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 Representativesin Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That there is a likelihood that education in the Australian Capital Territory will in the foreseeable future be made independent of the New South Wales education system:
That the decentralisation of education systems throughout Australiais educationally and administratively desirable, andis now being studied by several State government departments:
That the Australian Capital Territory is a homogeneous and coherent unit especially favourable for such studies
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a committee of enquiry, on which are represented the Department of Education and Science, institutions of tertiary education, practising educators, and the Canberra community, be instituted to enquire into the form that an Australian Capital Territory Education Authority should take, the educational principles and philosophy that should underlay it, and its mode of operation and administration.
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. We, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia humbly pray that the Government of this Country will
Ban the shooting of kangaroos for commercial purposes (No animal can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale as exists under present legislation).
Ban the export of all kangaroo products from Australia.
Prevent the extinction of the red kangaroo. (The red kangaroo has been reduced to a numerical level where its survivalis in jeopardy).
Institute a scientific survey of the kangaroo population.
Establish large national parks of good quality land as major tourist attractions.
Take control of and be completely respon sible for the management of Australia’s wildlife.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria, respectfully sheweth;
That because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low that they may become extinct.
There are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist.
As a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country.
It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray, that -
The export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control.
Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos. And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the security of the Indian Ocean. Last Thursday the right honourable gentleman said that his Government had given the Ceylon Government a list of arms and equipment which Australia was prepared to supply to Ceylon on, to use his own words, ‘commercial terms’. I ask: Why has Australia taken a different approach towards Ceylon from that which she took towards India at the time of her conflict with China and towards Cambodia last year when the Government made special assistance available without cost? Further, are not the commercial terms laid down to the democratically elected Government of Ceylon more onerous than those extended to Malaysia and Singapore in normal arms and ammunition supply transactions and so stringent as to make it unlikely that Ceylon can fulfil them and so obtain any assistance from Australia? Finally, were the tougher terms for Ceylon drawn up after the Prime Minister expressed misgivings about the political leanings of some members of the Government of Ceylon?
– The answer to. the first part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman is that the decision to supply on commercial terms was related to a request made by the Ceylonese Government that it should be on commercial terms, although without specifying the details of those terms themselves. The answer to the second part of the question is that they are true commercial terms recommended to me by the appropriate departments of state and were not in major respects altered in any way by me. The third part of the question is sheer conjecture. I never had it in my mind, and I do not think that any of the appropriate Ministers who advised me had it in their minds, either.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the reduction in the yield on treasury notes announced in the Treasury statement last week can properly be interpreted as a change in the Government’s attitude to interest rates in general?
– No, it does not. [here has been no change in the broad spectrum of interest rates, and I would expect people to understand from that that it doe» not herald any change at all. It is a purely technical matter which can be described quite quickly. Last August the yield was increased in order to encourage or induce the flow from the private sector into treasury notes to reinforce our monetary policies We discovered that the rate of flow was higher than it need have been. Then a debt management issue arose because not only was money flowing out of the private sector, but it was also attracting money away from bonds, and that became the debt management issue. For that reason, it was Treasury’s advice that the yield should be reduced.
It is interesting to note that at the time I was confronted with the problem of whether the reduction in yield on treasury notes should be announced in the sheer technical sense, for that is what it was, or whether it might be misinterpreted and therefore whether I ought to make a statement saying that it was not what it might have been thought to be. Because it was technical I chose the first course, that is, to have it revealed in a technical way, but unfortunately I must have made the wrong judgment because it has been misinterpreted. But it was solely a technical matter. It has no effect on the general spectrum of interest rates and it ought not to be seen as other than what in fact it was.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface my question by congratulating the Prime Minister on his speech officially opening the National Heart Campaign in which he said that more than 250,000 Australians would be affected by heart disease this year. 1 ask: Will he go further in support of this campaign by using his authority to encourage the removal of quotas placed on the production of margarine? Has he seen a statement by Professor Blacket of the University of New South Wales which points out that minority groups had succeeded in preserving trade practices that prejudice the health of the people and that margarine laws had been framed quite deliberately to prevent competition with butter? Will he also use his authority to see that polyunsaturated table margarine is made available in the parliamentary dining room in the interests of health of honourable members.
– I thank the honourable member for what he has said to me, particularly the compliment that he passed. But I think I should say that I cannot apply this in a personal sense because I eat neither butter nor margarine. Nonetheless
– What do you eat - dripping?
– These days, yes, particularly when I leave the House after being subjected to questions by members of the Opposition. As to the second and third parts of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, I have read the statement that he has mentioned. I will refer the question immediately to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and as soon as he gives me a written reply I will let the honourable member have it.
– I direct my question to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the booklet This is an Australian’ written by Dr Jean McFarlane of Queensland and her assertions that Queensland might be unfairly maligned for its treatment of Aboriginals?
Is lt correct that the Northern Territory has a rauch worse Aboriginal infant survival rate than that of Queensland, the figure being some 17 times greater than the overall Australian rate? Will the Minister advise the House what is being done to remove this blot from our nation’s record of achievements.
– I have read the booklet which as I recall arose out of the conference which my Department, in association with the Commonwealth Department of Health, convened on Aboriginal infant mortality some time ago. The question was further discussed only last Friday in Cairns at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
First, let me say that in the Northern Territory there are reasonably accurate statistics on Aboriginal infant mortality. In the States, the statistics are based a great deal on conjecture because the necessary documents do not always contain information as to racial origin. But I think some account should be taken of the fact that the Queensland Aboriginal population on the average has been in contact with what we call civilisation for much longer than the Aboriginal population in the Northern Territory.
Having said that, let me say that in my view although Aboriginal mortality has come down it is still far too high. What is important, I think, is not just this level, but what can be done to improve it. It was on this kind of aspect that I thought the conference in Cairns might have given us some useful leads. I am hoping, in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, to bring forward some concrete proposals in regard to the Northern Territory. In particular, I am perturbed by the fact that hi that area although infant mortality among Aboriginals in the northern part and in Arnhem Land appears to have been much improved on the position in the Centre-
– What rubbish! It has doubled in the last year.
