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 humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
If) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
That the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system: a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children surfer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one-sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will evm pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional’ sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next live years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal - finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to. include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children. ‘
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that, emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 present (he following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate leaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the Slates for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the honourable members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
En jil re that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate. (e> That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the honourable members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable
House make legal provision for: A further undergraduate representative on the
Council of the Australian National University.’
And your petitioners, as in duty bound,’ will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of . Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable
House make legal provision for:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray- . . … . . . , , . .
Petition received and read*
– 1 present the following petition;. ,
To the Honourable the Speaker and: members of the House - of . Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents, of : New. South Wales; -respectfully sheweth: ‘
The Red Kangaroo has been reduced ‘ to such a low numerical level that even CSIRO research has had to be suspended in some areas,- and alternative means of ‘ research employed’ in others.
The Kangaroo is., being exploited whilst facts on’ populations and numbers of kangaroos are
Pending the outcome of investigations by the Select Committee, it can be assumed that because the Committee foreshadows restrictive legislation, shooters will intensify their efforts to obtain as many ‘roos as they can, while they can. We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And we, your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assmbled. The humble petition of electors of Grey respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30 per cent of the Average Weekly Male Earnings for all States, ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly’ pray that the House of Representatives iri Parliament -assembled wilt take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition: so that our citizens receiving the Social Service Pension’ may live their lives in dignity.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition pf the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That they are gravely concerned at the apparent appalling increase in crime in Australia, particularly in densely populated areas;
That they fear the police forces of the various Slates and Territories are undermanned and underequipped t to handle the increase in crime;
That their concern is aggravated by the apparent number of unsolved crimes particularly those involving violence to the individual including murder,
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the honourable members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that the Commonwealth Government will seek the co-operation of the States and supply extra finance to the Slates to enable;
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of Darling 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 licence, promiscuity and violence in films, books, 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 Christianity 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, literature 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.
Petition received and read.
-I have to inform the House that His Excellency, Senator Ong Sim, President of the Senate of Cambodia is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members) Hear, hear. (His Excellency, Senator Ong Sim, thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly).
– I desire to inform the House that His Excellency is the leader of a delegation from the Parliament of Cambodia. Members of the delegation are at present in the Speaker’s Gallery and on behalf of all honourable members I extend to them a very warm welcome.
Honourable members - Hear, hear.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a recommendation from - the Queensland Central Council of the Australian Country Party urging the diversion of Federal money to local government authorities through a State-sponsored local government grants commission? if so. does he see any merit in such a framework for channelling Commonwealth funds to local government authorities for urgent public works? Have any local government authorities made direct approaches to the Commonwealth for financial assistance? Finally, what has the Government done about these requests?
– I have not seen the resolution to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred.
– It conforms to what we have said in policy.
– The honourable member asked me whether I have seen it. I have not seen it and that is the answer I am giving. Secondly, if it, in fact, suggests that there should be a State-sponsored grants commission, which I take it to be a grants commission set up by a State government to allocate money to local government authorities, then the setting up of such commission I would regard as a matter for the State government, but 1 would say also that the States would have a capacity to do this as a result of the greatly increased grants made by the Federal Government to the State governments in the last arrangements with the Premiers.
– The Minister for External Affairs will recall that in answer to a question yesterday he said that his information was that there was a possibility of a change in the attitude of Malaysia towards the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. Will the Minister inform the House what, so far as he knows, is the present attitude of the Malaysian Government towards the admission of Communist China to the United Nations and its present attitude towards Communist China generally?
-There are two entirely, separate issues involved, as is implied in the question asked by the honourable gentleman. The official position of the Malaysian Government as to the admission of Communist China to the United Nations is exactly as I stated it in answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. On the important question’ the Malaysian Government will vote against it and on the question of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations: it will abstain from voting. Some difficulty has been created because of a statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Ismail, in or about the second week of this month. He said - and this is an entirely different question - that Malaysia would be willing to co-sponsor a resolution admitting continental or Communist China to the United Nations. But he went on to say - and this is the very important part of what he said - that Malaysia believed that Taiwan China, that is, the Republic of China, should remain a member of the United Nations, and as well that the people of the Republic of China should have the right of self-determination. So the honourable member for Wills has become completely confused between these two separate questions.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat Now that he was done so I remind him that this is the second occasion on which he has interjected during the answering of this question.
– As to the last part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman - and it is indicative of the attitude of the Malaysian Government - recently Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, himself has indicated his attitude to Communist China. In answer to a proposal made by the Gerakan Party, ‘.hat initiatives should be taken to recognise Communist China, the Prime Minister said that Malaysia would not take an initiative until Communist China had given up ils aggressive actions and its hostility. He went a stage further and said that he wan*?d Communist China itself to accept the doctrine of co-existence and to give up interference with the affairs of other countries. I think that ought to indicate to the honourable member for Wills the attitude of the Malaysian Government. If he still finds any difficulty in understanding this proposal I will be only too happy to make senior officers of my Department available so that an explanation can be given to him in an attempt to ensure that he understands.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question which refers to the maximum stock clauses of the International Sugar Agreement whereby Australia has the right this season to store approximately 470,000 tons of sugar. Is the Minister aware of the consequences of the final sugar acquisition which, for technical reasons, could mean the deliberate destruction of up to 1 million tons of sugar cane this season by those farmers who are unable to stand-over cane, most of whom are small or medium size farmers who cannot afford the additional cost and the crazy economics of deliberately destroying food and then replanting the same crop mostly in the same area? Is the Minister also aware that a major reason for not accepting more sugar is that of insufficient storage? If this is so, are not the maximum storage rights under the International Sugar Agreement quite meaningless under present conditions in Australia?
– The whole basis of the price stability achieved under the International Sugar Agreement is that each exporting country shall have a basic export tonnage entitlement, which may be reduced -in certain circumstances. From the commencement of the Agreement each- country has been enduring some reduction in’ its basic export tonnage. It is also provided -that there shall not be held in store more than a prescribed quantity of sugar. This is basic to the Agreement, and I am sure that the -honourable member for Dawson understands quite well the mechanics of its operation. The Australian Government is a party to this Agreement, but the actual management of the sugar industry, as the honourable member knows, is very tightly controlled under Queensland legislation. What acreage a grower may plant, what tonnage he may deliver and what tonnage the mill may receive and so on are all controlled by Queensland legislation. I could understand the very simple logic of the point that the honourable member makes that under the operation of this international scheme in conjunction with the provisions of the Queensland sugar legislation it could be that a farmer, prevented from delivering more than a certain tonnage, would have recourse to destroying the unharvested portion of his crop and then, pursuant to his business as a cane grower, he may plant more forthwith. This does seem a paradox. This is the point the honourable member is bringing out but it is completely beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government to effect the conduct of this and it is totally within the control of the Queensland Government and the Queensland sugar industry to handle this situation.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs refers to the case of the Australian journalist, Mr Francis James. The right honourable gentleman will recall that 2 months ago, on 20th August to be precise, I directed a question to him in this House urging redoubled efforts to discover the whereabouts of this unhappy man and further approaches to the Peking Government with a view to securing his release. Can the Minister say whether any further inquiries have been undertaken and, if so, with what result?
– I remember the honourable gentleman asking me a question concerning the whereabouts of Mr Francis James. I then pointed out that Mr Francis James was entitled to exactly the same kind of protection as any other Australian citizen overseas. I also said that we had carried out investigations both through the British Charge d’Affaires in Peking and other avenues in order to ascertain his whereabouts but that the Communist Chinese resolutely refused to give any information. We have continued with our investigations but with exactly the same results. On the last occasion in October when we approached the British Charge in Peking we asked him if he could try to obtain verification of statements made of the possible presence of Mr James in Canton. Again he met with exactly the same attitude from the Chinese Communist Government and no information whatsoever could be obtained. We were also informed by the British that this practice is adopted when Britain’s own citizens arc concerned and that they cannot get any satisfactory replies. In fact, they cannot get any replies whatsoever. We will continue to do all we can to help this man and if I can get any worthwhile information 1 will immediately convey it to the House.
– 4 ask the .Prime Minister whether the Government will commission a detailed ecological study of Cockburn Sound prior to the construction of the causeway between the mainland and Garden Island. Surely the Prime Minister will agree that it is a fact that such a course will prevent any likely pollution of the Sound with its resulting deleterious effect on marine life? Further will he investigate proposals to have all Garden Island declared a prohibited area to the public and investigate its adverse effect on the availability on public open space as well as the proposed eviction of some 60 holiday home owners on the Island without compensation due to the establishment of the naval base?
– I would like to answer the last part of the honourable member’s question after having refreshed my mind on the facts so that I could answer him in writing. I understand he is saving: Would the Commonwealth Government be prepared, if it had the power and not the State Government, to permit people who I think are squatting on Garden Island without any right to the land on which they live to retain their homes and shacks built in that area? If that is the case, and I believe it is, I can only reply by. saying that the requirements of defence of Western Australia would need to be taken as paramount in this matter and therefore the interests of the Navy and the capacity of the Navy and the naval base which will help to defend Western Australia would not be able to be influenced by matters which the honourable member has mentioned. In : regard to the -question of Cockburn Sound; I spoke on this -recently to my colleague -the Minister for Defence. I think there has been a statement made to some inquiry by a former Labor candidate for a seat in New South Wales suggesting that great damage might occur by the construction of the causeway. I have seen no real evidence to substantiate this; though clearly the matter of the tidal flow and the amount of area through which the tide could flow, that amount being, if I could put it this way, the bridge’ part as distinct from the hard causeway part, would have an effect on the general area and that I am sure would be taken into account by the construction authorities.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Is the Minister aware of the. serious decline in wool prices during recent - months and its subsequent effect on wool growers and country people generally?. Will -the Minister ensure that the legislation required to establish the proposed wool commission ; be introduced - without delay? Can the’ Minister say when the commission will be in- operation?
– I am very much aware of the serious decline in wool .prices which have been receding even further in recent weeks. The average price for greasy wool in the last 3 months’ was 29.74c a lb and this is a terribly low price. It is very difficult for many wool growers to continue to operate : profitably. During the last week we have seen also a serious decline in the price of the finer types. of Wool. The price of clean 70s and over - merino wool has dropped by about 7c. The price for 64s has -reached the low price of 62c per lb clean. This is the lowest price, for this type of wool since -weekly statistical records commenced in the early 1950s. So the serious plight of the industry is npt. underestimated by. the Go vernment. Indeed, all is being done to try to alleviate the situation which is an enormously difficult one to do much about.
However, as has been announced, the Government is prepared to bring in legislation to set up an Australian wool commission. It has been the desire of the Government to introduce the legislation this session. Officers of my Department are conferring with the Parliamentary Counsel today to see whether it might be possible to have this legislation ready although I must admit it is a very lengthy drafting job and we have only a short time to run in this session. However, if this is not possible to introduce legislation this session I have asked my Department to see whether it might be possible to have some skeleton legislation brought into Parliament to enable the provisional establishment of a commission and also to enable the operations of a flexible revenue price scheme commencing with the next wool selling season. I want to give an assurance to honourable members and to the wool industry that every possible effort is being made by the Government to see that this legislation is introduced this session.
– I direct my question to the Prime : Minister. Is it a fact that in an address to the New South Wales Liberals recently be stated that Australia’s immigration policy as it related to coloured people could not be justified on moral grounds? If so, will he outline to the House the basis for this remarkable and very debatable statement? Is he aware also that successive Ministers for Immigration have consistently, and quite rightly in my view, justified and supported the policy on moral, social and economic grounds evidently because of their belief that a government has a moral obligation to protect its own people particularly from racial tensions and friction? Will the Prime Minister also state what is immoral about a policy that admits almost 10,000 non-Europeans and people of mixed descent yearly, gives discretionary power to the Minister, has kept Australia’ free from racial hatreds and is based on the same principles as the immigration policies of practically every nation in the world?
– The honourable member has referred to a part of the argument which I have advanced in speaking to the
Young Liberals, and an argument in which I believe completely. The argument is that it is more difficult - not impossible, but more difficult - for a person who is not a white person to enter Australia than it is for a person who is a white person, and this 1 think is incontrovertible, though our laws are not in any way rigid and are quite liberal. Nevertheless that is incontrovertible. If a judgment were to be made on that alone, on the grounds that a man’s worthiness or unworthiness, goodness or badness, capacity or incapacity is to be judged by the colour of his skin, then that approach could not, I think, be justified on moral grounds.
But “the honourable member has not concluded what I said, because I then went on to point out that in every country in the world in which there are significant groups of different racial origin there are significant racial tensions and they grow the greater the groups are, and this is true not only in countries such as the United States and Great Britain where we have seen it but in countries such as Malaya where Chinese-Malayan tensions are great, in Indonesia, in countries such as Kenya where they have tension with East Africans. In all these countries, on an empirical test, this is so; and therefore, as I went on to say, and would be happy to go on to say now, I would not wish to import these kinds of tensions into this country because I think if that were done then that would be even more immoral than the question of just judging on the colour of the skin. If I may say so, I then concluded those remarks by saying that as far as I was concerned and this Government was concerned we do not propose to alter the liberalised policy we now have in any basic way because I believe it is working and working well and is far more generous than the immigration policies of the other countries in the world which most often tend to criticise our policy.
– The Minister for Defence will remember that I have asked him a number of questions concerning the revised pay scale , for senior officers of the Citizen Military Forces. Is it a fact that this was last fixed in 1962? Is it a fact that a first submission was made in 1964? Is it a fact that it is now 1970? Is it a fact that unless something is done many of these officers may well resign from the CMF? Is this tHe method of assisting the CMF in recruiting?
– I have little doubt that the facts mentioned by the honourable member are facts, but I cannot vouch for them from my own information. I recognise the problem to which he is devoting attention, that is, the well-being and morale of senior CMF officers. It is a matter that is also of concern to me.
-I direct my question to the Minister for National Development, who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer the Minister to a report that a committee has been set up to provide for the utmost capacity at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, including parallel runways. Will parallel runways mean that there will be double the number of flights from Mascot, and will this mean that there will be a large area of the city of Sydney really unsuitable for further residential development? Why is the Government pursuing this mad policy of development at Mascot instead of providing a second airport for Sydney? Has the Minister for Civil Aviation already received the report concerning a second airport, and if so, why has this report not yet been released?
– I answered a question yesterday in relation to a report from an interdepartmental committee which had been set up by the Government to investigate sites for a second airport to service Sydney and district. I indicated at the time that my understanding was that the committee had concluded its work in relation to the survey it was undertaking and that a report could be expected to be submitted to the Minister for Civil Aviation in the near future.
– He says he has it.
– If he says be has received it I will stand corrected and accept that he has received it. I do not doubt that the matter will be examined by the Minister and his Department and that it will be referred to the Government as soon as the Minister is able to do so. The question regarding the development of the site at Mascot is, of course, one that has been part of an original programme that has been in hand for many years. I think it should be understood that it has always been envisaged that in the development of the site, parallel runways will be provided. Whether there will be any change in this plan in the future I do not know, but the original plan, which still stands, is that parallel runways will at some point in time be installed to cater not only for perhaps additional traffic, but also to facilitate control arrangements as far as that traffic is concerned.
After an examination of the reports of the various committees that have been set up to investigate these matters the Minister for Civil Aviation will be the person who will make some .recommendation in relation to any future planning for the development of the airport. But I should refer to the major development that is taking place there and. which is designed not only to improve the. operational efficiency but also very substantially to improve the noise problem; that is the extension of the main runway into Botany Bay. This will allow a very big increase in the number of nights that can use that runway. Its greater length will mean that a . far greater number of downwind landings and take-offs will be possible. This means, in effect, that a far greater proportion of traffic will be able to utilise the across-water approach and take-off. This will be a very substantial improvement when this work is completed.
-My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Has his attention been drawn to the fact that national servicemen serving in Papua and New Guinea, Singapore and Malaysia, if injured whilst not on duty, are not entitled to Commonwealth compensation and that some are up for heavy medical and surgical expenses after discharge? Will he endeavour to have this position corrected, having regard to trie fact that these men are in such areas’ at the direction of the Army?
– My recollection of the matter is that the provisions of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act apply to servicemen serving in Vietnam. Members serving in places other than Viet nam are entitled to cover under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act in the event of injury or any medical condition which can be attributed to their Army employment. A soldier who is injured whilst not on duty is generally not covered by the Act unless he is travelling to or from duty. In ordinary circumstances, however, a soldier who is being medically treated in a hospital as a result of injury, irrespective of its cause - if it was sustained in Australia - may have his pay and allowances continued for a period of 6 months from the day the injury was received or treatment was begun, while if the condition developed or the injury was sustained while he was overseas his pay and allowances would continue for a period of 12 months. At the expiration of the period he would be discharged from the Army if he did not come within the various categories of Army medical standards and his further treatment would then be governed under the Repatriation Act that T have mentioned and the Compensation Act that I mentioned. However, after being discharged and if his removal from hospital is considered to be detrimental to his health, further treatment can be authorised. I am concerned by the preamble of the honourable member’s question in regard to national service trainees. I will examine it in greater detail than I can give here today from my recollection. I shall send him a reply as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: How far has the withdrawal of the Eighth Battalion from Vietnam progressed? Have any elements of the battalion yet returned to Australia? What is the present disposition of the battalion in Phuoc Tuy province? How many casualties has the battalion suffered in the past month? Finally, when will the withdrawal be completed?
– I have been advised generally by the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff that the Eighth Battalion will be out of operations before the end of October and that the main body of the battalion will march through Brisbane on 12th November. Beyond that, if the honourable member wishes to have more specific answers to the number of questions he asked, I will see that he ls provided with the information or will ask my colleague the Minister for the Army to provide the information for him.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question to that asked by the honourable member for Canning. I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry regarding the possible delay in the. introduction of the Government’s decision to implement a statutory wool marketing commission, I ask; If this legislation cannot be introduced in this House before the House rises for the Senate elections, will the Prime Minister reconvene the Parliament after the election and before. Christmas so that this most important legislation affecting Australia’s No. 1 export earner can be introduced at the earliest possible time?
– The preparation and the introduction of this legislation fall entirely within the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry who, I am sure, is doing his best to see that the rural community gets the benefits which are proposed in this legislation. All I can say in reply, to the honourable member who asked the question is that I will take the question under consideration.
– My- question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. How does the Minister reconcile his statement on 14th October to the Leader of the Opposition that Malaysia will abstain, from a vote on the actual recognition of - Communist China, with his reference given today to Tun Ismail’s statement that Malaysia would, if necessary, cosponsor any move to admit China .to the United Nations by a simple majority? Was Tun Ismail’s statement contained in an official report from Kuala Lumpur, received in Canberra on. 5th October, some 2 weeks ago, and some 9 days before the question from the Leader of the Opposition? Why. has the Minister sought to mislead this House about a radical change in Malaysian policy-
-Order! The honourable member is out of order. I suggest that he withdraw the words ‘mislead the House* fa relation to the question. I said this yesterday, and it should be a lesson to other honourable members as well.
– Why has the Minister given such information to this House?
– I hoped that the honourable gentleman would ask this question, because the reply can be given decisively and clearly. I omit any kind of personal reference, but I will illustrate just how those asking the questions have not understood what has happened. Let me quote from the actual official document. I will not go through the preliminary part of it but I will give the summing up. It says:
Thus while Malaysia believes Communist China should be admitted by a simple majority it does not believe that Taiwan should be expelled. At his Press conference in early October, Tun Ismail said that Malaysia would vote against the Important Question resolution and abstain on the Albanian resolution.
The Albanian resolution means recognition of Communist China and the expulsion of Taiwan or the Republic of China. The document continues:
He also said that if there was a simple resolution for the admission of Communist China which made no reference to Taiwan then Malaysia would associate itself with that resolution and vote for it.
I mention that there is no other resolution of that nature now before the United Nations.
– Why have your statements
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley has been interjecting continually during question time. 1 warn the honourable member for Chifley.
-So, I proceed a stage further, if I can, because it is obvious that there is difficulty in understanding it. Tun Ismail said that Malaysia wanted Taiwan to have the right of self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. These were almost identically the words that I used in answer to the question asked today by the honourable member for Diamond Valley. Because of the confusion that has been caused, I would have the greatest pleasure in permitting my officials to try to explain the answers to the 2 honourable gentlemen.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs also. Has the Foreign Minister seen reference in this Parliament from honourable members opposite to so-called ‘aggression’ by United States troops in Cambodia and their ‘invasion’ of Cambodia? Is this a tenable view of events? ls it a fact that Cambodia was purposefully invaded by the North Vietnamese at least a month before any South Vietnamese or United States forces entered Cambodian territory? Was the entry of the allies at the express invitation of General Lon Nol? Finally, if any honourable members doubt these facts, will the Minister arrange for those honourable members to meet senators of Cambodia now in this House so as to get their facts straight?
– The facts contained in the question asked by the honourable gentleman are correct. There had been naked and blatant violation of Cambodian territory by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. I do not think that this is disputed even by the most left wing of the members of the Opposition. As to the United States activities in the Fish Hook area of Cambodia, these activities were at the invitation of the Cambodian or Khmer Government. The third point made by the honourable gentleman was whether I would try to make arrangements for any members of the Opposition who have any doubts to discuss the matter with the leader of the Cambodian delegation. J will be only too happy to do this. But I can assure these honourable members generally who want verification that their views will be exactly the same as those of the Commonwealth Government.
– 1 ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Is there a federally registered fire fighters’ union? Has it been dented registration in Queensland although it has a growing majority of the fire fighting unionists in that State? Has a recent industrial dispute been determined against members of that union by a panel of three, one being a principal party to the dispute and opposed to the unions, and one a representative of the rival union that is the only one recognised by the Queensland Government? Will the Minister use his good offices with the Queensland Government to encourage a review of the increasing causes of discontent of the fire fighters in this matter?
– The question that the honourable gentleman raises is one of very considerable difficulty in the industrial area. There are 2 unions representing firemen and competition exists between the two. I think the way in which the honourable gentleman put his question was to ask whether 1 would use influence with the Queensland Government to achieve a result. I assure -him that I will not do that. I- think that, when there are disputes as between unions, issues are raised which are very difficult to solve and, very often, somebody wanting to do good only achieves harm. I am afraid that that may be the case here. I will not do that. 1 am well aware of the circumstances of the competition. Equally, of course, the honourable gentleman will know that recently the High Court ruled that fire fighting was not an industry. I have had a letter recently asking me to receive a deputation. That letter came from the Federal President of the Firemen’s Union. I propose to reply to the effect that .! will be very glad to receive him because he happens to be a man whom I have known for very many years and like as a nian. But I do not think that I will be able to achieve the result he wants.
– I address a further question to the Minister for Defence. A short time ago the Minister told me that he wis expecting from the Terms and Conditions Committee a recommendation regarding the pay of senior officers of the Citizen Military Forces. Has he received the recommendation? Can he advise the House what it is? ff not, can he advise the House when he will announce the decision?
– No. I have not yet received this recommendation. I will be receiving this week a report of the problems that have arisen concerning the recommendation that would normally be coming to the Treasurer and myself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that a known New South Wales professional criminal was arrested in Sydney late last week for possession or care and control of a large quantity of narcotic and other dangerous drugs? Is it also a fact that a Sydney magistrate allowed him easily obtainable bail at the Central Court of Petty Session last Saturday morning? Does this not indicate a laissez-faire attitude on the part of the magistrate which is not approved of by society in general?
– I presume the honourable member is referring to a Press report which appeared I think, on Saturday that on Friday the Narcotics Squad of my Department arrested 6 men in Sydney and that at the same time over 2 million doses of amphetamines were recovered. The question whether one or more of the men are well known Sydney criminals is something which, I believe, it would be improper for me to comment on at this stage. I do not confirm nor- do I deny the allegation implicit in the question, but it is true that all 6 men appeared in a Sydney Court on Saturday morning and notwithstanding the alleged possession of $400,000 worth of amphetamines one man was granted bail of $300; two were granted bail of $500; one obtained bail at $1,200 and two at, I believe, $2,000. All I can say at this stage is that I am genuinely grateful for the honourable member’s interest. The second thing I want to say is that the granting of this bail is completely beyond my comprehension.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition asked me a question about the payment of workers’ compensation to victims of the West Gate Bridge disaster. I undertook to make a reply to him within 48 hours. I ask for leave to reply to the question.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– With regard to overseas dependants of those killed or injured in that tragedy, under the Victorian Workers’ Compensation Act there is no restriction on the payment of workers’ compensation to or in respect of overseas dependants. In my reply 1 also made some reference to this matter generally on the basis of my recollection of it. I have since looked into the matter and I am now able to say that the position was that, except for New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, Australian workers’ compensation legislation did not restrict payment of workers’ compensation for overseas dependants. In the States imposing restrictions there was provision for the payment of compensation to overseas dependants residing in a country making reciprocal provision.
In the early part of 1969 this matter was considered by the National Labour Advisory Council. There was general agreement on the need for removal of these restrictions. The matter has been considered also by the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee. Subsequent developments have resulted in the position being as follows: In New South Wales the position is that a Bill to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act has been introduced. It includes provision to remove the existing restrictions on the payment of compensation to overseas dependants. In Queensland the State Government has decided that when amendments to the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Act are next being introduced they will include provision to remove existing restrictions on payment of compensation to dependants in a foreign country of workers killed or injured in Queensland. It was decided also that by Executive action pending these amendments compensation will be paid to dependants domiciled in a foreign country of workers killed or injured in Queensland. This decision already is effective. The Western Australian Workers’ Compensation Act Amendment Act 1970 removed the restriction of payment on compensation for overseas dependants. In other words, the matter is about to be resolved completely.
– Pursuant to section 96l of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1970 I present the annual report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1970 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-1969 I present the annual report on the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970 together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933-1966, I present the thirty-seventh report (1970) and supplement of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on applications made by States for financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution.
Bill presented by Mr N. H. Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill before the House is designed to amend the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1969 to enable the Commonwealth Government to provide for increased grants to the States for advanced education. The reasons for these increases are as follows: The Bill consists of 4 parts. The first part is concerned with increases in the grants offered to all States, in order that we might meet our share of academic salary increases in the current 1970-1972 triennium, brought about by the adoption by the States, in whole or in part, of the Sweeney inquiry into salaries in colleges of advanced education and the Eggleston report on salaries in universities. The Commonwealth Government has signified acceptance of these reports. The new schedules to the Act in the main are a result of the decision to accept these 2 reports. For 1 State, Tasmania, there is 1 new element. Members will recall that the second report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on
Advanced Education recommended support for teacher education in certain colleges of advanced education. Teacher education at these colleges would attract the normal Commonwealth grants, namely, for recurrent expenditure $1.85 State and fees to $1 Commonwealth, and on the capital side $1 for$1 between the Commonwealth and the States.
The second report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education recommended that a total of$lm be made available for capital development on the Mount Nelson site at Hobart of the school of teacher education within the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. The Commonwealth share of this is $500,000. No recommendation was made for recurrent expenditure at that time. The situation has now changed and teacher education in Hobart became the responsibility of the Council of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education from 1st January of this year. The amendment before the House makes provision for this. The second part of the Bill makes a minor adjustment to the capital expenditure programme in Western Australia and South Australia by the addition of 2 projects. No new money is involved. The amendment is being made at the request of the 2 States concerned.
