bales, is only a drop in the ocean. The fact is that we are producing something here and we are selling it. Why do people say that we produce something we cannot sell?
I want to refer to the topic of meat. Australia is the largest exporter of beef in the world. This year our exports of beef and other meats are the largest they have ever been. Our total exports were 545,000 tons, of which about 330,000 tons consisted of beef and veal. Almost three-quarters of our exports of beef and veal went to North America. While our exports to the United States of America and Canada are steadily increasing, this is a most temperamental and most difficult market. Temporary restrictions and prohibitions were imposed this year by both those countries. What concerns meat exporters most is the problem of constant inspections by what were described to me by one person today as ‘half trained spies’. No-one wants to see meat sold here or in the United States which is killed without due regard to hygiene. He who pays the piper calls the tune. But we want to know that the demands are reasonable and that they are no different from those imposed on the American abattoirs. I believe that some of the American abattoirs, especially those under State jurisdiction, do not conform to our standards. We are told - or, rather, it is inferred, for we are not told anything - that some of the Australian abattoirs are health hazards. How can this apply to such works as Borthwicks and Gilbertsons in Melbourne? The export licences of both those meat works for the United States have been rejected. There are no finer abattoirs in Australia than these. The beef section of Borthwicks was completed only 3 years ago.
As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) told us yesterday in the House, so far about a quarter of Australia’s meat works have been struck off the list. That is about 26 out of a total of just over 100 which provide beef for export. For mutton exports we have virtually none. I think there are three that have the right to export mutton to the United States and some have not yet been inspected. The Minister said yesterday in relation to the number of meat works struck off the list:
This figure varies from week to week as certain abattoirs are delisted and others are relisted, so the position is in a continual state of flux.
I am sure that the industry is not happy at having a continual state of flux. They just do not know where they are. There was a time when we were prepared to accept the story then being told that meat works were struck off the list for health reasons. But more and more people are coming to doubt whether it is for health reasons or whether there are not political pressures as well being applied by the producers in the United States who fear too great an influx of Australian meat into the United States. If this is not so I would like to hear it. I would like to hear why our meat works
In making this remark I am quoting practical men to whom I have been speaking. They have been to and have seen United States meat works and they have seen and worked in Australian meat works. Let me cite some of the experiences of industry in this matter. Firstly, I have said that some of the American inspectors are regarded by the industry as half trained spies. One meat authority described the problem of satisfying them as like trying to shoot at a moving target which is constantly changing. Many millions of dollars have been spent in trying to upgrade meat works to the American standard, but it has been put to me that the industry in incapable of sustaining the standards that are asked for. Our inspectors believe that the American inspectors are only looking for defects or trifling difficulties. Where a table has laminex on the top they ask should it havelaminex down the side as well or should it have stainless steel on the side. While that argument is going on a meat works worth millions of dollars could be de-listed. The same thing could apply to a dismantled mincer in which the inspector might happen to find half a teaspoon of what could have been old fat. So the problems go on. The inspectors discovered in a large room where cartons were kept a couple of pellets of mice dirt.
The industry is faced with the constant problem of how it can succeed in satisfying standards which are very difficult to satisfy. One would not mind if the standards were laid down and abided by. There appears to be nothing in writing. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) reminds me that the rules are interpreted with the same gay abandon as the rules of the New York Yacht Club. Boning tables which cost tens of thousands of dollars to alter and which are satisfactory when altered have been condemned a few months later. And again, like the case I have previously quoted, there is no right of appeal.
The improvement in the standard of meat works in Australia in recent years has really been quite dramatic. Should we have to put up with people with 1 year’s experience in the United States trying to find trouble? It was put to me that they are almost like that fabulous group known as Nader’s raiders. Why was the Wyndham meat works recently de-listed? I know that Wyndham is a fairly old meat works but nevertheless money has been spent on it. It was de-listed only a few weeks before the end of the killing season, thus giving the people in this spot - one of the remote areas of the world - absolutely no hope of getting any stock killed until next year. Could it not have waited another 3 weeks before it was de-listed? Is it true, as I have been told, that the de-listing wau caused by 1 carcass which the inspector should have condemned but which he failed to condemn? The Australian public wants to know the answer to these queries. No-one wants a return to the unhygienic levels of pre-war days, but neither does he want millions spent on improvements which become obsolete in a few months with a change in regulations. 1 am very glad that the Minister for Primary Industry is here. I hope he will do his utmost to see that this unsatisfactory position is cleared up as soon as possible.
– We are very grateful to the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) for outlining the problems of the meat processing works and the relationship between Australia and the United States of America on the export of Australian meat” to America. About 20,000 people are engaged in the meat industry in Victoria alone. If something is not done soon to have the processing factories re-‘ registered and to have more meat inspectors appointed this industry will be in danger of collapse. It has two forces hammering against it - firstly, a lack of inspectors and, secondly, the American intransigence towards our abattoirs and the health standards required.
The decline in the economic importance, profitability and viability of our primary industries is the disaster story of the last decade; but it is not a disaster in terms of efficiency. The Australian farmer in every field is as efficient as most other farmers in the world. But the disaster is in the payability of rural industries. When I was overseas about 2 months ago I visited 11 countries. I noticed that England, Scotland, France, Switzerland and Italy sold almost all their rural production in their own country because they had large populations. This is their secret and their advantage. Australia, with a tremendous production potential but a. small consumer population, has to export nearly 80 per cent of its foodstuffs. This involves finding markets in other countries, being at the mercy of ruthless competition from other countries which grow the same products as ourselves, and facing the economic weakness of some of the countries overseas that are potential markets.
Just to show how rural industries have declined in the ways I have mentioned I shall quote some figures provided for me by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) back in May this year. I asked him what percentage of the gross national product was represented by the output of rural industries in each of the years 1929, 1939. 1949. 1959, and 1969. His answer was that in 1928-29 rural income amounted to 21.4 per cent of the gross national product. This had declined to 9.3 per cent in 1969, 40 years later. I asked him also what percentage of Australian export income came from rural export in each of these same years. The answer was that in 1928-29, 90 per cent of our export income came from rural industries. Last year the proportion was 58 per cent. Those figures alone show a very sad and serious story in this important economic field.
This decline will continue. The only hope that Australia has of being able to hold the fort lies in the earnings from mineral production. The Government itself has become conscious of this fact, so much so that many ways of helping primary industry have been overlooked and have been neglected. The Government has at the back of its mind the hope that in a few years time, say by 1975, the value of mineral exports will top $2,000m and that this will save Australia. In the meantime, though, thousands of farmers will go to the wall. We know quite well that once the price of primary products fell in 1928, 1929 and 1930 we were on the verge of world depression. 1 am quite sure that once primary industry falls to’ pieces this country will fall to pieces. Even mineral exports will not save us unless we can stop the downward trend in primary industries. Last year primary industries brought in about $4,000m in export income, but this is on the decline.
Tonight 1 want to refer also to frozen food prices, which have gone up in some cases by 100 per cent because 15 processors of frozen food have at last got together to save each other. I think the axiom is that if we do not stick together we will fall apart, or if we do not hang together we will all hang separately. So traditional rivals in the pea and bean processing industries have formed this famous cartel to save themselves although none of them is yet poverty stricken. I have figures here showing their profits last year. They fell by perhaps 15 per cent to 20 per cent in 12 months, but these firms are still not poverty stricken. The Petersville group made a profit of more than $1,300,000 last year, which was $400,000 less than for the previous year. It is not destitute yet by any means, but it is prepared to increase the price for frozen food by up to 100 per cent at one fell swoop.
– Without any of the increase in the price going to the producer.
– Exactly, without any of the increase in the price going to the producers. My State of Tasmania grows 55 per cent of the peas that are frozen and the growers receive 31/2c per lb. Tasmanian growers have been forced to reduce production for this coming season because their contracts have been cut by half. Some areas of my State will not grow one acre of peas this year because the processors claim they have a huge surplus of peas to dispose of on the local market. The production last year was 110 million lb but in the previous year 82 million lb was grown. They have decided to get rid of the surplus by lifting the price to these fantastic levels. I cannot for the life of me understand how they will sell the surplus by increasing the price in this way.
A newspaper article on 22nd September 1970 had this to say about the increased price of frozen food:
In some metropolitan retail stores yesterday–
This was Monday - the price of a 16 oz packet of frozen peas jumped from 17c to 33c.
The price of a 10 oz packet of peas doubled from 11c to 22c.
Throughout another group of self-service stores, a 16 oz packet of beans rose 7c to 34c, a 16 oz packet of peas increased from 17c to 31c and frozen potato chips went from 29c to 32c.
Rises in most other stores were similar.
Mr Bannerman, the Commissioner of Trade Practices, is examining this matter to see whether it comes under the restric- tivetradepracticeslegislation.Whenwe ask him for details about the register of trade practices we find that it is secret because of the secrecy provisions of the taxation laws. As a result, Mr Bannerman certainly has his hands tied in trying to handle this question at that level. The increased prices are an outrageous imposition on the consumers of Australia. If the farmers of Australia were to benefit - I refer to the pea. bean and potato growers - it would reduce the blow somewhat. This action will certainly greatly slow down the sale of surplus peas and beans.
It is interesting to note that New Zealand processors have also come into this cartel agreement. They are at the moment processing Suprise peas in Australia. New Zealand peas are brought across the Tasman Sea and are processed in Melbourne. We in Tasmania know that the impact of this action is gradually stifling and throttling the industry in our State. The effect may not be fully felt for 2, 3 or 4 years, but the importation of thousands and thousands of pounds of peas will definitely and gradually stultify our very viable industry which provides a cash crop that so many of our growers need to help them with some of the losses that have been sustained on other crops. I might mention that we have done very little over the years about exporting potatoes. Our potatoes have been consumed mostly within the Commonwealth. In the first week of August on my way home from London I met our Trade Commissioner in Singapore and requested him to send me some very interesting information on the importation of potatoes into Singapore from Western Australia and from Tasmania in particular. He told me that the type most preferred is a yellow flesh potato which is grown on white clay soil. The next preferred type is a whitish flesh potato grown on white clay soil. The Trade Commissioner also advised me that the size preferred was 40 mm to 60 mm in diameter for hotels, ships and the domestic market. He mentioned that importers preferred 25 kilo bag packing. I was also informed of the prices paid in different seasons in Singapore for potatoes. Holland exports to Singapore from July to December; New Zealand exports from December to May; and Mainland China and Taiwan export throughout most of the year. I was told that the best period for Australia to come into the market is between January and May when at least Holland, which is the next major supplying country, is not offering.
The statistics on the size of the market are very interesting. In the period January to December 1967 Australia exported 4,910 tons valued at $1,201,000. In the period January to December 1968 Australia exported into Singapore 4,651 tons.
In the period January to December 1969 Australia exported 9,770 tons - double our previous year’s export - at a value of $2,350,000. The Singapore market is supplied by Australia, China, Formosa, France and Monaco, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Malaysia. So we have tremendous competition in this market. But in 12 months we doubled our export of potatoes into the Singapore market from Tasmania and Western Australia. This is the sort of thing that will help to save many of our farmers from going off the land. It is constructive trade promotion. We should be endeavouring to create markets for new products in Asia, which is the closest continent to us and where so much of our foodstuffs are now being sold.
The Trade Commissioner in Singapore gave me a list of about 8 importers who would be a help to Tasmania when that State is making arrangements for further exports. We are sending seed potatoes to Ceylon as well as Singapore. Western Australia also has sent a big shipment of seed potatoes to Ceylon, f give this as a practical illustration of what we can do through the Department of Trade and Industry which is working overtime to try and find the right kind of foodstuffs to put on to the Asian markets. If further markets can be developed we can certainly help to relieve some of the stress on our cash crop growers throughout Australia. I recommend this course of action to the Department for further investigation and 1 hope that the potato market will be boosted still further.
– I intend to refer to the estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Primary Industry. Before I do so I would like to comment that my friend the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) started his speech like the veritable prophet of doom and depressed everyone with the first part of his speech. However, towards the end of his speech he was back to his usual form like a little ray of sunshine and I was just waiting for him to pick the Australian Rules XVIII from Parliament House once again. As I go along I would like to refer to what was said by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) who referred to inflationary trends and the lack of real value in the currency as the problems of rural industries. Apart from that, I would like to say that I am becoming fed up with those people, not only on one side of the Parliament, who prophesy gloom and doom for primary industries. I . think everyone realises that a great metamorphosis - a great change in time and conditions - is going on. I do not really think that any honourable member would think that we should become so unduly self-centred, if I might use the phrase, in primary industries as to put ourselves in the same position as New Zealand which is our next door neighbour. This would not be proper thinking in the light of the development of the more sophisticated and industrial countries of our time. But this thinking draws in its wake ancillary matters that need thought. These are the very matters that I wish to refer to tonight. 1 do not think it is good enough to be wise in hindsight and say that the Government’s policies have been wrong and that price support, subsidy schemes and all of these things are wrong - that the locusts have been eating the years. This is an academic problem that is of no consequence to us at this point of time. What is of consequence to us at the moment is to consider where we are in the world today and what are our problems in terms of surpluses, prices and costs. We have to decide what to do about al) areas of need in the Australian economy. A great deal of mention has been made about need in some sectors of the Australian economy and very little has been made about others. If I might put it another way, we bear endless debates in this place on social services, repatriation and wheat.
– Nothing much has come from this.
– We hear a great deal about wool, particularly between the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) who sits next door to him. It goes on ad nauseam nearly every day. We hear a lot about these subjects but we should hear more about the many small industries of this country that have a high export component and which in their totality are extremely valuable to the economy of Australia. The ones I have in mind, probably because they are well represented in the electorate of Angas, are the smaller export industries, the citrus industry, the dried fruit industry and the canned fruit industry ,of which we hear no mention in this place. I add one more and that is, the wine industry, about which until recently we heard very little in this place.