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes will cease interjecting.
– I think the honourable member for Hughes is perhaps not as completely informed on this matter as he might believe, and he might let me finish the sentence. Although in the north ern part of the Northern Territory the infant mortality rate is still turning downwards, in the centre of the Northern Territory there has been a regrettable increase in the last year. I am perturbed about this, and in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, I will be seeing what can be done practically to reduce this trend.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the decision of Perth television stations, including the Australian Broadcasting Commission, not to cover League football in Western Australia this season. Can the Postmaster-General tell the House why the ABC joined with commercial stations on this matter which will, as a result of their decision, deny thousands of country people and many more city people the opportunity of watching League football in progress? Has the PostmasterGeneral taken any steps to use his influence or authority to change the decision of the ABC, and if he has not done so will he do so? If he will not do so, will he tell us why?
– It is always surprising that while I am often accused of interfering with the ABC and of doing something wrong thereby, I am obviously asked frequently to do just this. In circumstances such as those mentioned by the honourable member there is always discussion between the various sporting bodies and the television stations, and frequently the ABC and the commercial stations engage in the discussions on a combined basis. Sometimes, because the fee which is requested by the sporting organisations is higher than the stations believe to be justified, no agreement is entered into. I do not know of the particular circumstances in Western Australia on this occasion, but in view of the honourable member’s interest, and the interest of residents of Western Australia, I will be pleased to see whether I can ascertain what negotiations took place, the result of those negotiations, and the reasons why the parties were not able to come to a satisfactory agreement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister advise me of the latest position regarding the operation of rural reconstruction schemes in the various States and in Queensland in particular? Also, is further Commonwealth Government action necessary for the scheme to be implemented in Queensland? Finally, in view of the desperately urgent need for rural reconstruction will the Government continue to treat the matter as one of highest priority?
– Mr Speaker, I wish to seek your guidance on a point of order. According to the programme for today there is a proposal for the House to discuss a matter of public importance which deals with just the substance of the question which has been asked by the honourable member for Maranoa. Is that in order?
– Yes, quite in order.
– I am happy to see that even the honourable member for Riverina is interested in rural reconstruction. There are considerable areas within which discussions have been taking place with the States in attempts to settle the form of an agreement which would enable the introduction of legislation in this House and the provision of funds to the States in accordance with the arrangements originally made by my predecessor late last year. The States have now agreed to the form of an agreement. Last Friday week I met with all but one of the State Ministers and a representative of the other one; there was a general acceptance of the form of the agreement although very real concern was expressed at the deteriorating situation of the wool industry. There is no doubt that in terms of the present viability of the wool industry the price of 30 cents per lb creates great problems, of which there is perhaps no need for me to say anything further at this moment. In terms of the necessary steps to be undertaken by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will now proceed to introduce legislation in this House which will facilitate the negotiation of agreement and the provision of funds to each State. This will take place before the end of this session.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has anything to report concerning the strike of marine stewards, which is bringing Tasmania to her knees economically and industrially as 90 per cent of the State’s trade is done by shipping. Is there any likelihood of the strike ending today or tomorrow?
– As the honourable gentleman has suggested, the strike of marine stewards has had devastating effects on Tasmania; equally it has had devastating effects on the industrial life of Australia, not to mention the direct effect it has had on the coastal shipping trade. Since the dispute commenced 13 or 14 days ago I have had substantial consultations with the Minister for Shipping and Transport and, of course, the Prime Minister. The latest position according to a brief I received this morning is that at a meeting of the marine stewards it was agreed not to return to work but to hold another meeting on Thursday of this week. They agreed also to consider releasing ships in those areas in which industries are approaching a standdown situation. The honourable gentleman will know that the matter is before Mr Justice Franki this afternoon. Following a request to him by the employer group he is considering the application of section 32A.
At this stage I can say generally that I am hopeful that the dispute will be resolved towards the end of this week, but I make this comment without any form of guarantee. My final observation is that it is to be regretted, as I am sure honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House will agree, that virtually a considerable part of the economic life of Australia has ground to a halt or been held to ransom by what can be regarded only as the irresponsible action of a very small number of men - 800 I think. This is a further instance of a growing attitude on the part of some unions which, having taken a case to arbitration, are not prepared to accept the decision handed down. Any situation in which the weak go to the wall and the strong win is industrial lawlessness and is inimical to the Australian way of life.
– My question to the Treasurer concerns the portability of pensions, a matter in which also the honourable member for Boothby takes a great deal of interest. I ask the Treasurer whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Superannuation Bill - No. 16 on the notice paper at the present time - during this session. Has the Government any intention of introducing amendments to the Bill, particularly with regard to a reduction of the period of eligibility from 20 years - a subject about which many of my constituents have asked me during the last few weeks?
– 1 am hopeful that the legislation will proceed this session. I am unable to say categorically that it will because there are 2 matters to which I am giving close attention at the moment. One of them is a matter of very great difficulty because of the complications arising in working out what benefits should be portable. It is necessary to make sure that the individual who gets the benefit of portability is not disadvantaged and, equally, that he is not advantaged in relation to those who remain in the scheme. This is something which requires very complicated legislative provision and advice from the actuaries. I am hoping that it can be resolved. I would like to see the legislation passed this session if it can be, but I would not be prepared to have it go through this session if the matter were not resolved properly. As to the other matter to which the honourable gentleman referred, I have had representations from a wide area including, as the honourable gentleman said, the honourable member for Boothby. At present I am considering the matter. I will not comment beyond that.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Industry know how many Australian businessmen attended the Canton Trade Fair and what industries they represented? Did officers of the Department of Trade and Industry attend the Fair? Would it be possible for Trade Commissioner services to be extended to the People’s Republic of China? When did the last trade mission from the People’s Republic of China visit Australia?