The third part increases the Commonwealth offer made for the recurrent expenditure support of some colleges of advanced education in the 1967-1969 triennium. By policy, the Commonwealth Government supports in the colleges approved increases in academic salaries. Increases in a number of States have already been met by way of amendment to the 1967 Advanced Education Act. There remains, however, the need to increase the grant available to 3 States - Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. It was not possible in the course of the last triennium to make these adjustments which are now being made. The increases are small, but the offer must be made to discharge our undertakings to the States. The Government is prepared to support the establishment and maintenance of residential colleges of advanced education as it does in the universities.
The fourth part of the Bill deals with 1. such college being established at the Western Australian School of Mines at Kalgoorlie.
The Commonwealth has already made provision in the original Act to match $1 for $1 up to $200,000, Commonwealth share, the cost of erecting an affiliated residential college at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines. Members will be pleased to know that the mining industry has raised a considerable proportion of the total capital costs of the college which is expected to be in operation in 1971. This is earlier than was expected; consequently there is a need to make provision for recurrent expenditure assistance. I should inform the House that on the formula in the Bill the maximum grant is expected. to be $6,500 a year for each of the years 1971 and 1.972. This has been calculated on the formula adopted by the Australian Universities Commission for similar residential colleges at the universities. The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education is at present examining the means whereby residential accommodation in the colleges of advanced education might best be assisted and will make recommendations in its third report. The total effect of these amendments is an additional cost to the Commonwealth of $5.7m. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate , (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works. Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of sleeping, messing and amenities facilities for Chiefs and Petty Officers at HMAS Cerberus’, Westernport, Victoria.’
The major components of ‘the proposal are a central galley amenities and mess block, and 3 identical 3-storey sleeping blocks each of 100 cabins. The building will be of brick and concrete construction. Facilities and services will include hot water heating systems, laundries, built-in furniture in cabins, bars, games, television and ante rooms, etc., and change facilities for living out members. Accommodation and facilities are in accordance with approved defence scales and standards of accommodation. The estimated cost is SI. 9m.
In reporting favourably on the proposal the Committee asked that further consideration be given to the provision of adequate shower facilities for senior sailors who live out; and use of carpet as a floor covering in sleeping blocks if economically feasible. The design of the galley mess and recreation block is sufficiently flexible to allow some increase in the number of showers to be provided if required. Before detailed design development is finalised the Departments of Works and the Navy will review the basis on which the number of showers was assessed to determine more precisely if the present allowance is sufficient in relation to the number of members who live out and the nature of their duties. The use of carpet as floor covering in sleeping blocks is not an approved standard for services accommodation. However its use is at present being considered by the Defence Accommodation Standards Committee and the final choice of material will be deferred pending the Committee’s report and recommendations. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 September (vide page 1063), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the. Bill be now read a second time.
– The principal objective of the Bill before the House, which is a machinery Bill, is to amend the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act in order to make provision for payment of an export bounty of $3,379,000 on non-fat milk products - that is, an export bounty on skim milk powder, dried buttermilk and casein. It would appear that the decision to pay the bounty on non-fat milk products is part of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the industry, whereby the Commonwealth has undertaken to support a final payment of 34c per lb, commercial butter equivalent, at the factory door to producers if the industry limits its production to 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese. As has been stated, at this level of production the bounty will entail total payments by the Commonwealth of $42,882,000. This additional bounty to the manufacturers of these products will entaila total payment of $3,379,000. It should be made quite clear that these payments in relation to this export bounty relate only to 1970-71.
This decision is important to the producers because the bounty constitutes a significant proportion of the returns of dairy farmers and of course of the manufacturers of these processed products. The payment of this bounty will make a counter allowance for the previous allowances paid to butter factories for solids not fat in milk at the 1969-70 level, and in actual fact the payments for these solids not fat are a reflection of the amount of devaluation compensation paid in ‘ respect of this type of product. So it is quite clear that what the Government has done is to enter into an arrangement with the industry to limit production to 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese, and in return to underwrite or to guarantee under equalisation an average of 34c per lb commercial butter equivalent and at the same time to allow this export bounty in lieu of devaluation compensation. That is the crux of this machinery Bill.
One might ask: How important are these non-fat products? They are quite important because they really are by-products of butter itself and their production has continued to increase in the last 12 months. The production of skim milk powder has increased to 91,000 tons and production of casein has increased to 31,500 tons. These are quite significant increases in the last 12 months over the figures for the previous 12 months. Not only are we producing increasing amounts of non-fat processed milk products, but we are also increasing our exports of non-fat milk products. Exports of bulk skim milk powder continued their upward trend in 1969-70 to reach 52,800 tons, which was an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year. Exports of casein also continued to climb to 30,000 tons, which again represented an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year. So in actual fact the production and manufacture of non-fat products have increased. In regard to the value of sales of these products, which I suggest is a most important point, the value of the overseas sales of bulk skim milk powder increased by 37 per cent, to $8,390,000, and the value of the sales of casein rose by 14 per cent over the value for the preceding year, to $12.5m. The production, export and value of sales of non-fat products, as represented by dried buttermilk, casein and skim milk products, have increased all round.
One other point which I should like to make regarding this Bill is that a significant change seems to be taking place in the policies of Asian countries, particularly in the tropical and sub-tropical areas, which are importing some of our non-fat products and our fat products also. The policy of these countries is to import the basic raw materials, which are essentially anhydrous milk fat and skim milk powder, and then to manufacture the anhydrous skim milk fat and milk, powder into products of their own choice. Some of these tropical and subtropical countries are introducing policies which seem to impose tariffs or special licensing provisions which, of course, can have the effect only of increasing the price of Australian products in these countries. In the future this could well be quite a serious blow to Australia.
As we know, various commercial reconstitution plants - and there are some 27 of these in operation - would be placed in a rather awkward position if the price of the basic raw materia) is increased. This is something at which the Australian Government will have to look closely, in conjunction or in consultation with the tropical and sub-tropical countries, particularly in Asia. As I sard before, this is really a machinery Bill in the sense that it provides for an export bounty on non-fat products, whereas before, solid non-fat components in milk attracted devaluation compensation payments, lt is important to note that devaluation payments will cease after 1970-71. It is not known what will happen after that, but it would seem that the export bounty will be substituted, at least on a temporary basis, for devaluation compensation payments.
The only other point I should like to make is that this procedure follows the same pattern with respect to other milk products containing butterfat, in that the bounty is paid to the producers of the product. That is the important point. Taken by and large, the Opposition has no argument with the machinery process of substituting an export bounty for devaluation compensation. The only question one could ask is: What is going to happen after 30th June 1971? Are we to have a continuation of the export bounty, or are we to have a reintroduction or devaluation compensation. The Minister for Primary Industry has said that he cannot commit the Government and cannot make announcements on this, but it would seem that if industry does limit production to the figures that have been promised - 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese - then they could look forward to an underwriting by equalisation of 34c per lb commercial butterfat equivalent and a continuation of an export bounty for the non-fat production of skimmed milk, dried butter milk and casein.
– I want very briefly to support the motion before the House and to indicate that it is a very important adjunct to the support already being given to the dairying industry but that it is contingent upon the industry, both in respect of dried milk products and other products, being subsidised. Previously it was assisted through a straight-out subsidy and a devaluation payment and as from 1st July last it has been assisted by a general subsidy to cover both fields. It is now a matter of great necessity for the dairying industry to have by 1st July 1971 a satisfactory scheme of production control, an arrangement for the volume of dairy products that will reach the market and an arrangement for the overall management of the industry in order to ensure there will be a continuation of Government assistance and support on a level designed to meet the situation of world overproduction, the loss of world markets and the extreme difficulties that can be the consequence of a situation in which there is not a proper rationale between production and possible commercial realisation. We have seen the dreadful consequences of this in the other major primary industries, those that might be termed the bulks in our primary industries, wheat in particular; and dairying has, of course, had the same kind of problem to face up to. The industry has done this in a very magnificent way this year and I am sure that with the co-operation that has already been displayed between the industry and the Government we will have by 1st July next year a very positive and basic plan upon which to sustain this very important primary industry in Australia. I think it is significant that in this situation we have had a very proper approach, an approach based on facts, on understanding, and certainly a situation in which there has not been political heat. This afternoon we have seen quite unique evidence of this in this chamber. I am sure the industry would appreciate the fact that such an approach is being made. I support the measure and express the hope that there will be a continuation of this kind of approach to matters concerning the dairying industry in the future.
– I strongly support the purpose of the Bill, which is to amend the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act to provide for the payment of an export bounty on skimmed milk powder, buttermilk powder and casein production export in 1970-71. But as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said, we are concerned about the long term future. The importance of these by-products is growing. I feel the non-fat processed milk products will be even more important to the industry and the nation’s exports in the future. We have heard that they have risen in volume, that exports have substantially expanded and that further prospects have been good. It has also been recognised that difficulties have been raised by other governments. This again poses a challenge to our own administration to pave the way for the greatest volume of exports that is possible. It is a fact of life that the Australian dairying industry is under tremendous pressure to reorganise. I think it is perhaps one of the most maligned industries we have in Australia. There is a continuing campaign to denigrate its achievements and overall efficiency and, in fact, label it as surplus to national requirements. While it is true that the Australian dairying industry has spheres of trouble it should be recognised that in many respects and areas it is one of the most efficient in the world. I think I can speak at first hand on this. The dairying industry of the southern Riverina can match the efficiency of any of its competitors anywhere, even abroad, if it is given the opportunity to do so.
I think much of the criticism of the industry is in tact a criticism of lack of overall guidance and direction. I was encouraged to hear a reference just now to the effect that we are to have overall planning of the dairying industry. If the planning means there will be national responsibility in the future for the disposal of the products I think it is very welcome, because this has not been the position so far. The dairy farmer has been encouraged over the years to base his operations on butterfat and to breed and buy his cows from the butterfat point of view. The Federal subsidy in the past has largely been based on butterfat production, and then we have had surprise expressed that the industry has produced too much butter. So there is obviously an urgency about the restructuring of incentives to produce proteins. The great demand in our AustraloAsian region and in the world generally is for protein for which the most exciting market opportunities exist despite the fact that there will be continuing difficulties to overcome through government to government relations. Nevertheless, the most exciting market opportunities lie in that direction.
So there is an urgency about paying incentives for protein-based production, and I welcome this measure. I talk about incentives rather than subsidies because in many cases the so-called subsidy to a primary industry is not a subsidy at ail. It is only a contra item partly offsetting the subsidy which the industry pays inefficient supportive services upon which it unfortunately must rely. There is a lot of talk about efficiency in the rural sector, but I feel the debate should be widened and enlarged to take in the whole of the Australian industries.
– As a matter of fact I was just looking at the Bill to see how far the honourable member was going beyond it.
– I saw you referring to the Bill, Mr Speaker, and was just about to link up my remarks very rapidly. The point should be made that it ties in with the need for proper national planning in the relations between government and primary industry. Here we have perhaps the first step towards a rationale of future production between what the nation requires itself and what we can export. We reach a point where the Government has said in relation to processed milk products: All right, for the first time in this country we will give it support in a positive way’. And that is to be welcomed. But the point we are making is that it is only the first step. If it is to be regarded simply as a gesture and left at that we will be slipping back into trouble again. For too long there has been a tendency to run away from the concept of rational planning in agriculture. I welcome this as the first definite step in that direction for these products and I hope it will not stop here. I hope we can look forward to an overall planning of production for our needs at home and for export. I support the measure, but at the same time pose the query: Where is the long term planning that will be necessary to give security to those in the industry and the benefits of such planning to the natron?
– We have had 3 speakers so far on this subject, 2 from the Opposition side and 1 from the Government side. They have all been very high in their praise for the measure before the House. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has just said, and I wrote down what he said: ‘We welcome the measure’. Therefore, as I also support the measure, it is not necessary for me to try to make a long speech. The honourable member for Riverina said that the dairying industry is probably the most maligned primary industry in Australia. I cannot agree with the honourable member because the dairy industry is appreciated. This is especially so in Victoria where the efficiency of the industry is well known. If we want to make some sort of comparison we only have to look at the amount of money that goes to Victoria by way of bounty on butterfat. Victoria gets a tremendous share, which is out of proportion to the number of dairymen in that State. Therefore, the industry in Victoria is very efficient.
Dairy activities are carried out in the Mallee electorate along the Murray River flats at Swan Hill and at Mildura and other places. Perhaps portions of the industry, in Mallee does not deal with the kind of product that is mentioned in the
Bill before the House birt nevertheless anything that affects 1 dairy product has an effect on every other dairy product. In the electoral redistribution which preceded the last election 2 sub-divisions were added to the Mallee electorate. One of the subdivisions is Cohuna which is a highly intensified dairy area. Within the sub-division of Cohuna is the district of Leitchville around which dairying is conducted almost exclusively. Therefore, I appreciate anything that can be done to help the dairy industry in Australia. The honourable member for Riverina also said that he hoped the Bill before the House was not just a gesture. I do not think it is. I think the. proposals contained in the Bill will be very favourable to the industry and I hope that they will continue. Long term planning in different classes of primary industry is difficult for quite a number of reasons. One reason, of course, is the problem of seasons which, especially in a country like Australia, dictate the amount of production. Also, the varying demand for our goods overseas makes long term planning very difficult. Long term hopeful planning may be all right but long term definite planning is a different matter. I believe that this Bill is in the best interests of primary industry and. ‘ of course, specifically for the dairy industry, lt has my full support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bur)’) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 August (vide page 300) on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill before the House is to authorise the borrowing of $142,550,000 to be advanced to the States during 1970-71 for housing ir accordance with the Commonwealth and
State Housing Agreement. The amounts to be distributed to the States under this Bill are as follows: New South Wales $50.3m; Victoria $36.5m; Queensland $10.5m; South Australia $24m; Western Australia $12.5m and Tasmania $8.75m. It should be noted that this is the concluding year of the period covered by the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and a new agreement is to be made in 1971. It is for this reason that I want to deal with some aspects of low cost housing. Due to the negative policies of the Gorton Government housing is one of its lowest priorities. It is hypocritical for the Gorton Government to talk about prosperity while so many Australians are so illhoused and impoverished by the cost of housing. Proper housing for all is the foundation of a genuine national prosperity. This is not the case with this Government. Under a Labor administration decent housing for all would be one of our major priorities. Low interest rates and rentals within ones economic requirements would be Labor’s policy. Under the Chifley Labor Government the Labor Party provided the States with 53-year loans bearing an interest rate of 3 per cent for the construction of low cost housing. This scheme was designed to ensure that no low income family would be required to pay more than one-fifth of its income on a government home. But these conditions have been eroded over the years.
Labor believes that low cost housing has a right to share and be constructed in serene and gentle surroundings with all of the aesthetic, cultural, sporting, social, recreational and industrial environment. We would hope that low cost housing will not continue to be at the extremes whether it be the concrete jungles of North Melbourne which have been constructed by the Victorian Housing Commission or the Green Valleys or Mount Druitts which are on the outskirts of Sydney and which have been constructed by the New South Wales Housing Commission. We are building great social problems for the future in both Sydney and Melbourne. I want to quote an extract from a very informative book entitled ‘Ideas for Australian Cities’ written by Hugh Stretton. On page 160 of his book Mr Stretton writes: .
Green Valley’s workers travel out of the district to work. There and back, three-quarters of them travel between 25 and SO miles a day. Half must change channels twice or more each. way. For a quarter of them, travelling time add the equivalent of 2 working days to the working week. The average is nearly 2 hours a day; with some misfitting between work and transport timetables, many families do without their breadwinners for 11 or 12 hours. Also the city’s lowest wages pay some of its highest fares. Similar distances and (without weekly concession tickets) even higher fares separate them from most friends and relations they’d like to visit, and from the pleasures and services of the city centre which is more than an hour each way and more than a dollar return. To get a family of 6 from Green Valley to the beach or the zoo and back takes most of a day, including half, a day’s travel by car or perhaps 2 days’ wages in’ fares and expenses … 60 per cent of Green Valley’s families have no car and 29 per cent have no wages. The outpatients’ departments of public hospitals are not very easy or cheap to get to either.
These are just a few words extracted from Hugh Stretton’s book which show the difficulties under which people live in low cost housing on the outskirts of Sydney. One can examine the position that exists in the concrete jungles of north Melbourne. These social problems will be of great concern to this country as a whole. It is the Commonwealth Government that must bear the responsibility of priorities in housing. It will only be through co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States that we will overcome the madness of driving people out to the extreme fringes of the large cities without the social, cultural and aesthetic amenities to which they are entitled.
What is the approach of this Government to housing? The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) dealt with the question of low cost housing in an address she gave to the Building and Construction Forum in Melbourne on 29th September 1970. She said:
Those in need of assistance include low income families - many of them migrant families - aged persons and invalids, lt is a unfortunate fact-
After this Government has been in office for 2 decades the Minister for Housing in the Gorton Administration says:
Tt is an unfortunate fact that an increasing number of widow3-and deserted wives wilh dependent children are seeking assistance from State housing authorities.
She went on to say that we must improve our rate of home construction over the next few years and said that the Government will encourage the construction of more homes, but the Government has increased the interest rates on housing loans to 6 per cent this year. That is how the Government has encouraged home building. The Minister went on to say that the Government would encourage the construction of better housing for low income families who are unable to obtain satisfactory private rental accommodation or who are paying more than they can really afford. She said:
The housing of these people must be given high priority.
I emphasise those words of the Minister. She said that people of this type must be given a high priority. She went on:
At the bead of the list of our national housing aims are encouragement of ‘ the production of more homes, the building of homes specifically for renting to those in need of a decent or cheaper home, and the offer of assistance to low income families wishing to own a home of their own. Our policies are directed towards achieving these aims, and as quickly as possible.
This Government has been in power for 2 decades and the Minister for Housing now says that the Government wishes to achieve these aims as quickly as possible. Let us really examine the social priorities of the Gorton Government on low cost housing. In 1954-55, 17,959 homes were constructed by the State housing authorities under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. By 1968-69 the number had dropped to 12,305. The number of homes constructed by the State housing authorities as a percentage of all new dwellings constructed was 22 per cent in 1954-55. In 1968-69 it had been reduced to 9.7 per cent. This is a social problem to which high priority must be given as quickly as possible.
The interest rates which had been 3 per cent under the Chifley Government have increased to 6 per cent under the Gorton Government. Does this indicate that the Government is giving a high priority to low cost housing? Interest rates on housing loans today are the highest that have ever been charged in the history of Australia. One must disregard this excited statement by the Minister for Housing. The Gorton Government has a miserable record not only in low cost housing but in housing as a whole. Whenever the Government has had to dampen down the economy it has on every occasion taken action that has affected the home building sector of the building industry. I will deal at a later stage with this question of dampening down the economy and increasing interest rates.
I sought from the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library details of how rents on State Housing Commission homes have been affected by the increase in the interest rate this year from 5 per cent to 6 per cent. Again this is a question of priorities. Interest rates this year have increased by 1 per cent over last year. In regard to the amortisation component of the rent, the Research Service has provided me with details that show that on a leased 3-bedroom cottage of brick veneer costing $10,000 to construct, rent has increased from $15.40 to $17.20 a week, an increase of $1.80 a week. This has come about because of the 1 per cent increase in interest on the loan allocation by the Commonwealth to the States.
I sought also details of the extent to which the increases in rent would be due to the increase in interest rates from 3 per cent under the Chifley Government to 6 per cent under the Gorton Government. These figures were difficult to assess because the changes had taken place over a period of 2 decades. But I have been supplied with figures which disclose that for a dwelling such as I have mentioned the weekly rent has increased from $12.10 to $17.20, an increase of $5.10. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out the average rentals for State Housing Commission houses in the Sydney metropolitan area from 1945 to 1951.
The rent on a 3-bedroom State Housing Commission dwelling in 1945 was S3. 80 a week. By 1949 it had risen to $5.15 a week. It is now S17.20 a week. Can anyone imagine a Housing Commission 3bedroom dwelling costing $17.20 a week to rent being in the category of low cost housing? It must be kept in mind that no person in 1949 paid more than one-fifth of his earnings in rent. If the same principle were applied today it would mean that a person would need to have an income of $86 a week to pay $17.20 a week in rent. Of course we know that under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement the rebate system has been eroded over the years to such an extent that the lessees of Housing Commission houses are not being given a fair go. In fact to a great extent a means text is applied to many people seeking low cost housing. Only a very small percentage of people in Housing Commission homes have an income of $86 a week. In fact the average weekly earning of all workers is $77 but 65 per cent of all people working earn less than $77 a week.
We need a revolutionary change in low cost housing. We need to return to an interest charge of no more than 3 per cent. We should progressively increase the number of dwellings that the Government authorities construct each year. We should not have a ghetto mentality in regard to the construction of low cost housing. The National Capital Development Commission in Canberra has set an example in integrating all levels of income earners with differing backgrounds. We should be able to do the same elsewhere. It will be necessary for the Commonwealth to co-operate with the States to acquire large areas of land for residential development. If it has been possible in Canberra to reduce by one-third since 1963 the cost of land on which to build a house while the cost of land over the same period in Sydney has increased by 200 per cent, it should be possible, if the Commonwealth Government takes action, to do the same in all the capital and provincial cities. It is all very well for Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin to speak about a special priority and a special consideration for low cost housing, but we want more than words, we want action. Action by this Government in regard to low cost housing is long overdue. But, as the Minister for Housing is aware, low cost housing is well down, in fact it is near the bottom, in the priority list of this Gorton administration. This Government has given no consideration at all to low cost housing. It gives special consideration to the rural sector of the community to such an extent that when the Reserve Bank recently increased interest rates a special rate was fixed for the rural sector. But no special consideration was given to the homebuilding sector of the building industry which needed assistance.
In a reply to a question on 22nd September I was given some figures on the direct assistance that the Commonwealth has given to the rural sector. In 1965-66 the Commonwealth payment to rural industries by way of subsidy or bounty amounted to $84.6m and in 1970-71 it is estimated that it will increase to $215. 3m. The Commonwealth’s contributions to promotion and research, in addition to its support of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, for industries such as the wheat, meat, dairy, fishing and tobacco industries increased from $16.4m in 1965-66 to an estimated $37.3m in 1970-71. If one examines pages 66 and 67 of the Budget Papers one will see that rural industries also receive in direct and indirect taxation concessions another $100m. So one can see that this sectional government is concerned first with the wealthy sector and then with the wealthy rural sector and it has very little consideration for the people in this community who really need help, the people who need low cost housing. To show how far down the Government’s list of priorities this matter has fallen, in 1954-55 Commonwealth money was available to such an extent that 22 per cent of all homes built were government built while today the proportion has dropped to 9.7 per cent. I have no doubt that when figures for the current year are available it will be found that the percentage has dropped still further.
I want to refer to another aspect of this allocation of money for housing. Each year at least 30 per cent of it goes into a fund known as the home builders’ account. In other words, the Commonwealth instructs the States to allocate at least 30 per cent of the money they receive to the home builders’ account. The total housing allocation in 1968-69 was $132.2m and of this amount $44. 9m was set aside in this special account, it is distributed differently in each State. For example, in New South Wales it is distributed basically to the terminating building societies, while a little goes to the Rural Bank of New South Wales. In Victoria the whole lot goes to the terminating building societies. In Queensland most of it goes to the terminating building societies and a small amount to the permanent building societies. In Western Australia the amount available is cut down the middle. In other words, 50 per cent goes to the terminating building societies and the other 50 per cent goes to the permanent building societies. In South Australia since 1956 there have been 3 permanent building societies which draw substantially from this fund and the remainder goes to the State Bank. In Tasmania the money is distributed among the agricultural banks and the terminating building societies.
What are the terms of these loans? If one looks at the terminating building societies one finds that the maximum loan, particularly in New South Wales, is $9,600. ]f one repays that loan over a period of 31 years the monthly repayment is $81. I spoke earlier about the average weekly earnings in this country; they are $77 a week. But when we take into consideration that the loan is only $9,600 and when we realise that the average cost of a block of land and dwelling throughout Australia is at least $14,000, we see that the person who obtains this loan still has to find between $4,000 and $5,000 for the deposit gap. This is another problem that has to be faced by this Government because young people today cannot get a home.
As honourable members know, the interest rate charge of permanent building societies was recently put up by 4 per cent. What does that increase mean? On a loan of $12,000 from a permanent building society repaid over a period of 25 years it means an increase of $1,180 over the life of the loan or an increase in repayment of nearly $4 a month. In fact, under this Government the rate of interest charged by permanent building societies has increased from 6 per cent in June 1964 to at least 8 per cent. In some cases it is 8± or 8i per cent. But assuming it is charged at a rate of 8 per cent, what does this mean? It means an increase of $4,590 over the life of a loan, or approximately an increase of $15 a month in repayment. What chance have young people to meet the commitments necessary to buy a home?
This Government has the temerity to say that it is going to give special consideration to the low cost housing. Why, even on the overall question of home building there was a shortage of 8,000 homes this year and the estimate is that there will be 16,000 homes short next year. If there are special circumstances because of which the rural sector can receive special consideration, it is about time the home building sector of the building industry was given special consideration. 1 want to know why it cannot get special consideration. This consideration is long overdue. Young people who purchase land are being fleeced by land speculators, f have no doubt that the honourable member who is to follow me in this debate and who has had great experience in the real estate sector will say that all is well. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) has been a great supporter of the Government over the last 20 years and he will say that all is well and there is no need to have any real raidcal change. I believe that he is completely wrong. In fact, young people just cannot afford to purchase a block of land. We think that the interest rates charged on the purchase of a home are high but if people want to go and buy a block of land it will cost them !3£ per cent in interest charges. They have to deal not with the banking institutions but with the fringe institutions. In this day and age 13* per cent is the lowest interest rate one can pay to buy a block of land. 1 want to analyse this position of the category in which a young person can purchase a home today. I put a question on the notice paper. A reply has been given to me by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) representing the Minister for Housing. I asked: ls the Minister able to say what weekly income is necessary as a pre-requisite to obtaining a $12,000 loan over 25 years from a permanent building society.
The building societies require a person to have a certain income before they will grant a loan. They do not assess it on the joint income of a young couple, because it is possible that after a short period of time the young lady may become pregnant and a child will be on the way. Therefore she would not be able to continue to work. So the societies assess it only on the male’s earning capacity and they assess it as near as possible to what they say is 25 per cent. According to my calculations, and I have recorded them in Hansard, a person with a $12,000 loan to buy a home and a block of land pays §92 a month for 25 years. In this case the Minister has given me 3 interest rates. At 7i per cent the borrower has to have a weekly income of S82. If he pays 8 percent interest has has to have a weekly income of $85. If he is paying 81 per cent interest he has to have a weekly income of $89. As I said’ earlier, the average weekly earning is $77; 65 per cent of all wage earners receive less than the average weekly earnings.
I know that the honourable member for Bennelong would like to deal with the question of interest rates. In 1964 a couple paid interest of $11,195 on a $12,000 loan. In other words, interest nearly doubled the amount. For a loan of $12,000 they paid back $23,195 over 25 years. But on today’s assessment a person will pay $15,785 in interest alone on a $12,000 loan or a total of $27,785. That is what the increase is today. Where one paid $77 a month in June 1964 one now pays up to $92 a month, which is an increase of $15 a month in repayments. In the last few seconds I have to speak here today I would like to tell the Government that it is about time it stopped this hypocrisy and got down to basic truths. It is time the Government examined the real problems of young people and gave them a fair go. Low cost housing should be made available at interest rates of at most 3 per cent. Special consideration is needed. It is about time that the Government gave a better and fairer deal to those people who want to build their own homes.