Might I refer to yesterday’s Hansard? Those honourable members who have a copy will see a question on notice which was answered by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It is full of information for any honourable member who looks at it. The honourable member for Sturt is continuing to interject. If he will stop jabbering I will get on with my speech. The answer refers to Commonwealth payments to industry, not only primary industries but all industries. But the point I wish to take from it is that the total payments to rural industries amounted to $215,376,000. This has been taken by some honourable members as being a palliative and as being a method of directing our . resources in the wrong directions. This is not necessarily so. It is easy to be wise with hindsight and to say that it has . been , so, but it is not necessarily so. From my point of view, and from the point of view..of many economists, whether the honourable .member for Sturt knows about them or worries about them or not, there should be-
– He will send you a telegram. - Mr GILES- He probably will in due course and it will probably be a 3 figure number this time. If I might return to the point I was making, there are many economists in this country and, indeed, many people who think sincerely and honestly about this matter, who see the way our economy is going at present as unduly emphasising - I might add quite properly; I am not complaining about it - the industries that return most to the Australian people and the Australian economy. We all know which industries these are without my elaborating on them. Might I point out that if honourable members look on past Government policies with these high sounding phrases as being mildly useless in the scheme of things I have news for them. The news is that if our economy is geared to the manufacturing sectors, is geared to favour mining industries with all their tax benefits and is geared, quite properly might I say again, into these areas - I have no doubt I am right - in time payments to lower costs and payments by way of subsidies on inputs will be necessary. They will be necessary because of need and because we need greater export capital. They will be necessary for very many reasons.
The Vernon report gave the figure of $ 1,000m as the net subsidy equivalent to the manufacturing industries of Australia. Might I compare this with the figure I took from yesterday’s Hansard of $2 15m in terms of payments to rural industries and might I compare this again with the take off by the Federal Government from tariff alone each year. It is more than $2 15m; it is something over $300m. In the scheme of things I do not complain about this. I think we are absolutely correct to promote the industries and to promote the capital flow into the industries that make us a great nation. I also say that not for much longer will we see subsidies on output for any industry producing surpluses, primary or otherwise, when we are incapable of selling the goods. But I do on the other hand see - I stand for it today and will own up to it for many years to come - in this area in the national good that there will be increased amounts of Government money used for re-structuring industry and for re-structuring debts, sometimes at manufacturing industry level and sometimes section 96 grants for specific purposes. But more importantly there will be subsidies on the inputs and the costs so that’ the farming community can receive some small compensation for the load it has carried over the years - it is of no importance; it is just of historical interest - and the load that it will have to carry in the future if we are going to continue to look on primary industries as a source of important exports earning income for the good of this country. I hope that what I have said tonight has to son~ic people 3:n-,C form of perspective because T feel quite certain in my own mind that this is the sort of problem that we will have to face in times to come.
Might I in passing refer to the speech made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and say that the most heartening thing I heard in his speech and the best part of his speech by far was the two-thirds of it dealing with the wool industry which, I think, was spot on.
Secondly, the important point he made was that in future, rather than any juggling around supporting one industry to the detriment of another - I am thinking of primary industries here - and favouring this one but not that one, we should have in this country a rural industries board, a board set up peculiarly and particularly to advise governments on the importance of that sector and on the performance that the country expects from that sector. In that I am right in accord with the honourable member for Bradfield. I think he did a great service to this Parliament by again stressing this point of view. 1 have been led astray by the speeches of other honourable members but I rose tonight primarily to talk about the citrus industry. I now have 3 minutes left in which to do so. It is important to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), it is important, though one might not think so, to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), it is important to the honourable member for Mallee and it is important to myself. In 2 out of the last 3 years this industry has on average sold its produce under the cost of production. One might say: ‘Why do we need such an industry?’ lt is a valid question. I think the answer to it, frankly, is this: Sunkist oranges have a world demand and a world quality image today but there is one orange that runs it very close and twice in recent years has outsold it on overseas markets. That orange is stamped Riverland’. Unfortunately for the honourable member for Riverina those oranges do not come from the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area. Oranges from that area cannot quite match the quality of the oranges from the electorates of the honourable member for Mallee or myself, and there are numerous examples to prove what I have in mind. Perhaps when the trees in the Murrumbidgee area get a little older and the oranges a little rougher - and, indeed, when their Federal representative gets a little rougher - they might improve out of all knowledge. But the citrus industry is important from this point of view, and I would ask people before they criticise useless country industries as some are apt to do, to remember that it takes an orange tree–
– It is the useless country members we criticise.
– 1 was not criticising the honourable member this time, lt takes an orange tree 10 to 13 years before it becomes productive. One does not turn them on and off like a factory; one has to plan, invest and hope that at the end of this time there is a sale for this sort of production. At this time in America a very high percentage - something like 85 per cent - of citrus products is sold in a processed form and not as fresh fruit. This trend is coming into Australia at a very rapid rate and the citrus fruit juice industry is only one portion of the total fruit juice industry.
Mr Foster - That does not- the CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)- Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– He worries rae not at all, Mr Chairman, but thank you for offering sympathy. At present we are in the middle of this trend in this industry. In the last 4 years juicing has doubled in the citrus industry. We are caught in this trend. For a period of what I would suspect would be 6 or 7 years out of the bearing time of 13 years there is a surplus of oranges, more markedly in the 2 areas to which I referred and which produce a top quality product. What do we do? Do we say that because oranges are in plentiful supply and the growers are not getting their cost of production we let an industry like this go to the wall, or do we use a bit of intelligence and say that this industry is a quality producer for Australia and has made its mark in the world’s markets? Do we try, in some way, to help the industry until supply equates with demand? If we do not do this we will finish up with insufficient supply to cope with the demand inside 4 or 5 years.
This is the problem. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) knows that with Senator Laucke and various leaders of the citrus industry I have for some time produced a series of possible plans to help the industry. I am hoping that one of these days we can get a plan that is acceptable to the industry. Some of the plans have not been acceptable to persons in the electorate of Robertson - growers from Gosford - because they have their own type of problem. The big problem that faces the citrus industry in Australia is that if something is not done the big supplies from my electorate will flood all markets and ruin all other producers.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– On 20th August last the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) did his thing on the European Economic Community. One must concede that even if his performance is very light on with constructive alternatives to offset any trade disruption affecting Australia, through Great Britain entering the EEC, it is at least grand drama in the finest traditions of a very old school. Regrettably, the school is so old that it is no longer relevant to contemporary attitudes and expectations.
Nevertheless his performance was every bit as commanding as in its original form in the House in 1962. A little older, a little greyer, a little more drawn with age than then, nevertheless the Minister delivered roughly the same speech with the same forceful fury, the same thunderous warnings, the same flashing challenges to the EEC and the world as on that earlier occasion. But after the sound and fury there was nothing - only words. Virtuous little Australia with more than 60 per cent of its industry protected will stand against the contamination of the rest of the world corrupted by self-interested protectionist policies. Bravo for the Minister for Trade and Industry for an excellent role well played in the grandest traditions of great Greek tragedy. His finest flourish must easily win him the award of best actor of the year for his characterisation of Australia as little, innocent and largely defenceless in the face of the selfish power play of the EEC should Great Britain enter the Community. What arrant nonsense.
The fact is that the proportion of Australian export trade going to Great Britain hasdeclinedfromnearly28percentin 1956-57 when Britain first considered entering the Community, to not quite 12 per cent in 1969-70. The Australian economy will still be in a strong position in the event of this oft-proposed but never consummated marriage. True, some export agricultural industries face difficulties through British entry to the EEC but the fact is that these arc the same industries which faced this threat in 1962, when we witnessed the last performance of high drama from the Minister on this subject. What is damnable is that instead of diverting this trade from Britain, either by developing sufficient alternative trade outlets or by restructuring industries at home, we find that the volume of these commodities sold to Britain has increased. Thus between 1956-57 and 1969-70 butter exports expanded from 140,119,000 lb to 153,957,000 lb; cheese from 4,763,000 lb to 5,731,000 lb; apples from 2,518,000 bushels to 3,856,000 bushels; wheat from 715,165 tons to 1,073,224 tons; tinned fruits such as peaches from 29,230,000 lb to 74,880,000 lb.
It is crass irresponsibility of the Government therefore to pursue doggedly, as it does, subsidy and price support programmes which encourage people to stay in those primary industries which need restructuring to avoid serious damage in the event of British entry to the EEC. For example, $45m in various forms of subsidy for the dairy industry to encourage more production and greater dependence on the British market is shameful. It then becomes blatant irresponsibility when only $2m is offered to restructure the industry under a scheme which has been afflicted by extremely tardy progress so far.
Again does the Minister seriously propose that Australia can legitimately complain if the EEC is dumping butter in Hong Kong for 20c per lb when Australia is unloading - I trust the change to a euphemism was noted - butter in the United Kingdom for 2s 6d or 25c per lb while it sells in Australia at 54c per lb. I rather fancy too that the Minister in the past has taken a great deal of credit, with his characteristic modesty in such things, for negotiating special sugar deals with various countries. How then can he give a ring of truth and conviction to his outrage that the United States has done the same thing?
Finally, the Minister excels all past performances by self-righteously casting himself in the role of the doughty warrior battling for freer world trade. No-one in this nation has a more consistent, more conservative record of staunch protectionism than has he. In his time he has written the findings of the Tariff Board, as blunt instructions, into its terms of reference; he has arbitrarily raised the tariff level proposed by the Board and it was Just coincidental on one occasion that the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the beneficiary company served on an almost totally secret organisation - the McEwen House fund raising committee.
In any event the Minister for Trade and Industry in his 14 years in that portfolio and through the policies he pursued there and the primary industry policies he has directly influenced before and during that time is greatly responsible for the serious distortion to our economic structure. That is, many of our present problems related to misallocations of economic resources are directly attributable to his ultra-nationalist, ultra-protectionist practices. This, fundamentally, is why several industries face serious problems if Britain enters the EEC.
In any event the challenging question is why, given the dramatised warnings of the Minister in 1962, we find in 1970 that the industries vulnerable to Great Britain’s entry to the EEC have in fact increased their volume of exports to that country. In 1962 he said: lt is quite clear - I have to say this - that there would be no hope of securing approval of the Common Market countries for the perpetuation of the preferences for our products in Britain, against theirs.
Why, then, were no really practical, effect five programmes instituted immediately after 1962 to reverse, rather than accelerate the volume of the vulnerable primary products we sold Britain? Clearly, on this record of blusterly verbosity but masterful inactivity the Minister and bis Government stand condemned. Even at this late stage, 8 years after the Minister’s 1962 casting himself as Cassandra not listening to herself there is still no positive trade policy, not only to offset any disequilibria arising from Britain’s entry into the EEC, but also to contribute long term, identifiable guidelines for sectoral as well as overall balanced trade development. Indeed, to be’ meaningful such a programme must be an element of indicative economic planning of the economy. That, however, is too long a case to present on this occasion. Rather than stating despairingly, as the Minister did on 20th August last, that in the current tendency of the world to retreat into trade groupings ‘Australia would be outside any of the major trading blocs’ it would be preferable for him to have explored publicly any possibility that may allow us to fit into such a niche.
I have always had reservations about trade blocs and their potential ability to damage world trade through unreasonable barriers. It seems to me now that if wc can develop these blocs so that in fact they expand and merge then this might very well be the best way to achieve - in fact, the end I believe most desirable for world trade development - freer trade among the developed countries. The underdeveloped countries must be allowed special concessions, of course, until they become established, ft is futile to pin any great hopes on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade achieving this. The. Kennedy Round apparently exhausted this organisation through its great labours which delivered a gnat. There are interesting prospects, not without difficulties though, for the development of a trade bloc of one form or another in the Pacific area. The development will not be rapid. Unless we show some interest in it, it will not take place at all. In any case the first thing to be done is to investigate, evaluate and publicly report on the practicability and advantages and disadvantages of such a regional trade grouping. Clearly this is the best way to stimulate public interest and informed discussion.
In 1950 Japan took 3.91 per cent of our exports. Last year the proportion was about 24.7 per cent. In turn, for the same period her exports to us as a percentage of her total exports grew from 1.30 per cent to about 12 per cent. One projection suggests that in 10 years Australia and New Zealand together will send more than 42 per cent of their exports to Japan and in turn will absorb about 30 per cent of her exports. The case for freer trade between Australia and New Zealand has been accepted by the Government On the face of the existing and projected trade development between these countries the case for freer trade between them and between Japan seems rationally based. Dr Peter Drysdale of the Australian National University who is developing a reputation as an authoritative scholar and commentator on the subject of freer trade in the Pacific region has said, encouragingly, of the basis for freer trade between Australia, New Zealand and Japan:
Linked by high complementarity in import trade with some Asian developing countries, and high special country bias in import and export trade with more, Australia’s trading interests in the region are proportionately much more important than they are in the world at large. Indeed, Australia has weighty political as well as economic, interests in this developing region’s prosperity.
As further evidence of the importance of trade in the Pacific one can point to the fact that in 1969 over 45 per cent of Australia’s external trade was with advanced Pacific nations.
Japan, of course, is the crucial link in the development of any freer trade arrangements in the Pacific. For Australia, she is of vital importance and not only because of the total growing proportion of our exports she absorbs. For important export staples such as wool, sugar and minerals, Japan is easily our best customer. Japan is big business for Australia. On the other hand Australia is not such big business for Japan; but we are important business. Thus, although we take on average only 3.2 per cent of her exports and similarly provide only 7 per cent of her imports, we trade with her in sectors essential for her economic growth. For example we rank ahead of other countries as an importer of fish and fish products, woven cotton and fabrics, motor vehicles, manufactured metals, radios and similar products. Again, in respect of her imports we supply essential imports for her industrial growth, for example for the steel and aluminium industry. As her industrial development continues to expand so too will her dependance on Australian products and resources. It is true she could obtain other sources of raw materials but Australia has a great advantage over those other sources, that is, availability and quantity, nearness and quality, plus relative cheapness. It is in
Japan’sbestintereststostickwiththeAus- tralian market. There can be no quibble that the size of a market which a grouping of Japan, Australia and New Zealand would provide would be too small. In 1965 the total population of the three countries was 1 15 million, that is, only 35 million fewer people than when the EEC was being formed.