– Quite a number of Australian businessmen attended the Canton Trade Fair. I believe about 100 were there. As a result of their attendance some very useful contracts have been obtained for Australian industry. The question of setting up a trade post in the People’s Republic of China is a policy matter and one which I do not intend to discuss here today. I know of no officers of my Department having gone to China. Contact may have been made with the China Resources Board in
Hong Kong from time to time. But the policy of the Government has been that any trade arrangements with the People’s Republic of China have been made on an industry basis.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the reports that the United States Government has initiated proposals with the Soviet Union to establish a zone of neutrality in the Indian Ocean? Can he give the House any advice as to whether there is substance in the reports? Has the United States also made representations to Australia to establish a joint naval force in the Indian Ocean? Has he been advised that a United States fleet will be visiting the Indian Ocean shortly?
– As to the last question asked by the honourable gentleman, the Government is aware that elements of the United States fleet will be visiting the Indian Ocean in the next few weeks. That, of course, is natural. The United States, being a great naval power, has the right to exercise its fleet wherever it thinks showing the flag is desirable.
As to the first question asked by the honourable member relating to an approach by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic for the neutralisation of the Indian Ocean, I have been informed by telephone from Washington this morning that there is no truth in the statement that such an initiative has been taken by the United States Government. But I remind the honourable gentleman that immediately prior to the last Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in Singapore feelers were launched by the Indian and Ceylonese Governments proposing neutralisation of the Indian Ocean and some restriction of forces by the littoral states. I do not think that those countries have proceeded any further. Nonetheless, I will have a very detailed look into the matter for the honouarble gentleman.
To the second question asked by the honourable gentleman, relating to a joint naval force in the Indian Ocean, the answer is no, the United States has not made any proposals to us. If it did we would look at them with great interest. I think that the
House knows already that we have proposed to the United States that we would be only too happy to consider such an arrangement and would be prepared to make Cockburn Naval Base available to it should Ameriica think it desiirable
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I preface the question by saying that as a result of recent talks with British Ministers about the proposed entry of Britain into the European Economic Community one was given the very clear impression that such entry posed little or no problem for the great rural industries of this country. In view of this prevailing opinion I ask the Minister: What guarantees and assurances have been sought on Australia’s behalf by this Government? Is this a continuing representation? If it is a continuing representation, how has the current thinking prevailed in the ranks of the British Government? Finally, even at this eleventh hour will the Minister in his forthcoming tour point out with some vigour to the British Government that the rural industries of this country face grave danger, and in particular that the rural industries of my State of Tasmania, for example, could face ruin if Britain does join the EEC, which now seems very likely?
– The honourable member is quite wrong if he is under the impression that in ministerial discussions and conferences no concern has been expressed by Australia regarding the effect on certain rural industries in Australia of Britain’s entry into the EEC if Britain abides by the agricultural policies of the EEC. In fact, for some of our rural industries it will be quite critical. I am thinking of the sugar industry and the zonal effect in that area, the dairying industry, the apple industry in Tasmania, and also the canned fruit industry and the dried vine fruit industry. Many industries will be affected, and the degree of impact will vary. We have not reserved our position in expressing our concern to the British Government in this direction. I certainly intend during my visit to the EEC capitals and the United Kingdom to put before the people of those countries the serious impact Britain’s entry could have on these industries. I hope that they might consider, when drawing up the terms and conditions of Britain’s entry, how the impact on these Australian industries might be alleviated. But the Government is concerned, and we will do our utmost to try to protect our industries.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question concerning the wine industry, which is a vital industry in my electorate. Are overseas wine and brandy being dumped in Australia? Did the Australian Wine Board in June 1970 seek anti-dumping action against imports of brandy from France? Have members of the wine industry expressed concern about the dumping of overseas wine on the Australian market?
– One of the Acts I administer is the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, which provides that if ‘not insubstantial injury’ is being done to a certain industry by the dumping of goods produced overseas, dumping duties can be levied. A complaint or a reference was made by the Australian Wine Board, I think, in the middle of last year concerning brandy from France allegedly being dumped in Australia. Our investigations indicated that there was some dumping but not of significant enough proportions to warrant, under the terms of the Act, the imposition of dumping duties. My Department is continuing investigations into possible dumping of brandy from countries other than France. We had complaints from the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Association spokesman, Mr Penfold Hyland, that some wine was being dumped in Australia. Although it was not a formal complaint, my Department is pursuing investigations to see whether overseas wine is being dumped in Australia. If as a result of those investigations we find that ‘not insubstantial injury’, to use the quaint words of the Act, is being caused, action will be taken.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I preface it by referring him to the remarks, as published, of Mr Commissioner Winter, to the effect that unless a satisfactory price-wage relationship could be secured he was not optimistic for the future of any kind of reasonable industrial relations and that wage earners could not have their real living standards suffering erosion from the very moment an arbitrator set a fair and reasonable standard in the current economic environment. Will the Minister accept the guidance of this distilled industrial wisdom in lieu of provocative enforcement of penal sanctions which themselves are without counterpart in any other industrial democracy? Will he accept the advice of a substantial section of Australian employers who, wisely foreseeing a fruitless major industrial conflict resulting, oppose such enforcement?
– 1 have seen the comments which the honourable gentleman has quoted from Commissioner Winter, but it is some days ago since I studied them and I do not recall them particularly to mind at this stage. Therefore I put them to one side because in fairness the honourable gentleman would expect a considered answer on what was said by Commissioner Winter and I will see that this is supplied in writing. As 1 recall it, the main burden of the honourable gentleman’s question related to the basis of the penal provisions Qf the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is a matter which, of course, has been well aired in this House by members of this Government, particularly by my predecessor and also by the present Prime Minister. All I want to say to the honourable gentleman and the House in basic terms is simply this: This Government has long believed that satisfactory industrial relations in Australia must be founded upon the effective functioning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Secondly, we believe that the functioning of the Commission is vitally dependent on the existence of sanction provisions, which provisions must be enforced if the system is to operate in a satisfactory way. I believe we have had too many recent instances of industrial disputes which have quite clearly indicated that, without the sanctions provisions properly employed and enforced, the whole structure and system of arbitration in Australia and in fact what the system has stood for over a very long period of time would have been placed in jeopardy.