– We have had a demonstration today of a little knowledge being dangerous. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), had he been fully aware of the circumstances, would not have made some of his statements. Interest is a commodity and, like other commodities, it has increased in value. But during the period of which he spoke, from 1946 to today, the basic wage has risen 5 or 6 times. I do not agree with the rise in the interest rate, but the hon ourable member conveniently forgot to tell the House that at the end of 25 years the person who elects to pay rent has nothing to show for his weekly outlay which is very much bigger than that of the person who purchases a house. The former has paid all his money away in rent and has no home. The person who purchased his home and paid it off by instalments has an asset which will appreciate in value over the years to about $20,000 to $25,000. The honourable member, either is ignorant of these facts or is misleading the House.
The special account has been desirable in the past, but I think the time has now arrived when we have to give consideration to the low wage earner and the person with four or five children. The honourable member asked how people on low incomes can be accommodated in the purchase of their homes. As far as New South Wales is concerned, I would say that there is no better method of purchasing a home for people on low wages and with limited resources than by purchasing through the Housing Commission of New South Wales. The Commission’s homes are reasonable. They are built to a very high standard. The surroundings are quite good. Allowing for the pride in ownership of a home that a person takes, these homes are quite satisfactory. In Housing Commission areas not many amenities such as swimming pools and public halls are provided. This is unfortunate. The people who designed and organised these homes were wanting in their regard to the social amenities to which people in this day and age are entitled.
The honourable member referred to Green Valley and such places. They are the outcome of a Socialist government, whose ideas have unfortunately been carried on by a Liberal government. The great sprawl that we have witnessed in the metropolitan area of Sydney should never have taken place. Years ago I fought strongly for and recommended that new cities and new towns be established. If one wants any idea of the efficacy of that statement one just needs to look around Canberra to see what can be done by proper organisation and planning. But what did we see in New South Wales? We saw the advent of the Cumberland County Council which took away the farm lands within a 25 mile radius of Sydney. It put an embargo on thousands of blocks of land in many streets where there was water and electricity reticulation. To this very day thousands of blocks of land that were subdivided prior to the war are lying idle while young married couples are denied the right to their own homes. This situation has been brought about by a Socialist government and sad to relate continued by a Liberal government not abolishing the scheme initiated by the government from which it took over.
These circumstances are outside the control of this Government. I do hope and trust that great thought will be given to preventing this wretched urban sprawl in which necessary services must be provided over 30 miles to 35 miles whereas beautiful cities in which people would need to travel no more than 4 miles to 5 miles to reach the centre of each city could have been established. With respect to these seaboard cities in Australia, such as Sydney, which spread out to the west, to the north and to the south, we see the high cost involved in building facilities to provide essential services such as water supply and sewerage, and railways and transport systems. The costs involved are huge. In my area, 7,000 people leave the station at Seven Hills between the hours of 7 and 8 in the morning to travel 20 miles to 30 miles to their places of employment. If this is planning, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know what the word means.
This situation has been thrust upon us by people who. are not aware fully of the circumstances and to whom people do not matter. Mention to a planning authority officer the subject of people and he will laugh. Other than people, what is planning necessary for? To planning authorities people are just chessmen to be passed over on the board. It is time that we came to a realisation as to what is happening. We see ugly concrete jungles erected in a city such as Sydney. We see huge wastage of money when, within 12 miles of the city, expressways are built. Before those expressways are completed, they are out of date.
Instead of expenditure being wasted in that way, less could have been spent to establish cities on our coast and in the centre of New South Wales. These would be cities of which we could have been proud and where areas of population could be well separated. When one reflects that these things are happening in a nuclear age, one wonders at the capacity of these planners to think. The explosion of one atomic bomb in the area and Newcastle and Sydney would be devastated. Nobody can dismiss my suggestion when we live in such a tortuous world by saying that such a thing will not happen. I remind the House that 10 years ago China did not have an atomic warhead. Now it has nuclear warheads. By our planning we are making possible this type of devastation that I have mentioned. An enemy would not need to allow even for a margin of error because we have allowed this intensified conglomeration of concrete and jungle to be constructed.
Why did this state of affairs come about? It came about because we have not found an Australian character. Unless an item is imported, it is of no prestige, lt is about time that we became Australia and Australian. Our system of planning is no different from other systems. Planning systems must be imported. Everything, to be worthy of prestige, has to be imported. We have imported the stupid idea of big cities from the older countries of the world. This development occurred at the time of the industrial revolution. England was a beautiful country with its cities well separated.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I would suggest that the honourable member is getting a little wide of the provisions of the Bill. 1 ask that (he honourable member return to the matter of housing.
– Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am telling of housing. I am informing the House what we could have had but for the wasteful thinking of our planners. The money that we are supplying is being expended on this terrific sprawl and ugliness that has been presented to us by socalled planners. But, out of respect for you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not proceed on this point although I would have liked to have shown how the concept of cities of great mass emanated from the industrial revolution. We have followed suit. Now we are paying the penalty.
The penalty is being paid by those to whom more consideration should be given. T refer to the low wage earner and to the young married couple who are rearing 4 or 5 children. In New South Wales, the burden that these people must carry has been caused by planning. There are thousands of blocks of land in my area which, if they had been free and no embargo had been placed on them by the Cumberland County Council and the State Planning Authority worthy Australians - worthy young people - would have been able to buy for £200 to £300 a block, that is, $400 to $600 a block. But this opportunity was denied to these people because of the advent of the Cumberland County Council and the State Planning Authority.
Since 1951. when land could be purchased in North Parramatta for $500 a block, we find that a block of land cannot be purchased today at Smithfield, Fairfield or in some portions of the Blacktown municipality for less than $10,000 a block. These prices are artificial and arranged all because the old fashioned law of supply and demand was not permitted to prevail. If all the land that was available had been sold without any embargo, young married couples would have been able to purchase lots for not more than $2,000 to $2,500 each. These are the facts of lift. If the honourable member for Reid wants any tuition in and a full appreciation and understanding of these problems, I will be pleased to tutor him on them. 1 have had tremendous experience in this respect. I have had the great joy and privilege of seeing low wage earners being able to occupy 2,000 homes. I supervised this and, through the bank for which I worked, I found the money with which these homes were built. 1 am speaking in this regard about a matter of which I have full and ample knowledge.
Reference might be made to the high cost of building. But, in this respect, we must have regard to the standard of improvement in homes and domestic appliances. We have seen this standard of improvement reflected in all rooms in a home including the bathroom. There is a general appreciation of the better type of home that has been erected over the last 5 years to 7 years. The real agony is caused because of the high cost of land. In Sydney where the State Planning Authority should control such matters, we find the autonomous Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, with reserves and investments valued at $132m while hundreds of homes go without water and hundreds of homes are without sewerage, exercising this control. The Board has this colossal amount of $132m lying idle while people still want water and sewerage services.
The existing housing agreement ls an excellent one. The current 5-year agreement is drawing to a close. When we are making agreements with the States to cover the next 5 years I do trust that we will do everything possible to make it easier for the person on a low wage to buy a home. 1 trust the Commonwealth Government will take over the building of Service homes under the guidance of its own department. I think this is necessary because we should have individuality in design. If we mass produce homes there is always a tendency towards sameness and likeness and monotony, especially when homes that are erected by only one authority. 1 trust that Service homes will be of individual designs and that, for the convenience of the serving personnel, they will be in areas near to barracks, camps, naval depots and other such places. The present agreement has been achieved in spite of some disagreement. There has. of course, never been an agreement prepared that has not, but in a general way it has met a very difficult situation. As we move into the 1970s we will find that the agreement of 1955-66 is not the type of agreement that will be for the betterment of those people wanting houses. For those reasons we should give the matter very serious consideration and I trust that the Minister will meet the housing committee of the Government parties so that we can go into this matter very fully and give it the consideration and thought that it deserves. I commend the Bill for what it is doing in regard to housing.
– I have enjoyed the remarks of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). I think it is a tribute to him as a man who is probably in his mid-70s that he is able to speak with such eloquence, indeed with more eloquence than anybody else on the Government side and in such a visionary way. I think it is a tribute to his alertness. lt, is unfortunate that there are too many others dragging the chain about this matter and who lack those visionary qualities. I am pleased that the honourable member has kept up to date with things. I gained the impression today that he had been listening to speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) about acceptance of responsibility for urban affairs generally. He knows that whilst on one side of this House, the Government side, there is no preparedness to accept responsibility about these matters there has been on the other side of the House, the side led by the Leader of the Opposition, a clear-cut, unambiguous enunciation of the Australian Labor Party’s intention to underwrite local government authorities and State governments in their determination to give people the type of service which the honourable member for Mitchell referred to.
I am pleased that the honourable member made mention of the artificial shortage of land because this also indicates that he is keeping up with his reading. It was only a matter of weeks ago that my colleague the honourable member for Chiflley (Mr Armitage) initiated a debate about this matter. I see the honourable member smiling. I think he has been doing a bit of lifting here, or perhaps the two honourable members are working together as they represent neighbouring electorates. I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Chiflley for initiating the consideration of that matter of the artificial shortage of land. The big developers - and I am referring to L. J. Hooker Ltd and Parkes Developments Pty Ltd and people of this kind - are taking up large areas on an option basis and holding them until the price moves. The young people, of course, are the victims.
The honourable member for Mitchell has made some reference to the need for the State housing authorities to engage in the forward acquisition of land. I commend him for this too. It mst be an embarrassment to him that the Government of which he is a supporter has not shown any interest in this over the years that it has been in office. The honourable member would be as aware as I am of the Sydney Region Outline Plan which is a report by the State Planning Authority of New South Wales made in March 1968. This is a very farseeing report. The Authority has been operating for some time now under the Liberal Government of New South Wales and it has objectively set out to plan the development of Sydney for the future. The Report makes reference to the enormous growth that will take place in various regions of Sydney.
I want to refer to a part of the Report which has a bearing on my own electorate. The State Planning Authority has, in this Sydney Region Outline Plan, made a very strong recommendation to the Government’ that it should move towards the shifting of the defence area which is in the southern part of Sydney and which comprises about 85 square miles of land. The area in question is probably within 20 miles of Sydney. I think that all honourable members know that Sydney’s population is expected to rise by close to 3 million in the next 30 years. That is, Sydney will have about 5 million people. I agree with the comments made by the honourable member for Mitchell that there ought to be attempts to decentralise and to provide new housing regions in other parts of Australia. But there is insufficient initiative being given in this. The State Planning Authority says that even if those endeavours were proceeded with the natural growth and expansion of Sydney would necessitate more land being made available. It has strongly advocated in this printed report that 85 square miles of land in close proximity to Sydney should be released for the establishment of a planned community, the kind of planning concept referred to by the honourable member for Mitchell. The Report contends that if this area were released, by the removal of the defence activities to another area, it would result in the housing of no fewer than one quarter of a million people. In addition the report indicates that a large suitable area could be made available for industrial development on a planned industrial garden basis providing job opportunities for 40.000 people.
There have been recommendations from other quarters as a result of a special committee established by the New South Wales Parliament. It has been recommended that a university should be set up in the southern part of Sydney, and in this area of 85 square miles, if it were acquired for Housing Commission purposes and the other purposes to which I referred, a 200-acre site could be provided for a university and teacher’s college facilities which already are necessary in that area and which are bound to become increasingly necessary as time goes by. This proposal has already had the support of local government authorities in that region. The Hurstville. Kogarah, Sutherland and Liverpool Councils and everybody who is close to the State Planning Authority and who knows something about its recommendations realise that here is a chance to break this artificial land shortage and to give the young people of Sydney and of New South Wales opportunities to get land at reasonable prices and opportunities to get Housing Commission homes at reasonable prices. The report was brought down by experts. Not long ago in the Parliament 1 asked the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who is in charge of Commonwealth property, whether he was aware of the subject matter of this report that the military area of some 85 square miles should be relocated. To everybody’s surprise he indicated that he did not know where the land was: He was not even sure that the military area was south of Sydney. What kind of progress will we make when authorities apply themselves to planning considerations that are necessary to obviate and prevent the kind of inadequate development that has been referred to, if Ministers responsible do not even know of the existence of areas which are the subject of important recommendations or even of the existence of these reports?
The Government stands condemned for its failure to do what the honourable member for Mitchell has been talking about. He made mention of sewage problems, and I do not want to discuss this matter except to say that as a Commonwealth Parliament we should no longer close our eyes to the fact that there are more people without sewerage in every capital city today than was the case 20 years ago. In the great metropolitan area of Sydney some 750,000 people who have the benefit of a water service are not connected to sewerage. The poor old water boards - it does not matter whether it is the board in Sydney or the board in Melbourne or elsewhere - are up to their necks in debt. I know that some 54 per cent of the income of the Sydney Water Board is expended to liquidate previous loans. In the face of this kind of problem it is highly unsatisfactory that the Government should continue with its indifferent attitude.
We are talking about the allocation of funds for loan housing purposes for the present year. It has’ been -mentioned that this is the last year of a 5-year Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The allocation is part of the $823m agreed upon last June at the Australian Loan Council meeting as the total allocation to the States for works and housing. The State Premiers contend, of course, that the amount for housing is clearly inadequate but that it can bc increased only at the expense of their already under-financed works programme. It is confidently predicted that the number of outstanding applications with the various State housing authorities will continue to expand rather than diminish. Figures made available by the Minister, and which appear in Hansard of 12th June 1970, show that in New South Wales there are 28,591 outstanding Housing Commission applications; in Victoria, 14,295; in Queensland, 4,305; in South Australia, 10,000; in Western Australia, 17,228 and in Tasmania, 2,445. That is to say, at June 1970 there were 76,864 outstanding applications with State housing authorities. Of course, that figure does not mean very much. It only indicates the number of applicants for highly essential housing, because so many are discouraged from even putting in an application. In many of the States there is a means test. Time will not permit me to outline the details of the means test but it is a most frugal means test which deters people from making applications to State housing authorities. We have an enormous and increasing number of families waiting long periods for homes. These are the families that are accepted as bona fide applicants and who, because of their financial circumstances, would have difficulty attracting finance to build or purchase from any other source.
The startling fact is that the number of outstanding applications Ls increasing annually. In the 12 months period to 30th June 1969 the number of outstanding applications rose by 1,699 in New South Wales, 255 in Queensland, 2,600 in South Australia, 1,188 in Western Australia and 106 in Tasmania. In other words, last year there was an increase of 5,848 in the total number of outstanding applications for State housing authority assistance. The net effect is a sharp deterioration rather than the alleviation which is so urgent. On the figures that are available it must be conceded that State housing is being phased out by the Government. I want to substantiate that point. From a peak output of 17,959 houses and flats completed in 1954-55 by State housing authorities there has been a steady drop to an alarmingly low output of 12,305 for the year 1968-69. I know that the Government has never embraced enthusiastically the philosophy of assisted housing. In each successive 5-year agreement following the original agreement, which was the creation of the Chifley Government, there has been a substantial, conceptual degeneration of Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements. There has been a whittling away of such significant aspects as the rental rebate scheme which, I think, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) mentioned earlier and which was designed to vary the degree of rental assistance according to the degree of hardship. That no longer operates under the present agreement. Requirements were imposed by the Commonwealth which diverted money for housing for low income families: 30 per cent of the funds made available was to be diverted to building societies and a further 10 per cent was to provide houses for serving members of the Forces. These matters, in my view, needed attention but they should have been attended to without making inroads into the limited housing opportunities available to low income families.
What is the final effect of this deliberate and continuing policy of sabotaging and undermining State housing in Australia? The answer is available in stark statistical form which will stand forever as an indictment of this Government for its indifference to the housing needs of the less privileged people in Australia. Houses completed by State housing authorities are now a smaller part of Australia’s total housing output then ever before. In 1949-50 State authorities provided 17.6 per cent of all houses completed in Australia. In successive years the percentages were 18.1; 17.5; 20.5; 22.3 and 22. In 1955-56 the percentage was 20.4, but then the slide commenced and it has declined steadily. In 1969 it reached the lowest ever rate of 9.7 per cent. That is, from a peak of 22.3 per cent in 1953-54 State housing completions have fallen, as a proportion of total Australian housing completions, to 9.7 per cent
This Government’s policy of curtailing effective federal aid for housing is against the trend in other countries. I am afraid that I will not have much time to refer to this aspect but I would mention a fact which is reported in the United States News & World Report’ of 15th June 1970. The publication states:
Today, 1 in 47 Americans lives in a dwelling subsidised by federal, State or local government.
In 8 years, under targets adopted by Congress, more than 24 million Americans will live in subsidised units - about one-ninth of the total US population projected for 1978.
So whilst there is in Australia a diminution of our involvement in State housing - it is on the skids and going down as fast as can be - we find that in other comparable countries such as the United States which I have just mentioned, but there are others which I could mention if more time were available, housing is being considered more and more in the welfare context and greater assistance is being given to people to overcome the competitive situation regarding the availability of finance.
The State Premiers have asked for a number of matters to be considered in the formulation of the new CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. The State Housing Ministers met in Brisbane in July 1968 and carried 5 resolutions. They want more aid to be given for low rental housing for aged persons. They want provisions similar to those provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. They want the State, governments to be assisted in this field on a $2 for $1 subsidy basis. Instead, the Commonwealth’s answer was to offer the States $25m over 5 years. That was to cover all the States. Of course, in the face of the demand for aged persons housing, this amount will be grossly inadequate.
Then the State Housing Mininster. proposed that persons in Housing Commission homes should receive assistance under the homes savings grant scheme. At the moment if persons expend their finance on the acquisition of a home from a State housing authority they do not receive any benefit under the provisions of the Homes Savings Grant Act. The State Housing Ministers also made strong representations about the need to eliminate the provisions which divert some of the money provided under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to the provision of houses for members of the defence forces. Then more importantly, they asked for assistance to be given for urban development. They said that urgent assistance is required on a national level for what they regard as a very significant matter - the provision of proper planning facilities and of aid to urban affairs generally.
We have come to the parting of the waters. We are in the process of implementing a new 5-year Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I hope that some of the concepts to which reference has been made this afternoon, and on many occasions by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in enunciating Labor’s policy will be incorporated in the Agreement which will have, as its philosophical basis, care and compassion for the people in need in this country who are unable to meet the demands of the money sharks who are allowed to prevail under this Government. In this way housing will be made available under decent conditions for all sections of our community, whether they be young married couples, aged persons or anybody else.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This afternoon we have listened to the usual speeches that we hear from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), both of whom take a lively interest - and it is good to see that they do - in this question of housing. 1 have taken part in this kind of debate for about 21 years. We are discussing the allocation of money under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. T take it that if there were a change of Government the honourable member for Reid would be the Minister for Housing. If his only ideas on housing are those which he expressed when we have debates on housing that would be pathetic for Australia. But 1 do not think that there is any chance of his becoming Minister for Housing because the people are not so foolish as to give him the opportunity to do so.
I have been thinking about this question, and really I do not want to talk for very long on it. Labor’s complaints about housing can be summarised in a number of points. Firstly, honourable members opposite talk about a shortage of accommo dation. I wonder whether they are able to analyse this question. Actually, in Australia today we have an abundance of housing to meet the requirements of the population if we consider the matter from the point of view of the units or houses available compared with the population and apply the usual formula of a unit to every 2i to 3 people. By doing that one can see that there is ample accommodation in Australia. But many unusual things happen in a time of prosperity. I have been in the housing business for so long that I know that the demand for accommodation is a fluctuating thing. The demand rises and falls with fluctuations in the affluence of the community.
Today there are tens of thousands of young girls in the community who get together in groups and rent a unit or flat. Also, young men leave home and can afford to set themselves up in a house. This leaves vacant space in the home. This is going on in ali of our cities and it is creating a sort of artificial shortage of housing. I have said before in this House that there is only one real problem in housing - and to the credit of the honourable member for Reid, he mentioned it - and that is the provision of suitable housing for the low income group in the community.
Do not let anybody get the idea that the standard of housing in Australia is low by world standards. This is not so. As a matter of fact, the standard of housing in Australia is far superior to that in the United States of America, which is one of the richest countries. Only recently I had an American staying with me and he expressed surprise at the standard of housing in Australia. Of course, the standard has risen in recent years. Labor always creates the impression that there are many applicants waiting for Housing Commission homes. This is not a true measure of the shortage of accommodation because a great number of people who apply for Housing Commission homes already are housed although perhaps not as well as they would be if they were in a new Housing Commission home. Great numbers of people are not really destitute for housing, although some are in great need of accommodation of that kind.
Labor says that more money should be made available for housing and that wider powers should be given to the Government to enable it to control housing, lt says that the Government should engage itself even more actively than it does today in the field of housing. Labor says that if it were in power it would supply this money and the Government would operate in this way.
Honourable members opposite have referred to land prices. I wonder whether they really know the cause of the very high land prices in Australia. Land prices in the city of Sydney have increased pro rata to a greater extent than they have in most other cities in Australia, and there is a reason for this. There has been too much government control over the availability of land in Sydney. This happened because of the operations of the Cumberland County Council, to which my friend the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) referred this afternoon. When Labor was in government in New South Wales it introduced the grandiose scheme of providing a green bell around Sydney. This included enormous areas of land that were not made available to the people! It was . a magnificent idea but it broke down because the pressure upon it later forced the release of the land. Then, of course, we had the present State Planning Authority and with great respect to the Authority, it has been a main contributor to the rising costs of land in the city of Sydney.
There are other factors bearing upon this, many of which date back to Labor control in the past. Labor destroyed, for instance, the incentive tq invest in land by its control system and by the perpetuation of its control system after the war, because even when the wage pegging was lifted and the price controls were lifted it still kept this artificial control upon rents under the rent control system in New South Wales. This had the effect on people who invested for their old age in houses and this kind of investment of destroying that incentive for investment. The people disposed of the houses because of the low incomes from them. They got their capital back and invested it in other things. Running with this was the encouragement for what became fringe banking. We had investment in debentures and what have you, and the great hire purchase organisations grew up because of this controlled system by governments in a field where people’s savings, instead of going as of old into investment in land or rent producing property, went into these other avenues which then created another problem. We had an upsurge in the purchase of television sets and motor cars, one or two for each home, and that type of thing. So it went on, and the investments and savings of the people were diverted from the proper place.
As a result of this we had the great financial organisations buying up large areas of land and locking them up. Running along with this were other government controls, such as War Service Homes which bought big areas, and the housing commissions which bought up big areas. The poor fellow in the street had nowhere to go, and these people were able to lift the prices up to a point where they became uneconomic from the point of view of the individual. This process has been going on to a greater extent in Sydney and to some extent in each of the other cities until land prices have become out of hand. Prices could be reduced tomorrow if sufficient available land were released to bring about a competitive state so that the people would have to sell the land to get their capital back. Much has been made crf the question of interest rates. Interest rates were, of course, 3 per cent, and 1 notice the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) criticised this. He said that under the Chifley Government interest rates were only 3 per cent and under this Government they are 6 per cent. Could one imagine a more foolish statement to make? As though the Chifley Government had something to do with keeping the rate of interest down to 3 per cent.
– It did.
– It did not. I was Chairman of the Sydney County Council and went to America and borrowed S8.5m at 34- per cent and sold it at 101 in 1946. That was at the time Chifley was in power. This was the ruling rate of interest and that is the poInt. Today interest rates all over the world - and this Government has no control over it - have increased. This is a fact that one must face. It is foolish to blame a government for that sort of thing. Then the Opposition talks about the high cost of building, but this has gone up only in accordance with the increased cost of wages and the increased cost of materials, which have gone up because of the cost of wages and so forth. This is only in line with the normal increases in prices in every direction. Labor wants an extension of the housing commission idea into a huge building organisation. I, and I believe other members on this side of the House, am very much opposed to this idea. There is a place for the commission but its place should be confined in my opinion to the production of homes for very low income earners. Homes should be made available to them within their means. It would be interesting if one had time to go back over the history of housing, because I have a very clear recollection of the conditions which have existed in the last 40-odd years since I have been in the business. There has been no shortage of houses except on 2 occasions, one immediately after the First World War and immediately afterthe Second World War. But during the other periods there was a very full supply of homes and there was no finance available from any government anywhere in Australia. It was all done by private enterprise. Private finance was available.
As I said before, this was an avenue of investment for the people’s savings. Of course, the Labor Party has destroyed that and, I think, effectively destroyed it forever, although the permanent building societies are now encouraging further investment of savings. We well recollect that on the origination of this agreement that we are talking about under the postwar reconstruction plan of the Labor Party it was never intended by the Labor Party that we would have in the future the right to private ownership of homes at all. Under MrDedman - I. do not like to repeat this always - who was the Minister for Post War Reconstruction immediately following the war, a scheme was introduced in this Parliament for an Australian commission to deal with the question of housing, and under that scheme no provision whatever was made for encouraging home ownership in Australia. When challenged on it by the then Opposition the Minister’s answer contained those famous words: ‘We do not want to build up in this country little capitalists’. I do want to build up little capitalists. I think they are the best possible kind of citizens.
This Government’s record is very good indeed. It has encouraged home ownership to the point where it is at the highest level in the world.It has introduced a scheme, which is growing every year, for the provision of homes for the aged. Under this scheme it gives a subsidy of $2 for every $1 self-help by whatever organisation likes to start a scheme. This is growing year by year and providing homes for the aged people. The homes saving grant scheme which was initiated by this Government is a magnificent scheme and an encouragement to young people to save the deposit for when they get married and want to start buying a home. All these matters are directed towards the encouragement of home ownership which in our opinion is the best kind of community to develop. Another scheme this Government has introduced is the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. This scheme effectively enables home buyers to bridge the deposit gap. The premium on a total loan for 30 years, or however many years it is, is at the rate of only11/2 per cent, which is added to the loan and is included inthe weekly payments the home owner makes. This is a splendid thing because it enables building societies to insure their loans. This enables building societies to make an advance of up to 95 per cent ofthe value of a home. Of course, this means that it is within the ability of the average worker to aspire to, and indeed, to acquire, his own home. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is designed in such a way that it does not make a profit. The Corporation must create proper reserves but it does not seek a profit and to the average working man in Australia and the average person on medium and low incomes this is a magnificent encouragement to own his own home because he can obtain finance on a very low deposit. This works hand in hand with the building society movement in Australia, particularly the permanent building society movement.