Professor McDougall of Massey University, New Zealand, has calculated that in comparative real terms the per capita gross national product compares more than favourably with that of the EEC countries in 1955. Similarly, output of coal, steel and electric power give a reasonably favourable basis of comparison between the 2 blocs. It is clear that there are Japanese trade barriers to be broken down if the project is to get under way. More pertinently there are even bigger trade barriers for Australia and New Zealand to lower if this project is ever to get under way. An exercise by Professor McDougall suggested the nominal rate of protection in 1962-63 available for Australian industry was 30 per cent, and for Japan in 1964 was 20 per cent. He concluded:
One could, therefore, classify Japan and, probably New Zealand, as countries in which the rate of protection was high.
Clearly in any freer trade development special arrangements will have to be made with under-developed countries in the area. Otherwise such a development, discriminating against the UDC’s and setting back their development, as it undoubtedly would, would be totally immoral and on such a basis would have to be opposed.
Having said all this I must concede that the task ahead of developing a body to provide a valuable and substantial contribution to the development of the Asian/ Pacific area, much as OECD does for Europe, will not be easy. Doubts, lack of information, vested interests, prejudices and a whole range of negative influences will come into play. Perhaps in the light of this the best way to proceed would be on a sectoral basis, negotiating freer trade in each sector progressively and allowing adjustment, consolidation and advance to be made before reaching into the next sector. Certainly, this proposal does not envisage Australia becoming a raw resources repository for Japan. Through rationalisation there will be a positive and expanding role for Australian secondary industry, domestically as well as in the export field, to Japan and elsewhere. In essence the challenge confronting us is Australia’s long term role in world trade and how we can maximise our advantages for productivity so that with more efficient use of economic resources all round we halt the slide in our standard of living relative to other advanced countries. Professor Fritz Machlup recently made prescient observations on our grave defects in this respect. Inter alia this calls for freer trade and, as I see it, the development of freer trade in the Pacific area can be of considerable help here. The alternative is for repeat performances of huffing and puffing at the big bad wolf of the EEC by the Minister for Trade and Industry but to have no constructive alternatives. That is too irresponsible for me to bear with and accordingly I make my proposal, not as a precise plan but as a general outline to give some starting point for constructive developments to take place. At least it is better than doing what we have been doing, that is, refusing to face reality which threatens the strength of our economy in the long run. That threat emanates from many more factors than Britain’s projected entry into the EEC. Largely, it is due to foolish, opportunistic policies of the conservative Federal Government of the past 20 years concerned more about bargaining for votes than strengthening a balanced growing economy in which economic resources are allocated and used accordingly to rational, responsible criteria.
- Mr Chairman, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who has just resumed his seat, commenced his speech by attacking the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on the subject of the statement that the Minister made recently in this House concerning the European Economic Community and the effect that the entry of Great Britain into the EEC would have on Australia if and when, as the Minister said, Great Britain joined the EEC without paying due concern to the situation that would arise in Australia from its action.
I believe that was an honest statement by the Minister, outlining to the people of Australia the situation as he saw it. This is, 1 believe, the responsibility of a Minister. He has stated his view not only on the occasion that I have mentioned but also previously in precise and very definite terms. When I consider the service which the Minister for Trade and Industry has given to Australia, I just cannot explain the statement by the honourable member for Oxley that the Minister is not a responsible Minister.
The honourable member for Oxley went on to say that the Minister for Trade and
Industry and his Department had done nothing in relation to trade arrangements with other countries to enable Australia to offset any reaction from the European Economic Community bloc and also from Britain joining the EEC. First, may I remind the honourable member for Oxley of the trade agreement negotiated by the Minister for Trade and Industry with Japan. Japan has turned out to be one of our major trading nations. May I recall also to the honourable member for Oxley, as he is walking out of the Committee, that, as I recollect, every member of the Labor Party voted against that trade agreement with the Japanese at that time.
– Every one of them.
– Yes, every one of them. What do we find today? We find quite a different situation in which Australia enjoys a very substantial market with Japan. That agreement was negotiated by the then Minister for Trade and Industry, the man who still holds that portfolio.
I remind the honourable member for Oxley also of a few of the other agreements negotiated in this period. 1 mention the meat agreement with the United States of America. We have our problems in this respect. Australia provides almost 50 per cent of the total meat imports of the United States of America. Although we would like to see the percentage increased, this agreement is another achievement of the Minister for Trade and Industry. When we turn to the sugar industry we see what has been done by the Minister for Trade and Industry in this area. We know of the situation which has faced the sugar industry in recent times and of the agreement which was negotiated by the Minister. I am not a Queenslander, but I do not think that Queenslanders will argue with me when I say that that agreement has saved the sugar industry.
We turn to grains. This is one of the toughest negotiating areas in the world, because of the surpluses in the wheat industry. The International Grains Arrangement, too, was negotiated by the Minister for Trade and Industry. Does any man who knows the first thing about wheat deny that the wheat industry would be in a chaotic situation today were it not for the International Grains Arrangement? When the United States of America tried quite recently to break down the machinery of the Arrangement, lt was the Minister for Trade and Industry who left this country and went to Washington to save the day, after a series of meetings in London had been unsuccessful. I repeat that the wheat industry in Australia would be in a chaotic situation were it not for the International Grains Arrangement. This Arrangement has to be renewed by June of next year, if my memory serves me correctly. This will not be an easy task. I do not want to take up too much time on this matter, but perhaps I should refer to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement which also was negotiated by the Minister for Trade and Industry. These are only a few of the agreements I could mention which have been negotiated by the Minister. However, I will turn to other matters.
We all know of the problems which face primary industry not only in Australia but in many other countries. If we look at the overall situation we see that Australian secondary industries have built up over the years, and this is all very good. They have helped to increase the population. But what happens when we are building up secondary industries? If we examine the criteria used by secondary industries we find, in the first place, that they are protected. The goods are produced in Australia for an Australian market, and the industries work within that area, in the same way as British primary industry works within the area of Britain. In other words, secondary industries sell practically everything they produce within the country. If we look at the overall situation of secondary industries we find that they try to sell approximately 70 per cent of their production at home and 30 per cent is made available for export at some future time. They feel that they can operate on that basis.
What do we find in the rural industries in this country? Wool is our largest rural export. Ninety-five per cent is sold overseas and 5 per cent is sold on the local market. Wool is presenting the greatest difficulty in primary industry in Australia. Other countries are not faced with this problem. Many other countries sell a majority of their goods within their own country, as I have already pointed out. I do not think that anybody will dispute the fact that wool is presenting the major problem in primary industry. I do not dispute that there are difficulties in other areas, but the situation facing the woo) industry is certainly very serious.
Certain assistance has been provided for the wool industry in this Budget, and certain other matters are being considered, as the Minister indicated at question time this afternoon. I say to the Committee and to the Government that the situation facing the wool indusry is so serious, as I see it, that the Government must take very positive steps in the very near future. The situation is deteriorating every day. I have no fear whatsoever, as I have said in this place previously, that the wool industry has an opportunity to stand on its own feet if it is given the chance to do so. Why should the wool industry be any different from any other export industry or rural industry? I refer to surpluses, about which we hear so often. Surpluses are accumulated in many industries. There is a surplus of iron ore in this country. Wc have supplies which will last 100 yeans, but we do not sell that iron ore at a price which is below what one considers to be a reasonable price. Negotiations are carried on with other countries, as has happened with the sale of iron ore from my own State of Western Australia. There has been some dispute about the price of the iron ore. Regardless of whether there are 1 ,000 million tons of iron ore lying in the ground in various parts of this continent, we do not give it away. The fact that there are thousands of milions of tons of metals in Australia does not deprive the companies that are selling them from getting a reasonable price.
I shall run through some of the figures relating to the export of greasy wool; they are quite interesting. In 1969 the Repubic of Germany purchased 96,000,000 lb of wool for $44m. In 1970 she purchased 102,000,000 lb of wool for $44m. The result of that exercise was that in 1970 Germany received an additional 6,000,000 lb of wool for the same price as she paid the previous year. In 1969 Italy purchased 130,000,000 lb of wool for 865m. In 1970 she purchased 135,000,000 lb of wool for $58m, which means that she purchased 5,000,000 lb additional wool for $7m less than she paid the previous year. The pattern goes on. In 1969 the United Kingdom purchased 115,000,000 lb of wool for $55m. In 1970 she purchased 137,000,000 lb of wool for $55m. It means that the United Kingdom purchased 22,000,000 lb of additional wool for the same money as she paid in the previous year. In 1969 Japan, which is one of the largest buyers of wool from this country, purchased 530,000,000 lb of wool for $26 lm. In 1970 she purchased 569,000,000 lb of wool for $254m. This means that she purchased 39,000,000 lb of additional wool for $7rn less than she paid the previous year. When we look at the total sales of greasy wool we find that, in 1969 total exports amounted to 1,467,000,000 lb for a return of $7 17m. In 1970 total exports amounted to 1,571,000,000 lb for a return of $684m. The result of this exercise is that in 1970 104,000,000 lb of additional wool was exported for $33m less money than was received in 1969. These figures do not include scoured wool; they refer only to greasy wool. Since that time the price of wool has fallen further.
It is my firm belief - I have always believed this - that there is a demand for wool in the world and that we can obtain a better price than is being offered at present if we face the situation and do something about it. This is what I say to the Government. As every day passes we are losing millions of dollars not only for wool growers but for Australia. We must move. If we want a better illustration of what is happening today, we have only to look at the huge stockpiling of wheat in the Northern Hemisphere and in Australia. The International Grains Arrangement has been operating for a number of years, and certain other arrangements have been operating within various countries. Despite the surpluses, and despite the present situation which is facing the wheat industry, we have been able to hold wheat at a reasonable price on the world market. But in wool we have a commodity which is not in over-supply in the world and for which we can demand a reasonable price.
In looking at the history of what has happened in the last 20 years we find that the problem in this industry has been one of leadership. There has been disagreement as to what should be done. There have been many powerful interests beyond the wool industry itself - some in Australia and some overseas - who have opposed at all times any interference or any change at all in the marketing of wool. These pressures and these interests are still operating and are resisting any change at this time. I say again that it is up to the Government to move as rapidly as possible to implement the action it proposes. We know that the Minister has said several times in this chamber that he is doing this and indeed he said this morning that this is in the hands of the Government. The Government has an obligation to move and move very rapidly to rectify this situation and to give the wool grower in this country a chance to obtain a reasonable price which I claim can be obtained in world markets today.
I believe that wool is required today. There is no surplus of wool at all. There is a market for wool. The textile people who came out here from various parts of the world only a few weeks ago would not have been here if they did not want to see a continual flow of wool to their factories throughout the world. If they could go over to synthetics as they sometimes claim - they in fact claim that they could do without wool - they would not have come to the other side of the world to do what they tried to do here and that is to retain control over the wool situation in this country. I suggest that the Government should take action to ensure that the wool clip of Australia is not controlled by overseas interests but is controlled here in Australia.
– As is customary in debates on the Estimates it is difficult to speak in depth on more than one or two subjects. I want to deal tonight with the sugar industry. Of all the primary industries in Australia the 2 industries which are in the least trouble are the beef and sugar industries. My remarks tonight are mainly concerned with the sugar industry. From time to time in this Parliament and more frequently outside it people take delight in sniping at the sugar industry. They say that it is inefficient and that it is a misallocation of resources. But in most cases one finds on an examination of the statements made that those people know very little about the structure of the sugar industry in Australia. If one examines in depth the sugar industry in Australia one finds 2 things which are unassailable. In the first instance it is the best organised of all primary industries in Australia. It has controlled production in relation to aggregate demand. That is something which most industries should strive to achieve. Secondly, it is one of the most efficient industries in terms of world stan-. dards.
This might surprise some of the critics who constantly use as their yardstick the import parity price or the free world price of sugar in comparison with the domestic price. Quite often there is a wide difference between these two prices but at the present time there is not much difference. Three years ago there was a wide gap but this is not in any sense an indicator of efficiency. There is no such thing as free trade in sugar. In fact the amount of sugar which is on the residual market is very small in comparison to total production or total trade. In effect the free market of sugar can be analogous to the residual or the dumped portion of sugar for all countries participating in the world trade in sugar. Every country has some type of agreement whether it be bilateral or multi-lateral. Australia has the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement with imperial preferences involving over 400,000 tons of sugar. It also has the United States Act which involves about 180,000 tons of sugar. It has the International Sugar Agreement which of course is the residual market or the free market for sugar.
I want to make it very clear to those who criticise the sugar industry that on any standard, domestic or international, the sugar industry is highly efficient. In terms of sugar production per acre Australia has the highest yield in the world. In terms of productivity per man hour Australia leads the world. In terms of mechanisation Australia leads the world. In cane technology Australia leads the world. It is a great credit to the white man in the north that he has been able to apply knowledge and in recent years to substitute cap- italforlabourwhencostshavebeen increasing and has proved to the world that Australia can produce sugar at a highly efficient standard. I say this because at the present time we have in Australia an industry which is efficient to the degree that it is now experiencing problems. Technology is such that in some areas, helped by good seasons, we are getting overproduction despite the fact that production is controlled. This is a problem.
To illustrate my point I want to refer specifically to this season’s sugar crop. At the present time there are still uncertainties within the sugar industry as to the level of acquisition. There is uncertainty in relation to shortfalls between areas; in relation to production estimates because of dry conditions in some of the surplus producing areas; and in relation to shipping and forward pricing. The best available estimate is that this year Australia will have a sugar production of approximately 2.6 million tons. The best estimates as to our marketing arrangements indicate that we will have a market for only 2.4 million tons of sugar. This means we will have a deficit in marketing or a surplus in production of about 200,000 tons of sugar which is equivalent to over 1 million tons of sugar cane when one takes a c.c.s. of about 1 5.
It is very important to know what is going to happen to this excess sugar. Since the International Sugar Agreement came into operation in 1968 Australia has been able to get rid of all the sugar it produces. But by complying with the tight regulations relating to our quota we do not have a market for what we will produce this year. The big problem is: What is going to happen to the surplus? The latest figures on acquisition show that the Queensland Sugar Board will take about 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent above peak, after taking into account shortfalls. This is above peaks. This means that there will still be about 1 million tons of cane unaccounted for. There are a number of problems in this. The areas north of Townsville rarely have a surplus production of sugar. The Burdekin and Mackay districts experience periodic surplus production. Areas below Mackay rarely experience surplus production because of the severe drought conditions but when there is a surplus it can remain as stand-over cane. There are 2 ways of storing sugar. Sugar can be stored in the shed or in the paddock. In the Burdekin and Mackay districts which have the greatest problem of excess production today, sugar cane cannot be stored in the paddocks because it cannot be stood over. This means that the solution might have to be deliberately to destroy more than 1 million tons of sugar cane - to destroy more than 1 million tons of potential food.