The honourable gentleman would know far better than I of the very large number of Australian wage earners who are depen dent upon the effective functioning of that system. So far as this Government is concerned the system in relation to the application of the sanctions provisions will certainly be maintained. This, of course, is not to say that the Act will not be revised because such revision is, as the honourable gentleman would know, a matter of consideration at this time.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer seen reports of a decision handed down by the Full High Court of Australia last Friday in a taxation case in which the Commissioner of Taxation appealed against a decision in what is known as the Casuarina case and in which the company concerned was successful in the appeal? If so, will the Treasurer indicate whether or not the decision raises difficulties for the Government in maintaining the tax base, particularly so far as company tax is concerned? Does the Government have any intention to introduce amending legislation to rectify the situation disclosed by this decision of the High Court?
– I do know of the case but I have not yet had the opportunity to make a close examination of the judgments of all the judges. Legislation was introduced into this House a few years ago following upon the inquiry of the Ligertwood Committee into tax avoidance by the use of interlocking companies and very peculiar shapes of different proprietary companies set up for the purpose of avoiding tax. This legislation was designed to prevent such avoidance. Unfortunately - and I say that quite purposefully - it now appears that this legislation did not cover the situation as well as we had assumed at the time it would. I therefore have the matter under very urgent consideration to see whether or not it is necessary to have the legislation amended in order to achieve the legislative result which was intended. Unfortunately, with the state of the session as it is, there may be great difficulty in introducing legislation this session if the Government decides to do so. However, I will bring the matter to the attention of the Government and will then consider what action should be taken, perhaps in the form of a statement or something of that kind, if the decision is to pursue this to legislation. The honourable gentleman mentioned the tax base. Of course, it is very important to maintain that tax base. That was the purpose of the legislation.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Have the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria advised him that they propose to increase public hospital charges from $10 to $15 a day for public ward care and from $13.50 to $20 for intermediate ward care? Does this mean that the Commonwealth hospital benefit, which when first introduced in 1953 met 57 per cent of the fee for a public bed and 33 per cent for an intermediate bed, will now meet only 13 per cent and 10 per cent respectively of such fees? Moreover, have the States complained that the pensioner hospital benefit, which met 66 per cent of the actual cost of a hospital bed in 1954, now meets less than 20 per cent of that cost? Is it this steady deterioration of the Commonwealth’s share of hospital costs which has reduced public hospitals in every State to insolvency?
– I have no recollection of letters addressed to me by either the Premier of New South Wales or the Premier of Victoria telling me that he intended to increase hospital charges in his State. There may be something on the files prior to the date on which I became Prime Minister, but I am talking about since that date. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I have received no letter from either of the Premiers or from any other Premier relating to the percentage of the hospital charges due to pensioners.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the desperate plight of soldier settlers in the zone 5 area in the south east of South Australia? Is the Minister in a position to initiate any negotiations with the State Government to resolve this problem?
– The Minister for Immigration, in his role as the honourable member for Barker, brought a delegation to see me about a fortnight ago. I might add that he was most effective in his rep resentations. In addition to this, the responsible Minister in South Australia contacted me about the granting of leases to soldier settlers in the zone 5 area to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred. I understand that the matter has been subject to protracted examination by officers at the State and Commonwealth level but I am hopeful that I might be able to reach some conclusion with the State Minister within the next few weeks. The whole question revolves around the issuing of titles to the soldier settlers within zone 5 and the amount which might be available in respect of this issuance. As the matter has now been in the wind for some considerable time I believe it is essential that there he an early resolution of it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the restriction to 220,000 tons of butter imposed by his predecessor on the dairying industry. I ask the Minister: Has there been a shortfall of this figure because of the restrictions imposed, coupled with adverse seasonal conditions? What is the immediate future of this very important primary industry and what are its prospects of being able to supply the home market during the winter months in addition to our current export orders?
– I am told that the general estimate of production prior to the placing of this limitation last year was that it would be considerably in excess of 220,000 tons and, as the honourable gentleman would know, there is real concern at the potential of the industry if the United Kingdom should enter into the European Economic Community. Indeed the crux of some of the negotiations conducted by the Australian Government with the United Kingdom has been the difficulties that the dairying industry will face. The position as far as quotas are concerned is that certainly this year there will be a shortfall in production but I would envisage that the production limit will necessarily have to be at least maintained at that level if our potential market outlets are to be kept in relation to our volume of production. The assistance given by the Government relates to that level of production or any lesser quantity and it does give to dairy producers a reasonable guarantee of assistance. However, the problem necessarily relates to future production levels and not just to this year and to the extent to which there is likely to be any contraction of markets it could be that even the limit placed on this year’s production might need to be reduced further in the future.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention a matter of privilege regarding a newspaper article which appeared on 25th-
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented in the article?
– Yes. I refer to an article in the ‘Sunday Review’ which is unsigned and is headed-
– The honourable member cannot raise a matter of privilege at this stage but he may make a personal explanation. That is why I asked whether he had been misrepresented.
– 1 and a few others have been misrepresented. The article is entitled We that are Left shall grow old’. It would be humourous if it were not, as I shall show, so defamatory and misrepresentative of me and some other members of this Parliament. The article reads:
One of the myths about the federal parliamentary labor party is that, somewhere behind the brash 50-year-old lawyers and the smart young 40-year-old new lefties, there lurks, as permanent and certain as death and taxes, a sort of grand old conscience left.
It consists, in order of seniority, of Arthur Calwell, 74 (recreation: australian rules football), Hee Mclvor 70 (recreation: motoring, book collecting, historical research and amateur theatrical productions), Charlie Griffiths, 68 (recreations: tennis, bowls), and Alan Fraser, 68 (recreation: none). In recent years the sprightly young Fred Daly, 57 (recreation: swimming and tennis) has been admitted to the ranks as a sort of honorary junior.