As honourable members know, there are 2 types of building societies. Firstly, there arc the terminating societies which are very good and which obtain money from insurance companies and banks. The loans given by these societies terminate over a given number of years. Terminating societies are quite good and their interest rate is perhaps a little lower. But the permanent building society is a vehicle for encouraging people to invest their savings. Some people invest their savings in the anticipation that they will want to borrow from the building society when they want to purchase their own home. Others do it purely as an investment and others because of some national spirit. These building societies are controlled by people who are dedicated to assisting people. Although the directors of the societies perhaps receive a few pence in fees the societies are non-profit making organisations. They are run in a co-operative manner and people today are given 6i per cent interest on their money. This is a very good rate of interest and the money that is invested can be withdrawn at any time. As I have said before in this House, I know of no organisation better suited for saving than the permanent building societies. Investment in permanent building societies enables funds to be available for people, and particularly those on low incomes, who can borrow up to 95 per cent of the cost of their home at a reasonable rate of interest. The interest rate was increased recently but I hope and I believe that this rate will shortly be decreased. Therefore, I say that this Government has done a very good job in the field of housing. This is an interesting field and I could speak at great length on it. However, I. am sorry to see that my time has almost expired. I sincerely hope that when we come to consider the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement we will look at housing in a proper light and that we will see that the Agreement provides homes for people on low incomes.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I seem to be destined to always speak after the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). I must say once again, as I did last time I spoke after the honourable gentleman, that whilst I have a great deal of personal regard and consideration for him I must take him to task for some of the statements he made. For example, the honourable member stated that there is not any real housing shortage. He also said that the figures of the New South Wales Housing Commission over-estimate the housing shortage. The contrary is the case. I do not think there is any doubt that many people who know that the wail for a Housing Commission home will be 4 or 5 years do not bother to go along to the Commission and put their names down. Therefore, the figures quoted by previous speakers on this side of the House in regard to Housing Commission statistics underestimate the housing shortage in New South Wales. I suggest that the honourable member for Bennelong should get a little bit up to date. I believe he is losing touch. The honourable member should mix around. In particular he should mix with the younger people in our community who are trying to obtain housing or trying, as the honourable member said, to become little capitalists and own their own home. The honourable member should find out how impossible the situation is today for a young married couple, unless they are very fortunate in regard to their economic circumstances, to own a home. These people have a great problem because of the deposit gap which they have to meet if they can get finance. A great body of these people have found finance virtually impossible to obtain from building societies, banks and the like. Far too many of them are being forced into the hands of private money lenders who are charging extortionate rates of interest.
I know of a young couple who recently purchased a home with temporary finance which was obtained at a 15 per cent flat rate of interest. That is a ridiculous position. I suggest to the honourable member that he should get more in touch with those young people and mix around with them.
– Consider the age of both of them. They are both over 70.
– The honourable member for Bennelong should come out to my area and have a look at Blacktown, Seven Hills and places like that. This is one of the youngest areas that one could possibly find. The honourable member for Reid, who just interjected was correct when he made the point that the 2 honourable members from the other side of the House who have spoken on this matter are both over 70 years of age. Therefore, they would find it difficult to understand the problems which face the younger people today.
I believe we must look at the cause of the downturn in home building, particularly over the last year or so. Honourable members will recollect that the Reserve Bank of Australia recently, in 2 lots of i per cent, called in from the trading banks a total of 1 per cent of their deposits. The money called in was put into the statutory reserve deposits of the Reserve Bank. This was done at a time when the liquidity of the trading banks was being pressed because of the downturn in the rural sector of the economy. In other words, there was a demand upon the trading banks to assist rural industry because of a depression in our rural areas. Therefore, the Government, through its organisation the Reserve Bank, called in deposits of 1 per cent to be placed into the statutory reserve deposits and this happened at the very time when there was a depression in the rural sector of the economy. As I have said before, a demand was made on the trading banks to assist in this regard. As a result, the trading banks had to make a choice and the easiest sector of the economy to hit and to refuse advances to was the housing sector which included building societies which required finance. Also, individual customers who required finance were refused advances.
For this reason I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) on 18th June of this year and I pointed out to him the facts that I have just stated. By the way, the Treasurer did hot question those facts. In my letter I asked:
I would like to have your comments as to whether this would be a good time to release a proportion of the statutory reserve deposits and, at the same time, issue a Reserve Bank directive to trading banks on lending policy, which would ensure that the housing industry received a reasonable proportion of this release.
This is the way to overcome some of the dearth of housing finance. I received a rather long-winded reply from the Treasurer. He did not argue against the proposal that I had put up. Not for one moment did he argue that it would not help housing. He argued only whether June was the right time to do what I suggested. Most of us have read in the Press only today that a downturn is now taking place in the inflationary movement. We know also that there has been a downturn in housing.
Surely this is the time for the Government to act and to release a proportion of the statutory reserve deposits held by the Reserve Bank and at the same time to give a Reserve Bank directive to the banks that that release should be channelled into the housing sector, not the building sector as a whole. As pointed out in the ‘Australian* of 28th July, today there is a boom in commercial building and building of that type, but the depression exists in the housing sector. In an article in the ‘Australian’ of 28th July headed ‘Boom in Office Building; Credit Squeeze Hits only Finance for Homes’ it is stated:
The number of new houses and flats approved in May and June is down 23 per cent on the first 4 months of 1970, after seasonal adjustment.
At the same time the value of commercial and industrial building approvals is up 35 per cent in the June quarter compared with the same period last year.
In the year to 30th June the value of approvals for hotels, hostels, etc., jumped 94 per cent to $97m, while office approvals rose 80 per cent to $231m.
This sector of the building industry appears to have been hardly affected at all by the credit squeeze, and will tend to take up some of the resources of labour and capital released by the decline in the home building sector.
I think it is obvious that there is a need to shift the emphasis away from commercial building and industrial building and to use in home building the men and resources available. The use of the statutory reserve deposits held by the Reserve Bank is one of the most effective methods that could be employed. I do not think very many people would deny that there is an extraordinary lack of finance available from building societies. Yet it is only through the banks and the building societies that we can help our younger people to obtain homes instead of forcing them into the hands of private money lenders, as is happening today.
I think there is also a need to review completely the homes savings grant legislation. This legislation should be used to overcome the deposit gap and to save young people to some extent from the second mortgages of the money lenders I have already mentioned, who charge extortionately high interest rates. But unfortunately there is a jungle of technicalities in the legislation which one cannot help but suspect is deliberately designed to prevent applicants from qualifying for a homes savings grant. There is a lack of discretionary power for the Minister to act in respect of those technicalities, and there is little doubt that a large proportion of people who should qualify, if the intention of the legislation as announced on the eve of an election campaign were implemented, cannot qualify simply because of those technicalities.
I would like to deal now with a very important issue, and that is the fact that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement comes up for re-negotiation with the States in the coming year. As the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech, the allocation that is being made to the States under this Bill will be the last under the present Housing Agreement. 1 would like to deal first of all with the question of Housing Commission areas. I believe that the time has arrived - and I ask that the Government consider these issues - for a .complete re-appraisal of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, particularly as it affects Housing Commission areas.
I believe it is time that, when there is an allocation of funds to build a housing area, a package deal should be given. That package deal should cover not only the acquisition of land and the building of the houses but also should go on to help build a community with a decent quality of life. I believe that it should provide for the allocation of local government finance for ovals, community centres and the like. It should provide for the essential finance for education so that the needs of education in these Housing Commission areas can be met. I can quote as an example Mount Druitt where classes in the schools are overloaded and where schools that are only months old or a year old already have temporary buildings. There is a decisive lack of the necessary educational opportunities in- those areas.
The package deal should provide also for improved transport services. I give as an example here the Western Suburbs railway line in Sydney. Because of the Mount Druitt, Marayong, Seven Hills and Lalor Park Housing Commission areas the western line is reaching complete saturation, and the time is very close when governments will just have to look at the problem of people being left on the stations in the mornings because the trains simply cannot carry them. There is chaos on the Western Suburbs railway line. The issue has to be faced up to by governments. Therefore the package deal should cover not only local government finance and finance for education but also finance for improved transport services.
The package deal should provide also for financial incentives to industry to move into these areas. Industries could be attracted to these areas if they were offered cheap money by way of interest rebates, cheaper land and freight rebates for limited periods on the understanding that they would set up in the new developing areas. This in itself would overcome 2 basic problems. It would help to overcome the problem of transport which I have just mentioned, because local employment would be available, and at the same time it would also make sure that local employment was available for the people in these areas. Constituents of mine have to go from Mount Druitt right into the city in the very early hours of the morning to their places of employment, and they get back home very late at night. We must keep in mind that both husband and wife have to do this in these areas because, under the economic set-up of this Government, there have to be two breadwinners instead of one in a family.
I also think that the renegotiated housing agreement should also provide for far more emphasis upon housing for the aged. One can quote all the statistics one likes, but the fact is that the statistics of the New South Wales Housing Commission show - 1 could be subject to correction as to the exact time - that there is a waiting period of approximately 5 years for entry into an aged person’s home. But these statistics do not take into account the great mass of elderly people who are living in degrading conditions today and who simply do not apply for admission to homes for the aged because they know that it could happen that by the time their date of allocation comes up they will not be alive. The statistics therefore completely underestimate the number of people who are waiting. I think that there should not be such large mass Housing Commission areas but that these areas should be integrated into other private housing areas. For example, persons entering most of the new housing commission areas in New South Wales today are subject to a means test, and therefore the people in them are on largely similar incomes, instead of being integrated into communities of varying income groups.
This is .not a good social base upon which Commission areas should be set up, and although it would be far more expensive to do what I suggest I nevertheless think we should revert to the methods used in the earlier years under Labor government, when the Housing Agreement first came into effect, and when the Housing Commission areas were integrated into private housing districts. I think this would mean the integration of communities and although it would be more expensive it would be a far more socially acceptable proposition. So 1 call for a consideration of these various requirements and needs in the renegotiation of the Housing Agreement with the States. I think that all these things are necessary. The Housing Commission should not simply buy land and build houses. There is a need for package deals providing for transport, industry and employment, local government finance, finance for education and finance for transport. All these facilities are needed to build a community and not just a number of stark homes without the necessary community services around them. This is a very rich country. We have great mineral, rural and industrial wealth and yet we have this extraordinary situation in which a great body of our people, particularly the younger people, in our community are unable to own their own homes,, have to live with in-laws or. in flats and therefore cannot enjoy a real quality of life.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 notice that the members of the Opposition who have spoken on this Bill have been careful to compare the record of the Government with its previous achievements and not with the record of the last Labor Government. This was very wise of them because the record of the last Labor Government in housing compared with the record of this Government is very unfavourable indeed to Labor. A lot of honourable members who have been speaking were, of course, not in this House when the Labor Government was in office and therefore they have not had much experience of what Labor has done with housing.
It was refreshing to hear the praise for the United States of America by one member of the Opposition, but the statement made by that honourable member has never been confirmed by any member of this Parliament who has travelled overseas, nor by the tourists who always maintain that Australia gives opportunities in housing that far outstrip other countries. This applies not only to housing but also to many other things about which I will not go into fine detail. It is a well known fact that the proportion of people in Australia who own their own houses is probably higher than that in any other country in the world. Of course, statements such as that are in fact very hard to rebut.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned aged persons in connection with housing. No government has done more to provide our senior citizens with accommodation than this Government has. The Labor Government never gave a thought to legislation for homes for the aged. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) is now saying that certain people are not applying for accommodation in homes for the aged. Of course, honourable members opposite will not contradict me when 1 say that they did not apply at all for accommodation in homes for the aged when Labor was in office because there was no legislation to provide such homes. Labor did not have the imagination, the thought or, perhaps I could say, the compassion to bring forward such legislation as was brought forward in this House by the present Government some few years ago. This is tremendously important. I took a few notes of what the honourable member for Chifley said in regard to housing generally as far as Labor was concerned. He did not go into detail to tell us just what Labor did and what was the proportion of houses to population at that time. One has to measure it that way because the population of Australia today is ever so much greater than it was at that stage.
All of these things that we have heard from honourable members opposite about housing and other things became meaningless when we listened to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who opened this debate for the Opposition. I do not mind the honourable member for Reid making a speech and advocating that there be lower interest rates and all manner of things for housing. This is his right; he can do that. But as a member of the Australian Country Party and one who represents a vast primary producing area I do object to his comparing what the Government is doing for primary industry with what is being done for housing and then to make the statement - which 1 wrote down so I would not misquote him - that home builders really require assistance. After he had quoted certain amounts that had been allocated to primary industry to give it some assistance to overcome the problems which it faces as a result of drought and the loss of overseas markets he said: ‘The home builders really require assistance.’ I would challenge anybody in this House to debate the proposition that there is no section of the community at the present time that is so urgently in need of financial assistance as the primary producing sector. Surely the honourable member for Reid should know this.
After all, there is no comparison between the primary producing sector and the housing sector. Surely he should know this and not try to disparage, one might say, the great effort that the Government is making to try to bring primary industry to some sort of a level with secondary industry. Why, only yesterday in this House, I mentioned the widening gap between primary and secondary industries. I believe that people should have homes. Even when Labor was in office I bad to stress the need for housing when it was pointed out at that time that certain people in certain areas were living in garages, tents, etc. Members of the Labor Party today forget these things. They do not want to remember them. They forget them because, after all. they are playing politics on this question. As far as housing is concerned, I am not playing politics and I challenge any man to say that I am playing politics regarding primary industry because everywhere in the country we can see what is happening while the cities are booming. I just want to say that housing gives great opportunities for decentralisation. I think I quote the honourable member for Reid and the honourable member for Chifley quite correctly as saying that certain people are being pushed to the outskirts of metropolitan areas and have a long way to travel to get into the cities where they work. Look, whether these people are being pushed out into those areas or not, I do not agree wilh them being congregated nearer and nearer to the centre of our cities.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the House suspended for dinner I was about to wind up my speech. 1 would say now that 1 would like the Opposition to consider the points I have made. I never cease to marvel at some of the speeches made opposite. One day the members of the Opposition are speaking against smog and pollution and saying that if this continues we will not be able to live in the cities. In the next speech they say that they want high rise flats, that they want people to live nearer the centre of the cities so that they will not have to travel so far from the fringe of the metropolitan area to work in the factories. I believe that at the present time we have all the evidence, and we have the right, to put forward a proposal that will take people - and factories too - out of the cities. Only in this way can this country survive. More and more people are going to live in the cities. They cannot continue to do this without injuring themselves by smog and pollution and without upsetting the whole economy of this country.
Finally, let me say in summing up that we must at all limes consider the people of this nation. If, of their own inclination, they want to live in cities, they must be discouraged. We want to get them out where the fresh air and clear streams abound, for the good of their health and for the good of this nation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to be misrepresented on 2 aspects. The - first is that the honourable member for Mallee said that 1. did not make any comparison of the policy of the present Government with that of the previous Labor Government. 1 did. I clearly stated that the Chiflley Labor Government established the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreements under which loans, repayable in 53 years, were advanced to the States. The Agreement provided, as I said, that no tenant should have to pay more than one-fifth of his income in rent. 1 said that the interest rale under the Chifley Government was 3 per cent, and that steadily over the years these conditions have been eroded. The second aspect is in regard to my attitude to the rural sector. I said that last April the rural sector, after representations made by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Leader of the Australian Country Party, was able to receive special conditions from the Reserve Bank. I was making no criticism of that. What I was saying was that if there were conditions under which the rural sector could receive special consideration then we had amply the right to ask for special consideration for the home building section of the building industry.
– I cannot speak on a point of order so I shall take my part in the second reading debate. My memory is quite clear that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) condemned the Government for the amount of money that he said it handed out to rural industries. It was essentially on that point that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) took him up tonight, and on no other point. I think that needs to be recorded here and now. Tomorrow’s Hansard will bear witness to it.
Mr UREN (Reid)- All right; I will make a further personal explanation.
– Sit down.
– I will not sit down. I have certain basic rights. The further personal explanation is that at no time did I condemn the Government in respect of its attitudes. What I did was to read from a question on the notice paper on 22nd September to which I received a reply stating that the rural sector had been subsidised from $84m in 1965-66 to $215m in 1970-71. I then went on to say that at pages 66 and 67 of the Budget papers there were further direct and indirect taxation concessions to the rural sector. I did not use the word ‘condemnation’. I said that if it is good enough for the Government to do that in the rural sector it is good enough for it to help the people who really need homes - the people who have to build homes and the young people of this country. That is my attitude, and if honourable members examine Hansard they will find that clearly stated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Forbes) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1467), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I want to speak for a few minutes on this measure, which is a technical one. It provides for an alteration to the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, 1910-1959. I refer in particular to section 12 which reads at present:
The Governor-General may make Ordinances having force of law in the Territory.
The Bill before the House proposes to omit the words ‘having force of law in the Territory’ and to replace them by the words ‘for the peace, order and good government of the Territory’. I must confess that, as a layman, I am somewhat intrigued that these latter words are apparently regarded as having wider amplitude than the existing words. I would have thought that, in this society of ours, which claims to believe in law and order, if something had the force of law it ought to operate in the direction of promoting peace, order and good government. But apparently that is not what the lawyers think.
The reason for the proposed amendment is that, as we know, the Attorneys-General of the various States have been meeting and consulting about the reform of company law. The Company Law Advisory Committee reported to the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral. This report, known as the Eggleston Committee’s report, contains a number of solid documents. There are now four of them. The second of these interim reports was, oddly enough, the first one to be presented. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in introducing this measure referred to paragraph 6 of the second interim report. Paragraph 6 reads in part:
If, however, the legislation were so worded that ti could be read as subject to a territorial limitation, so that a beneficial owner outside the jurisdiction of a State or Territory could claim that the obligation to give notice of substantial holding did not apply to him. such persons would be able to gain control of companies by stealth in circumstances in which residents could not.
As we know, there are a number of companies in Australia that register in Canberra because they believe that there are certain advantages attached to registration in Canberra rather than to registration in, say, Melbourne or Sydney or one of the other places in Australia where company registration may take place. It seems as though in some respects - I made reference to this fact some time ago in a question that I asked - that the shelter of registration in Canberra can be used even though a company that is registered in Canberra actually carries out its main activities in Melbourne or Sydney.
I believe that, in many respects, not sufficient scrutiny is placed upon the operations of these companies. Although they are registered in Canberra, their operations take place somewhere else and they are well beyond the scrutiny of the registration system in Canberra. Now, I believe that this sort of thing can lead to considerable difficulties in the future. It is on this rather peculiar measure that we have one of the rare opportunities to talk in this House about laws that ultimately are passed by States but are passed by the States by reason of the Commonwealth making sensible arrangements for the Attorneys-General and others to get together. I believe that we ought to be able to debate in this House the full substance of the recommendations of the Eggleston Committee. I do not intend to do that tonight.
I merely point out this rather curious gap in our structures, that is, that we can have a pattern of uniform legislation - and what it means is that each of the States passes similar legislation in a broad field; in this case, companies - but even though there are ordinances which apply as far as Canberra is concerned and those ordinances are just as substantia] in many cases as an Act of Parliament would be at the State level, no opportunity is given to this Parliament to discuss the subject mutter of those ordinances. I believe in a sense that what we are talking about here, primarily the seat of Government, is the sort of technicality by which we can discuss this matter.
What we are aiming to do is to close a gap in the legislation. I am thankful that the gap is being closed in a field that really is of national significance. I believe that, because it is of such national significance, more adequate opportunities should be available to debate in this House the merits of the proposal. After all, what can be more significant for the economic life of a community than the law that relates to corporations or to companies. Yet, basically, while we collect taxes from the companies at this level we virtually have no participation in the legislation under which those companies operate. Even though some of them do register in Canberra, we have no Commonwealth corporation law. What we have is a series of ordinances for which this Parliament is responsible and which ultimately this Parliament may disallow but which rarely are debated in substance in this House. 1 hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) may take note df this little gripe that I am making because I think that it is of some significance.
In this field of insurance- that is, insurance other than the life field and in particular insurance relating to motor car activities - a need exists for national legislation. The Commonwealth has wide enough powers under its insurance powers as «et down in the Commonwealth Constitution. I believe that the time is now when we should be passing legislation to exercise control in this field in the same way as the Commonwealth has control through its Insurance Commission or who, at least, can scrutinise the activities anywhere in Australia of anything that calls itself a life assurance company. But the Commonwealth cannot do this at the moment in that field that is known as general insurance.
I do not know whether honourable members know but, in aggregate, there is as much money provided by the Australian public for premiums in the general field ot insurance each year - that is insurance other than life, such as fire, accident, motor car, marine, underwriting and so on - as is spent annually on defence by Australia. The aggregate premiums paid for insurance in other than the life field are $ 1,000m in value. At the moment, they are subject to very, very haphazard regulatory control.
I would hope that this very important gap is closed soon because enough examples are available of the haphazardness in insurance operations which now amount to scandals. I believe that the time is right for comprehensive insurance in this field. I do not think that the legislation needs to be very complicated either. The Commonwealth should set up a mechanism similar to that of the Insurance Commission. Some similar sort of scrutiny should be established in insurance fields other than life insurance. 1 at least support this measure. But, as a layman, as I have said, I am a little bit intrigued by the words which are acceptable apparently in one sense but are noi wide enough in another. I do not profess as a non-lawyer to know how the lawyers arrive at these very fine distinctions. But the Opposition does support the measure and the sorts of things that are done to close up deficiencies in takeovers and nominee shareholdings. I think that they need to be uniform: they need to be strengthened; and this legislation at least will assist as far as companies registered in Canberra are concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to bs moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 October (vide page 2444).
Total Proposed expenditure, $1,024,480,300.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, 323,724,000.
Department of the Navy
Proposed expenditure, $216,888,000.
Department of the Army
Proposed expenditure, $402,512,000.
Department of Air
Proposed expenditure, $272,998,500.
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure, $104,600,500.
Proposed expenditure, $3,757,300.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I have been appalled throughout this debate by the unbelievable trite contributions that honourable members on the Government side have made to this debate. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has set an all time low in the understanding and the comprehension of the portfolio that he administers. His limited ability is all too painfully apparent. Let me try to put this debate into perspective.
We are dealing with the astronomical sum of $1,136,988,000. This money has come from each and every Australian in the form of taxation. This Government has failed to justify the expenditure. We have been treated to the broad and generalised inconsequential generalities on which this Government thrives. But neither in this debate nor in the Minister’s statement on defence, have we ever been given a systematic account of the threat to our security and a detailed and logical exposition of the sort of defence arrangements, including the type of equipment in all Services, that we require to meet this threat. lt seems to rae that the notion of the Government on defence is rather like that of the newlywed who goes shopping in a supermarket and responds to impulse buying rather hoping that the purchases that she makes will add up to a meal. But a pile of military equipment, no matter how expensive it is, does not add up to a defence policy. The Government has been incredibly naive in the defence shopping list. The classic example of impulse buying was the Fill. Back in 1963 we were told the purchase was vital to our security. Here we are in 1970 and we have not seen the Fill and we are told that we will not see it until 1972. What disturbs me about the purchase, apart from the obvious political gimmickry that was involved, was the attitude of mind that allowed such a decision. The Government suffers from a chronic disease of big noting itself. So it decided it must have the fastest, the most sophisticated and the shiniest piece of military equipment. We were, as several Ministers have told us, to have the greatest thing with wings since angels. But was the question ever asked: Do we need this sort of equipment? I would like to quote from a statement of a man who was very much involved in the Fill, the TFX. the United States Defence Secretary McNamara. He said:
We do not buy the best there is in terms of technology in any one of our weapons systems. We would be fools. No-one does. The farmer did not buy the beat truck. I did not buy the best automobile. We” would be foolish if we bought the best in technology in terms of the most advanced, in terms of speed, in terms of range, in terms of higher power, when we did not need it.
The decision on the FI 1 1 was made by the United States in terms of highly sophisticated demands by a much more highly sophisticated defence establishment. It was absurd for Australia in these circumstances to try to play in the big league when we in fact were not even a good district side.
This must be the only assembly in the world where a newly elected Government has introduced a defence statement before a foreign affairs statement. After the defence statement was made the Government proceeded to haul in a foreign affairs statement to justify it. This was a simple case of putting the cart before the horse. This Government has proclaimed time and time again that it has a policy of forward defence, but what it is in fact is a policy of backward withdrawal. For some years we maintained a Royal Australian Air Force Sabre squadron at Ubon in Thailand. In July 1968 the Government announced that the squadron would be regrouped - a glorious euphemism for withdrawal - at Butterworth. What the announcement did not reveal was that this Royal Australian Air Force squadron at Butterworth was cluttering up the tarmac and the aprons at Ubon and the Americans told them to get the hell out of there. So the squadron was withdrawn. Of course the Thais did not come into the calculation; it was a deal between the Americans and the Australians. The Government has already announced the withdrawal from Vietnam of a battalion, yet if one was to believe the Government’s concept of the threats of Communism we should not be withdrawing a battalion, we should be putting in a division. The Government’s military advisers are clearly concerned about the efficacy of the group we leave in Vietnam; nevertheless the Government’s policy of backward withdrawal proceeds.
In Malaysia the Government has withdrawn our ground forces from Malaysia further away from the only possible threat that there could be on the Thai-Malaysian border and dropped them into 2 barracks in Singapore which are 12 miles apart. The Government has not told us what the arrangements will be. When speaking earlier in this debate I listed a series of questions, but the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Ministers have refused point blank to comment on them. In the hope that somewhere, sometime, the Ministry will get around to answering them I want to repeat the questions: When will our occupancy be regularised? What are the terms on which we will agree to stay in Butterworth and to stay in Singapore? What will it cost the Australian taxpayers? I also said that I wanted to know when the stationing of our forces in Singapore will be regularised. When are we going to have these satisfactory barracks which the Minister for Defence has talked about? When are we going to sign a status of forces agreement? How much money will we have to pay? The Malaysians, of course, in Butterworth have us over a barrel. Half of our RAAF fighter force is stationed there and the Malaysians know that this Government cannot station half of our fighter force back in Australia. What an indictment of our defence planning when we just do not have the facilities to accommodate all our Mirage squadrons in Australia. It is about time this Government adopted a far more responsible attitude to the men of the armed Services and the equipment that we have purchased.
It was also a point of great concern and it should be of great concern to all honourable members in this House, that as part of this backward withdrawal the Government has recalled the anti-aircraft unit from Butterworth. The British last year took away its airfield defence units, and our ‘ planes and personnel in Butterworth are largely unprotected from air, sea and land attack. The 1970 Defence Report points out that the experience of allied forces in South East Asia has shown that the enemy has been successful in inflicting damage to Air Force assets and bases by limited ground attack. The report pointed out that 2 airfield defence units have been sent to Vietnam but not one word has been said about Butterworth, where half our fighter force is stationed. The Air Force defence at Butterworth is virtually nil. It sits alongside the Straits of Malacca. It has a main road running through it. It is not more than a day and a half’s march from the area which our defence forces have indicated could be an area of guerilla activity, and yet 1 repeat that there are no acceptable airfield defence units placed at Butterworth.
To take further the points of issue, on the backward- withdrawal the Government has pointed out that we are reducing our naval commitment to Malaysia and Singapore by one ship. And so the process of backward withdrawal has proceeded and in the meantime this Government presumes to attack the Australian Labor Party which stands very firmly on the basic premise that the basis of any defence policy is to protect our shore.
– The basic question that should be under discussion in this debate on the defence estimates is whether the incredibly large amount of money appropriated for defence is being spent in the implementation of the right defence policy. It is a particularly appropriate time for that sort of question to be examined in Australia when we see changing circumstances around us every day. Let me list the 3 circumstances that are changing and which come to my mind at this stage. Firstly, there is the announcement by Canada that it proposes to recognise and has recognised the Communist-Chinese regime. Secondly, there is increased United States withdrawal from Vietnam. Thirdly, there is the parti cular matter about which 1 want to make some comment tonight, the announcement in the speech made by the new Prime Minister for Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak.