As the economic viability of the sugar industry in Australia is in the hands of the
Commonwealth policy, both domestically and internationally, I can say with the backing of every member of the Labor Party that a Federal Labor government could not and would not stand by and see large quantities of food deliberately destroyed, particularly when that surplus was produced as a result of technology and fortuitous seasons and not through a deliberate attempt to grow excess sugar. Any costs associated with emergency storage would be borne as federal costs. No government in the eyes of the world can allow large quantitits of food to be destroyed. In the past 2 weeks I have had protracted discussions with what I consider to be some of the best brains on the international marketing side of the sugar industry. Federal authorities have assured me that the Commonwealth has no objection to surplus sugar being stored this year within the provisions of the International Sugar Agreement. Australia has the right to store 470,000 tons of sugar. This is more than 3 million tons of cane. If this right is taken up all sugar cane produced this year can be harvested. We have the right to do it. If it is not harvested, more than 1 million tons of cane will have to be destroyed.
Although the Federal Government is ducking for cover on this issue the responsibility, in the eyes of the world, for any large scale destruction of food in Australia must be borne by the Government. Overseas countries and the United Nations would treat with contempt any attempt by a national government to pass the buck and say, ‘This is not our responsibility, it is the responsibility of the States’, particularly when the Commonwealth is directly and indirectly concerned with every agreement negotiated on sugar including our own domestic agreements. This surplus is not being produced deliberately. It is the result of technology and a fortuitous season in the Burdekin and Mackay districts. The final decision on the level of cane acquisition rests legally with the Sugar Board. In practice it will be the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s policy which will determine the final level of acquisition figure. Naturally the CSR will adopt a conservative businesslike approach. We cannot blame it for this, but it does not take into account the problems of individual farmers or specific regions. The principal argument against acquiring the crop is that this action might interfere with peaks next year. Such a crystal ball prediction is an expression of ultra-conservatism and regional selfishness. It exhibits a lack of initiative in tackling the problems of regional production. It also ignores the possibility of a drought next year in areas that were blessed with good seasons this year.
Although I have said that the sugar industry is the best organised in Australia, and by world standards one of the highest in terms of efficiency, any farm production policy which demands by government backing that additional costs be incurred in destroying a large part of. the crop in good seasons is not efficient. This is more so when additional money has to be spent to plant the same crop in the area on which the previous crop has just been destroyed. The Burdekin and Mackay districts are at a serious disadvantage. As I said before, based on performance criteria, the peaks in these districts are too low and the farmers cannot store sugar in the paddocks because they cannot stand over cane. The most pertinent problem in the Burdekin and Mackay districts is the plight of the small farmer plagued by rising costs because his peak, which was efficient and economic when expansion took place some years ago, is now uneconomic. This is a common problem with rising costs. But the sugar industry is pegged with a peak. It is no good talking about increased productivity to counter costs because the farmer has a fixed peak. If he produces above that peak he may have to plough his cane in. This is one of the penalties of having an efficient controlled industry.
If the Government believes that excess cane should be destroyed in areas which are unable to stand over cane, serious consideration should be given to flexible production arrangements in those areas where stand over cane is not possible under an adjustable peak policy in association with buffer stocks under the International Sugar Agreement. In other words, adjust production each year. Moreover, priority should be given to the small farmer to harvest excess cane above his peak even if this means a reduced percentage of excess sugar being taken from the large farmer. The big peak today was a small peak yesterday but any farmer will tell you that the fixed cash costs of running a farm today are quite different from the days of the horse. It should also be remembered that as the sugar industry relies on Commonwealth policy for the fixation of the domestic price of sugar it should avoid incurring wasteful costs of cane destruction. It would be a difficult task to convince the Federal Government that because of rising costs an increase in the price of sugar in Australia was needed when we are confronted with farmers being forced to destroy, through no fault of their own, something like 1 million tons of cane.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to talk for a few minutes about the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry. Firstly I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Alan Fraser) on a speech that he made this evening. He must be very worried about the next election and the Country Party candidate who will be opposing him. As my friend and colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) says, he has reason to be. The honourable member for EdenMonaro dragged a red herring across the trail in the debate on this section of the Estimates and concentrated an attack upon the Country Party and its members. So I congratulate him on a good political manoeuvre in the situation in which he finds himself of being able to direct the attention of the people in his electorate away from the basic principles under discussion in these estimates. I also want to say something about the speech of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), particularly in relation to the European Economic Community. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), the Leader of my Party, does not really need to be defended in respect of a speech he made in this place nor does he need to be defended in relation to the services he has rendered to Australian trade, particularly in the international field. In the comments of the honourable member for Oxley I think he lost sight of many of the points relating to the European Economic Community. I think there are a number of dangers inherent in this arrangement that are being lost sight of by many people. One of these dangers relates to Australian trade. But that in itself is only a small danger in relation to the danger in the international field posed by this group of nations.
The monolith of political power is centred in Brussels. Political implications are involved. Anybody who has made a study of this will realise that one of the driving factors is the attitude of France towards the United States of America. France has not been favourably disposed towards the United States for quite some considerable time. We know that France feels that in this matter she has an answer to the tremendous strength of the United States. This is one of the aspects of the European Economic Community. If the United Kingdom enters this Community she will suffer a loss of sovereignty. The people of the United Kingdom should give very careful consideration to this before they take the final and ultimate step in joining that association. I relate all these things because they are part of the total set up.
In regard to the economic factor in the United Kingdom’s entry 1 have said in this House on a previous occasion that I do not feel that the United Kingdom can take the advantage of the European Economic Community which she anticipates. The European countries will be taking a far greater advantage of the secondary industry section of the Community than Great Britain can take by her entry. As I say, Great Britain should look very closely at this before she makes her ultimate decision. The honourable member for Oxley referred to statements by the Minister for Trade and Industry. I think he lost sight of the point that was made by the Minister, that over a number of years there has been this movement towards a fuller appreciation and understanding of the need for international agreements. That does not mean that all countries have to forget their own positions, but within that framework there must be some discussion, some compromise and some acceptance of a certain degree of sacrifice by the various countries for the good of the whole.
The honourable member for Oxley inferred that the Minister for Trade and Industry had never made any concessions or compromise as far as Australia is concerned. That is not correct. There has been a certain amount of criticism of the trade agreement that the Minister entered into with New Zealand by people in Australia who said that he was giving away too much. I am not making a point either in favour of or against that statement. These are statements that have been made that show that what the honourable member for Oxley said was certainly not factual. My main purpose in speaking this evening on these estimates is directed towards primary industry in Australia. I feel that a great deal that has been said about costs has been said in attacking the problem from the wrong direction. One of the major problems facing us is the increasing costs which are creating difficulties for Australia, particularly in the primary industry field, to compete on overseas markets. This raises the problem of increased costs within Australia. 1 feel that a conference should be called of those who are interested - I would think that almost all sections of the community would be interested - who hold responsible positions. I feel that this would be of advantage to the trade union movement. If we can keep costs steady the cost of living will not go ahead and there will be no necessity for an increase in wages which in turn would put the cost of living ahead again so that there would need to be another call for an increase in wages.
– Are you advocating price control?
– One factor to be considered in this regard is the calling of a conference between trade union leaders, manufacturers, big business interests and the Government. This might be a little outside the normal course of events. I do not desire to see the value of the arbitration system nullified in any way. I believe that in the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves in this regard, this is something we should look at. In regard to the interjection by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) may I say quite frankly that I am not happy in regard to price control. It has many difficulties and many complications. For this reason alone some method should be worked out whereby, without a direct price control, we could achieve more or less the same thing as we could achieve by price control. My personal feeling is that one of the difficulties in relation to price control is that it nullifies any degree of competition which might result in one manufacturer endeavouring to make a better article than another. It might be argued that this is exactly the same thing as is achieved by monopolies. I even accept that there is a point in that argument.
I feel quite frankly that in the situation in which we find ourselves today we have to do something which is a little different from what we might do in the normal course of events. By doing this there will suerly be an advantage to all sections of the community. I have spoken to quite a number of Labor people who will accept the fact that the increase in salary they will get is of no value to them because, in the end result, they will be worse off than they were before they received the increase. We have been discussing the effect of the cost of living. We have been looking at the problem of trying to give increases and meet rising costs. Perhaps the best thing we could do would be to look at this matter to see if it is not possible to stop the spiral going ahead and, if possible, to start it coming back again. That is the reason why I said, on the occasion of the increase in interest rates and petrol charges through the excise, that I was not happy about this and I felt that while we were receiving increased income from excise and the increased interest rates were making money harder to obtain, there was a danger of these things contributing to the cost spiral rather than holding it back.
In relation to increased interest rates, broadly speaking, there is a danger that money made available at a greater cost is easier to obtain by those industries or sections of the community that we might call not so necessary’ spheres of industry. They make it harder for the man who is battling to hold the line to obtain money to help him advance. This relates particularly to the primary producer. It is no good making money available to the primary producer if it is going to cost him too much to use that money to get ahead. We have had an example of this in recent years. There has been a drought and now in some areas where they have suffered the drought they are suffering flooding. This shows the problems that are faced by the man on the land. Those problems are completely outside his control. In regard to primary production one thing that we have to consider is that if we are talking about increasing the standard of living in countries such as Asia by providing food for those people then we must maintain the food production and primary production in this country. If we allow primary production to fall, as anybody who has had any experience in this field knows, it is impossible to bring areas or people back into production overnight.
When we talk about primary production and decentralisation let us remember that it is not only the primary producer who is affected by these things but also industry, the shopkeeper, the factory and these other groupings in country areas. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the honourable member for Oxley was so much in favour of the European Economic Community; it represents a centralisation of power and policies. For the reasons I have mentioned, we are opposed to this centralisation of power. I also believe that we need to look at the inflationary spiral not so much to work out what to do to meet the costs but to consider some of the things that I have suggested might reduce the costs.
– I thoroughly agree with the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) that in these questions of prices, costs and wages we must do something a little different. It has been argued for quite some time by professors, journalists, importers and primary producers that tariff protection in Australia is excessive. It has been claimed that the Tariff Board has lost its independence and has been induced by the Government by policy written into references, by reference back of reports and by public and private pressures to recommend higher tariffs than it would otherwise have done and to give up or modify stated intentions to simplify or reduce tariffs or to set an upper limit to tariffs. On the other hand there have been equally persistent claims from manufacturers and industry generally that they have been left in uncertainty about tariff protection and that often when protection comes it is unable to offset import competition established on the basis of extreme exploitation of labour and dumping of surpluses without regard to cost of production. Theoretically there are claims that once full employment is secured by monetary and fiscal policy there is no need for tariffs, and that then resource allocation should be left to the market. On the other hand it has been claimed that some have evolved a philosophy to justify tariffs which has turned On its head Marx’s dictum that everything that exists deserves to perish and which has replaced it by the principle that everything that exists deserves tariff protection.
Tariff making in Australia has shown few changes or innovations since the Board was first established, and the controversy of recent years has had little discernible effect upon it. But a change has taken place. For many years no-one could have doubted the attitude of the Government and the Tariff Board. It was to encourage positively the establishment of industries in Australia and to ensure their continuance if they were efficient and worthwhile. The standard of efficiency was practical and realistic. Tt was judged on what could be seen in Australia in other similar kinds of employment, and the product was judged on its quality and value in a similar way. In fact, this was the meaning of the principles set down by the Interstate Commission in 1914. Now in 1.970 we can have little doubt that if these have not been the principles and if this had not been the attitude of governments and the Tariff Board Australia’s manufacturing industries would be a fraction only of what they are now and our capacity to employ people would be far less. This means in turn that the total Australian population would be far less and that as a nation we would be a slightly larger New Zealand spread around our 3 million square miles with few links in between.
No-one can be sure of the attitude of the Tariff Board or the Government. There can be little doubt that the Tariff Board wants to reduce tariffs in size and number. I his is the only possible meaning that can be given to the 1967 and 1968 reports. From what I have seen, there is not much in the 1969 report nor in the current report. But the Government wants to keep its options open, lt wants to please the Treasury, primary producers, financiers, financial newspapers and its few academic supporters, but it does not want to offend manufacturers. The Chairman of the Tariff Board has been given page after page in the columns of newspapers which strongly favour tariff reductions to explain what these reports, obstruse enough in themselves, really mean. But the result is something far less clear than the reports in the first place.
Among the thousands of words used by the Board and its Chairman none has been used to explain why 50 per cent was chosen as the ceiling for the rate of effective protection or to suggest where are the low cost opportunities for employment of capital and labour now employed in industries with over 50 per cent effective tariff protection. The Government now wants a bob each way. It no longer has one bob on which to rely. It still holds left-overs of the Bruce-Page, Menzies-Fadden-McEwen coalition traditions now under attack by a combination of primary producers, multinational corporations and financiers to secure a considerable reduction in the size and number of tariffs. But the old LiberalCountry Party coalition has gone forever. Both the young Liberals and the young members of the Country Party, increasingly indistingushable, will speak with the voices of the multi-national corporations and the financiers ready to see large scale units with foreign capital take over both in the cities and in the country.
There can now be no room left for doubt about another matter. The modern laissez faire economy - that is monetary and fiscal policy, wage freeze and the welfare state - cannot get the allocation of resources needed for a great national effort or for any other purpose. It is idiotic to think that we can allow gross national product, and especially the resources allocation necessary to produce it, to take whatever form it does as a result of value judgments induced by the national and multi-national corporations and their State apparatus, and then by taxation and borrowing hope to get an income distribution and/or a resource allocation that is significantly different. We need the means to get the resource allocation we want in the first place. This is why contemporarily we have a choice for the development of secondary industry in Australia between tariffs and planning. This too has been recognised by leading American economists. I regret that it does not seem to have been recognised by any Australian economists except those who are not lead ing economists. In America, James Tobin has written:
It the overwhelming problem of democratic capitalism in the 30s and even in the 50s was to bring the business cycle under social control, the challenge of the 60s-
And it has not been met- is to bring under public decision the broad allocation of national output.