They think of themselves as the heirs of Curtin and Chifley, and the only stable force in a party which has drifted away from its working class base and has got mixed up with all sorts of dreadful modern notions. . . . One of their younger colleagues calls them “the counter lunch left,” because they spend a lot of their time at the bar murmuring about the need to man the barricades.
The article then makes a number of comments about me, saying that I had attacked the Party leadership and that I had moved, in caucus, against Mr Whitlam a charge of disloyalty - quite false of course. The article goes on to imply that I and other honourable members have been engaged enclusively in this Parliament in trying to undermine the future success of the Labor Party. It is a damaging and defamatory article which is available for all to see. It is a cowardly and comtemptible article written by an unknown author who is afraid to sign his name to it. It is a defamatory, degrading and lying article about members of the Parliament. It is directed at long serving and distinguished members of Parliament, including a former Leader of the Opposition.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) is a man with a long and distinguished record in this Parliament and almost a teetotaller. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) is a teetotaller. Without being humourous I would say that Charlie rarely drinks even water. The honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Alan Fraser), is well known in this place and in other places for his sober habits. As for myself, I take an occasional drink, but not too many. It implies that we have spent endless hours in the sordid atmosphere of a bar plotting and planning the destruction of members of this Parliament. It imples that all of us - if people outside like to say it - are drunkards, that we are addicted to drink and care little for our responsibilities in this place. Whilst we in this House know that it is not true, the 200 or 300 people who read this journal do not know it and they are entitled to know it. In that respect the article is a grave reflection on every member of this Parliament. 1 suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that whilst those gentlemen who sit up in the Press Gallery are given certain privileges, they also have certain responsibilities. If sitting amongst them is a craven cur like the man who wrote this article, I ask you. Sir, to reveal him to the Parliament so that all might look to see in him the person who hides behind not even an anonymous name. I suppose he is such a poor journalist that the newspaper was not game to put his name on the top of the article because everyone would know that he was a goon or around the bend. A grave and damaging allegation has been made against the members to whom I have referred and to myself, but all honourable members know the situation. I believe that this man should be ferreted out I believe that a man who would write this article is in the scoundrel class; he would do anything; he would sell his wares for 30 pieces of silver. As such, he is not qualified morally or on a character basis to have a place in this Parliament House.
Mr Speaker, I should like the article to be incorporated in Hansard so that all might read the type of article that has been written. I ask you, Mr Speaker, whether you will investigate the explanation that I have made, in fairness to members of this Parliament, and whether you will ask the Press Gallery whether the gentleman who wrote this article is a member of the Gallery, in order that he might be revealed so that we may see what his reasons were behind the article. Every statement in the article in reference to myself and, I know, to the other honourable members whom I have mentioned - and I will use a word which is not used in this House often because it probably is not allowed - is a lying and insinuating statement which has no basis in fact whatsoever.
I say nothing more other than to say to this newspaper - and I know it would have only a couple of thousand dollars - that so far as I am concerned I have already instructed my solicitors to serve a writ on it for unlimited damages. The people of this country and the members of this Parliament are entitled to be protected by the courts against articles of this type. If the newspaper continues to employ this individual and if the newspaper publishes articles which defame members of the Parliament, there is no place for the journalist concerned and there is no place for that type of journal in Australia. I submit this matter to you, Mr Speaker, somewhat in a vein of levity in respect of the stupidity of some sections of the article, but I know that deep down the honourable member for Shortland resents the implications which people outside will not know are not true and which might be held against him. The same comment applies to the honourable member for Gellibrand, to the right honourable member for Melbourne, the honourable members for Eden-Monaro and to myself. I am used to taking a few barbs in this place. I do not mind how true or how false they are if they are used in the realm of politics, but I resent anomy.mous people sitting in the Press Gallery, people who could not run a fowlhouse, telling us who sit in this Parliament that we have no reputation and no character. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I ask you to take the action which I have suggested, and I say to the journalist concerned that he can convey with my compliments to his editor that in a day or so he will receive a writ for libel, and I think it is worth twice as much as Tom Dougherty who got $150,000.
-I will look at the matters which the honourable member for Grayndler has raised in the House this afternoon.
– I ask for leave to incorporate the article in Hansard?
– Leave is not granted.
-The House will recall that last Friday the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) asked me a question concerning an incident which allegedly had occurred in this chamber. I told the honourable member that I had checked with the Hansard tape and also with the Hansard reporters but that there was no evidence to indicate that the words which he alleged were said in this chamber were in fact said. I also informed the honourable member that I had not completed my inquiries. Following that, this morning I had talks with the Minister who was in charge of the business before the House or who was ‘sitting at the table’ which is the way in which the honourable member for Sturt referred to the Minister. I have the Minister’s assurance that the words alleged to have been uttered were not uttered. I have also spoken to the acting Speaker who was in the chair at that time, and he informs me that he did not hear the words that were reputed to have been uttered.
– That is incredible
– I did not hear that. Did you say: ‘. . . he did not hear the words uttered that were uttered’?
– No. 1 said ‘. . . he did not hear the words that were reputed to have been uttered*.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly Select Committee on Constitutional Development as agreed upon by that House on 11th March 1971. I propose to summarise the recommendations and to explain what action is required as a result of the Government’s acceptance.
Government Decisions in 1970
During the Committee’s deliberations the Government, in July 1970, announced a transfer of authority in denned fields of government to the Administrator’s Executive Council and ministerial office holders in the Territory. This decision was taken after discussions with the Committee. The Government undertook, however, because this was also the wish of the Committee, to stand short of constitutional changes requiring amendment to the Papua and New Guinea Act until such time as the House of Assembly had considered the Committee’s report.
-Order! Some honourable members have complained that they cannot hear the Minister. I think that this is because of the undertones of conversation running through the chamber. I suggest that if honourable members wish to speak they speak as lowly as they can. If they wish to conduct a continued conversation, they might do so outside the chamber.
– I will continue.