The Malaysian Prime Minister has announced - and quite a section of question time over the last few days has been devoted to his utterances - that it is the wish of the Malaysian Government that Malaysia should be neutral, that Malaysia should be allowed to remain in a neutral zone in South East Asia. He went so far as to say that that neutrality should bc protected and preserved and guaranteed - I think that was the word he used - by the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Communist China, lt is not very surprising that the Opposition should over the last few days have seized upon this statement as evidence that there is some sort of collapse in this Government’s defence policy, that there is some sort of basic change in the defence and foreign policies of Malaysia, and that the whole situation politically in South East Asia has changed dramatically and basically. T would suggest to honourable members opposite that what they should do is to look at precisely what the Prime Minister of Malaysia has said to see exactly how these things measure up against the facts set out in his statement. When we look at what he has said we realise that there is hardly enough to justify the allegations of the Opposition that there has been a change in the foreign or defence policy of Malaysia or that there is any danger of collapse or adverse effects on the defence policy of this country.
There were 3 important and significant aspects of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s speech. One might describe them as qualifications and important restrictions on his call for neutrality in South East Asia and his plea for a neutral and non-aligned Malaysian defence and foreign policy. First, he asks for a guarantee from Communist China and the other 2 great powers of neutrality of the region and the neutrality of Malaysia. Of course, what he is saying here, when one looks and thinks of the specific terms in which he puts it, is not merely that there should be some utterance by Communist China that it will guarantee, in some loose way, this neutrality that the Prime Minister looks for. but that there should be positive actions by
Communist China to maintain that neutrality. What he wants, and what we want is what we have always maintained, namely, that Communist China should cease its aggression against the smaller nations of South East Asia and should cease arming, helping and financing Communists in Indo China who are seeking to upset the governments that are presently in power in those countries. Indeed, Communist China should cease its actions which are destined solely to prevent the people of those countries in South East Asia from determining their own type of government. This is the sort of guarantee that the Prime Minister of Malaysia is looking for; it is the sort of guarantee that we ourselves have always looked for. Communist China should cease the aggression that it has been engaged in over recent years towards countries in South East Asia and, in particular, that it should cease trying to achieve that object by financing, arming and giving support to Communist movements in South East Asian countries.
One can look at what the Prime Minister of Malaysia said when he addressed his own Party shortly after he became Prime Minister. He said:
We should have some assurances from Communist China that she would abide by the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
That has been the policy of the Malaysian Government and of the Australian Government, and I venture ‘ to say that it remains the policy of both of these Governments. But when one has looked at what the Malaysian Prime Minister wants to see in action from Communist China, one can go from there to see what Communist China has done in the past, because by its actions in the past, I suggest, one can get some indication of what its actions are likely to be in the immediate future. One can look at its actions towards India, irrespective of whether it had any just claim to the territories it claimed in northern India. One can look at its actions towards Tibet. One can look at its actions towards Taiwan and the off-shore islands of China. One can look at ils positive actions to support, encourage and arm Communist movements throughout the whole of South East Asia. This, indeed, is what has happened with respect to Communist Chinese actions over recent years.
Its present policy should be enough to indicate that there is little, if any, likelihood that Communist China would wish to or would take any steps at all towards guaranteeing the neutrality of Malaysia, any other country in South East Asia, or the region itself, because one can see what Communist China is doing at present. So far as the Far Eastern Economic Review has been able to estimate, Communist China is spending $US200m a year in arming South East Asian Communists in the countries in Indo-China. It has given positive and articulated promises to Communist movements in Indo-China that they can have safe rear areas in mainland China; that it will give political support to those Communist movements; that it will give material support to those Communist movements and that it will give military support to those Communist movements. Those Communist movements, as I have said, have been concerned to prevent the people of South East Asia determining their own type of government and to impose a Communist type of government on them irrespective of what their will may be.
I should have thought that the classic example illustrating that there can be no assurance at all that Communist China would be interested in guaranteeing the neutrality of South East Asia is the closed door policy that it took towards the Djakarta conference on Cambodia, because here was a clear case of an opportunity to have a degree of neutrality brought about in 1 South East Asian country - Cambodia. Here was a real test, and the Communist Chinese refused to have anything to do with it. What we wish to see, and what the Malaysian Prime Minister and his Government wish to see, is a series of positive actions indicating that the Communist Chinese are prepared to guarantee the neutrality of South East Asia. I venture to suggest that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Communist China is interested in or able to achieve that.
The second and significant qualification made in the speech by Tun Abdul Razak was that Malaysia would use all of its energy to defeat Communism. He recognised, and he said it in his speech, that Communism was still the major danger in South East Asia. He pledged his Government to use all its energy to defeat Communism. The third significant restriction he indicated in his speech was that Malaysia would make a positive contribution, as it had done in the past, to maintain peace, stability and regional co-operation in the region. So. there are 3 significant aspects of the speech of Tun Abdul Razak that seem to have been overlooked. Firstly, Malaysia will look for some indication of integrity and some indication that Communist China would refrain from subversion and aggression in South East Asia; secondly, Malaysia still recognises the dangers of the Communist menace to neutrality in the region, and thirdly, Malaysia will continue to - contribute to peace and stability in the region of South East Asia, lt is our policy that if one has to negotiate on matters such as the neutrality of South East Asia, one should negotiate from a position of strength and not weakness. Of course, one wants to see co-operation not only with Communist China but with any country which is prepared to leave other countries, such as those in South East Asia, alone and with any country that is prepared to refrain from’ aggression and from assisting subversive elements in those countries. I have very grave doubts whether Communist China is interested in the slightest in maintaining or guaranteeing neutrality in South East Asia so 1 venture to suggest that members of the Opposition are perhaps somewhat misguided, with all respect to them, in thinking that in this statement from the new Prime Minister of Malaysia is an indication of a change in his foreign or defence policy and that, consequently, there will be changes in our foreign or defence policy.
– I found it interesting to hear the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) putting forward his arguments, particularly as 1 agree with him in part when he said that he believes that we should be looking for China to recognise and protect the neutrality of South East Asian countries. I believe that all countries should aim to protect and recognise the neutrality of other countries and that they should allow them to choose the type of government they want. He said that China should do this with the countries that are her neighbours If this had been done in Vietnam by our allies there would not have been the death and destruction that has taken place in that country. 1 believe also- thai it the figure he gave was correct and the Chinese are spending about $US200m a year in assisting those countries around her, this amount pales into insignificance when compared with the $US2,500m a day which the Americans have been pouring into Vietnam in weapons and men as a result of its rejection of an election to enable the people of Vietnam to chose their own government. This is a mistake which we have made in our foreign policy and defence policy in the past, but I do not intend to follow this up now.
I want to discuss the question of the money we spend on defence and our policies on defence and to ask whether the moneys we spend are expended wisely and whether what we do in the field of defence is the best that can he done. I want to question whether we are getting value for that which we spend. In doing this I want to question the very thing which the Government takes as its strength or uses as its smokescreen - I am not quite sure which. One of the arguments which we have heard repeated most often in this debate, especially by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), is that so much of what is done is done on the best military advice and that this is something which is not to be questioned.
I do not want to go back over what was claimed for Singapore and what happened there; I do not want to go back over what was claimed for Gallipoli and what happened there; and I do not want to go back to the attack on Russia by Napoleon in the winter time and to other mistakes which are so self-evident throughout history. But 1 should like to refer to a few things that have happened in America where, I suppose, even better military advisers than our own are employed. 1 refer to the AH56A Cheyenne helicopter, which was part of a helicopter attack system. It was estimated that the helicopters would have a unit cost of between $US3m and $US3.5m. This compares with the $US500,000 unit cost of the current United States Army armed attack helicopter, the AH-IG Huey Cobra. At the end of May 1969 the United States Army terminated the production contract between of default of the contract. In fact, the helicopter was too expensive for its primary role of an anti-guerilla aircraft. To the end of the 1970 financial year, $US321.5m had been spent on the project for which nothing is to be received. Then there is the C5A Galaxy, which is the largest transport ever flown. It has been subject to substantial cost over-runs. Originally 120 aircraft were to have been produced, but a cost over-run of 41 per cent on the first batch of 58 - the total cost was $US950m - led to the reduction of the order to 81 aircraft. As at February, the cost of the 81 aircraft was still being negotiated between Lockheed and the United States Air Force.
In 1964 the United States Navy decided to proceed with an order to have 48 torpedo ships built at a cost of $US680m. Now the expected cost is $US4,O00m. This is all being undertaken on the best military advice in the United States. It has led the country into some of the greatest debacles that it has ever known. In Australia we have to be careful of the action which we take on our best military advice. We are not to think that this advice is something which cannot be questioned; that it is something hallowed and sacred. I think that the best illustration of this point can be found in a speech which was made on 4th March 1964 by the then Minister for Air, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). At the time he was cutting the then Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), down to size. He said:
I want to answer comments made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Calwell) last night in a speech that Tanged over many subjects. Referring to the Governor-General’s Speech, he said - The Speech refers to the purchase of the TFX bombers as if their delivery were an accomplished fact. There is no hint that their manufacture is meeting difficulties and that we shall be fortunate indeed if they are delivered by 1970.
Further on he said:
Had he been listening, he would have heard my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Hasluck), tell him in this House the other day that there are no major difficulties. Only this afternoon, I was speaking to the head of the Canadair firm, which is one of the major subsidiaries of the General Dynamics Corporation and is making parts for the TFX.
Of course, the TFX is the Fill. He continued:
He told me that the corporation is perfectly certain that the TFX will meet its present deadline
. they are confident that the first flight will be undertaken in December of this year and that we shall be given delivery iia 1967 as promised.
This is 1970, 3 years later, and of course the aircraft are as far from being delivered now as they were then. Yet the then Minister for Air said that because the then Minister for Defence had said that this would be so, it would be so. I think that we want to be careful about what the present Minister for Defence says at the present time, and not accept what he says as being so merely because he has said it. A few months later, on 25th August 1964, when the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was speaking he quoted what was said by the then Minister for Defence, Senator Paltridge, as follows:
The latest expert advice available to the Government makes it clear that the Canberra will not begin to be phased out of squadron service until 1970. Doubts about its stated fatigue life have been resolved and it will continue to be a useful operational aircraft. Iti the light of advice from its professional advisers, the Government has decided to accept deliveries of FI IIA aircraft in 1968.
It is very good that the Government decided to accept deliveries of the aircraft in 1968, but it still has not received them. Sir Robert Menzies went on to say:
The estimated total cost to Australia of the 24 aircraft remains at the figure of £56 million announced by Mr Townley in November of last year. Current advice from official United States sources is that progress on the project is on schedule, and firm assurances have been given that there is no reason at all to doubt that deliveries will be made to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1968. This is up to date advice and it may be relied on.
We come to 1970 and we read this in a news item:
In Washington a Senate sub-committee has reopened a 7-year old inquiry into the Fill fighter bomber. The ABC’s staff reporter in Washington, Robin Sharp, said that evidence was given that the swing wing plane could only meet one of tha performance requirements originally demanded of it. Also the cost for each plane had increased from $3.4m to $16m.
That is in complete contrast to the expert advice and to the assurances which W9 have been given not only by our military advisers but also by the Government.
I had wished to deal with the waste of money that has occurred as a result of the Government’s policy on conscription and also its policy on Vietnam. I believe that conscription has been a waste not only of money but also of human resources. The policy has achieved only wasteful inefficiency. Also it has made criminals of people who otherwise would have gone through the whole of their lives with unblemished records and would have been a credit to this country. The policy has had an ulterior effect upon our forces because in the 5 years up to the time when conscription was introduced, 60 per cent of tho.se in the forces re-enlisted, but in the 5 years since conscription has been in operation, the figure is down to 47 per cent. We were told by the former Minister for the Army, now the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), that the best advice which the military could give us was that conscription ought not to be introduced, and be is a member of the Government which has always preached the value of good military advice.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking on the estimates for the Defence Services I must say that I was somewhat surprised to see the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Kirwin) in typical Australian Labor Party fashion looking back over his shoulder to the days of the Wirraways and quoting what was said by the then Ministers and not dealing with present day conditions. He was not really concerned with the great problem which has been created for us by Communist forces which exist in this world and which are prepared to try to take over this country. I am surprised that he would even bother to stand up on his feet and address himself to what happened 10 or 12 years ago.
But in speaking on the estimates for the Defence Services I want to devote my observations to the very important question of pay and conditions of our servicemen, because I recognise that the morale and well being of servicemen is fundamental to the adequacy of our defence system. If men are dissatisfied with their conditions of employment you cannot expect to get the best from them. The whole foundation of a defence system rests on the men and women who through their dedication to the service of their country provide the manpower to handle the sophisticated weapons system without which our whole expenditure would be valueless.
For these reasons 1 am comforted by the fact that the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has devoted much of his effort, since he has taken over the portfolio, to this very important question of pay and conditions. Firstly, there was the setting up of the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee and then there w.is the announcement last week of the setting up of an inquiry into the financial terms and conditions of Service employment. Last year the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the then Minister for Defence agreed to establish this Pay and Conditions of Service Committee within the Department of Defence. Since the Committee has come into operation it has met on 20 occasions and the sub-committees have met on 51 occasions. The decisions that have been made to improve the conditions of servicemen have already added $29m to the annual wages of servicemen since January 1970. In order to bring the value of practical experience to the Committee, personnel members of the various Service boards now attend the Committee meetings. In regular meetings with the Chiefs of Staff, the personnel members of the Service boards and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee have kept the Minister constantly informed of matters affecting the Services.
I say this quite sincerely. The Minister has obviously applied himself with great dedication and has shown a determination to come to grips with the vexed and complex problems that have had an adverse effect on the conditions of Service personnel. Already some benefit has resulted to servicemen from the Pay and Conditions Committee reports that have gone to the Minister, to the Treasurer and to the Government. Arising from this inquiry we had the announcement last week of the setting up of this full scale inquiry. The Minister has also made it clear that whilst this inquiry is taking place it would not be in the best interests of the Services to leave any adjustments that are obviously necessary pending the results of a full scale inquiry, because this inquiry will necessarily take time. A recent decision which will give some protection to the pay and conditions of officer personnel is that when adjustments are made in the Third Division of the
Commonwealth Public Service, pay adjustments for officer rank up to colonel will be made at the same time. This does not mean, of course, that adjustments to the Third Division of the Public Service will be made similarly on a point by point basis for the officers because there are 2 entirely different groups of Service people and different circumstances involved. But at least a principle has been established to ensure that officers are not left lagging behind the moves in salaries of the Third Division of the Public Service. This. principle is long overdue.
Unfortunately there has never been an in-depth study or inquiry into the matter of pay and conditions of Service personnel taking into account the modern principles of salary fixation and the actual degree of duties and responsibilities of all levels throughout the Service. This does account for the unfortunate drain of officers that has occurred away from all the Services to other more remunerative forms of employment. This drift away from the Services can be arrested if full note is taken of the disadvantages suffered by Service personnel by the provision of such things as temporary rental allowances, educational allowances, removal allowances and due compensation for officers and their families when they have to move from place to place. I was pleased to see that the Minister has also recognised that there is some need to check on the number of times that Service personnel are posted from one place to another. Every time a Service officer has to move from one home to another he is involved in considerable expense. Quite often there is a feeling of dissatisfaction among the wives and families who have to make new friends and fit into new communities. Of course, this interrupts the education of their children.
There has been considerable dissatisfaction with housing made available for servicemen of all ranks and I believe any inquiry should study this problem in depth, whether it is an inquiry by the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee or the committee of inquiry. It is certainly an area that needs very close scrutiny. When a serviceman has been moved frequently from place to place he has no hope of buying a new home, paying it off and establishing some capital asset. So I conclude by urging the Minister to proceed with his very constructive policy of seeking to improve the conditions of servicemen generally. 1 am sure that this House welcomes the announcement by the Government of the instituting of a full scale inquiry, a measure that if it succeeds in the programme the Government envisages will mean even higher standards in the performance of the Services and a higher morale among our very important Service personnel. It is of paramount importance to restore the status of the personnel in the armed Services. All these anti-Vietnam demonstrations, all the howling we hear from the Opposition, all the demonstrations and cries about getting out of Vietnam and of reducing the Services that we hear from the Opposition, including the screaming member from Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) are pressures that are brought to bear upon Service personnel and their families. This has not helped the morale of the serviceman. I hope that members of the Opposition will appreciate that it is necessary to maintain an armed Service with personnel who have the confidence of both sides of this House and who are supported in their endeavours by both sides of this House. They are good Australians serving this country and must be given the status that they deserve. T have every confidence that the actions taken by this Government will help restore the status of the personnel in the armed Services in this country.
– We have heard the usual psalm-singing patriotism we hear from the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) sitting over there in Gunn’s Gully. It is pretty normal procedure for him and his colleagues to get up and criticise the Government, but when the real test comes they are sitting there firmly stuck to their seats. I want to talk about something of significance that is happening. At this moment a very dramatic event of international significance that will have everlasting effects upon this country is being played on the world stage. We in this Parliament stand in the wings, not wanting to play any role in the drama that is unfolding. We are abdicating our responsibility. I am referring to the distinct possibility of the break-up of the Commonwealth of Nations brought about by the proposed sale of naval equipment to South Africa by the recently elected Conservative
Government iD Great Britain. What is amazing is that those in this House who are the most ardent Empire loyalists and the most dedicated to past memories of Victorian colonial conquests are those who privately espouse these proposals and publicly cry that we should not interfere in the domestic affairs of another country. Oh. what a change there has been since Vietnam. These are the people who seem to be almost pleased that the black countries are on the verge of leaving the Commonwealth. In recent months a growing number of Commonwealth countries have denounced the proposed sale of arms to South Africa and many have threatened to withdraw from the Commonwealth. They include Kenya. Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, India, Canada and many others. Even Mr Holyoake, an arch-Conservative if ever there was one, is less than happy with Britain’s proposals.
I am amazed that after the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference where delegates from the Australian Parliament were able to meet with delegates from over 50 Commonwealth countries and Territories, the majority of whom are coloured and are extremely sensitive to the recent past history of colonialism and exploitation, the delegates from the LiberalCountry Party side of the House are still as myopic and insensitive to the feelings of these people. To these people, South Africa with its vicious and inhuman policies of apartheid is the arch enemy. Honourable members should try, if they can, to imagine the feelings of the Jews about Nazi Germany and Hitler for over 20 years and they will have an understanding of the way these people feel about South Africa and Rhodesia.
I would like to quote from a speech by the honourable B. K. Adama, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs of Ghana when he spoke in this House on 3rd October at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. He said:
The Government of Ghana would regard such action by the British Government as a racist alignment with South Africa and an unfortunate disregard for the susceptibilities of so many African States in Africa whose goodwill and friendship towards Britain have sustained the British presence in Africa over many years. Whatever the short term advantages the British Government might hope to derive from the resumption of sale of arms to South Africa or from any such conciliatory posture in its dealings with the present racist regimes in Southern Africa could nol be compared with the long-term benefits which the British people might gain in their relations wilh so many other African States.
Despite all that the delegates heard at this conference they still return to this chamber muttering all sorts of hackneyed cliches such as ‘non-interference’, ‘the Russians are just as bad’, and ‘if it is wrong to trade with Rhodesia it is wrong to trade with China’. What they fail to understand is that while most of these countries have no love for Russia or China or their political systems, these countries do not persecute, suppress or exploit people on the basis of the colour of their skin. This is the fundamental difference. A man can change or suppress his political views but he cannot change the colour of his skin.
I want to quote from a speech -made by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) in October at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. I informed the honourable member that I was going to drop the bucket on him tonight but he has not seen lit to come into the chamber. In his speech the honourable member inadvertently let slip his racist attitudes of superiority when he stated:
The sanctions against Rhodesia have not succeeded in breaking (hat cOUntry. An invasion of that country would only result in Englishmen killing Englishmen–
And then he quickly added - and many dark Rhodesians.
Nothing better confirms to coloured people the dormant racism which they believe lies beneath the surface of many Europeans than statements such as the honourable member for Deakin made. What horrified him was that Englishmen would be killing Englishmen. It is all right for Englishmen to kill black Africans; it is all right for Australians to kill coloured yellow Vietnamese; but heaven forbid that Englishmen should kill Englishmen. What do our neighbours whom we seek to impress at every opportunity think when they see how closely so many members on the Government side of the House feel for the racist regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia? Do they take us for fools or do we take them for fools? Do not honourable members on the other side of the House realise that they can see right through every aspect of our foreign policy:
The basis of Britain’s argument is that the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean is a threat to Britain’s vital trade routes. Let me quote from a speech made in the House of Commons on 22nd July of this year by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, that great intellect who has been resurrected since the recent election of the Conservative Government. Sir Alec said:
Trie Soviet Union wants to penetrate in strength and deeply into the Indian Ocean.
This was a profound speculation by the Minister. He went on to say: 1 should not like to be an East African country, for example, if the Indian Ocean became a completely Communist-dominated sea.
One can imagine the warmth with which the honourable members for Boothby (Mr McLeay), Deakin, and La Trobe (Mr Jess) and the honourable Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), who I am delighted to see sitting at the table, would have embraced Sir Alec’s statements. No-one has yet been able to explain to me how, short of a world war III this will interfere with British or Australian trade. In a world war no ocean will be safe. There are vague innuendoes and sinister suggestions that a Soviet fleet will somehow impinge upon our freedom or rights. This is a far cry from the warm welcome that Mr Gordon Freeth, a previous Minister for External Affairs, gave to the Russians just prior to the last general election.
Let us face the facts. The Government has changed its policy through pressure from its own extreme right wing and the threat of the removal of support by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It is good sabre rattling, but it bears little resemblance to reality. If the Russians propose to sail within 200 miles of the Australian coast, what does the Australian Navy propose to do? Does it propose to sink them? The Minister for the Navy is not listening so I do not suppose he has heard what I have said. Of course the Navy will not sink Russian ships if they come within 200 or 300 miles of our coastline.
In the few minutes remaining to me I would like to quote from the same speech by Sir Alec Douglas-Home in which he said:
Members must face this. There are $2,142,900,000 investments by this country in South Africa, and there is $642,870,000 of trade each way.
The question I put to right honourable gentlemen opposite is this. Do they think that that does not strengthen South Africa? Of course, increasing trade with South Africa strengthens South Africa. One of the arguments against the sale of arms to South Africa is that it strengthens the South African nation, giving more power against its neighbours.
There is the nub of Britain’s desire to ingratiate itself with the South African racist regime. It is good old-fashioned naked capitalism.
There are those who argue that France is equally guilty. But France does not have a Commonwealth. France’s former colonies are not as close to South Africa as are Britain’s colonies and are dependent on France for aid and trade. Many of the colonies of France could not survive without her. Let me conclude by saying that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There will no longer be any valid reasons for the majority of the coloured nations to remain as partners in an association where its titular head is prepared to court a nation-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr Jess (La Trobe) (9.7)- It has been most interesting to listen to the speech of the young Messiah from Robertson (Mr Cohen) who has just spoken on the defence estimates. Indeed, it was interesting to listen to the remarks of other honourable members from the other side of the House. I would like to refer only to 3 of them because the debate has not been worth while replying to in great detail. The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Kirwan) referred to national servicemen who had been sent to Vietnam as having been turned into criminals. The honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) in referring to a booklet put out for the troops in Vietnam referred to political commissars directing the policy of soldiers. The honourable member who just resumed his seat talked about psalm-singing patriotism. I do not know whether there is anything necessarily wrong with patriotism. Perhaps it would be a good thing if a few people in this country spent a little more time thinking about it.
When I spoke to the Defence estimates yesterday I said that the time was coming when we should review our defence structure. I said that the time could be coming when we would have to look at the mainland defence of Australia. What I did not have time to say and what I say now is that those who have enjoyed the spirit of protest and those who have enjoyed the great fight for civil liberties against law, order and any responsibility in this country may well be reaping the reward sometime in the near future. Whereas I said that Malaysia and Singapore and other nations may well be revising their outlook and their treaties and where they will place their confidence, I did not have time to say, but I say now, that I would not blame these countries for changing their outlook because they know that should there be a change of government in Australia the alliances and treaties would be worth nothing. Indeed, the speeches of members of the Opposition have had their effect on those with whom we would wish to have friendship and alliance. I would like to take honourable members on the other side of the chamber back to what a member of of the Labor Party said some time ago because I believe this is relevant to the conditions of today. Honourable members on the other side of the House are always telling us how they won the last war. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) frequently tells us this. On 2nd November 1938, as reported on page 1093 of Hansard, Mr Curtin said:
The international crisis has passed. The threatened danger is no longer as great as it was, for it must be apparent to everybody that the Munich pact has lessened the possibility of a European war. . . .
That was 12 months before the war. He went on to say, as reported at page 1094 of Hansard:
The Government, as a matter of fact, has brought the country to the verge of war hysteria . . .
Honourable members can read the whole record of what members of the Australian Labor Party said in 1938. They are saying exactly the same now. They are saying that there is no threat and that there is no need to do anything in the way of defence. The honourable member for St George said that he would prefer to put the money spent on defence into social services. But I do not wish to use the 10 minutes allowed to me in this debate in discussing this matter.
I wish to talk, as others have, about the terms and conditions of service. It may be remembered that this morning I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about certain pay revisions for the Citizen Military Forces. As I understand it, senior officers in the CMF are paid on the basis of so many days service a year and that their pay is based on the pay of a Regular Army officer of equivalent rank. I believe that the present pay is assessed on the basis that officers serve about 60 days a year. But these officers are at present serving for 100 to 150 days a year. This matter concerns me. I agree with what the Minister for Defence said about an inquiry into the pay code of the Services. If an inquiry will mean that those benefits which are in the pipeline and those allowances and other conditions in respect of which decisions are about to be made will be impeded by Treasury or by a mass of clerks sitting in some office and who have no relationship with the serviceman and never, in my opinion, seem to have any knowledge of his terms and conditions, I am against it. I hope that the Minister for Defence and the junior Service Ministers will see that this is not so.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) said last night that he and the other Ministers would see that this did not occur. I suggest that even if they sleep in Sheridan sheets it is time they got out of them and took action on some of the things from which the Services are suffering. I do not have time to go through them all. But the question of disturbance allowance has never been fully realised or understood by the Treasury and those who are advising in respect of this matter. It is all very well to say that an inquiry is being conducted into turbulence, but if we are 500 middle class officers short we cannot replace them with recruits. We have to use seasoned officers. This means that officers are being moved from one post to another on an average of every 16 or 18 months.
– Is the honourable member blaming us for this?
– No, I am not blaming the Opposition. I am blaming us and I am saying that it is time we did something about it. I come to the temporary accommodation allowance. At the present moment, if an officer is sent to a capital city he may be offered a Housing Commission home in some industrial area, not that there is anything necessarily wrong with this, but I think he should be entitled to perhaps a higher standard of accommodation. A civil servant, when he is moved, is paid an allowance of about $17. An officer in the Services is paid about $10. I ask why this should be so. lt is my opinion that for far too long the Treasury and certain other areas in the administration of defence have been restricting the serving officer and the serving soldier to such an extent that he has become a second rate citizen. For example, equal pay has been given to women in the civil service. I understand that the inquiry has just been introduced into the armed Services.