Our starting point for planning in Australia can well come from this stream of American thought. John P. Lewis has pointed out:
Since the producer groups are political as well as economic power centres, the Government is in some respects an agent confronting its political superiors. It cannot force large segments of business and labour into courses of action they strenuously resist.
It must be recognised at the outset that Australia is not an appropriate place for the development of planning. Many countries once less politically advanced than Australia have, during the past 20 years, outstripped Australia in obtaining the means to get the allocation of resources they need to meet agreed national purposes. But Australia, relying alone upon growth euphoria, has made almost no progress in this important field.
Planning involves participation and cooperation. In Australia we have institutionalised conflict rather than fostered participation and co-operation. History has provided industry and labour, and sections of them, with means to assert their interests, then to disagree and clash, and then we bring in authority to impose penalties upon offenders. Invariably we have developed an institution, such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or the Tariff Board, with all the trappings and atmosphere and sometimes the power of a court which hears the sounds of conflict, pretends to be uninfluenced by them and finally emerges with an edict supposed to be objective and impartial. In all this the word ‘independent’ has been used to sum up what is supposed to exist, and by ‘independent’ apparently it is meant that the Commission or Board must not be linked with or sympathetic to any of the interests about which it judges.
What, however, is needed is a body that will be honest, well informed and accurate in its work and decisions. The word ‘independent’ so often describes a court or a board that is legalistic, presumptuous, uninformed and often sympathetic with one side in a dispute or problem and invariably the voice of the government of the day. This is the very antithesis of that which in Australia is essential - and I mean planning. Planning should begin with initiative or participation by the people concerned and results in co-operation between those who must act if results are to be obtained. Regulation or control begins with recognition of some problem or conflict and moves immediately to some edict by some authority, sometimes the result of subterfuge or pressures from interested parties but more often of bureaucratic origin or application. This undemocratic process has grown rapidly in Australia until thousands of private and public officials made arbitrary decisions each day bearing down upon the community which has no appeal and mostly no knowledge of what has happened. This process is something that moves from the top down and not from the bottom up.
Increasingly there has been recognition of the need for economic targets over a specified period, and for joint planning towards these targets. It is recognised that there will have to be much improvement in communications between industry, sections of industry, industry and labour, and much improvement in interdepartmental communications. The alternative is merely to continue with the old method of waiting until a particular industry or concern, or the economy as a whole, goes wrong and then act generally or indirectly with whatever speed or delay the bureaucracy can manage. But I am not sure that the kind of planning that is being thought of is anything more than that envisaged by Sir John Crawford and comes from recognition that large scale is economically more efficient, that economic efficiency is the only thing that counts and that sooner or later all of our output will come from a few large scale units, manufacturing and primary, and the sooner that is, the better.
But I doubt whether planning of this type may be acceptable. Certainly it should not be. The essential value of planning, in contrast with the old or contemporary laissez faire, and in contrast with the envisaged ruling elite of big business managers and big public servants, with a few big trade union leaders in attendance at cocktail parties, is that it can provide a means for small people to have a say in the making of decisions, which either they have never had, or now have lost. I believe we need a plan for planning designed even more to widen and intensify democracy than for efficiency. Yet, I cannot imagine how anyone can think a system will work efficiently when more and more people are denied a say in the way it works and in which their own lives become more and more dull, drilled and apathetic and work becomes a drudge. Is there efficiency in the frustration, apathy and cynicism this breeds? Is there efficiency in the aggressiveness and hostility it fosters? Is there efficiency in the strikes and stoppages it makes essential and inevitable? Are we beginning a year of efficiency when the year 1970 began with predictions of war between employers and unions because the arbitrary system of arbitration has broken down and its ignorance of facts and its edicts will no longer be accepted? I agree with the honourable member for Lyne that it is time we had a little change.
I hope business leaders, and in particular big business leaders, will realise there is an alternative to this modern jungle of economic relations. But the alternative does involve initiative and participation by more people; it involves new machinery of communications within the economy and between it and the Government and it does involve building the institutions that are necessary ‘to bring under public decision the broad allocation of national output’, to quote what was said recently by an American economist. I think the decisions that are involved here are decisions that involve a far greater degree of knowledge than we have been able to muster up to the present time. I think the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) recently laid down objectives which are sound enough in themselves. The Minister for Trade and Industry said:
First the advisory body has to assemble all the facts surrounding each case.
It has to know all of the facts. The Prime Minister stated:
To enable the Government to exercise its responsibility for tariff policy, it is clearly necessary that it should have available to it in the Board’s reports the fullest possible knowledge of all the elements relevant to each particular case.
We have never achieved this. Until we can achieve this standard and apply it in practice many of the problems that we have in this field will certainly remain with us.
– In rising to speak, on the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry I first want to refer to some of the remarks of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser). I suppose we can excuse some of the remarks made by the honourable member because he is a man who is not as young as he used to be. The honourable member engaged in flights of fancy. If the honourable member is really interested in the plight of country people he is on the wrong side of the House. 1 am quite sure that he knows and feels that this is right. This is probably an explanation of his attack on the Australian Country Party. I make the emphatic statement that we who live in country areas and are farmers understand the position. We know that country people will not be carried away by flights of fancy such as were indulged in by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. The honourable member talked about giving the country people the same standard of living as that of affluent people in city areas. The honourable member knows that there is only one way to do that. He knows, as all honourable members on the other side know, that 93 per cent of our wool is exported. What will the honourable member do about the woolgrower? The honourable member has not put up a scheme. He does not have any idea of a scheme. We cannot force the world to pay more for our wool. As I have said, the honourable member has not put any worthwhile or practical suggestion. The honourable member said that country people have to have a higher standard of living. Is he or his Party prepared to subsidise them to the tune of many millions of dollars? I am certain, from Labor’s past record, that it has no intention of doing so.
More than 80 per cent of our wheat is exported and the same situation applies there. Yet, honourable members opposite object to a home price for wheat in a country which has a high standard of living and cheap food. Well over 30 dct cent of our meat is exported. Meat is cheaper in Australia than almost any other country, yet we continually hear com plaints from the other side about the price of meat. When Britain enters the European Common Market we will have a tremendous problem with butter, dried fruits and apples and pears. Not one member from the Opposition side has made one practical suggestion to overcome this problem. They have not told us one thing that could be done; they have not given us one sensible suggestion.
Unquestionably the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in combination with a pretty weak-kneed Arbitration Commission, has contributed to rising costs in this country. The Arbitration Commission has been the greatest destroyer of the purchasing power of the pensioner, the people on superannuation, the small wage earner and of all export industry, both primary and secondary. Falling prices for our exports have been the principal reason for this. Yet, the Australian Labor Party is doing its utmost to destroy all confidence in the country areas. We see that political high priest of doom, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), continually crying destruction and misery in his own area and trying to make out that things are impossible and will be worse. The honourable member bas opposed every rural organisation. He has opposed the Australian Wheat Board. This is the man who cost farmers in his electorate hundreds of thousands of dollars by continually talking about an exaggerated black market for wheat and played right into the hands of the grain dealers. This is a fact of life. Any farmer in the honourable members electorate will tell you that it cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars because of a collapsed price for wheat, barley and oats. This is not only the case in the honourable member’s electorate but it also applies in many other areas in Victoria and New South Wales. He is now supporting a party which seeks to eliminate the electorate of Riverina. This is a fact. He is a member of a Party which advocates one vote for one value, a principle which would eliminate a number of country seats. This is the man who has supported that policy and still supports it
The Labor Party, of course, has no rural policy. We heard the honourable member for Riverina say that he would abolish wheat quotas and almost immediately we had the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) saying that he was in favour of wheat quotas. This is on record in Hansard. We have the honourable member for Riverina saying that he would pay cash for every bushel of wheat the farmers care to grow. Where he will get the money from he never tells us. Then we had the honourable member for Dawson saying that no government will pay for wheat in future until it is sold. He warned growers, and that is what the growers can expect from the Labor Party - no first payment for wheat and no guaranteed price. Those are statements that have been made consistently. From that side of the chamber almost every day we hear objections to the sale of wheat to China, the greatest market the Australian wheat grower has. Opposition members criticise and condemn the sale of wheat to China. I ask them: Will they prohibit, if by any mischance they ever get into power, the sale of wheat to China? They have repeatedly opposed subsidies to rural industries; yet the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) said that there is a need to raise the income of farmers. They believe in an equal standard of living, but only for people in the city areas.
As I have said before, Labor has no rural policy other than to destroy confidence and. develop a feeling of despondency in the rural areas in the hope that they can win them. And what will they do the moment they win them? They will introduce one vote one value. That is what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said repeatedly and if this happens Labor will disfranchise many country electorates. Having done that it will not worry any more about the peasants - and that is what we would all be under a Labor policy, make no mistake about that. There is no question that the economic situation in the country areas is difficult indeed. This has been brought about by the many reasons that I have recounted. First of all, overseas prices for our exports have been falling continually. And we export most of our primary products. Even the secondary exporting industries are finding themselves in the same position because of these continual rises in costs mainly due to the rises in wages which are not helping the man on wages. Any working man will tell you today, if he is not being coerced or stood over by some organiser, that every wage rise recently has cost him money because the cost of living has gone up faster than his wages have. Governments can do much to control costs but they cannot control overseas prices. They are beyond Government control.
What we need in our rural industries today is a restoration of confidence and the belief that we who understand these rural industries can do much to help ourselves. We have come through these problems before and we will come through them again. But we have been continually subjected to articles in the metropolitan Press trying to tell us that the rural industries are expendable and that they do not matter any more. In many cases this has been supported by members of the Opposition. They say: ‘Let us buy cheap lamb from New Zealand, cheap butter from New Zealand and cheap wheat from Canada.’ They are not concerned with the rural industries because they cannot see far enough to realise that Australia is still very largely dependent upon the rural industries. I say again that they have set out to create a spirit of misery and doom for their own political ends, and having obtained government they would then forget the farmer. They are not alone, of course. There are other people who have become affected by this spirit of pessimism which has been promoted by these prophets of doom.
We see even our trading banks now are making it more difficult for those who are battling to carry on. We have many instances of trading banks shortening finance to people who are still in a sound position and making it impossible for them to carry on, to buy the necessary fertiliser, stock and many other things to keep their businesses in economic operation. Because of this position land values have started to drop and this has further depreciated the value of properties and reduced the borrowing capacity of the farmer. But let us look on the bright side. I am one who does not believe that the primary industries are finished. I do not believe that Labor has a chance of getting into power unless the primary industries fail to face up to the fact that they are being hoodwinked or an attempt is being made to hoodwink them. Let us take wheat. The Australian Wheat Board has made record sales overseas and at this very moment mother nature is taking a hand as she always has done. Our wheat crop this year will not be nearly as large as it has been in the past and it looks as though crops of both wheat and corn in the United States will be down. The wheat position is already righting itself, lt may take a year or two but it will right itself as it has always done. The position of wool is brighter than many would have us believe. We are not very far from bringing into force in this country a soundly based proposition to handle our wool. We will have a proper, soundly based method of handling our wool. Details are yet to be worked out. We have not dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s but we will certainly have a scheme that will help the wool industry and we will then proceed to cut our costs of production and to sell more wool.
It is a fact at the moment that in Japan, for instance, the people are wearing 83 per cent of the Australian wool that she buys and the amount of wool sold to Japan is going up every year. There is no stockpiling of wool throughout the world. Even the members of the International Wool Textile Organisation admitted that the only stockpile was in their stores and that wool is going in to production. We have been taking too much notice of this story about synthetics. Synthetics have not affected the sale of wool. It is all being sold but people who are not wool growers are making the profits out of wool. It behoves us to see that we handle our product right through to the finished article. The position regarding meat is, of course, sound. The world is not necessarily hungry today as it once was but it is short of adequate nourishment. The world needs protein and right on our door step we have the greatest potential market this world has ever seen - millions of people with a need for protein more than anything else. These markets need to be developed and they are being developed. Right in my own home town we have an industry, Conkeys Meat Works, which is exporting lamb by air to many parts of the world. Fresh lamb is on sale in the shops in Canada during Canada’s winter within 40 hours of it being slaughtered in Cootamundra. Fresh meat is being taken by Qantas jets to the Middle East. Fresh meat is available in Bahrein, Saudi Arabia and other places overseas and this is a market that can and will be developed. So there is a tremen dous future for the rural industries provided that we do not allow the prophets of doom to destroy us before we are able to get off the ground and reorganise so many of our industries.
There are many millions of people in Asia and in South America who want food. They want wool and they want meat in particular. But I say again that what we need is a restoration of confidence and we need men with courage and foresight. We do not need those who would destroy these industries by trying to destroy the courage and the wherewithal that those who have made these industries have given to us over the years. Australia has certainly ridden on the back not only of the sheep but of all her primary industries for many years and the great primary industries are still and will be for many years to come the backbone of this country.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There are too many interjections.
– I can understand the Opposition getting upset because I have told them a few home truths. I have seen members of the Opposition moving around the country electorates doing everything they can to destroy confidence. I have seen them moving around and talking of black markets and bringing down the price of wheat. I have seen them moving around and talking in a way that has made people try to sell their properties at a time when they should be doing their utmost to develop them. I am not one who sees an allgloomy picture. I see a difficult time ahead and the people who are best able to guide the primary industries out of their problems are those who really understand the primary industries, are familiar with the problems and have at least some of the answers. No answers have ever come from any members of the Opposition.
– I should like to address myself to the appropriations for the Department of Customs and Excise and specifically to the question of drugs and especially drug education. Recently the Commonwealth Government allocated $500,000 for drug education for the current year to be used on projects recommended by the Drug Education Committee of the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence. Basically the policy of the Government, as far as I can see, and of most governments is two-fold. On the one hand they talk about drug education, and I should like to deal with that principally in the quarter of an hour at my disposal. Secondly, they try to use police methods, in effect, to suppress the use of drugs. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) addressed a training seminar on drugs. The seminar was held on 7th September. To my mind he showed quite clearly that notwithstanding all the discussion on drugs he still does not understand what it is all about. During the course of his address he said:
Not many years ago the worst drug evil we had in Australia was a bit of opium smoking and a few opium dens in the back streets of our big cities, and this was a problem of quite manageable proportions.