House of Assembly Select Committee on Constitutional Development
The Select Committee was set up on 24th June 1969, its terms of reference being:
To consider ways and means of preparing and presenting, and to draft for the consideration of this House, a set of constitutional proposals to serve as a guide for future constitutional development in the Territory.
The Committee toured the Territory twice to explain the issues and to discuss its proposals with the people at village level. It also made an overseas visit to study constitutional development in recent independent countries. It presented three interim reports. It made its final report to the House on 4th March 1971. Both the third interim report presented on 3rd September 1970 and the final report contained recommendations for constitutional change. With the exception of one recommendation which was rejected and one recommendation which was deferred, the House adopted the Committee’s recommendations. Most of the large number of members who took part in the debate on the final report agreed with the report, the only successful amendment being the rejection of the proposed name of ‘Niugini’. Of the other two amendments moved, one, to abolish regional electorates, was defeated 47 votes to 17 votes, while the other, to defer consideration of the flag, was rejected on the Speaker’s casting vote. The report, as amended, was accepted on the voices on 11th March. Copies of the third and final reports of the Committee are available to members.
The first two recommendations of the final report deal with the timing of internal self-government and the kinds of relationships which might exist between Australia and the Territory at internal selfgovernment. The recommendations are: (a) that the development of the Territory be geared to preparing the country for internal selfgovernment during the life of the next House of Assembly (1972-1976) so that should it become a reality earlier than expected or if it is in fact requested by the people then, then the move to internal selfgovernment can be made at that time with the least possible amount of administrative disruption and (b) that the sort of economic and political arrangements and relationships which might be developed between Papua, New Guinea and Australia at internal self-government be considered as part of the programme of development towards internal self-government.
The Committee explained that on its first tour of the Territory the majority of the people were against early internal selfgovernment, and were not prepared to discuss when it should come about, but that during its second tour most people were prepared to consider when internal self-government should occur. The majority opinion favoured internal self-government no sooner than the life of the 1976-80 House of Assembly. However, because of the evident acceleration in the rate of political development and awareness, the Committee recommended the gearing of development to allow for internal selfgovernment during the life of the 1972-76 House in case this became a reality earlier than expected or was requested by the people at that time.
In effect, these recommendations set, in the Committee’s words, ‘an approximate timetable’, which is somewhat in advance of the wishes of the majority of the people as reported by the Committee. In accepting them the Government will adopt a flexible attitude. It will prepare a programme for movement to full internal self-government in the period 1972-76, but the execution of that programme will have regard to the state of opinion as it develops after the 1972 House of Assembly elections and to the policies of the political leaders who then emerge. This attitude accords with the Government’s policies of encouraging progress towards internal self-government and of looking to the elected members of the House of Assembly to represent the wishes of the majority of the people, and to take the initiative in such matters as the pace and nature of constitutional development. The reservations about a timetable which the Government has previously expressed from time to time, particularly in response to United Nations’ resolutions, have been based on objections to an externally imposed or arbitrary timetable. Such reservations do not apply to a timetable of Papua and New Guinea’s own choosing.
The Government’s response to the recommendation that the development of Papua New Guinea be geared to preparing for internal self-government in the period 1972-76 will include giving continuing priority to localisation through a stepped-up training effort. At the same time, positive action will be taken to maintain sufficient numbers of expatriate officers in the Papua New Guinea Public Service not only by recruitment but also by ensuring confidence in a rewarding career to serving officers. A new look has recently been taken at localisation in the Public Service. Discussions have been held between the Administration, the Papua New Guinea Public Service Board and my own officers. There have also been discussions with the Papua and New Guinea Public Service Association. The results of these discussions will, I believe, lead to important advances which will recognise the real problems now faced by expatriate officers in the Territory as localisation gathers momentum.
No less importance will be attached to the more complex task of indigenous involvement in the economic development of Papua New Guinea. Important progress has been made recently. A Department of Business Development has been established. Legislation to set up an Investment Corporation which will take up equity in business ventures on behalf of the people was passed by the House of Assembly in March. The Administrator’s Executive Council has decided to introduce legislation providing for preference to Papuans and New Guineans in the issue of trade store and similar licences to conduct small businesses. It has also decided to legislate to prohibit the employment of overseas workers in certain occupations requiring little or no skills. The present development programme is being revised. Preparation of a new 5-year development programme will begin shortly. This will be weighted towards indigenisation, including greater emphasis on agricultural small holder development, greater attention to education, especially secondary and technical, and measures to attract and retain suitable expatriates where trained indigenes are not yet available.
The problems facing Papua New Guinea should not be overlooked. There are still obstacles to national unity. The capacity to raise internal revenue is limited. Skilled indigenous manpower is in short supply. But Papuan and New Guinean leaders are already more fully involved than ever before in solving these problems in a way best suited to their own circumstances, and I have every confidence in their judgment. The programme for further movement towards internal self-government will require consultations with the Territory leadership group after the 1972 elections. Given that a cohesive group of Ministers emerges, with a majority backing in the House, I envisage that the Commonwealth would in practice regard this group as constituting a government, with the authority of the Administrator gradually becoming confined to matters remaining within Commonwealth responsibility. The Commonwealth would negotiate with the leader of the group for the handing over of further authority step by step as he felt in a position, with the support of the House of Assembly, to accept added responsibility. When this process is complete the Commonwealth would amend the Papua and New Guinea Act to give formal recognition to the attainment of full internal selfgovernment. The kinds of economic and political relationships which might be developed between the Territory and Australia at internal self-government would be considered as part of this process.
A second group of recommendations in the Select Committee’s Report confirms certain characteristics of the present constitution. These recommendations read as follows: That the system of government for Papua and New Guinea be a single central government as at present; that the legislature comprise one house of parliament as at present. No legislative action is required in regard to these recommendations. The report also has a recommendation on a Bill of Rights in these terms: That the drafting of a Bill of Rights be considered by a committee of a subsequent House of Assembly and that such a statement be embodied in a proposed constitution for an independent Papua and New Guinea. This recommendation has been deferred by the House pending consideration of a private member’s Bill of Rights which is before it. In its final report the Committee also recommended particular designs for the Papua New Guinea flag and coat of arms as an incentive to national unity. The Government has agreed to the adoption by Papua New Guinea of a flag and a coat of arms and necessary legislation will be considered by the House of Assembly. The Commonwealth Flags Act which prescribes the national flag will continue to extend to Papua New Guinea.