The educational allowance is another matter I wish to raise, lt appears that 28 members in Australia and 26 members out of Australia, out of an Army with a strength of 45,000, currently are receiving the education allowance. This is incredible and 1 think it is something that should be looked at in relation to all the other conditions of service to see what the problems are. It is not just a question of pay, when allowances are given, according to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board and the Taxation Office, they are added to the pay of the soldier and taxed accordingly. He gets an increase in his allowance, but unfortunately, when taxation is increased and the DFRB deduction is increased, he frequently gets no value.
As I said before, I had a very brilliant speech to deliver on terms and conditions of service, but 9 minutes of my time has gone and there is no possibility of getting through it. This is the farce of the debate on the Defence Services estimates. But 1 would like to make it clear to the Service Ministers, to the Treasury and to the Department of Defence that the morale of the Services at this time is not high and that servicemen are concerned about their conditions. The Cabinet must take the responsibility for this situation. If, as I think it is, it is the Treasury putting up problems in respect of Service pay and conditions, the Government must accept the end responsibility.
At the present moment it appears to me that the Department of Defence might just as well be a supplicant for social services as far as defence is concerned. If recommendations are put up and if some Treasury gentleman who has never been out of
Canberra is to be the arbitrator in respect of what a soldier receives, for example, by way of turbulence allowance or in respect of other problems with which the soldier is faced, it is a very poor situation. We need recruiting. We need servicemen. I think we rest on the loyalty and the morale of these Services, and at the present moment these are at a low ebb. I suggest to the Government that it is time it stood up to the Treasury or others and said: ‘Do not tell us why we cannot do it. Tell us how we can do it.:
– In commencing my speech I must express my absolute disgust at the display of ridicule to which members of the Government subjected this debate during the course of yesterday evening. Had I intended to carry on in the manner in which the 3 Service Ministers were acting, I would probably have said that the whole Royal Australian Navy ought to be in Lake Burley Griffin with the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) overseeing operations white being kept aloft by the Captain Cook water jet. or something of that nature. However, we have heard a great deal in the debate which has been only riducule. If we are to deal properly with the matter of defence we ought to display a much more serious attitude than that which has been displayed to this point of time.
The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) typified the Government’s attitude when he saw fit to quote something that was said by the late John Curtin in 1938. One could quote things that were said by Sir Robert Menzies in the early 1930s in praise of Hitler or one could make a comparison by saying that Chamberlain had an umbrella and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) had a bat, or something like this. What ought to be asked in this debate is: What are we getting for the tremendous amount of money that has been expended on defence over recent years? The Government, along with the British Government, is talking continually of the Indian Ocean because it is still mindful of what Mr Freeth, a previous Minister, said on 14th August last year. Government supporters attempt to intrude the matter of the Indian Ocean into debates on defence all the time. The Government in its thinking and in its expenditure of money has not realised the change of conditions which Australia faces from a defence point of view.
Members from this side of the Parliament have been able to state what the attitude of Malaysia is today, whereas they could not have done so 3 months ago, because there has been a change of govenment in that country. If we want to continue to talk about defence weaponry and so on, in the manner in which we have been talking, we should realise that Australia is in no different position from many other smaller countries of the world - indeed we cannot measure ourselves as a great world power - and that our whole thinking on defence has to be completely changed.
This leads me back to the matter of the Indian Ocean. What threat does Russia have for us in the Indian Ocean in anything other than a global war, and what possibility is there of a threat from Russia in the Indian Ocean if there is to be a conventional type of weaponry used, with a conventional type of ship? Other honourable members know as well as I do that if that type of engagement commences it will be only a prelude to a world wide conflict with all the nuclear arms and their horrors. Tn speaking of defence why should we not think in terms of perhaps having a look at the other side of the coin? We have reached the stage in the world today at which we can ill afford our present attitudes as people who populate this earth. Either we get away from the old thinking of national boundaries and what-have-you or we burn together. Has anyone on the Government side ever thought of this? Has any honourable member opposite ever thought of the fact that there is the equivalent of 10 million tons of TNT stored up in nuclear weapons for every man, woman and child on this earth today. One could go back to the Suez debacle in which a previous Prime Minister was involved. Of course, this resulted in a situation which members on the Government side have been critical of, or worried about, and which is now with us in the Middle East. The seeds of the situation in the Middle East today were not in fact sown by loss of arms on a battlefield but by the stupidity of diplomacy, if one could call it that, or by the stupidity of those who withdrew from the Aswan Dam project and let the Russians come in. I fully agree with what was said by the previous Opposition speaker on this subject.
I refer now to the proposed sale of arms to South Africa and the stupidity of the British Government in proposing it, because the moment it does that it will force the other African States into an untenable position; they will be getting arms from the Eastern Bloc countries in the time it takes Ilyshun aircraft to fly from Russia down to Africa. Where is the sense in that? I suggest to honourable members opposite that they turn their minds, when considering matters of defence, to matters of survival. When honourable members opposite start talk of defence and the capability of the defence force that this country can supply itself with, they are conning themselves that it will defend them. They virtually leave themselves defenceless.
– I intend to take the advice of my friend the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and not go back to those days of Prime Minister Curtin. I wish to keep my remarks much more up to date than that and deal only with people like his leader and some of his policy statements. But before I do I would like to point out that the current Government defence policy was spelt out very clearly in the defence statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in 1969. In regard to this statement people like Denis Warner, for whom I think members on both sides of the House have a great deal of regard, had this to say:
Australia has made a unilateral decision to help the stability and economic growth of those areas.
Defence - the Australian Way - Forces of friendship.
Those were the comments of a highly informed man such as Denis Warner in those times, and since those days the recent 1970 statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been along the same lines. The pity of it, from our point of view, is that we have not had a chance to take on the Opposition on that statement. It is a very good statement indeed. I would like to put to members of the Opposition a little problem because it rather intrigues me. Not long ago, just prior to the last House of Representatives election, a television interview took place and this question was asked:
Could I ask you about Vietnam? Will the Labor Party advocate the recalling of Australian troops from Vietnam?
The answer given was:
No. The only way the troops can come back now is if there is a settlement - if there is an armistice. One would hope that by the time the next House of Representatives election comes around there certainly will have been that.
That, Sir, is not the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), nor the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), nor the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), nor the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) - he might blush to be named in such a list of Opposition hierarchy - but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Leader of the Labor Party at present who made that statement. Where is the policy of the Opposition if it has one? We have heard the statement made to the Fabian Society by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in which he spoke of the paradox of the socialist time and day and how we cannot possibly equate it with a defence programme. We have heard the remarks of members of the Opposition made at the bikini conference when they went up and took a bit of sun in midwinter and became the laughing stock of the Australian people. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition answer that sort of question on the television programme. Let me read the next question:
Are you in favour of Australian troops being in Vietnam now?
Mr Whitlam answered:
They are now committed. There is no question about this. 1 am glad they are committed. But what on earth is the same man saying today, or is there noi an election round the corner? Is that the reason? When this statement was made it was just prior to an election and that was a case of the cheapest bit of political expediency based on lack of principle that I have heard for some time. Let us go on to the next question. It was:
Would you withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam now?
No, but this is sn academic question now.
He was saying, in effect: ‘We will have to wait and see what happens prior to the next Federal election’.
– This is gorgeous Gough?
– Yes, worrying about political expediency. The only thing that dictated the defence policy of the Opposition was: ‘When will the next election be held? You tell me that and then perhaps I can afford to spell it out a little more clearly.’ Principle? I have never heard such disregard of principle in my life. The honourable member for Sturt also said that the Government’s thinking is outmoded, that we have to equate with the times. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has, unfortunately, not been able to equate with the times since he had an unfortunate experience as an ex-serviceman, so we will leave it at that. But if I might get back to the point of view of the Labor Party, what did a man named Dr Evatt say about 22 years ago? I will tell you. He said:
Australia’s true role in South East Asia will not be helped but obstructed by the present proposal to send our armed forces to Malaya, either for garrison duty or to take part in jungle fighting. This will lead only to acute misunderstanding between the Asian peoples in Malaya and Australia.
– They have changed.
– They have not changed. The Opposition’s policy has not changed, lt is the same doctrinaire mass of cliches, mass of words as was heard in the television programme 1 have just referred to - words, not policy. Furthermore, the Opposition’s policy has stagnated from that day to this. The Opposition is still saying precisely the same thing. Why are members of the Opposition saying precisely the same thing? ft is because this is very much the point of this particular debate. Our policy on defence and on economic development for developing countries is clear. The people of Australia know what it is. I have given honourable members opposite just 1 or 2 examples tonight to show the complete prevarication on which their own stand is based, lt is all based on the proposition ‘We are in opposition and will try to strike a cheap political chord and hope that by some such method of scuffling we can finish up in government one of these days’, lt is lack of principle and lack of guts and it is not a great credit to the Opposition at all.
The only other thing I want to say to finish up - this will be the third and the last point - is that the honourable member for Sturt and many people on the other side of the House take pride in being behind the Moratorium today. Now, I ask quite objectively: What is the Moratorium trying to achieve now? I could see, trying to be as unbiassed and reasonable as possible
– You could not be unbiassed if you tried.
– At least I am not anywhere near as bigoted as the honourable member for Sturt. But if I might say this, a year ago one could see perhaps some semblance of sense in the Moratorium. One could see perhaps the Vietnam situation not being quickly remedied. We could not see very much hope perhaps at that time in the people of Vietnam being literally capable of taking up the cudgels and fifixing the situation for themselves, and if they could not fix it for themselves, of course nobody else could. But today we are on the threshold of success in that country. Of all the times for the Labor Party to be or not to be- we are never quite certain about this-behind the Moratorium, of all the times for it to happen, it has to be now. This is the psychological moment when the Vietnamese people, mainly due to their own efforts and mainly due to their own casualties which have been at twice the rate of those of any other troops in that country, are about to deal successfully with the situation. Yet we have the stupid, asinine, childish situation of people who are supposed to be grown up trying, with no grounds based on commonsense at all at this time, to produce a situation whereby the people of South Vietnam will not be able to look after their own freedom and their own right of independence. I regard this as a cheap, rotten trick.
There will be people with small countries in the years to come. If honourable members opposite do not like it they should think back to the United Nations statement on Korea when Russia had let its union dues go down the drain. What did the United Nations do? It said that the free nations should go into South Korea. If this is a different situation to South Vietnam I would like to hear it This was the first time that China showed its hand at all. I have never heard so much nonsense as we hear from people who will not compare a United Nations decision to send troops into a small nation struggling for its independence, and the present position in Vietnam. The position that the Opposition has got itself into today is reprehensible, lacking in principle and not in the best Australian traditions of looking after the small bloke.
– There is just one point I would like to deal with, and it is the question of forward defence which has arisen over recent weeks. The Opposition has put a number of questions to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) on this issue. In each case the Minister for External Affairs and the Prime Minister have been bowled over. The fact is that the Government cannot recognise that the policy of Malaysia, on which our forward defence policy is based, has changed. That means that our forward defence policy - always, in my view, irrelevant - is becoming even more patently irrelevant now. I want to look at some of the views of the leaders of Malaysia. The important thing that I want to stress is that in that country was a government which traditionally relied upon the Western side for its security and its protection. No country in South East Asia has been so strongly in support of the Western side as Malaysia has been. But with a change of government and with a change of the world situation in this region the Malaysian Government’s view of its own security and how it can rely upon neighbours and the great powers has changed.
The striking thing about what has been said this evening and last night by Government members and supporters is that they refuse to accept this fact. We were misled on 14th October by the Minister for External Affairs when he said in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam):
Malaysia will vote against the important question but it will abstain from a vote on the actual recognition of Communist China.
There is no doubt that that statement made by the Minister for External Affairs was wrong. Since then the Minister has answered 3 questions in which he has compounded his error. The important thing about the situation is that it shows that the Malaysian Government is looking for new relationships in its own region. Honourable members can refer to the statement made in 1968 by Tun Ismail, who is a very important voice in the Malaysian Government now. I suggest that honourable members opposite read bis statement of 22nd January 1968 in which he suggested that it would be necessary for Malaysia to establish a policy of non-alignment and that the area should be neutralised, that neutrality being guaranteed by Communist China. That policy suggestion is 2 years old. This has also been said by Tun Razak before he made his statement a few weeks ago.
We have statements also by Tun Razak and Tun Ismail made on the 5th and the 10th of this month. The most important thing about it is that they have changed their policy. Honourable members can go and look, as the Minister for External Affairs has done, and say that the important thing is that they are still trying to ensure that Taiwan stays out, or they are still trying to extract guarantees from the Chinese that they will live as a friendly and civilised nation. Honourable members can look at all these things. This is part of the diplomatic language of a country. The essential point is that the Government of Malaysia is no longer obstructing the admission of the Chinese into the United Nations and, most importantly, it is moving in the direction of recognising China. Admittedly, the Government of Malaysia has said that this may take some time. If the Australian Government cannot recognise this basic fact, that Malaysia’s policy towards China is changing, then it does not know the world in which we live and it simply cannot plan defence policies for this country, because they will be based upon a fallacy.
The Minister for External Affairs, in reply to one question served up by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown), said that Malaysia would be willing to co-sponsor a resolution admitting continental or Communist China to the United Nations. That is an admission of the point we are making. The Minister for External Affairs went on to say - and to him this is the important thing - that Malaysia believed that Taiwan China, that is, the Republic of China, should be made a member of the United Nations. That is not the important thing. The important thing is that the Malaysian Government is prepared to co-sponsor the admission of Communist China into the United Nations. In reply to a question by the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) today the Minister for External Affairs said:
Tun Ismail said that Malaysia would vote against the Important Question resolution.
This is a fundamental fact. According to the Malaysian point of view, no longer will a two-thirds majority be required to obstruct the admission of Communist China. The Minister for External Affairs said that Malaysia would vote against the Important Question resolution and would abstain on the Albanian resolution. So if the issue was raised that Communist China should be admitted and Taiwan China should be expelled, the Government of Malaysia would abstain. This is a fundamental change in Malaysia’s policy towards China.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The time allowed for consideration of the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed expenditure, $45,773,000.
Department of the Cabinet Office
Proposed expenditure, $255,000.
– I wish to discuss the appropriation for the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. I am concerned with one of the most sordid affairs in post-war Australian politics. 1 refer to the Queensland Government allowing the aluminium company. Comalco, to deprive the Aboriginals at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula of their birthright, and the recent acceptance by members of the Queensland Government of a preferential issue of shares ki Comalco. The whole deal was begun by the Queensland Government which passed legislation excising no less than 91 per cent of the Aboriginal reserve at Weipa and handing it over to the mining company. What was the mining company prepared to do, in return, for the Aboriginals? There was no end of promises to provide improved education, employment opportunities, housing and an improved standard of living in general for the Aboriginals. According to the Queensland Minister concerned - this was in November 1957 - the company would provide a dormitory within the reserve to house single natives employed by the company, it would erect a trades school to enable youths to have tuition to fit them for apprenticeships and it would provide fencing for the reserve.
None of these promises has been implemented. Only a tiny fraction of the Aboriginals at Weipa are employed by the mining company. There has been no trade training for any of them, and of course training for executive positions is out of the question. The mining company initially gave an assurance that there would be desegregated schooling. What has actually happened is that there is now the school for Aboriginals on the old mission site and another shcool for European children at the township, 7 miles away. The occasional European child in the area of the mission site needing schooling is taken to the European school, an expense the Queensland Government claimed was not warranted for Aboriginal children.
So called ‘adequate housing’ was promised, but what was the performance? It was a payment of $300,000, which the Queensland Department of Native Affairs used to construct 62 houses at an average cost of $4,900. This allocation meant that the Aboriginal houses lacked laundries and sewerage, something which Aborigines apparently can do without. In contrast, the average expenditure on each European house was $28,000. On top of that many amenities were provided in the new township which have turned out to be unavailable for non-whites. The reward to Comalco for trampling on the Aboriginals at Weipa is probably the richest bauxite deposit in the world, with a value of something like 12 billion dollars. The cost has been the payment of $300,000 for Aboriginal housing plus a royalty of 5c per ton of bauxite. This royalty incidentally is paid into Queensland consolidated revenue. This is an interesting contrast to the royalty of 20c per ton paid by Nabalco for the bauxite at Gove in the Northern Territory and which is paid, not into Commonwealth consolidated revenue, but into an Aboriginal trust fund.
And now we come to the big pay-off to the Queensland Government which has presided over the whole ugly deal. Preferential issues of shares in Comalco were made to these members of the Queensland cabinet: Mr Chalk, the Treasurer, 1500 shares; Mr Rae, Minister for Local Gov.ernment and Electricity, 1500 shares; Mr Hodges, Minister for Police and Works, 1200 shares; Mr N. Hewitt, Minister for Conservation and - note - Aboriginal Affairs, 1200 shares; Mr Tooth, Minister for Health, 1200 shares; and Mr Campbell, Minister for Industrial Development, 700 shares. These 50c shares were offered with a premium of $2.25, making a total payment of $2.75 per share. When they came on the market these shares opened at $5.70 each and rose to $5.90 each on the first day. They are at present valued at $5.50, a hundred per cent profit - not a bad transaction.
The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) probably will tell us that 50,000 shares are held in trust for the Aborigines. If these were distributed to each Aboriginal at Weipa there would he about 8 shares per person, but it is worse than that because the shares are held in trust for all the Aboriginals of Queensland. In this Parliament in June the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) declared that the preferential issues of shares to the Queensland Government members was not his concern. This is not so at all. By a large majority in the 1967 referendum the Australian people gave power to the Commonwealth to legislate for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. The Commonwealth must now act resolutely and quickly to preserve the future of the Weipa Aboriginals from the predatory actions of the mining company and the Queensland Government. With the power of export licensing the Commonwealth has all the powers it needs. There is one further very sinister aspect to the matter. I have it on good authority that the Queensland Government now has a policy of separate but equal development at Weipa. I think we all have a very clear picture in our minds of what separate but equal development means. Its more common name is apartheid. The Queensland Government has no intention of integrating the white and black communities at all. 1 am not talking about South Africa; I am talking about a Government right here in Australia. The Commonwealth Government is legally and morally bound to forestall these actions which are completely contrary to the policy of the Federal Government and the wishes of the Australian people.
Finally, I would like to refer to two extracts from the Townsville ‘Daily Bulletin’ of Saturday, 11th July 1970. On that day an Aboriginal man was jailed for 2 years with hard labour for attempting unlawfully to use a motor vehicle. The man was said to have a lengthy criminal record including a number of charges for unlawfully using motor vehicles. On the same page is an account of 2 men who pleaded guilty to five charges of breaking and entering. Both these latter men had previous convictions and currently were serving 18 months on probation. For these 5 further offences they were placed on probation. Here are 2 cases in the same Court, the same day, the same judge. The black man gets 2 years for attempting to unlawfully use a car, the white men are put on probation for 5 separate offences of breaking and entering. 1 think this requires no further comment, except that this was an extract from the local paper of the one day of my life I have spent at Townsville. If this is a representative sample of justice in Townsville, T would suggest it is time that attention was given to using the courts to dispense justice without fear or favour and without regard to colour. The member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) incidently is no doubt doing a splendid job for the Returned Services League in Townsviile. It is about time he threw off his inertia and helped the Aboriginal community in his electorate. I have waited for him to speak up for the Aborigines in his area, but T have waited in vain. I have no doubt his electors will give him the treatment he deserves ;n 1.972.
– I wish to speak to Division 430. sub-division 3, item 08 in the estimates for the Prime Ministers Department which relates to ‘Aboriginal Advancement (for payment to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account).’ The appropriation for the current financial year is $10,400,000. This is an increase of $3.6m or 47 per cent over the allocation last financial year under which would come some of the projects which the Government is undertaking to assist Aboriginal enterprises. I will mention a few of these. They include the Docker River Social Club, $2,600; the Haasts Bluff Social Club, $3,125; the Yirrkala Aboriginal Business Enterprises for the Brickworks project, $95,000, of which $30,000 came from the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account; and the Yuendumu Social Club - that is, the mining company for the copper project - $23,000.
I mentioned that another source of income for Aboriginal enterprises is the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Fund which has an income of $593,800. An amount of $367,000 has been committed in grants and loans so far. This amount includes housing trust advances for Maningrida, Roper River, Warrabri and Umbakumba amounting to $80,000. Money has been found also for 23 other approved projects. In the short time available to me, 1 will not be able to detail each of these projects. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a document setting out in the order in which they are approved recommendations for grants or loans from the Fund. It reads:
Purpose: Loan of $2,600 to meet the salary for six months of a carpenter engaged for the construction of a store building at Docker River.
Recommendation: An interest free loan of $’2,600 repayable within 2 years for the purpose of meeting the salary for 6 months of a carpenter to erect a store building; security to be taken by way of Bill of Sale over 2 vehicles owned by the Social Club; a condition of the loan to be that the Social Club obtains approval in principle to the grant of a lease over the land involved before any building is commenced.
Purpose: Loan of $4,200 to complete the kiosk building (Current loan of $14,000 already approved) and to purchase a panel van to transport employees to kiosk and provisions for kiosk.
Recommendation: Additional loan of $4,200 to be granted to the Association for the above purpose under the same terms and conditions as approved for the original loan of $14,000; Bill of Sale to be taken over vehicle to secure part of loan relating to purchase of this vehicle.
Purpose: Complete the construction of a museum building which has been partly constructed by the Yuendumu Museum Society. Work to date completed is estimated at $3,500.. A grant on a $ for $ basis has been sought for the completion of the building.
Recommendation: Grant of $3,500 on a $ for $ basis for purchase of materials and fittings and employment of a builder/carpenter provided -
lock able rooms are incorporated in the building; and lb) the building to be completed within 12 months.
Purpose: To erect a brickmaking plant and conduct a garbage service at Gove.
Recommendation: Up to $30,000 be made available by interest free loan on the understanding that the Capital Fund matches this loan on the basis of approximately $2 for $1; other terms of the loan to be not less favourable than those set by the Capital Fund; that loan is subject to condition -
that the Office of Aboriginal Affairs withdraw the condition that the formation committee is directly accountable to the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
Purpose: Purchase of a truck so that applicant can operate as sub-contractor to the Mission for the garbage collection service at Alyangula and Angurugu.
Recommendation: interest free loan of $5,000 repayable by equal monthly instalments over 5 years; security to be by way of Bill of Sale over vehicle.
Purpose: Purchase of a bus to provide a community bus service between Bamyili, Beswick and Katherine and also for charter for special trips. Social Club proposes to charge an economic fare to users of the service.
Recommendation: Interest free loan of $5,700 for purchase of a bus repayable by equal monthly instalments over 3 years; security to be by way of Bill of Sale over vehicle.
The third meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Fund was held on 6th February 1970. While the Administration has yet to send the Department the recommendations made at this meeting, it has asked that one case in particular be recommended to you at this stage.
Purpose: Loan of $3,750 to purchase a truck, a water trailer, and prospecting equipment for members of the Social Club who are engaged in prospecting at Docker River.
Recommendation: A (oan of $3,750 to the Docker River Social Club for the purchase of a truck, a water trailer, and prospecting equipment; the loan to be interest-free and repayable over a period of 5 years by equal instalments at 6- monthly intervals; security for the loan to be taken by way of a Bill of Sale over the vehicle and equipment.
This approval to be conditional on a new manager for the Club being appointed before any loan is paid over, and the Administrator giving an assurance that arrangements have been made for regular checks of the Club’s prospecting activities to assure that the loan moneys are being used to the best advantages and for the purposes authorised.
Purpose: Loan of $14,000 to purchase fishing boat and equipment and grant of $5,000 to cover supervisors salary to enable Aboriginal group to engage in fishing as a commercial proposition.
Recommendation: Grant of $5,000 to cover the salary of the supervisor for the first year and a loan of $14,000 to cover the cost of a boat and necessary equipment be made available to the Umbakumba Social Club; the loan to be repayable over 7 years interest-free with security to be taken by way of a Bill of Sale over the equipment; a condition of the loan to be that a competent supervisor is employed.
Purpose: Grant of $3,125 to cover the cost of the community hall and loan of $1,875 to cover the balance of the cost of the store building after Club members have contributed approximately $1,250 in the form of their own labour.
Recommendation: Grant of $3,125 towards the cost of the Social Hall and an interest-free loan of $1,875 repayable over 2 years for the construction of the Stores Building be made to the Haasts Bluff Social Club subject to the Minister’s agreement in principle of the issue of a lease over the land required for this purpose.
Purpose: The Society plans to operate its own bakery to supply the community. Loan of $4,000 to enable purchase of two-deck baking oven.
Recommendation: An interest-free loan of $4,000 be made available to the Maningrida Cooperative Society repayable by equal monthly instalments over 4 years; security to be taken by a ‘Bill of Sale over equipment.
Purpose: Loan of $7,800 to purchase materials and employ carpenter for 6 months to erect toilet-ablution block and saddlery room (including living area for Supervisor) and to purchase saddles for use in connection with Association’s tourist activities, especially the trail ride venture.
Recommendation: A loan of $7,800 to the Jay Creek Progress Association for the purchase of materials and saddles and to employ a carpenter for 6 months; the loan to carry interest of 3) per cent per annum and to be repayable over 5 years in equal instalments commencing 30th September 1970 and at 6 monthly intervals thereafter. Security to be taken by way of Bill of Sale over saddlery and by first mortgage over buildings.
The loan to be subject to Minister’s agreement in principle of the issue of a lease over the land required for the buildings.
Purpose: To purchase for its trail ride venture a rubber-tyred horse-drawn wagon to carry provisions, luggage and such passengers who are not able to ride.
Recommendation: A loan of $2,000 for the purchase of a trail wagon; loan to be repayable over a period of 5 years in equal instalments commencing 30th September 1970 and at 6 monthly intervals thereafter. Security to be taken by way of Bill of Sale over the vehicle.
Purpose: Loan of $3,000 to meet balance of cost of truck to be used for the transport of Garden Point people to sporting events and social occasions at Melville Island.
Recommendation: Loan of $3,000 interest free repayable over 2 years be made available to 3 nominated trustees of the group known as the Tiwi Transport Society for the purpose of purchasing a truck for the transport of people on Melville Island. Loan to be repayable in equal monthly instalments commencing 30 days after the payment of loan to the trustees; security to be provided by way of Bill of Sale over the vehicle. Loan to be conditional on the Society contributing any balance required to meet the purchase price and arranging insurance satisfactory to the Administrator to indemnify the lender in respect of loss of or damage to the vehicle.
Purpose: Grant of $40,000 on a $1 for $1 basis to build a community hall and council chambers at a total cost of $80,000. Association to contribute $10,000 in cash and $30,000 in voluntary labour with construction scheduled over 3 years.
Recommendation: A grant of $40,000 to the Maningrida Progress Association for the erection of a community hall and council chambers subject to:
Purpose; Grant of $4,000 towards the cost of $5,400 to erect a concrete basketball court to competition standards with electric lighting and a spectators’ stand using 5-tiered 1-sided steps.
Recommendation: A grant of $4,200 to the Warrabri Social Club for the erection of a concrete basketball court, including lighting and spectators’ stand subject to the Club contributing at least $1,200 towards the cost of the project.
Purpose: Grant of $8,000 towards the cost of $10,000 to install lighting at village sports oval.
Recommendation: A grant of $8,000 to the Elcho Island Village Council for the installation of lighting at the village sports oval subject to:
the Mission giving assistance to install and maintain the lighting.