If a person in the position of the Prime Minister in 1970 does not realise that the main drug problem in this country is connected with such drugs as alcohol, the tranquillisers and sedatives and that the drug problems we normally read about and which are sensationalised in the newspapers are only a periphery problem, he certainly needs a lot of drug education.
I recently came across a paper by Professor Halleck who is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in the United States of America. He is director of its student psychiatric services. He has been resident psychiatrist at the Menninger Foundation and staff psychiatrist at the United States Medical Centre for Federal Prisoners. He is the author of ‘Psychiatry and the Dilemmas of Crime’. I should like to paraphrase to some extent and condense what he said, because I was impressed by some of his points. Whilst I realise that it is difficult to say whether he is right or wrong, I hope that at some stage the people who are spending the $500,000 on behalf of the Commonwealth Government on drug education will consider his warn-
It is now obvious to even the staunchest ‘law and order’ advocate that our law enforcement agencies cannot control the use of illegal drugs. Neither harsh penalties, vigorous police surveillance, nor determined efforts to diminish the flow of drugs into the country have prevented millions of young people from experimenting with pharmaceutical agents alleged to be dangerous. In the light of this inability to control drug usage through legal sanctions, it has become fashionable to turn to ‘education’ as the best method of persuading youth to abstain.
The American people have great faith in education. They have set out to educate our young people about drug abuse with a vengeance. Lectures on drugs have become almost a fixture of the high school and college curriculum.
Special committees are appointed to promote education, such as the one we set up recently. He continued:
Such committees usually set up lectures or forums at which young people and their parents can hear experts discuss the effects and relative dangers. Despite all this enthusiasm, there is still no way of evaluating whether educating young people about drugs has any effect whatsoever in diminishing drug usage.
In view of our uncertainty as to the effectiveness of drug education, it would be prudent to consider 2 disconcerting possibilities. First, that drug education may not discourage youth from experimenting with illegal drugs. Under certain circumstances, as indicated later, education may even encourage drug usage. Second, that drug education programmes -
And I think this is important - may be expensive and ineffective distractions which diminish our motivations to examine basic moral and political questions which may be the very root of the drug problem. The most prevalent but least effective theme in the drug education programme is to ‘scare the hell out of them’.
I have personally participated in meetings like this and I can see no point in them. Professor Halleck continues:
Too often the programme consists of one or more meetings at which a local physician, a law enforcement officer, and perhaps a former addict will endlessly catalogue the horrible outcome of drug usage. The physician will exaggerate the degree to which drugs can produce bodily damage. The law enforcement officer will gravely talk about the increasing flow of drugs into the community and will throw in a few anecdotes about young people he has seen ruined by drugs. Sometimes he will even bring in displays of confiscated drugs to show to his presumably horrified audience.
The former drug addict will give his story and the whole thing becomes an interesting show which has much of the flavour of an old-fashioned revival meeting. The Professor continues:
Unfortunately such a biased approach to the drugproblemisunlikelytohaveapositive influence upon young people.
In the United States it is estimated that a fairly high proportion of high school and university students in the audience have already experimented with marihuana. This is probably the situation in Australia. I have no figures and I do not suppose anybody else has any reliable figures but probably between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of all students around about the age of 18 or 20 years would at some stage have experimented with marihuana. Many have found this experience a pleasant one. And I am not supporting the use of marihuana or any other drugs. Few marihuana users believe that they have been harmed. by using the drug. Professor Halleck says:
When these young people- hear speakers describe marihuana as a narcotic which belongs in the same class as harder drugs they are understandably sceptical of the speaker’s reliability. Since the young person’s own experience leads him to believe that the speaker is exaggerating the dangers of marihuana, he wonders if the speaker is not exaggerating the dangers of other drugs as well.
Finally, young people do a ‘great deal of reading about drugs.
From his own experience Professor Hal.leck says:
In working with student groups I am regularly impressed with their knowledge of both the scientific and popular drug literature. Unfortunately, many of the doctors and police officers who participate in the ‘scare the hell out of them’ programmes have had neither the motivation nor the time to familiarise themselves with the literature.
Usually, when given a chance to ask questions, the young people in the audience find it easy to embarrass a speaker by quoting studies which contradict the speaker’s claims. Nor is it difficult for them to expose the moralistic rather than the factual basis of a speaker’s admonitions.
As one listens to such talks, he finds it hard to keep from wondering why 16 or 17-year-olds should be so fascinated with pharmacology or psychiatry. It is, after all, hardly essential that teenagers have vast knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of these illegal drugs.
He says that such knowledge is not likely to help them make what, in the end, should be a moral decision on whether they will ingest, inhale or inject an illegal substance into their bodies. He continues:
As the young person listens to factual material about drugs he comes to appreciate that some are not nearly so dangerous as people generally believe them to be.
The risk arises that if a person tries to be fairly objective in talking about such drugs as marihuana he may, in fact, be encouraging people to try them. This is one of the great dangers of the drug education system. On the one hand if a person exaggerates the proposition he may be antagonising the kids. If he is putting an objective Une he is probably encouraging them. Professor Halleck continues:
It is conceivable that the plethora of publicity about drug usage and the abundance of educational meetings held simply neutralise the negative feelings with which adults view some drugs and arouse the curiosity of youth who are prone to experiment and take risks anyway.
Professor Halleck goes on to say that there is a place for drug education but that it should be concentrated on the adults. He says that the average American parents and possibly other people in the community, such as physicians, school counsellors, teachers and ministers, should be given as much correct information about drugs as possible. He continues:
Educational programmes might be helpful to young and old alike if they focussed on broader social and ethical issues. It would be useful to begin by acknowledging that the abuse of legal drugs, including those prescribed by physicians, is probably a greater problem for our society than abuse of illegal drugs. Prescription drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturate, or tranquilisers are massively over-used in our society.
It must be noted that these drugs do not alleviate specific disease and have little medical purpose other than helping people tolerate the stress of everyday life. Yet, they are prescribed mort frequently than any other class of drugs and create more problems of habituation and overdosage than any illegal drug. Abuse of alcohol still creates more mental and physical suffering among our citizens than abuse of other legal drugs.
If the drug problem is viewed from a broad perspective, a crucial ethical question for our society is: Which drugs, legal or illegal, are worth using? Which drugs, if any, make life better? Most drugs provide the user with a pleasant experience for the moment Convelvably, there may also be drugs which could expand human awareness and provide people with new insights.
Whether one uses tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, or heroin, be is searching for something, occasionally for greater awareness but usually for stimulation or relaxation, for a temporary respite from the tedium or stresses of everyday life. If we agree that man is entitled to a certain degree of artificial stimulation or relaxation, it is Important to know which drugs do this most effectively and with the greatest safety.
Later on, be makes the point:
Society’s task ls to consider (he physical, psychological and social dangers of each drug and to make moral decisions as to whether the pleasures produced by that drug are worth risking its hazards. Similar questions are relevant to the use of other drugs such as tobacco, LSD, barbiturates, or the amphetamines.
The search for answers to these basic questions could provide a more rational basis for future legislation than the puritanical or evangelistic approaches prevalent now.
Young people as well as their parents could benefit from a careful consideration of the morality of searching for artificial stimulation or tranquility.
One of the points that arises is that young intelligent people who should be involved in trying to improve this world finish up on drugs and ‘copping out’. He states further:
Young people can appreciate that in a world in which there are so many forces to be dealt with, in which there are so many things that need doing and changing, and in which the joys of creativity still represent one of the most profound of human experiences, excessive search for artificial euphoria might be socially dangerous. Certainly such an approach cannot provide any young person with a clear yes-or-no answer on whether he should experiment with a particular drug.
I think that it may help him to consider these propositions.
Professor Halleck goes on to state:
Perhaps the best explanation for the growing use of drugs in this country–
He is talking about the United States of America - is that we are an unhappy society. It makes little difference whether one is talking about young people who use illegal drugs or older people who use legal drugs. In our frustration, our anxiety, our fear, our boredom, and our purposelessness, we all use too many drugs. Our affluence and leisure do not bring us happiness.
Our failure to deal with urgent problems such as the rapid rate of technological change, overpopulation, pollution, or the war in Vietnam leaves us feeling frustrated and impotent. The younger generation seems especially desperate. Many young people fear the future, distrust the past and are relentlessly trying to live in the moment.
It is my belief that the drug problem is only a symptom of a sickness that pervades our entire society. Drug, education can be thought of as a treatment that is designed to treat the symptom without doing anything about the causes of the illness.
Whether it is an effective treatment is far from proven. But even more distressing, by relying upon education as a symptomatic treatment, we are lured away from the real problems which are causing the symptom. Drug education programmes can be helpful. But unless supported by a firm commitment to examine and deal with the more basic causes of human despair, they are nothing but a ‘cop-out.
I strongly recommend that before the Drug Education Committee starts spending money on the usual sort of drug education programmes it should invite before it some of the critics of the drug education programme or read contributions by these people, especially from the United States of America and the United Kingdom, study these matters and determine whether some alternative is available as a way of trying to decrease the number of people in this community who attempt and find it necessary to use drugs whether legal or illegal.
- Mr Chairman, we have arrived in my opinion at a period in our economic history which is as much an historical watershed as the attack that the Japanese made on Singapore, because we are entering now into a completely new era when no longer can it be said that we must rely as heavily as we have in the past on primary exports. The reason for my statement is simply that Britain intends, come hell or high water, to enter the European Economic Community.
To anyone who has read the memoirs of Dean Atcheson, it might be interesting to recall a statement which was made in 1942 by the then Athony Eden to the American Foreign Secretary of that day on Britain’s attitude towards Lend Lease. Britain, at the time, was in dire straits. This is the message which came by Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador. In return for the offer of Lend Lease, an agreement to be signed which was not acceptable, the British spokesman said: ‘We are unwilling to barter Empire preference for planes, tanks, guns, goods, etc., because of the political repercussions which will result with Empire members’.
Twenty-eight years later, we have another emissary, this time of a recently elected British Government, coming to Australia and telling us in no uncertain terms that the moment of truth has arrived, that we are now mature, that we are standing on our own, that we are big boys and that we are well and truly able to fend for ourselves. While I fully appreciate the impact of this decision on the rural community, nevertheless, in the long run, it may be the best thing that ever happened to Australia. It will end at least the economic tutelage and it will end the state of mind which has been that of a subservient nation. It istime infact that we did grow up.
We are in a new world. In relation to the particular sector of the world in which we live, we are on the fringe of emerging nations which, as the result of World War II, have been liberated from colonial exploitation. These nations still have their internal differences. These are nations where the fight for political and economic power is on at the present time. To wit, the most glaring example is the current conflict in Vietnam. New nations are rising to maturity and old nations are re-asserting their independence of mind. The world, of course, is breaking up into trading blocks. We have EFTA - the European Free Trade Assocation. a free trade group which centres on Britain. We have the European Economic Community. We have the trading empire of the Americas, North and South.
Where does Japan fit into this? 1 suggest to honourable members that, in the long term, she may be designing another greater South East Asian co-prosperity sphere. An old saying is that one never keeps a cow when one can get milk by other means. Having tried aggression and failed, Japan now tries the alternative of economic penetration. I am not unmindful of our trading relationships with that country and our importance to it. But, on the other hand, the relationship between us which at the present time is a mutually profitable one can be, in the long term, a dangerous one in which Japan could develop into a big brother and adopt the big brother complex and lean rather heavily on us. It is capable of doing so. In the shorter term, of course, Japan will continue to trade with us. If she can continue to trade and to prosper she will not resort to aggression. But in the long term, aggression is a distinct possibility and in terms of physical aggression Japan is possibly the only enemy in sight.
There is a complete disparity between our wealth, or our national income, and that of these countries to our immediate north. I should like to refer to the ‘Atlas of World Economic Resources’ which was prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In the latest issue of that publication we find that Australia’s gross national product, with our 12i million people, exceeds the total income of 250 million people in Indonesia, the Philippines, North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Singapore. In the short term these people are scarcely suitable economic partners. Of course, there is trade that can be done with them, and it is being done. I am not in any way trying to minimise what is already in operation.
There has of course - this is a matter of notoriety, I hope, to most honourable members - been a considerable deteriora tion in the prices of commodities that have been produced by the liberated countries which have to depend very heavily for their cash crops upon the primary produce of their respective areas. These are mainly former colonial areas which are now just as much economic satellites as they were at one time the dominions of exploiting powers. Australia had a special and subordinate relationship with the United Kingdom because we were, and still are, a source of cheap food. In the process of providing food at the best price that we can get in what is stilt the world’s greatest open market, the Australian consumer is subsidising the primary producer - and how! I have dealt with this matter on former occasions, but suffice it to say that the prices we are getting in the United Kingdom broadly are less than one-half of what the ordinary Australian worker and housewife has to pay for these commodities in shops in major cities and industrial centres. I suggest to the Australian Country Party, which of course dominates this Government, that there is something else it might try, and that is to average prices and see whether it cannot boost consumption in the process.
– Average prices?
– Yes, average the prices. For instance, in the case of butter the prewar consumption was 42 lb per capita per year; it is now 20 lb. If the Country Party reduces the price of butter to between 35c to 40c a lb it will see a difference. It will at least get rid of some of the surplus and it will be doing some justice to fellow Australians instead of exploiting them.
We are in a trading relationship - a special one at that - in the Pacific triangle of trade. At the present time we have a trading surplus with Japan, and we are constantly reminded of it. But Japan does not buy our products because she likes the colour of our eyes or anything else about us. It pays her to do it. Our products are good, they are cheap and they are readily available. In turn, by processing them Japan is able to build up an export surplus in trade with the United States. The United States, in its turn, sells to us and we have an adverse trading relationship with it. But broadly there is a balance between the 3 countries. That brings me to my next point. Just how far do we accept a continued subordinate status in our trading relationships with the United States, particularly in the light of our defence purchases from her? The shutters are up, or almost up, on sugar, zinc, lead and mutton, and now by some rather devious pretext they are going up on beef as well. The United States has chosen to reject the standard of the various Australian abattoirs, but that is only a pretext, a subterfuge, and a rather palpable one at that.