I now turn to a third group of recommendations which require amendment to the Papua and New Guinea Act. Two of them are matters of urgency, because they affect preparations for the 1972 elections in Papua New Guinea. They are: Firstly, that 18 regional electorates be created for the elections for the 1972-76 House of Assembly; and, secondly, an increase of 13 in the number of open electorates, making the number of open electorates in the 1972-1976 House 82. At present the elected membership of the House represents 15 regional electorates and 69 open electorates. During its 1971 tour the Committee met with an overwhelming request for increased representation and it based its recommendations on one regional member for each district in the Territory and one open member to approximately 30,000 people. The costs of additional representation in the House will be met from locally raised revenue.
I shall be presenting a Bill within the next few days to give effect to these recommendations in order that a sufficient period will be available in Papua New Guinea for the necessary preparations to be made for the 1972 elections. The remaining recommendations in this group will be the subject of amending legislation in the Budget session. A full explanation of them will be provided at that time. In summary, what is involved is:
The House of Assembly Select Committee on Constitutional Development has played a great and important role in the political development of Papua New Guinea. The many weeks of discussions, explanations and questions and answers by councils and individuals with the Committee all over Papua New Guinea have been the most important factor in the growing political awareness to which the Committees’ report refers. The Government welcomes the responsibility taken by the Committee and the House in Papua New Guinea’s political progress. The Government, having accepted the. report of the Select Committee, as agreed to by the House, will proceed to draw up a flexible programme of movement towards full internal self-government which will include the kinds of political and economic relations which might exist between Papua New Guinea and Australia at internal self-government as a basis for negotiations with the leadership group emerging from the 1972 elections in Papua New GuineaI present the following paper:
Papua New Guinea - Constitutional DevelopmentMinisterial Statement, 27th April 1971.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by (Mr Beazley) adjourned.
– by leave - This morning’s Press carried reports of a fracas at HMAS Leeuwin’ during which junior recruit Shane Connolly received apparently superficial injuries. I am waiting for a full report from HMAS ‘Leeuwin’. Newspaper reports suggest that despite strenuous official attempts to prevent any form of initiation, something of the kind may have occurred in this establishment. HMAS Leeuwin’ has an annual target intake of 800 recruits taken from all over Australia, and up to this number are in residence at any one time. It is not surprising that among them, despite careful screening, there are from time to time some who have unacceptable belligerent or other forms of antisocial behaviour patterns. These are detected as quickly as possible and disciplined, or, in serious cases, removed from the Service.
The Navy does not and will not tolerate any physically violent, degrading or bullying behaviour towards any of its members, especially its junior members. I have given instructions that commanding officers of our training institutions are to be doubly vigilant in investigating any suggestions of organised or ad hoc initiation procedures, especially those which entail physical violence and other undesirable forms of behaviour. Where these are suspected all appropriate steps are to be taken to put a stop to the practice and to afford full protection to anyone threatened by the perpetrators. In addition, all such circumstances are to be reported at once through the appropriate channels to the Second Naval Member. I shall visit HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ personally during the winter recess, among other things to inform myself on the progress of steps designed to prevent any recurrence of this kind of incident. Meanwhile, after a full report has been received I shall make a statement to the House as soon as it is practicable to do so.
-by leave - It is disturbing that there should be a further eruption of the stupid and futile initiation practices. If the facts are as reported in this morning’s Press, the incident at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ seems to be a most serious one. It has much greater connotations of direct physical brutality than any revealed in the investigations of bastardisation at Duntroon. The Opposition is grateful for the assurances of the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) that this incident will be swiftly investigated. However, the Duntroon incidents and the subsequent report by the Fox Committee showed that an isolated incident of this nature could be only the tip of the iceberg. For this reason I hope that the Minister’s investigations will be much more comprehensive than the mere detection and punishment of those responsible for this incident. It could be indicative of basic greater defects in the system of recruit training at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’. If the Minister finds any evidence that this is so, I hope he will appoint a committee of inquiry to look at training at the establishment along the lines of Fox Committee inquiry into the Royal Military College.
I acknowledge, as the Minister has said, that he has acted swiftly in relation to this matter. There was a Press statement this morning and the Minister has made a statement to the House this afternoon. He has stated also that he intends to visit the establishment during the winter recess. This should give the Minister an opportunity to talk to those who are responsible for the training carried out there. One would expect that if the Minister does find indications that this kind of practice is being committed at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ he will make an early statement on the matter. I suggest that if it is of a serious nature, as one would expect from the statement made in this morning’s Press, a committee of inquiry be set up to further investigate it. I know that the Minister appreciates that if these incidents are not of a relatively minor nature and if they are not infrequent, they will ultimately have some effect on the recruitment programme for the Royal Australian Navy.
Motion (by Mr Foster) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Sturt raising the matter of the conduct of the Minister for Repatriation when he insulted the House by spitting on the floor and using abusive language last Thursday night during the speech of the honourable member for Fremantle on international affairs.
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt has moved that the Standing Orders be suspended. That motion has been seconded by the honourable member for Banks. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– May I reply, having seconded the motion?
– I ask leave to continue-
– I reserve my right to speak and I think I have the right to speak.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I merely want to point out at this stage that the motion would not be acceptable to the Government, principally for the reason that an investigation has already been carried out by Mr Speaker.
– I raise a point of order. I must point out to the Leader of the House that he has not asked for leave to make a speech. A motion has been put and it has been seconded. The seconder rose to speak. I believe he received the call before the Minister.
-Order! When a Minister rises to his feet the Chair calls the Minister. The motion presently before the House is for the suspension of the Standing Orders to allow a matter to be discussed. It is not the subject matter that is being discussed.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! As I understand it, the Leader of the House intimated that the suspension of Standing Orders was not acceptable to the Government. That is the situation at the moment.