Purpose: Grant of $42,000 to construct a tourist centre to include a barbecue, hamburger stall, artifact and souvenier sales stand, museum and an expanded store area to permit stocking of a greater selection of goods.
Recommendation: A grant of $42,000 to the Amoonguna Social Club to construct a tourist centre subject to:
the Club keeping the building and contents fully insured at all times.
Purpose: Loan of $2,000 towards the C03t of building a self-contained cottage at Yuendumu.
Recommendation: A loan of $2,000 to Mr Jagamara to bridge the gap between funds available to build a cottage and the cost thereof on the basis of repayment by fortnightly instalments over a 10-year period at 1 per cent per annum flat rate of interest subject to:
security by way of first morgage being provided and the house being fully insured against all risks, the policy being endorsed in favour of the Commonwealth for the duration of the loan.
Purpose: Loan of $3,600 to purchase building materials for the construction of a canteen and accommodation for a manager.
Recommendation: An interest-free loan to the Docker River Social Club to enable it to purchase materials for the construction of a canteen and accommodation of a manager, the loan being repayable on 2 equal annual instalments subject to:
security by way of first mortgage being provided and the building being fully insured against all risks, the policy being endorsed in favour of the Commonwealth for the duration of the loan.
Purpose: Loan of $10,000 to enable the local store to continue operations.
Recommendation: A loan of $ 1 0.000 to the Roper River Citizens Club to enable it lo continue operating a store subject to:
the conditions applying to the loan under section 12 (2.) (e) of the Social Welfare Ordinance also applying to this loan should the term of this loan exceed the firstmentioned loan.
Purpose: Loan of $3,400 to enable the purchase of a land rover and trailer.
Recommendation: A loan of $3,400 to the Rirratjingu Group for the purchase of a land rover and trailer repayable in equal monthly instalments over 2 years at 2 per cent per annum flat rate of interest subject to:
the Group appointing 2 trustees, to whom the loan moneys can be paid, who will accept the above obligations.
Purpose: Loan of $3,000 to enable the purchase of a land rover.
Recommendation: A loan of $3,000 to the Mungalili Clan for the purchase of a land rover repayable in equal monthly instalments over 2 years at 2 per cent per annum flat rate of interest subject to:
all necessary repairs being carried out after each inspection;
Some very worthwhile projects are contained in that document-
In continuing to discuss the matter of Aboriginal affairs, I mention that I recently listened here to a speech by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) in relation to Aboriginal affairs. He made the statement that in 1966 a strike occurred on many pastoral properties in the Northern Territory. There are over 200 pastoral properties in the Northern Territory. Despite the fact that Wattie Creek is on one of them - Wave Hill - the stock camp was not on strike at that time -
November - and some honourable members will be aware that not much cattle work is done in these areas at that time. But the men on Limbunya Station - the station next door to the west of Wave Hill - were advised by the strike organisers to do certain things. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), would be interested in this because the man concerned would be a friend of his. He is a ticketed Communist - Brian Manning.
– They vote for me but he does not. The Limbunya men were told to go to the Wave Hill station to join the men who were on strike. When they got there, they found that there was no strike. Several stockmen worked off Camfield which, once again, is a property adjacent to Wave Hill. While we are discussing this strike, about which the honourable member for Brisbane had quite a lot to say, it is a strange coincidence that Brian Manning, the wharf labourers’ vigilance officer and a ticketed Communist, was on Wave Hill for some weeks before the strike took place. I just mention that as being a strange coincidence because the honourable member for Brisbane said that they organised it themselves, so I do not know what Manning was doing there. Another strike organiser apparently drove down the bitumen, the Stuart Highway, and managed to talk some Newcastle Waters men into going on strike, and also a few at Brunchilly. Despite the fact that there was much organisation by such men as Manning and others such as Hardy, Gibbs and Ward, of whom honourable members opposite have no doubt heard, of the 200 stations in the area only 6 were affected, and certainly not all the Aboriginals on those 6 stations took strike action.
There are 520,000 square miles of land in the Territory, of which 291,500 square miles is held under leasehold and 488 square miles is freehold It can be seen that the normal tenure is in leasehold. Over 90,000 square miles in the Territory is put aside for Aboriginal reserves. That does not include the miss:on land held by Santa Theresa, Hermannsberg, Bathurst Island and various other missions. In this land set aside for Aboriginal reserves there is some very fine cattle country and there are some tremendous mining projects being carried out.
– They do not belong to the Aboriginals.
– You or I cannot get a lease there. They are the only ones who can get a lease in the 90,000 square miles. The Aboriginals have the right to take up leases in that area. There are vast areas of land and there is an ever increasing supply of capital being made available. By the end of 1974, I think, the Aborigines Benefit Trust Fund will have a total of $4m with an annual income of Sim, so there is quite a lot of money which will be available for future projects many of which can be run by Aboriginals who are learning to manage the projects themselves. The main point of my remarks tonight is that there should be sufficient skilled and dedicated men who are willing to lead - and I do not say this lightly - and assist the Aboriginals to learn to run their own enterprises. Most of the people who rush up to the Territory and lay a few bricks, as Abschol representatives or university students did last month, are the sort of persons who spend a week or so in the Territory and then spend the next year or so writing about it and probably talking about it down here. They are only confusing the Aboriginals. They are not really helping the situation at all, even though they may possibly be sincere.
I want to mention again the class of person who could assist and who is of necessity urgently needed to help Aboriginals develop their own resources within the Territory. These people are few and far between at present. They would need to have years of experience in the country. They would need to have trmendous guts and determination for living in and developing the country. Certainly these qualities are called for. No-one can go up there and know all about the Territory in a week. A person has to stay in the Territory and learn with the Aboriginal people. He would need to have endless patience to carry on teaching and developmental work for other people over many years. They would have to be paid sufficient to induce them to remain in that country for a long time. We should be training these people now. If they are to be of any use they must be the top men in their trades.
I suggest that many of the advisers, the do-gooders and the stirrers should get out in the Territory and see how they go at organising a contract mustering team or a fencing contract team or developing, as was suggested, a 500 square mile property on Wave Hill. I do not think that any one of these sort of people would fall within the category of the men who should be in the Territory assisting Aboriginals to run their enterprises. These are the sort of Australians that we do need in this country to help the Aboriginals with their enterprises, to enable them to get on their feet and running well. These men would have to be hard working, sincere and prepared to live in the country for a long time. I do not think that any of the yakkers down here would be capable of undertaking such a task.
– I just want to make one or two observations on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, based specifically on the allocation for the arts for this year. I do not want to appear to be overly critical and I do not want to appear to be carping or to seem ungenerous in paying a tribute to the Government and to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for their interest in the performing arts, lt is very gratifying to see that the increase this year will be 45 per cent, making a total of $3,850,000 for assistance for the arts in this country in the year 1970-71. There are one or two figures that. I think are interesting and I would like to refer to them. Last year, for example, we had an appropriation of $247,000 for historical and other works of art, including the commissioning of portraits. I commend this appropriation and I hope that it will not be deleted in the coming years. I notice that the appropriation has been reduced to $205,000 which in fact is a decrease of $42,000 on last year. I hope that this decrease will not be the trend, in coming years. The assistance to Australian composers is always very pleasing to see. This year the appropriation is $24,600. 1 do not think it can be over-stressed that any national government, as this Government is, does have a responsibility towards the performing arts because, as I have said in this place on a number of occasions, one’s development cannot always be measured only in material terms.
One’s national development and one’s national image cannot always be seen only by the number of oil wells one sees or by the number of mines one discovers and subsequently develops. It is the artistic creative ability and the recognition of that in our nation that certainly in years to come will be perhaps one of the greatest land marks this society is capable of producing. The exact figure for assistance in this field this year is $1,166,000.
As 1 said, I do not want to appear to be overly critical but I would like the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock), who is sitting at the table, to make one or two notes of the points I want to make on specific priorities with regard to the allocation which, as I understand it, is made through the Australian Council for the Arts. I think 1 would not be incorrect in saying that the Australian Council for the Arts in fact acts as a manager in this case. For example, it has come to my notice that an outstanding music group in my own State of Tasmania, the Tasmanian String Quartet, did apply to the Prime Minister for a grant or for a subsidy of $5,000 towards their air fares to travel to Warsaw. If I may 1 will explain the reason for the application.
Recently we had a visit to this country by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and the distinguished conductor of that orchestra invited the Tasmanian String Quartet to visit Warsaw to perform at the Contemporary Music Arte Festival in that city. Those honourable members who are familiar with this Contemporary Music Arts Festival will realise that an invitation of this type does not come easily, lt was a great tribute to the musicianship and the professional standing of the Tasmanian String Quartet that it was invited to perform at this very distinguished musical festival. The group applied to the Prime Minister’s Department for a subsidy of $5,000 for the fares of the members. The Polish Government, through the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, was prepared to subsidise the group, to pay all its expenses and. indeed, to arrange other concerts for it in that country. The request, unfortunately, was turned down on the basis, as I am led to believe, that it is Government policy in these matters to import artists and groups of this type and not to export them. This seems to be a strange priority.
On the one hand, the Government provides assistance to organisations like the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra - and I do not criticise but applaud this - and the Australian Ballet yet when an invitation was extended to a distinguished group of Australian musicians to appear overseas the Government would not provide assistance because it was not its policy to encourage trips of this nature. This is most disappointing because I know of no other group of musicians in Australia which has ever received such an invitation. The invitation reflected great credit on the group and it would have been fitting had the Government acceded to the request and so enabled the group to accept the invitation.
A very distinguished choir in Tasmania was invited to appear at the great Welsh National Eisteddfod. I believe it is the first Australian choir ever to receive such an invitation. Again an application was made to the Prime Minister’s Department for some assistance. I am not in a position to say what that precise assistance was in terms of money, but the application was rejected. I find it extraordinary that 2 groups, both distinguished in their own fields - one thoroughly professional and the other certainly amateur - should be invited to 2 outstanding musical festivals abroad and yet the Government should miss out on a wonderful opportunity of benefiting from the propaganda that would have flowed from such tours. It would have been a unique opportunity for Australia to be represented abroad at these festivals and the groups would have gained tremendous experience from their visits. I have made these 2 points because I believed it right to do so. As I said when I commenced my remarks, I am not over-critical about this.
I am delighted and do applaud the Government and the Prime Minister for this allocation. It reveals an awakening of the responsibility that any national parliament must have towards the performing arts. I hope that the policy will be continued and expanded. It is a policy that is gratefully received by Australian artists. 1 hope that the criticisms that I have made are answered by the Minister so that we can see what priorities are established in the allocation of funds to particular groups that may apply for them for overseas tours.
– I participate in this debate on the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department in order to raise some questions about the whole structure of the Department. We are now discussing the so-called think tank or nerve centre of the nation. May I say, quite bluntly, from what I can see where I stand that it is far from being a pretty sight? If it is a think tank we ought to be able to judge it from more than the figures that we see in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). I want to raise, in particular, the fact that there is this dichotomy between the Prime Minister’s Department on the one hand and the Cabinet Office on the other. I am going only on my personal observations. I am unable to obtain any confidential information, and if I did I would not be able to use it in this chamber, but I will outline the information that I have because it will lead to a point that I will make later. I raise this subject because, as far as I can see, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Department does not sit in on Cabinet, yet he, his 2 deputy secretaries, 3 first assistant secretaries and a number of other assistant secretaries are in charge of planning the policy of this nation and of recommending policy to Cabinet. They are not privy to the thinking of Cabinet Ministers. On the other hand the Head of the Cabinet Office has the advantage of being a fly on the wall while Cabinet is sitting and of learning all this information. He does not attend the Premiers’ Conferences. I repeat, these are personal observations.
I took the trouble to come to Canberra from Adelaide last Thursday week, 8th October, during the course of the last Premiers’ Conference and, as far as I could ascertain. Sir John Bunting and his deputies were not sitting in on that conference whereas they would normally be at a meeting of Cabinet Ministers, but Mr Hewitt of the Prime Minister’s Department and his officers were sitting in on that occasion. My point is that with this sort of structure the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing and vice versa. In a situation such as this, in a key nerve centre of government of this country, the onus is on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Government to prove to the nation that the structure is the correct structure for this nation.
– He ought to be in the chamber when we are debating his Department.
– I am grateful for the interjection because the Prime Minister should be here. He must account for the stewardship of his Department, which is the key department of the nation. As I mentioned earlier, I am relying on personal observations because of the lack of further information. I may be charged, as vice-chairman of the Public Accounts Committee - indeed, as Acting Chairman now - with being partly responsible for not seeing that there are other ways of obtaining knowledge about such a department, but let us be realistic. From all the knowledge that I have been able to gain in my year in this Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee has never done an indepth inquiry into any department which is a nerve centre of government and while it is structured as it is at the moment, with a majority of Government backbenchers and a Government member as chairman, it is unlikely to do so. This is not to suggest that the Committee is not doing a valuable job. I would defend it for the job it is doing, but it is not doing a job which would elicit the sort of information that I believe should be available to the representatives of the people in this chamber, namely, information about the structure of such a key department as the Prime Minister’s Department and its relationship to the Cabinet Office. The onus of proof is on the Government to prove that the present structure is correct.
During the course of the last year the Prime Minister has been lecturing the nation. He gave a leading lecture in Adelaide on the importance of management education. One of the first principles of management is that there should be proper lines of communication and I suggest that all the evidence in front of a representative of the people, such as myself, is that such a structure does not exist in the key Prime Minister’s Department.
I want to move on from there to a couple of other items in this extremely heterogeneous department and to take up the point which has been made by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). He mentioned that section of thi Prime Minister’s Department relating to the arts. Here we must be fair and say that the present Prime Minister has far more interest in the arts than had other Prime Ministers in recent years. But I sugest that wilh all the other responsibilities that he has on his plate, surely he can find some other Minister within his Cabinet or indeed within his Ministry to take this burden off his shoulders. Along with the honourable member for Franklin, 1 advocate that stimulating the arts is an extremely important area of government in our community. At the moment we have the situation in which the arts are not for every man by any manner or means. The arts seem to be for the privileged people in this country. I think it is true to say that of all the nations, until recently it was only the English speaking nations which did not have a national theatre. Now we are being left well behind even the other English speaking nations, inasmuch as Great Britain has its National Theatre, Canada has its National Theatre and I believe that New Zealand has its National Theatre.
– The Irish have had one for years.
– The Irish have had one for years, and that was the one grand exception to the point 1 made about English speaking people not having a theatre for many years. We are left with the United States as being about the only country not to have a national theatre. I record my gratification that at least $200,000 was granted to the Adelaide Festival Theatre during the last financial year, but I suggest that as Adelaide is the home of culture in this nation, it might be wise for the Government to allocate further sums to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, to the Adelaide Festival Theatre, not only in the current year 1970-7.1, but in future years.
Another factor about the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department relates to the Auditor-General’s office. My functions on the Public Accounts Committee have kept me quite close to the Auditor-General and his duties. J believe that any intelligent reader of the last Auditor-General’s report would come to the conclusion that the Auditor-General is finding the task beyond the resources at his command. 1 am disappointed to note that the appropriation for the Auditor-General’s office has been reduced, I believe, in the current year, although I cannot put my finger on the amount in the very short space of time left to me. 1 believe that the full appropriation was not spent in the previous year, but in this year the appropriation is down, although it is up on the amount spent last year. A lot more effort should be made to see that that Office is staffed adequately, because it is a key office in seeing that government is efficiently administered.
I should have liked to mention VIP aircraft, the High Commissioner’s office in London and the need for an inquiry into the Public Service, but I can merely emphasise that the Prime Minister’s Department is an extremely heterogeneous department. I believe that on the face of it a lot more inquiry is needed into this Department. I hope that in the next year we will see signs of these things happening. (Quorum formed)
– I want to direct the attention of the Committee on these estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department to a relic of colonial days - perhaps the most expensive relic of them all - namely, Australia House in London. This magnificent morgue will cost us $5.6m this year. Salaries alone will cost $2.7m. It costs us more than most of the rest of our overseas missions put together. The proposed expenditure of $5. 6m compares with the $700,000 for our representation in our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. It compares with the $2.4m provided for the Embassy in Washington - the acknowledged power base of the Western world.
Perhaps it would not be a matter of complaint if we were getting value for money expended on this post in London. But Australia House has a reputation for pompous play acting which has reached a new pinnacle of puerility under the present High Commissioner. Not only does it fail to promote better understanding of our problems, hopes and aspirations in London, but its antique styles and attitudes are a positive hindrance. Its antique colonialism is indeed an embarrassment to Britain which has moved ahead of such postures.
The fundamental error built into this relic of the colonial past is the attachment of this overseas post to the Prime Minister’s Department. It is the only overseas diplomatic post that I can find which is not under the control of the Department of
External Affairs. It is probably the worst post we have in its effectiveness. So surely it is time that we ended this situation and recognised that this overseas mission needs reform. It should be a part of the Department of External Affairs. It should be the subject of a special inquiry to establish why it should cost 30 times more than the average overseas mission. I point out that in the nation next door, Indonesia, we have only a single Embassy building in Djakarta. We have no regional offices. We do not even have an office in West Irian, which is on our very border. Surely the expenditure of $5.6m on Australia House is a ritualistic hangover from the imperial past.
Part of this hangover is the continued use of the title of High Commissioner instead of Ambassador, which is widely understood. It is a title which causes confusion and serves no good purpose. It could just as well be a reference to the boy scouts or to the fire brigade. Both those organisations have commissioners. As an indication of the confusion, I should like to mention that in an Indonesian school textbook I saw on one occasion it listed the basic structure of the Australian Government as comprising firstly, the British High Commissioner, secondly the Governor-General and thirdly the Prime Minister. This was the trinity of authority as understood by the compiler of that textbook. I can understand what is given to me as an excuse for its retention, that the letter of credential cannot in theory be presented by the monarch to herself; but this is hardly sound when we understand the monarch in theory is a separate and distinct Head of State for each independent nation. So let us away with the meaningless form of title, an antique complex, and inquire into the value we are not getting for money.
I thought if the House was in doubt as to the flood of complaints about the inadequacy of this antique establishment I might mention one which is typical of the continuing complaints about the face Australia presents in Britain. It is an incident in which a distinguished British scientist who had secured an Australian appointment called at Australia House to find out something about the town and the area in which he would be working in Australia. He wanted to know not only because of his own interests but that of his family and his school-age children. Did the place have schools? To what level did they go? What was the climate like? Who would settle there? All kinds of natural questions came to his mind as he called at Australia House. Bear in mind, he had secured an appointment and was therefore in theory an officer of an Australian Government agency. The town he happened to inquire about was Griffith, the area was the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area, probably the most intensive area of irrigation in the nation.
– Whose electorate is it in?
– Modesty forbids me to to say. But whoever was on duty confessed to never having heard of the irrigation area, and asked could the officer call back. The officer did so the next day and the efforts of 24 hours produced a venerable copy of the ‘Women’s Weekly’ which had a reference to Griffith. The mountain had laboured and brought forth a mouse. It would seem surely there is a need for a reorganisation of the place to ensure that the face of Australia does not seem to be dark, dingy and singularly uninformed. A mission costing more than nearly all the other missions put together should be the shining example. And a shining example it is not. So I would suggest that the structure of government could well be updated by removing this relic of our colonial past from where it resides in a corner of the spreading Prime Minister’s Department and put it where it belongs, with all the other missions, so that at least we will have some touch of professionalism in its administration and in its handling. I commend the thought not only to the Parliament but also to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who, I would hope, would call occasionally at this dingy corner of past empire and sweep it up.
– The question I raise is the non-attendance of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in the chamber during the debates on the estimates of his Department. I regard that as an extreme discourtesy and one which we ought to deplore. It was the custom of his predecessors in this high office, no matter how busy they were during the debate on the estimates for their Department, to pay the chamber the courtesy of their attention. It is astonishing enough that at this stage-
– It is not true.
– What is not true?
– What you are talking about.
– The honourable member is suggesting the predecessors of the present Prime Minister were equally discourteous. They were not. As a general rule, in these matters they were good parliamentarians. They recognised their duties and recognised it was a courtesy to the Parliament to pay at least some attention to the place while the estimates of their Department were being debated. This is a reflection upon all honourable members opposite. They are the ones who are responsible. They are the ones who are keeping the Prime Minister in office. But as it appears nobody else wants to say much about the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department there are a few things one could say about his Department even in his absence. First of all, of course, he has something to do with tha Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. One wonders why we spend so much money on that. But I will take a few minutes to remind the House about one of the functions which come under his Department and to which at least he has always paid reasonably courteous attention when the body concerned has applied to him for some assistance. I refer to the National Library. The National Library is controlled by a council nominated by the Government and on which 2 members of this Parliament represent the Parliament. I have the good fortune, and I regard it as an honour, to represent this House as a member of the Council. Senator Sir Alister McMullin represents the Senate and the Liberal Party and is Vice-Chairman of the Council. The other members of the council include Sir Harold Wyndham, the honourable Sir Peter Crisp, Mr Kenneth Myer, Sir Leonard Huxley and Dr Ursula Hoff. Currently we are awaiting a new appointment from the Prime Minister’s Department.
I would recommend to honourable members that they take some interest in the National Library which is now becoming one of the world’s largest and more important institutions. The function that the Prime Minister plays in the operation of the Library is assistance in gathering collections when they come to our notice. Recently Sir Harold White retired from the post of National Librarian and was replaced by our former Parliamentary Librarian, Mr Alan Fleming. They are both excellent men. We have now Mr Les Moore as our Parliamentary Librarian. In recent years we have made some very important acquisitions to the National Library and the person principally responsible for discovering them was. of course, Sir Harold White. But 1 take this opportunity to invite any members of the Parliament who wish to look over the National Library or find out something about it to do so. I am at their disposal and they can even use the Standing Orders to ask me questions as long as they give me due notice of the more detailed ones. The point about it is that it has a staff of some 500. It is one of the most important buildings in Canberra and therefore honourable members should pay some respect to it. The other point is that one of its most urgent functions is to supply this Parliament with facilities when it wants them. It is our principal backstop.
There have been some increasingly interesting developments in library affairs in recent times in the use of computers, microfilming and all the ways in which information can be retrieved. As the Prime Minister does not appear to worry much about this Department I will pay him the slight compliment that he has been very useful to the Library whenever it has asked for special grants for special purposes. But again I make my very important complaint that it is an act of extreme discourtesy for a Minister, particularly the Prime Minister, not to be in the chamber when we are discussing the estimates of his Department.
– I desire to enter this debate on the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. The Committee may recall that I directed a question to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) some few weeks ago following the disclosure that a pension had been granted to very extremely ex-Governors-General of this; country at a time when the Government had decided it would pay age pensioners practically nothing to compensate them for the increased cost of living that they have to bear when they are purchasing their meagre everyday needs. The Prime Minister on that occasion almost questioned one’s right to ask a question of this nature. What prompted the Prime Minister to this line of thought is perhaps best known to himself. I only wish he were in the chamber tonight. He is not, and is not likely to be, apparently. But the fact is that the question was followed then by some criticism from a number of Ministers that such a question was asked. Why is this attitude adopted by the Prime Minister and others of his Cabinet? The fact is that the people of the Commonwealth and this Parliament have a right to know. I would like to know from the Prime Minister’s Department - the estimates certainly do not reveal it - whether or not there are other recipients to whom sums of taxpayers’ money are secretly handed out. The Prime Minister is the sole custodian of those funds and he is the only person who doles out these handouts to the affluent and the fortunate within the community. In addition to that, the Prime Minister’s Department is responsible for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I would like to know, although 1 am not likely to be told and the House is not likely to be informed, why the Budget increases the proposed vote for this body by about 13 per cent, which is a greater percentage increase than was accorded to the social welfare sector of the community?
The point I come to is this: While an age pensioner was away from his home, his wife was confronted by an officer of the security service or Commonwealth Police. 1 want to know, the House ought to want to know and the public ought to be informed why age pensioners or their spouses are called upon by representatives of the Security Organisation.
– You mean the secret police.
– Secret service - call the officers what you like. If this sort of thing happened in another country, the Prime Minister would stand up and condemn such action. But he does nothing about these occurrences, shabby as they are. This sort of incident has occurred on 2 occasions - one recently and the other probably a couple of years ago. The only possible conclusion that the people concerned could draw from the visit was that they had chosen to air their knowledge by writing to the newspapers or perhaps writing letters occasionally to members of Parliament This is a shocking state of affairs. The visit considerably upset the aged person to whom I referred. Before her husband arrived home she thought that he had been in some form of serious trouble. She was advised by the police to inform her husband that he ought to keep quiet and more or less behave himself. Having had this information conveyed to him, the Prime Minister ought to do something about the situation. He ought to act quickly. i suppose 1 am no more inquisitive than the average man, but I would like to know whether we are still paying - and whether it falls within the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department - for one of the greatest political farces of all time. I refer to the Petrovs and what flowed from the Petrov royal commission from which there were no prosecutions. I would like to know whether people concerned in this inquiry are still receiving money from the taxpayers today. Somewhere along the line probably the taxpayers are still footing the bill for the persons on this silent list. The House ought to be informed how many people are on the silent list. We ought to be told how many other Governors-General and what-have-you are on this list. We ought to be told who they are, what payments they are receiving and in what circumstances are they entitled to such payments. Is it the prerogative of the Prime Minister and his Department, perhaps after having a quiet whisper to someone or someone having a quiet whisper to the Prime Minister, to dole out taxpayers’ money.
The sums of money that were involved in the case of the 2 Governors-General who received some publicity were far in excess to what I consider they were entitled to in view of the salaries which they commanded during their term of office. I say this even though one of them perhaps had a political affiliation with this side of the House. This makes no difference to me. The fact is that he was paid and paid well for his job while he was in office. I will leave the question of how this man carried out his job to the thoughts of honourable members. I have my own. I was condemned because I dared to mention the fact that a field marshal had been a Governor-General. Why is it considered by some people that anyone who served his country and held the high rank of field marshal, general and so forth ought to be immune from anything but absolute praise? The gentleman to whom I referred is still in employment. But coming down to the grass roots, I say that this man ought not to be treated any differently from those who have paid taxes during the whole of their working lives and are denied by this Government the right to receive lc of that money in return during their retirement. This is why I raise this matter. Why is it so? When this Government ceases being so hypocritical and its supporters cease being hypocritical perhaps one may not question their motives in this regard. But honourable members opposite are certainly not being straightforward in what they do. As a result of the passage of most of the Bills debated in the Budget session, the Government certainly has involved itself in an expenditure that almost boggles the mind. Because of the system that prevails in this chamber, the Government does not have to face up to anything. Yet it sees fit to condemn workers’ organisations and the like which could not possibly get away with such a system of accounting or anything else for that matter. I will end on this note-
– Thank goodness.
– Now I might not conclude. The honourable member who interjected said : ‘Thank goodness’. The attitude of the Party of which he is a member to the rural industries, which it represents, has been: Thank goodness. The rural industries have nothing to thank his Party for. I think that the expenditure of certain sums is perhaps necessary to bolster rural industries today because the people who were supposed to have accepted responsibility for what happened in those industries have done nothing about it. They have turned their heads.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Dmr)’) - Order! The Committee is not discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry.