There is a rather interesting comparison to be made between Japan and Britain. Japan is an off-shore island; it is densely populated; it has limited natural resources; it has an ingenious population which is energetic, strong in national spirit. The Japanese have a very definite national consciousness. Japan is a merchant nation. It has a substantial merchant marine, and it is prepared to live by trade. 1 do not want to see Australia -I am speaking of the long term, not the short term - put itself in exactly the same relationship with Japan that we have had with the United Kingdom. When we look at the alternatives for the future, the one that presents itself most forcibly to my mind - I speak in terms of my own constituency - is the future at the coal and steel industry. Today we have a fantastic mineral wealth in Australia. While the quarry and farm mentality operates in the case of this Government, I say that we can take it a stage further. Already there is evidence that there is an acute shortage of coking coal in the world. For 100 years the coal deposits of northeastern Europe and of the United States have been heavily mined. There is relative obsolescence in a fair proportion of the United States steel industry. A new steel technology is emerging, and Australia, as in the case of Japan, can profit by coming last into the field and gaining the best advantage from that technology. Already there have been substantial inquiries for coking coal supplies from France, Holland and even Italy. The question arises as to the adequacy of our known and proven supplies. The Government is to be censured for its failure to make proper investigation of the whole of our coal resources and the respective types.
In the short time remaining to me I want to refer honourable members to the remarks made by Mr Cartwright, the
Deputy Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, at an international conference on steel technology in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. He forecast virtually the exhaustion of the world’s coking coal supplies by the year 2000. By the year 2000 it is quite certain that the blast furnace will be a thing of the past and that in its place will be the electric steel furnace. There will be an entirely new steel technology, and we are in an excellent position to take advantage of the situation.
With Britain entering the Common Market, ifI know the British worker and skilled tradesman, be will not accept the economic consequences of Britain’s entry into the Common Market. He will not accept an increase in food prices, inferior hours of work and inferior wages. 1 do not want to reflect in any way on the Continental workers who will have the right to enter Brtiain, but the British worker and skilled tradesman will not welcome the competition from the Continental worker. A very substantial proportion of the British population will want to get out of the country. I am speaking of the northern counties of Britain, such as the Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire and Durham. These are the people we want in Australia because with new steel technology there will be an entirely different form of processing iron ore.
Already the Hamersley people are on the right track. The new process is called highmet. If I could explain the process in simple terms, it is this: You upgrade the iron ore, which is relatively rich with a 60 per cent to 65 per cent metallic content, up to a 95 per cent metallic content. Then you are able to by-pass the blast furnace and put that directly into the steel furnace. Already it has been forecast by the Japanese - they lead the world in steel technologytoday,andweareclosebehind them - that Britain, the United States and Germany will by choice come to this country and establish new steel plants to process our iron ore. We have to be ready to handle the situation, and the very least that Australia should have in such a situation is a one-half interest in the enterprise. We will be able to utilise to the best advantage the labour which wants to get out of Britain, once she enters the Common Market.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August, I shall report progress.
Community in Melbourne - Civil Aviation - Airport for Sydney.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– On 9th June 1970, as recorded at page 3139 of Hansard, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) made what appears to be an attack on the Sunshine City Council. He said:
The Sunshine Council in Victoria is under very strong Labor influence. In the last 5 years it has increased rates by more than 60 per cent. These are the principles which the Party opposite implements in its administration of local authority affairs. It increases those taxes and charges which are most regressive. It increases them in such a vicious manner as no other local authority in Australia would dare to copy. These are facts which it is impossible to refute.
I will simply refute all those things. They are not facts. I wonder where the honourable member for Lilley got them. I wonder why he chose to use them on 9th June in the debate. I wonder whether there is an explanation for this. As a result of having this speech drawn to my attention - I did not hear of it until sometime after it was made - I checked the facts with the Sunshine City Council and I will relate them to the House. I will deal with the 5-year period in which the honourable member for Lilley said that the Sunshine Council was under very strong Labor influence; that it had increased rates in that 5-year period by 60 per cent and that it was done in such a vicious manner as was equalled by no other local authority in Australia. That is a rather strong and fantastic charge.
In 1965-66 the net annual value in the Sunshine City Council area was $11m and the rate was111/4c in the $1.In 1966-67 some new principles of valuation were laid down by the Liberal Party Government which was in office in Victoria and they had to be applied by every municipality.
As a result of this new development the net annual value in Sunshine became $11,216,566 in 1966-67. In that year the rates were increased to 14c in the $1. But what the honourable member for Lilley apparently does not know is that in 1966- 67 there were 4 Labor councillors on the Sunshine City Council and 8 non-Labor councillors. The 4 Labor councillors opposed the increase in rates from 11c to 14c in the $1. In 1968-69 for the first time Sunshine had a Labor majority. The valuations now, as always, are arrived at by the independent professional valuer employed by the Council, as in every other municipality, and that valuer applies the rules and principles laid down under the appropriate local government Act. That independent valuer increased the net annual value in Sunshine in 1968-69 to $16,300,566 but the rate was decreased to ll1/4c in the $1. So the first time that there was a Labor majority on the Sunshine Council the rates were decreased to111/4c in the $1 from the 14c they had been the year before under the influence of 8 nonLabor councillors and 4 Labor councillors.
– What was the valuation?
– The valuation had gone up to $16,300,566 but the honourable member will know that the valuation has nothing to do with the councillors and that it is decided by the independent professional valuer employed by the Council who applies the rules and principles laid down in the Local Government Act which in this case is an Act containing the rules laid down by the Liberal Party Government in office in Victoria.
– It makes it easier for the Council to reduce the rates.
– I am not arguing about that. I am arguing whether the honourable member for Lilley was right in saying that they had increased the rate by 60 per cent in 5 years and I should imagine that even the Minister for Health, who often finds it difficult to take a dose of anything, would be able to understand that. In 1969-70 the net annual value in Sunshine was increased again but only by a few hundred thousand dollars and for the first time under Labor the rate was increased to111/2c in the $1. This is only one-quarter of a cent above the 1965-66 rate. So the fact is that in the 5-year period in which the honourable member for Lilley said there had been an increase of 60 per cent under a Labor controlled council there was an increase of one-quarter of a cent from111/4c to111/2c and it was only in the latter 2 years that there had been a Labor majority at all.
In commenting on this recently Councillor Coulson of the Sunshine City Council pointed out one of the real problems that a city like Sunshine has to face. It is a new city, developing at a very fast rate and it has an enormous work burden on the Council, it is an astonishing thing that the rate has been kept at only one-quarter of a cent above what it was 5 years ago. Councillor Coulson pointed out that if all the Commonwealth properties in the municipality had paid rates equal to what could be levied against them, the rate to the general rate payers could be lowered to about 10c or less. Councillor Coulson said that the ex gratia payments from the Commonwealth amounted to less than $3,000 per year which was not enough to cover the amount of damage caused in1 year by Commonwealth traffic on the roads in the municipality.I would have thought that the honourable member for Lilley would have been concerned to point out these things. First of all, I would have thought that he would have been concerned to get the facts before he made the accusation which alleges that there was a 60 per cent increase in rates in the last 5 years and that this increase was done in such a vicious manner as no other local authority in Australia would dare to copy. It seems to me that this is a judgment more upon the honourable member for Lilley than it is upon the Sunshine City Council.
– It was only perchance that I happened to be in the House when the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) raised thismattertonight.
-I was not even here when you made the allegation.
– I did not understand that the honourable member for Lalor was responsible for the Sunshine Council, but nevertheless he is the Federal member for the area. The honourable member for Lalor did not even have the courtesy to let me know that he was going to raise this matter tonight. As I said, it was only perchance that I happened to be in the chamber at this time. I will have a look at the details which he gave to the House andI shall make comments upon them at a suitable time. There is a matter which I had intended to bring up tomorrow night but as the honourable member for Lalor is here and following his example I intend to bring up a matter concerning him and without reference to him. I will show him the same kind of courtesy that he apparently shows to others. I refer to a statement which be made in the Melbourne Age’ on 27th June this year. He gave to that newspaper a copy of a pamphlet which concerns the Ustasha. I had presumed that the honourable member would not leave the chamber but would show courtesy to members of the Parliament. The pamphlet was presumably offering high rewards to an extreme right wing Croat secret society for the assassination of the people who appeared on the pamphlet, a copy of which he released to the ‘Age’. The article in the ‘Age’ states:
Or Cairns said last night that the pamphlet had been sent to many members of the Croat community in Melbourne and copies had been distributed at soccer matches bythe Ustasha. The pamphlet shows photographs of ‘5 well-known Ustasha opponents’ and is headed ‘On Their Heads! A better price than the lottery.
And so the pamphlet goes on. It is quite an extreme pamphlet. Then the honourable member for Lalor connected this pamphlet with members of the Croat community in Melbourne in this way. The article in the Age’ continues:
The pamphlet said that it was the duty of every Croat to liquidate the 5 enemies. Dr Cairns said a branch of the Ustasha operated in Australia. He believed some members had murdered to achieve their aims.
This is where one detects his sense of propriety. The article continues:
He said he knew of a Ustasha training headquarters in Albert Park surrounded by a huge fence where future Usinsha members weretrained to use guns and taught intimidatory tactics. Dr Cairns said that most people did not realise how dangerous the Ustasha was and he was going to raise the question in Parliament
We are still waiting. This is quite clearly a slur upon Croats who have their headquarters in Melbourne. I have in my. hand 2 letters which were written to the honourable member for Lalor asking him to clarify the charges he made in the Melbourne Age’ that day. On 14th August a letter was sent to Dr Cairns of 7 Sun Crescent, Sunshine, Victoria, and signed by Joseph Cuk, the secretary of the Australian Croatian Association. It reads:
In the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 27th June 1970, a statement concerning the Croatian community was attributed to you which has caused considerable harm to members of that community.
You referred to a pamphlet which contained a picture of a number of members of the Yugoslav secret agents, and stated that rewards had been offered for the killing of these persons.
As members of the Croatian community we are not concerned with these pamphlets for which - if they exist - we have no responsibility whatsoever. What concerns us as officials of Croatian House in Albert Park is your further statement which we quote from the ‘Age’.
Then there is quoted a portion of the newspaper article which I have just read to the House. The final paragraph of this letter to Dr Cairns is very interesting. It reads:
We are perfectly ready to make an appointment with you at a time of your choosing to conduct you over Croatian House to demonstrate that you statement is completely wrong. If you comunicate with us at either the address or the phone number stated below, we will be prepared to make arrangements with you and any companion-
Even the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) or the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) would be invited to accompany him - to permit you to examine our premises to investigate for yourself whether there is any truth in the allegation you have made.
There was no reply to that letter. On 24th August 1970 a further letter was sent by registered post number 2433 to Dr -Cairns at Sunshine. The letter reads:
On 14th August 1970 we sent a letter to you suggesting that you personally investigate Croatian House in Albert Park to verify the truth or otherwise of the statement you made concerning it in the ‘Age’ (27th June 1970).
This is the propriety of a man who is concerned about truth, justice, freedom and so on. The letter proceeds:
We have received no reply to this letter. You must recognise that your claim to good faith depends upon the investigation we have offered. We would be grateful to hear from you in due course.
What was done by a leading member of the Opposition was to make quite specific charges and rather enormous charges in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on a certain day against the Croatian community in Australia and the charges were related to a specific place in Albert Park, Melbourne. The leaders of that community requested the honourable member for Lalor to investigate the premises with them and with appropriate companions. He has such a devotion to truth and justice that he made no attempt whatsoever to investigate the charges which he had quite specifically and clearly made. These charges may be correct or they may be incorrect - I believe they are not correct. I would have thought that a person making these charges would take the opportunity when invited to test their correctness. That would be the attitude of any reasonable person.
I would make this distinction between my performance and that of the honourable member for Lalor tonight. I came into this chamber unexpectedly, not having been warned by the honourable member for Lalor that he intended to make any charge. I happened to be here. I was courteous enough to stay in the chamber and listen to the case he sought to make, but when I rose to reply to the charge that he made he scuttled off as quickly as possibly. I have detailed the charges. He has a responsibility as a member of Parliament. He has a responsibility as a person with some devotion to truth or some devotion to the techniques of discovering the truth of the charges, to see whether there is any truth in what he has said. In a great Australian daily he has libelled a community in this country. He has libelled them in unequivocable terms. There is no room for manoeuvre in what he has said. He has juxtaposed a pamphlet concerning some Yugoslav secret agents and the Croat community in Melbourne operating from a centre in Albert Park, Melbourne. The juxtaposition of those points he has made cannot be denied. But any reasonable person in this Parliament, any reasonable person in any parliament, any reasonable person in any public authority in Australia would at least take the opportunity to investigate whether what he has said is correct. When that opportunity is extended to him by the very people whom he has charged and he takes not one step to check those charges it is unhappily a greater reflection upon the honourable member for Lalor than it is upon the community which he sought to libel in such a vicious manner.
-I was thwarted yesterday in making my speech on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation, but as we have recently celebrated Air Force Week I felt that it was incumbent upon me to say what 1 intended to say yesterday. The Department of Civil Aviation, though comparatively young, is one of the most exhilarating and exciting departments within the ambit of government. While it is spectacular and exciting it calls for caution and restraint. It must at all time make its prime concern that of safety and to a lesser extent the comfort of airline passengers. Australia is ideally suited for flying, with long distances between towns, good weather and good atmospheric conditions. With the initiative of the Department, corporations, associations and individuals, flying in all phases is a dynamic and vital component of our means of communication, trade and commerce and transport, perhaps more so than in any other nation in the world.
Being one of the pioneers of aviation in Australia, naturally I am proud of the importance it now plays. I was the founder and first President of the Newcastle Aero Club which, for a period, was the largest aero club in the world. This industry was brought to its present position because of necessity and the great Australian characteristics of confidence and self-assuredness. We now rank third in the world for the number of domestic passengers, ninth for international passengers and sixth for the total number of passengers carried yearly. From its humble beginnings 50 years ago the Department of Civil Aviation has become a huge, complex undertaking employing about 9,000 people stationed in Australia, its Territories, America and England.
Civil aviation in New Guinea, Norfolk
Island andCocos Island is under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation. Its assets are valued in excess of $320m. In 5 years $140m was spent on our airports. The Department is now embarking on another 5-year plan of strengthening and improving the present airports and providing new airports. As aircraft design emboldens so does the development of the sciences which form an integral part of the industry, such as radar, meteorology, medicine and technological aids for landing.
Airports attract a huge mass of moving people who become patrons of businesses within their confines which employ thousands of people. I think it wise that facts in regard to civil aviation should be explained. Of a population of only 12 million people our international and domestic airlines carry 7 million passengers a year. This number is increasing. By 1980 it is estimated that these lines will carry 16 million passengers a year.
General aviation, which includes privately owned, charter, aero club, crop dusting and aerial survey flying, is increasing more rapidly than the domestic and international airlines. Over 1,100,000 hours a year are flown by these people. Let us look to the future. What a challenge there is to the Department of Civil Aviation in the trends to construct larger and heavier aircraft carrying more and more passengers with less time in the air. This cannot be achieved unless the safety and comfort of the passengers is the prior, essential and paramount component. Better forecasting, improved radar, revised air traffic control procedures and the most modern, up to date landing system devices are necessary. Because of the speed of supersonic aircraft and the critical effects of varying temperatures, atmospheric and weather condition forecasts will have to be speedily obtained to be extremely accurate to avoid turbulence and heavy rain and hail storms.
Not only is the Department of Civil Aviation responsible for the aircraft while it is flying but it has to deal with the hundreds of problems which accrue when the aircraft has landed. Hundreds of passengers disembarking could cause confusion, but with modern airports such as the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and the Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne and with the airports in other capital cities and larger towns equipped to handle the passenger traffic, the Department of Civil Aviation is to be congratulated on being forward looking in meeting the wants of the industry in advance. The Department of Civil Aviation is endeavouring to encourage and assist viable feeder services from smaller country centres. We have emerged as an aviation nation which, though small in population, is comparable in safelyand efficiency with any nation in the world.
I refer now to aircraft noise. Some people would suffer if it did not exist. Some people find it most disturbing. Manufacturers are spending thousands of dollars in reducing noise. They are making headway and eventually will succeed. I was outwitted and prevented from making my speech yesterday by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who has become airminded and at the present time has bats in ibo belfry.
– I just cannot understand what the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) means. This is the first time I knew that a member from this side of the House could prevent a member from the other side of the House from speaking. I did not know this could occur. I thought that if the honourable member for Mitchell had wanted to speak yesterday there would have been ample time. There were 2i hours for the debate.
– You squibbed it.
-Order! 1 would remind the honourable member for Mitchell that he has already spoken in the debate and I would suggest that he cease interjecting.
– As 1 understand it, there was a number of speakers in the debate. By pure accident I happened to look at the speakers’ list at one stage yesterday and I noticed that the honourable honourable member for Mitchell was scheduled to speak. But for some reason or other he did not take up his opportunity. The result is that we on this side of the House were very happy about it because it gave the opportunity to so many other honourable members to speak. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) would not have had the opportunity of putting the case for the electors of Grayndler if it had not been for the good heart of the honourable member for Mitchell who decided not to speak yesterday. However, there are some people who are very unkind indeed. I heard it whispered around the lobbies that the honourable member for Mitchell had chickened. I sincerely hope that is not right. I feel certain that he would have spoken if he had had the opportunity.
The honourable member for Sydney interjected a while ago to make the valid point that he thought it had something to do with chickens or flying foxes. In fact he even suggested by quiet interjection to me that perhaps I had outfoxed tha honourable member for Mitchell. I sincerely hope that he does not take it that way. I did not mean it that way. I would love to see the old gentleman come into this House and be given every opportunity to put his case on any issue he wishes to raise. All I ask is that, if he touches on any matter which reflects on my area or anything which I think is important, I be given an opportunity to reply.
While I am speaking here tonight I would like to touch on another little issue. I spoke yesterday about the secrecy surrounding the interdepartmental committee which is supposed to be inquiring into whether there should be a second airport for Sydney and, if so, where that airport should be. I pointed out how it insists on meeting in secret and how the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has refused consistent requests by the Penrith City Council and other bodies to put their case to the committee as to where they think the airport should be or in the event of there being any suggestion that might affect their area in any way where they think they should go from there. 1 just wanted to point out that since I spoke yesterday I have received a letter from one of the Ministers, this time from the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman). Correspondence has been flying around in an extraordinary manner. A section of this letter states:
You are aware from advice provided to you by my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation that the area in the general vicinity of Richmond is one of the locations suitable, from a purely aviation point of view, for a second airport for Sydney.
– In whose electorate is that?
– It is in the electorate of the honourable member for Mitchell. I do not think that any of us can possibly deny that when these sorts of statements are made by Ministers - we must take some notice of what they are saying - the residents of the areas involved will be concerned in some way about whether an airport might be lobbed on top of them instead of being placed near the Grayndler electorate. I think it would be a very good thing if the honourable member for
Mitchell would join with me to make sure that the areas of St Marys, Mount Druitt, Cambridge Park, Windsor. Richmond and the like are not affected in any way in the future by any airport proposal which may have an impact upon the people by way of aircraft noise. That is all 1 ask. It would be a very good thing if I could have such co-operation and assistance to protect the residents of those areas.
Finally, I repeat once again that I would never try to stop the honourable member for Mitchell from speaking. At no time yesterday didI in any way endeavour to prevent the honourable member from speaking. He was on the list to speak. For some reason he declined to speak. This was good, because it gave an opportunity for members such as the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) to express their views during the course of the debate. I can assure the honourable member that at no stage would I try to prevent him from speaking. To the contrary, I would give him every possible assistance.
Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The truth of the matter is that the honourable member for Chifley was to speak before the honourable member for St George. Those positions were transposed and like a political coward he was afraid to speak in front of me.
– Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– In due respect to you, Mr Speaker, I shall.
– Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I will.
– You will what?
– ) will withdraw it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) In a search of records since 1966 at Police Headquarters no case was found where a person who had been acquitted of an offence with which he had been charged and had no previous convictions was refused an application for the destruction of fingerprints and photographs.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginals: Allegations of Brutality (Question No. 1687)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth Electoral Act (Question No. 1708)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Rt Hon. J. McEwen. C.H.
Rt Hon. W. McMahon
Hon.J. D. Anthony
Hon. L. H. E. Bury
Hon. I. M. Sinclair
Hon. J. M. Fraser
Hon. R. W. C. Swartz, M.B.E., E.D.
Hon. P. J. Nixon
Hon. A. J. Forbes, M.C.
Hon. P. R. Lynch
Hon. D. L. Chipp.
Electoral: Country Divisions (Question No. 1711)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answerto the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– Except in Commonwealth Territories, the subsidies of which details were sought by the honourable member are the responsibility of State Authorities. It has therefore taken some time to assemble the information. In all sections of the answer, information concerning the States has been provided by the State Authorities and may not be comparable.
I should also point out that the reply has been confined to the more direct forms of subsidy and is presented in a condensed form. I have excluded such items as payments in the nature of per capita grants to independent schools, interest payments and loan schemes, travel allowances, scholarships and bursaries, which may neverthe- . less represent an indirect form of subsidy to school costs to which parents’ organisations contribute in a number of different ways.
The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
WEN - In the House on 1st September 1970 I undertook in reply to a question without notice from the Member for Kingston to find out something of the report of the Committee headed by Mr V. J. Truskett on nursing education in New South Wales. The report has been tabled in the New South Wales Parliament but I understand the New South Wales Government has not yet taken any decisions on the matters raised.
The report covers a wide field and as has been suggested, seeks to involve nursing education with colleges of advanced education. The report has 18 conclusions and 24 recommendations. It is not possible or proper for me to comment on these since the report is will being considered by the New South Wales Government.
However, if recommendations about nursing education are formulated by the New South Wales Government involving colleges of advanced education in some way or other, these recommendations will be referred to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education for its advice.
Law of the Sea Conference (Question No. 1666)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The United States and some other maritime states however have expressed opposition to Canada’s action in legislating unilaterally in such a way as might deprive other states of what they assert to be their established fishing rights under international law. The United Stales has urged that change in the existing law should be sought by way of either bilateral or multilateral negotiations. It is reported that Canada and the Soviet Union are to engage in negotiations later this month in relation to Soviet fishing operations in the high seas adjacent to the west coast of Canada.
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Which countries this year made contributions to the United Nations Consolidated Educational and Training Programme for Southern Africans.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following is the latest information from the United Nations Secretariat concerning contributions made in 1970 to the United Nations Educational and Training Programme for Southern Africa:
Australian Capital Territory: Independent Education Authority (Question No. 799)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Government Subsidies to Students (Question No. 1420)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Post-graduate Studies (Question No. 1345)
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These figures show the number of students enrolled in Masters and Ph.D. courses. Figures provided in respect of the 1969 enrolment year in answer to the honourable member’s Question No. 1614 at page 2128 (26th September 1969) differed from those shown above because that answer was provided at a time when the latest information available was in respect of the position as at 31st March 1969. The figures for 1969 shown above are final figures as at 30th June 1969.
Of this last group, 32 relinquished their Commonwealth award in order to continue their studies overseas with assistance from other awards; 6 awards were terminated following the receipt of a report of unsatisfactoryprogressfromtheuniversity; and the awards of the remaining 106 were terminated for other reasons, in most cases because the student entered employment
No systematic record is maintained of the progress of students after the expiry or termination of their Commonwealth Post-graduate award. Hence it is not possible to say how many have continued their studies and submitted a thesis. However it is known that at least 43 out of the last-mentioned 106 have continued studies towards a degree on a part-time basis.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Payments madeto registered medical benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1968-69 amounted to $73,439,642. Figures for 1969-70 are not yet available,
(a) Payment of Fund benefits (including ancillary benefits) to members by registered medical benefits organisations during 1969-70 totalled $68,549,713. (This figure includes $97,119 fund benefit paid to Subsidised Medical Services contributors).
(a) There were 3,753,079 members of registered medical benefits organisations as at 30th June 1970.
(a) Claims for Fund benefit were accepted in respect of 37,611,978 services during 1969-70.
(a) The average amount of fund benefit paid per service during 1969-70 was $1.82.
The principal reasons for refusing payment of Fund benefits were:
Informationto permit a calculation of the percentage of claims refused for each of the reasons mentioned is not available. However, during 1969-70 the number of individual services for which no Fund benefit was paid represented 1.76 per cent of the total individual insured services.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Does he know which States have advertised abroad for teachers, in what countries they have advertised and how many applications they have (a) received and (b) accepted.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All States have advertised abroad for teachers. The following progress reports were made available by the Education Departments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The Education Department of Queensland was unable to supply any details.
The New South Wales Department of Education advertised for teachers in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. An advertisement was also placed in the periodical ‘Time International’ which is distributed throughout the world.
On 14th August 1970 department officials had received 13,320 coupon applications from the United States, 1,359 applications from’ Canada and the number of applications from the United Kingdom at that time was not known.
Eighty-one applications from the United Kingdom, 79 applications from Canada and 111 from the United States had been accepted by 14th August. At this stage therecruiting campaign was still in progress.
Dr L. W. Shears, Assistant DirectorGeneral of Education in Victoria visited the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada earlier this year. While in the United Kingdom, he advertised on a small scale for teachers of mathematics, science, English, geography and physical education to teach as permanent recruits in secondary and technical schools. The qualifications required were a degree plus twelve months teacher training. One hundred and three applications were received by 21 st July 1970, and. are currently being considered.
The Victorian Government is also offering a number of International Teaching Fellowships of two years duration to commemorate International Education Year and the centenary of State education in Victoria. The Director-General of Education offered one of these fellowships to each of the United States, two fellowships to each Canadian province and one fellowship to each of the twelve major local education authorities in the British Isles. Also there has been an allotment of 18 fellowships which will be advertised nationally in the United Kingdom.
On 28th August 1970, 24 fellowships had been awarded to teachers from the United Kingdom: four Canadian provinces and several United States States had advised of their selections. There were about 10 to 12 applicants from each American Slate. The teachers selected are regarded as outstanding, having had approximately 10 years experience and having held positions of responsibility.
The South Australian Education Department has advertised for teachers in the United Kingdom. Teachers college lecturer positions have also been advertised in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Singapore.
At 24th August 1970 there were 485 applications for teaching positions of which 59 had been accepted.
The Western Australian Education Department advertised for teachers in the United Kingdom and since September 1969, 165 applications have been received and 130 have been accepted.
The Tasmanian Education Department has advertised for teachers in the United Kingdom and as at 21st August 1970 there have been 130 applications and 42 acceptances.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What are the Acts and regulations in each State which appear to discriminate against Aboriginals and which the Commonwealth and State concerned arc examining with a view to repeal (Hansard, 6th May 1970. page 1861).
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The following Stale laws, which are currently under discussion with the State Government concerned, contain provisions which could be, prima facie, regarded as discriminating against Aboriginals:
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What action has been taken on the report submitted by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on 5th June 1969 on the proposed railway between Canberra and Yass.
The Aborigines’ and Torres Strait Islanders’
Affairs Act, 1965-1967 and the Regulations thereunder;
Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Acts, 1931-1967 (paragraph (ii) of Section 4(1)).
Licensing Act1911-1965 (Sections150-151);
Native Welfare Act 1963 (Section 17); Native (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944-1964.
Railways: Canberra- Yass (Question No. 1449)
– The reply to the honourable members question is as follows:
The proposal to construct a railway from Canberra to Yass concerns a number of Departments. Their views on the Commissioner’s report have been sought and are now being considered. It seems likely that further investigation and study will be required, particularly on the economics of the proposed link, before a decision can be taken.
asked the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s Question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
When ANL ships arebeing repaired in Melbourne from which company or pickup are
If a new dry dock is planned, will he indicate (a) whether the Government will make funds available to assist with its construction and
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Howard Smith (Industries) Limited are employers of labour at the Line’s Melbourne terminal
Wharf Facilities at Port Augusta (Question No. 1601)
asked, the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700923_reps_27_hor69/>.