– I shall come back to the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) is one of those people who keeps turning his head, as does the Prime Minister. I conclude on the note that the Prime Minister ought not to be able to give an answer to a question asked in this House, irrespective of what the subject matter may be, in the manner in which he answered the question to which I referred originally. If there is nothing to hide, why does he not tell us what the complete list is? The Prime Minister can call his watchdogs off the doorsteps of aged pensioners in the electorate which I represent. If it were not for the fact that one of the womenfolk concerned in the matter would have been upset if it had been taken further, most certainly something would have been done about it on an official basis. He most certainly can investigate my statement with a view to calling the policemen off the doorsteps of pensioners who dare to write a letter to a local newspaper occasionally.
– I will not detain the Committee for long. Nobody seems yet to have talked to any great extent about the Public Service Board and about the role which it plays within the structure of the Commonwealth Public Service. As the Labor Party spokesman on this aspect of Government, 1 want to say a few things off the cuff about the Public Service Board. In theory the Public Service Board is an independent authority which is the primary source of fixing rates of pay and conditions of employment for the Commonwealth Public Service. I said that in theory it is an independent body. In practice it is, of course, nothing more than the echo of the government of the day. The Chairman of the Public Service Board is appointed for a period of, I think, 7 years. 1 think it is 7 years or 5 years. It can be less. There fore, he is very susceptible to pressures from a government, particularly when the pressures come from a government which is very much a one-man government. I do not criticise the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for the fact that he, like his predecessors, has carried on a kind of oneman government. While the Liberal Party has a system of Cabinet Ministers being selected by the Prime Minister, all members of that Party will have to bend the knee to the Prime Minister, whoever he may be - whether it be Andrew Jones, John Gorton or Andrew Peacock. All other Ministers and hopefuls have to kowtow to the Prime Minister to maintain a position or to obtain a position.
There is not any doubt that the Public Service Board is being pressurised by the Prime Minister’s Department and, I very much suspect, in some cases by the Prime
Minister personally on things such as 4 weeks annual leave and equal pay, to quote but 2 examples. The Prime Minister has given the game away on at least one occasion when he drew attention to the fact that the Commonwealth Government, as the controlling authority of the Public Service, must always consider itself to be an employer of labour - indeed the biggest employer of labour - and that whenever it fixes rates of pay and conditions of employment for its employees it must have regard to the indirect, and in fact in many instances the direct, effect which its decisions will have upon other employers.
At no stage have the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Bury), when they have spoken on this aspect of government, given the slightest glimmering of concern for the employees. The Prime Minister has not at any stage said that as the leader of the Government of the country it is his duty to pay full regard to the public interest. It is in the public interest to see that Australian employees, of whom there are 4 million, are entitled to consideration. The Prime Minister’s failure to do this indicates a misconception on the part of the Prime Minister of his duty as leader of this country.
In the case of the 4 weeks annual leave the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) has made certain statements. I want to dwell on him for a moment, although we are not discussing his Department. I will show shortly how he comes into this matter in a very real way. The Minister for Labour and National Service gave in this place a figure for the amount it would cost the Austraiian employers to introduce 4 weeks annual leave. First of all, he does not know how many people are now getting 4 weeks annual leave as a minimum. Therefore, if he does not know that - I know that he does not know it because I have been waiting for weeks to get a reply from him to a question on this very subject - how on earth can he give an assessment of what the introduction of 4 weeks annual leave generally will cost?
A lot of people are getting 4 weeks annual leave already. Therefore one would have to know the number who are getting 4 weeks annual leave already before one could say what would be the additional cost to employers if 4 weeks annual leave generally were introduced. It would seem therefore that the Minister for Labour and National Service assumes that no-one is getting 4 weeks annual leave and that you simply multiply the cost of a week’s wages by the 4 million people now employed to arrive at the additional cost. This reasoning assumes that an employer would have to employ additional men in exact proportion to the extra leave granted, whereas in point of fact everyone who understands administration theory knows that this is not correct.
If an employer of 40 people decides to give those employees an extra week’s leave, he does not have to employ an additional person to make up for it. It does not work out that way, but that is the way that the Minister’s argument runs. Therefore he brings his pressure to bear upon the Public Service Board to see that it does not increase the annual leave now granted to the Commonwealth Public Service. The New South Wales Government is already giving 4 weeks annual leave to its employees. The South Australian Labor Government has given it to its employees. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has now given 4 weeks annual leave to its employees.
I now come to another point of major complaint. The Australian National Line agreed with the waterside workers not so long ago to introduce a 35-hour week for employees of the Australian National Line as part of an industrial settlement. But 3 terminal ports are now idle because of a dispute over the matter. When an agreement was entered into between the combatants in the dispute to settle it, the Minister for Labour and National Service went to the Cabinet and prevailed upon it to direct the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to veto the agreement entered into between the 2 parties. In my view this kind of interference by Ministers in the administration of Government instrumentalities - in particular, the Commonwealth Public Service Board - is something which is pretty reprehensible.
The professional engineers case was a prime example of the stubbornness of the Prime Minister and his blindness to facts, reason and the need for fair play. It is no use the Prime Minister denying - and I do not believe him if he does deny it - that he used his influence upon the Public Service Board to prevent the professional engineers from retaining the position they secured in the general wage structure of Australia as a result of the 1961 engineers case. The Commonwealth Government refuses to depart from the decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Public Service Arbitrator and is trying to imply that there are no such things as over award payments. It forgets that what governs wages today is not the nominal amounts which are fixed by the respective tribunals but the market value of wages paid over and above the minimum fixed by the tribunals, as determined by the law of supply in a situation in which there is, relatively speaking, a shortage of labour.
– Was that not the decision arrived at in Western Australia?
– I am obliged to the honourable member for Hawker. The Industrial Commission of Western Australia has awarded an increase of more than $6 a week in wages as the basic minimum and it has determined that people who are not already getting over award payments are entitled to a 10 per cent increase.
I believe that something ought to be done in the way of a public inquiry - a royal commission, if you like - into the Commonwealth Public Service of the same nature as occurred in 1919, as occurrred in Britain only a couple of years ago, and as took place in New Zealand during the last 3 or 4 years. I believe that such an inquiry would bring to light some pretty staggering facts about the way the Commonwealth Public Service is being administered.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is engaged in a Cabinet meeting tonight I think it is perfectly reasonable for me, in my capacity as Minister assisting the Prime Minister, to act on his behalf in regard to the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. I have taken a careful note of most of the remarks which have been made. I have no doubt that more remarks will be made during the time which is available for discussion of the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. However, I think I should comment at this stage on a few of the remarks which have already been made. I am sure that my colleague, the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth), will wish to make some comments on earlier speeches which have been made in regard to the assistance provided by the Government to Aboriginals.
Firstly, may I refer to the speech which was made by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). The honourable member mentioned 2 groups in particular which had evidently applied to the Council for the Arts for assistance. They were the Tasmanian String Quartet and the Rosny Girls Choir. As I recall, the honourable member said, in mentioning the Tasmanian String Quartet, that he believed that its application for assistance was rejected because the Government’s policy was to import groups and not export them. The honourable member asked whether this was in fact the Government’s policy. As I understand it, the Council for the Arts uses the bulk of its international exchange programme on exporting Australian groups, which is quite the reverse of what was suggested by the honourable member. This includes sending overseas large groups such as the Australian Ballet and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, which will go, for example, to the United States of America, as well as small groups such as the Adelaide Wind Quintet and the New Sydney Wind Quintet. It is regrettable however, that the funds which are provided for this programme cannot accommodate all the requests which are made.
I understand the desire of the honourable member to render assistance by way of preferring the 2 groups as he did tonight and I am sure the Council for the Arts would like to assist all groups which made application to it but it is unable to do that on its present budget. Even with the increase from $50,000 in 1969-70 to 8200,000 in 1970-71 it is still necessary for the Council to reject certain applications. However, I understand that another grant was given to the Tasmanian String Quartet for a local tour and I would imagine that the Council for the Arts had some difficulty, because the Quartet had already received an allotment, in making a further allotment for a visit overseas. I recall that the honourable member made a distinction between a professional group and an amateur group. It is my understanding that the Council for the Arts gives priority to professional performers and companies and the choir to which he referred was, of course, an amateur group. I would also imagine - this is a purely personal opinion - that a choir could be a very expensive touring group to send overseas.
May I also refer to some remarks made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford)? After discussing the dichotomy between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet Office he remarked that mere was no national theatre for Australia and although he spoke of his gratitude for the assistance to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts he expreessed the viewpoint that we should have a national theatre group. I assume therefore that this national theatre would tour throughout the country and, as I understand it, the members of the Council for the Arts, in putting their minds to this particular matter, have made a quite deliberate decision not to have a national theatre based on economics and geography in a country the size of Australia. Obviously, most of the money that would be made available to a national theatre group touring a country of our size would be spent on air fares alone. Again, as I understand it, the Council for the Arts has decided instead to establish and build up one drama company of high quality in each capital city. In other words, more people can be satisfied for the same amount of money.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) raised a matter that is frequently mentioned - I only want to touch on this point - and that is the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom being attached to the Prime Minister’s Department and not to the Department of External Affairs. All I would say in reply at this juncture is to refer the honourable member to a reply that was given by the Prime Minister in this House on 22nd May 1969 as reported at page 2221 of Hansard in which he referred to a question that had been asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam). He stated:
Because of the unique historical association between Australia and die United Kingdom and because this is believed to be the most appropriate arrangement . . .
These are the factors that are brought to mind with this particular association. The Prime Minister continued: as the honourable member will know, this is the arrangement which has continued under successive Governments in Australia.
I do not wish to comment on other remarks that have been made tonight but I would reiterate that in regard to Aboriginal affairs my colleague the Minister for Social Services has, I arn sure, matters to put before the Committee tonight.
– I want to draw attention to and make a small report upon the Parliamentary Delegations to South East Asia 1970 which is shown under Division 434 with the very modest sum of $7,465. I was a member of the most recent delegation and I am sure the nation received good value for its money. I will make 2 points about the visit. First of all, I think these are very valuable contributions to the understanding of the Parliament of the area in which we live. I hope they are continued. I would like to see them expanded. I would like to see facilities available to members to travel to this area more freely. Since I entered the Parliament there has been a large increase in the opportunities to travel internationally. These select groups travelling for special purposes are very important both in contributing to our understanding and in contributing to our relationships with the people in those countries. In the last delegation we first of all visited Thailand, then went on to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Vietnam we were able to visit our troops in the field. It is to our troops that I wish to draw the attention of the House. I believe there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the actual military position in which our troops find themselves at this time in that area.
We have our 3 battalions at a place called Nui Dat, which is some 12- or 15 miles from the coast. Our main base is in the area called Phuoc Tuy. We have established a substantial base there. I believe the important point about this is that we have not very close relationships with either the American forces or the South Vietnamese forces. Part of the development has been not exactly to isolate Australian troops but to make them as nearly as possible independent of our allies. I personally believe that this is an important military fact and one to which members of this Parliament ought to draw the attention of the people of Australia.
In recent times we have had the announcement that one battalion is going to be withdrawn. That is fair enough. It is in line with Labor policy. The troops should never have been there in the first instance. On this occasion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said that having decided that, we ought to withdraw the lot, particularly in view of the fact that the Americans are scaling down their forces in South Vietnam. This statement has been drawn upon the head of my Leader and the Labor Party a remarkable set of cliches. We have been charged with running out on our mates, told that we are going to scuttle, that we are going to cut and run and that we are going to do all these things which Australians regard as infamous, notorious and badly placed. I want to show to the Parliament that this just is not the fact. The situation in Vietnam is such that if all our troops were lifted out it would make very little military difference to the total area and would have no substantial effect upon the operations of our allies. It certainly would not affect in any way the political situation as it is found in that part of South Vietnam. One of the difficulties with which we are faced is that people are still thinking back to 1914 and 1940, when if the thin red line was broken the whole side was let down, the enemy poured through and there was riot, destruction and catastrophe here there and everywhere. I think it is important that the nation realises this.
The Australian troops in Vietnam are not in close relationship with anybody else. They are out in rubber plantations and so on in Nui Dat. They are not garrisoning any area. They are not in close and continuous operation with any of their allies. Their removal would have no substantial effect upon the work of the alliance at all. This is an important point I believe it negates all the criticisms levelled at the Labor Party when we suggested that if one battalion were going to be withdrawn all the battalions ought to be withdrawn. This is not to deny that the troops in the field are as good as anybody. I was impressed and, as au Australian, I suppose I was moved by the comments from Americans and others about the work of our soldiers. But we have to admit that there is a continual sacrifice in Australian lives and Australian casualties there. The fact is that the military operations there are quite muted compared with operations in other areas. All that our troops’ continued occupancy of the place can bring is sacrifice. Large claims have been made by people opposite that our civil aid exercise is a substantial success. This may depend on whatever one claims to be a success. But the political results have been nil. I think one should state quite emphatically that as far as one can tell from the report - this was the view of the servicemen there, both highly placed and at the lowest possible level - we have had no political impact at all upon the town close by, which has a population of about 9,000. We were advised by the senior officers and by anybody who cared to talk that perhaps 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the people in this town were still supporters of the National Liberation Front.
I believe that the criticisms levelled at the Labor Party for suggesting that all the troops ought to be withdrawn from Nui Dat are wrongly placed. The Government now finds itself in a position where it decides to withdraw one battalion from the field. There is no logic in leaving the others there. Honourable members might take a look at the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Minister said: ‘Oh, well, it will not really matter much. They will just cut down on their patrolling.’
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! It being 11 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August, I shall report progress.
– It being 11 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August, I propose the question: That the House do now adjourn.
– As 1 am not sure whether I will be able to speak on the estimates for the Department of Social Services I take this opportunity of bringing to the attention of the House and of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) some matters relating to the application of the tapered means test. During recent days many senior citizens have received official letters requiring them to surrender their pensioner entitlement cards. Some of these letters contain the additional grim words: ‘Your pension has been suspended’ and they require the recipient to give up not only his medical entitlement card but also his pension card. The letters are not individual ones but are form letters, requiring only the pensioner’s name to be written in at the top. The sender is the all-powerful Department of Social Services. 1 say ‘allpowerful’ because in this field there is no appeal against the departmental decision. The receiver is stripped of all personality and dignity as well as sometimes of his pension and in all cases of his medical entitlement.
If one looks at the form letter one will see that the pensioner is not only instructed by the Department but also told exactly how he must reply. The reply is written for him. All he has to do is put his name on it. This is the stereotyped reply that the Department requires:
Pensioner medical entitlement card, pension card and transport concession fares certificate are returned herewith as requested by you.
There is a space for the signature. That is the only right the pensioner has - to put his name to it. I think the Department should have added the words: ‘Yours obediently’ or ‘Yours humbly, obediently’, because the whole procedure smacks to me of the master State giving instructions to its slaves rather than of the State being the servant and the citizen being the master.
The thing that I want particularly to bring to the Minister’s attention is that only the very vaguest reason is given in these form letters for the action taken. One version of the form letter, which I believe has gone out by the thousand, says:
Because of your financial circumstances your pension is now payable solely as a result of the taps red means test, and you can no longer be enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
There is no other information at all. The words ‘because of your financial circumstances’ convey nothing to anybody. The other version of the letter says:
Because of your financial circumstances your pension has been suspended, and you can no longer be enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
Then follows the requirement for the pensioner to return his entitlement and concession cards and a statement as to how to join a hospital and medical benefit fund.
These impersonal letters, coming as they do without any warning or inquiry, hit the pensioner like a totally unexpected blow in the face. 1 have seen this happen. Not only can he find himself suddenly deprived of his few cents of pension - and these people are in the main receiving only a few cents - with no indication as to whether it will ever be restored, not only is he told it is suspended without being told until when or how, but also he finds himself abruptly deprived of his medical entitlement which, as the House knows, is almost the most precious possession of many an aged man or woman. That medical card is their security; it is their comfort; it is their assurance of the help of a doctor whenever they might need it. Indeed, to some it is much more precious than the pension itself. A few pensioners who have received this letter - not more than half a dozen or so - have called on me in deep distress which has verged on despair. J am sure that some other honourable members have had a similar experience.
I emphasise to the House, and particularly to the Minister for Social Services, thatI am not quarrelling with the law under which this situation arises. I and the Party to whichI belong are committed to the abolition of the means test by successive stages over several years. I have stood for the abolition of the means test ever since I made my maiden speech in this House 27 years ago. But while the means test remains, the tapered means test is a good thing. It was established by the Gorton Government. Personally I was glad to see the Government adopt this proposal, which I had so frequently urged upon it. In my book it is entitled to the credit for it, but this is to be set against the very serious and grievous discredits which it has in the social services field. The tapered means test has made a difference to pen sioners. Single pensioners formerly could not earn more than $25 a week - $15 pension and $10 means - and married couple pensioners could not earn more than $47 a week. These people who were faced with a brick wall of sub-standard living can now have extra means and lose only half of those extra earnings in pension. If they earn an extra $1, their pension is reduced by 50c. A single pensioner can now earn up to $40 a week and a married couple can earn up to $70 a week.
– I am counting the property component of one-tenth as part of the means, yes. 1 understand the point the honourable member makes. This provision is very good as far as it goes, but when a person who has now taken the opportunity to earn a few extra dollars, knowing that he can keep half of it, suddenly finds his pension suspended and does not understand the reason and is given no figures at all, he is left in a complete quandary. Most of these people are meekly and humbly returning their cards as directed, even though in some cases it is recognised by the Department that there may be a doubt and that the Department and not the pensioner may be in error. Secondly, even where the Department is strictly applying the law - that is its obligation - there are cases which I have established where it would be only a matter of reduction of 40c in weekly means and the pensioner would be entitled to some pension without the tapered means test and, therefore, would be entitled to all of these concessions. I think it is a wicked and unnecessary thing - at least a very unnecessary thing - to shut a pensioner off from concessions which are very precious to him without pointing out to him how much he has gone over the limit.If he were told, it would be well within his power as a citizen to adjust his meansto bring himself back into the pension field.
– It is worth more than 40c a week in the fields of pharmaceutical and medical benefits alone.
– It is worth very much more to very many people, not only in terms of money but in terms of the security and assurance that these concessions give to the pensioner. I ask the Minister to direct an investigation into this matter - I know the Department has to administer the law - so that each case could be examined individually. There could not be very many thousands of them, so I suggest that the Department write to each pensioner, tell him that the information in the possession of the Department indicates that his means as assessed are so much in excess of the amount on which he is eligible to obtain a pensioner medical card, and then give him time in which either to adjust the situation or to contest the accuracy of the Department’s statement. Secondly, I particularly ask the Minister why the pension is being suspended. ‘Suspended’ surely does not mean cancelled. ‘Suspended’ means stopped for further examination. Then, why is the pension suspended without a pensioner being given any opportunity to justify his cause? Why is it suspended indefinitely and why is the pensioner not given the facts on which it is suspended?
Why should not the pension and the entitlements remain while an inquiry from the pensioner’s side as well as from the Department’s side is pursued? I would add hopefully one other sentence, with the sentiments of which I believe the Minister may be in sympathy. As is the practice in the Taxation Branch, the Repatriation Department and many other departments, pensioners, who are citizens equal with every other citizen, should be given an appeal tribunal to which they can turn to appeal against departmental decisions which they may believe to be wrong.
– Let me set the mind of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) at rest straight away. I think myself, having looked at it, that the form of the notice is not as it should be and I have given directions that the form be reviewed. I agree with him that the letter might be more personal and that it might relate to the particular circumstances of the pensioner concerned. We will be having a look at this matter. I thank the honourable member for having brought this to my attention.
I am proud of my Department and I think that it is on the whole a miracu lously good Department but there always will be rough edges following the introduction of such reforms as the tapered means test. Honourable members on both sides of the House will know that if they bring to my attention aspects that they think can be improved they can be certain that at least they will be looked at and looked at sympathetically. I cannot give in every case a blanket assurance that I will do what is asked of me, although in this case I can say that I have given instructions for some revision of the form. That is as far as I can go at the present moment.
– Will decisions made in the process of the use of letters of this form have to stand while this matter is pending? .
– The decisions, I think, are not in question. It is the form of the letter which is in question. I think that the honourable member has a point in this respect and I think that it can be met.
The other point that the honourable member made with regard to the right of appeal to some tribunal is one with which I do not agree. As I explained to the House some two or three sitting days ago, I think, there is available something which is more effective than an appeal to a tribunal. A department necessarily, if it is to be sympathetic and flexible, must have a certain degree of discretion; otherwise the letter of the law, against which the honourable member quite rightly was protesting a few moments ago, becomes inflexible. Every person who feels himself aggrieved in a matter of this kind has the right to go to his member of Parliament if he can get no satisfaction, as he deems it, from the Department of Social Services. He can go to his member and, if a representation is made to me in respect of the matter raised, it will be considered carefully. I do not say that it will be given or refused in every case. It will be considered carefully. This right is far more effective really for the pensioner’s interest than any letter of the law possibly could be or any appeal to a tribunal which would need to be in accordance with the letter of the law would be.
If a member believes that my decision is an unjust one - it does not happen very often, but it can happen - my door is open to him so that he may come to me to get an explanation. If he is dissatisfied with my explanation, he has always the final right to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, during the Grievance Day debate or at some other time when he may like to bring the matter up in the House. This is something which should not be done lightly or inadvisedly. But the remedy is there. These remedies, when we put them together, are very much more effective in the pensioner’s interest than any appeal tribunal could be.
– I will not detain the House for more than two or three minutes, but as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is present in the House I should like to mention a case which I have previously brought to his notice. I wish to re-emphasise what I believe to be an unfair attitude in regard to social services legislation. I refer to employees in retarded workshops. There is in my electorate a young lady, possibly about 30 years of age, who is working in a retarded workshop in Redfern which the Minister had the honour to open not so long ago. She receives a wage of $2.50 a week. Her employment is actually for the purpose of rehabilitating her. This organisation is doing yeoman service in this field.
However, the fact is that because she receives $2.50 a week she can receive only 50c a week supplementary allowance, so she is really penalised to the extent of $1.50 a week by working in this retarded workshop. I believe that in circumstances such as this the means test on the supplementary allowance should be waived. 1 do not think that anybody would object if the means test were waived in instances of this kind. I do not believe that even other people in receipt of the invalid pension who were normal people would object if the means test were abolished in these circumstances. I ask the Minister to give this matter his earnest consideration. I know that it is a matter of policy but when this matter is brought up at a later date I would ask him to go right into the question of these unfortunate people working in retarded workshops to see whether they can be exempted from the means test on the supplementary allowance of $2 a week.
– I have not the right to speak now, but perhaps the honourable member may care to come and see me later on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The Minister for Air has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Standardisation in South Australia are adopted, consideration be given to the alternate proposals submitted by the South Australian Railways Commissioner.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory: Magistrates (Question No. 1631) Mr Enderby asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Has he considered the suggestion that magistrates in the Court of Petty Sessions in the Australian Capital Territory should be independent of the Attorney-General’s Department and not officers of that Department; if so, with what result.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A stipendiary magistrate is already independent of the Attorney-General’s Department in respect of his statutory functions. In respect of other matters, such as salary, leave, etc., he is subject to the Public Service Act. There is no proposal to change this position which is in line with the position in most Australian States.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aged Persons Homes
Queensland- 1968-69, $7,866; 1969-70, $40,483.
Western Australia- 1968-69, $8,800.
Personal Care Subsidy
So far no local governing bodies have established any hostel-type accommodation.
New South Wales- $13,902.
Western Australia - $2,433.
C. Sheltered Workshops Assistance Programme
Grants of $2 for $1 towards the capital cost of:
No grantshave been sought by any local authorities.
Grants of $2 for 91 towards the Capital cost of:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)
(a), (b) and (c). The dining car charges are $1.50 for breakfast, $2.00 for lunch and $2.50 for dinner,
Australian Capital Territory: Sewage Disposal (Question No. 1830)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon, notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
When is it expected that modern comprehensive factories and shops legislation will be enacted for the Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No date can be given at present for the introduction of comprehensive factories and shops legislation for the Australian Capital Territory. The Department of the Interior is studying various legislative and administrative arrangements. Proposals will be made public as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interor, upon notice:
In view of the opportunity of various other members of the community to augment their salaries by other forms of income, will he expedite a decision on the matter of allowing members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to engage in other lawful activities to supplement their police salaries when those activities do not interfere with their lawful occupation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Police Regulations empower the Commissioner of Police in the Australian Capital Territory to grant permission for a member of the Police Force to engage in remunerative employment other than in connecton with his duties in the Police Force. I discussed this matter with representatives of the Police Association of the Australian Capital Territory in May last and no further action is contemplated.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory Police: Films of Gatherings (Question No. 1944) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Of which gatherings have the Australian Capital Territory Police taken films since he became Minister.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Movie film was taken of the visit to Canberra of the Vice President of the United Slates of America on 13th and 14th January 1970 and of the procession and demonstration conducted is part of the Moratorium Week activities on 18th September 1970.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Through Bourke, access is also available to the entire New South Wales rail system and. through Albury, to Melbourne and the Victorian system.
Surface Damage by Aircraft (Question No. 1643)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What steps arc being taken to secure (a) Queensland, (b) South Australia, (c) Australian Capital Territory and (d) Northern Territory laws relating to surface damage by aircraft such as the other States passed many years ago.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer lo the honourable member’s question: lt has not yet been possible to obtain uniform legislation in South Australia and Queensland on the subject of surface damage by aircraft. The question of legislation on the subject in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory is under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Whilst the information now sought by the honourable member could be obtained I am reluctant, as in the case of the information he sought in Question No. 1637, to authorise the time and expense which would be involved.
Non-aligned Countries: Lusaka Conference (Question No. 1939)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Which Commonwealth countries attended the third conference of non-aligned countries in Lusaka in September.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Barbados GUEST STATUS Canada
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are:
Australia commenced making reductions in tariffs on selected products from developing countries on the following dates:
The products on which preferences are granted are selected from requests received from the developing countries themselves and from other interested persons, such as Australian importers. All requests for concessional entry are examined carefully on the basis of allowing reasonable access where the Australian market can absorb the imports without significantly affecting the protection accorded to Australian industry or disrupting the position in the market held by Australia’s established overseas suppliers. Sensitive items are excluded.
When it is decided that a particular product can be accorded a preference, annual quotas are determined for each manufactured or semimanufactured product (or group of related products) by reference to the total value of current imports of the product from all sources. The level of preferential duty is determined by reference to the existing protection accorded to Australian industry. Selected handicrafts are admitted duty free without quota.
It is, of course, open to any Australian industry which considers that any particular concession is affecting its protection, to seek to have the situation reviewed through the established machinery of a Tariff Board or Special Advisory Authority inquiry.
Housing Loans from Trading Banks (Question No. 1873)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How many customers of the (a) Commonwealth Trading Bank and (b) private trading banks have had the terms of their housing loans varied in the last financial year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information requested is not available.
Census: Housing and Personal Particulars (Question No. 1875) Mr Whitlam asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has advised that -
Two trial surveys have been conducted for the 1971 Census of Population and Housing. The first was held in Sydney in July 1969, and the second in Melbourne in April 1970.
The following questions were tested in either the Sydney or Melbourne surveys but have been omitted from the schedule for the 1971 Census:
GO The major source of water supply within the dwelling.
Personal Particulars -
The method of transport used by each person to get to work or school.
Personal Particulars -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19701020_reps_27_hor70/>.