– I seconded the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. When I seconded it I sat down, reserving my right to speak as a seconder of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. With respect, I suggest that your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, under Standing Orders, should be to allow me to speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders which I seconded.
-Order! In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Banks, there has been no suggestion of not allowing the honourable member for Banks to speak to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Let me make the position clear. When the Leader of the House rose he received the call and spoke in regard to the Government’s attitude relating to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. If the honourable member for Banks desires to speak now in relation to the motion he comes into the debate in the normal way.
– Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I raise a point of order. The procedure in this House has always been that someone moves a motion - in this-case it was the honourable member for Sturt - it is seconded and put in writing, which is happening now. The mover of the motion then speaks. I have never heard of a Minister getting up and saying that he has preference over the person who moves the motion.
– Order! I think that the honourable member for Dawson is under a misapprehension. In certain circumstances in a debate, to suit the convenience of the House, the Leader of the House or the Minister in charge of the Bill may make some comment in relation to the subject matter. As I understand it, this was the position. As the mover of the motion, the honourable member for Sturt is still entitled to speak to the motion. At an appropriate stage in the debate after the honourable member for Sturt has finished the honourable member for Banks is entitled to come into the debate.
– May I, with your indulgence, speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker? I accept what you have said in relation to the procedures of the House. I think that there has been some misunderstanding between the honourable member for Sturt and the honourable member who seconded the resolution. The Leader of the House rose, much more quickly than one would normally expect to indicate the position of the Government. 1 think that in view of what has happened the procedure which would be much more acceptable to the Opposition would be for you now to call the honourable member for Sturt as the mover of the motion and then allow the honourable member for Banks, who seconded the motion to follow him.
– The honourable member for Sturt has the call.
– Mr Deputy Speaker,I think that we can resolve the matter.I move:
That the question be now put.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that I was on my feet before the Leader of the House rose.
– Order: The question that the question be put may bo moved at any time during an honourable member’s speech, whether he is on his feet, in the middle of his speech, or otherwise. The situation before the House at the moment is that the Leader of the House has moved that the question be put.
-I raise a point of order. I was on my feet before the Minister. Because of the tactics of the Minister will
I not now be permitted to acquaint the House with what I consider to be the facts in relation to what happened in this chamber last Thursday evening? Mr Deputy Speaker, are you ruling that way?
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. It does not matter whether the honourable member for Sturt was on his feet or making his speech when the question was put. This is in accordance with the Standing Orders.
That the question be nowput.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Foster’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. ..6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s continued procrastination in implementing urgent and effective rural reconstruction to counter the impending economic disaster in major rural sectors of Australia.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– Despite the unquestionable evidence of the growing financial crisis in the rural sector which has been available to the Government for at least the last 3 years, the Government has exhibited an incredible display of apathy and confusion with respect to this national problem. The validity of the repeated charge that the Government is incapable of providing positive leadership in rural problems is nowhere more evident than in its approach to rural reconstruction in Australia and to the need for urgent action. On 15th August 1970 the previous Minister for Primary Industry, who is now the Minister for Trade and Industry expressed the view that quick action was needed to stem the rising tide of rural indebtedness which had now reached record heights.
On 19th August last year the same Minister announced that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics would investigate and report on the immediate and longer term need for debt reconstruction and farm adjustment. This investigation was given top priority by the Government and all credit goes to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for completing its investigation and report within 2 months. At the end of October the Government had the Bureau’s report and recommendations. Six months have now elapsed. Despite the urgent pleas from State governments, from harassed industry leaders and from primary producers who are going and who have gone bankrupt, the Government apparently is still in the grip of procrastination, uncertainty and apathy. Australian Country
Party Ministers seem oblivious of the fact that the trenchant criticism that is being directed against them by angry State governments and primary producers throughout every rural region in Australia is fair and deserved criticism.
In Western Australia and western Queensland entire pastoral and agricultural districts face economic oblivion. With rising production and marketing costs eroding the economic heart of every export rural industry, economic strangulation caused by rising costs is now spreading into the 2 most vital primary producing industries, beef and sugar. Despite the gravity of impending bankruptcy of major sections of rural Australia, the cold fact apparently is that the Liberal-Country Party Government just does not have comprehensive policies or immediate plans to combat this crisis. At no time in the last 26 years of the post war period has Australia’s need been greater than it is now for constructive policies on compulsory and voluntary reconstruction programmes aimed at progressively achieving levels of farm production in line with realistic market demand.
Complementary to reconstruction action is the urgent need for policies to halt the insidious increase in production and marketing costs as well as the need for the immediate examination of the effects of the Australian tariff on the viability of the export rural sector. So engrossed apparently is the Australian Country Party in political intrigue aimed always at preserving its country votes that its leaders consistently refuse to take strong action on resconstruction. apparently from a fear that such action might be unpalatable to powerful sections in Country Party electorates. The Government has no modern policy on tariffs, no modern policy on progressive farm production adjustment and no policy whatsoever on the wage-price inflation which is wrecking the export rural industries. When challenged on its record of failures Country Party Ministers always resort to the same tactics of trying to put the blame on the Opposition, the unions, overseas policies, the State governments - anything or anyone as long as the spotlight is focused right away from the real culprits, themselves. Let me state one clear fact which is irrefutable. A LiberalCountry Party Government has been in control of the rural policies of this nation for 21 years, and the full blame for the incredible mess in which rural Australia has now been plunged, with a greater number of bankruptcies than at any other time, even in the great depression, must be borne not by the Opposition, the unions, the State governments or anyone else but by this Government.
So complacent and arrogant have the Ministers become that they now ignore even the federal Parliament itself. They apparently treat this institution with some contempt. For 8 months Ministers have made utterances about the Government’s proposed rural reconstruction policies and objectives. But not once have these Ministers seen fit to make a statement in Parliament on this subject. Primary producers will be staggered to learn that the Government has made not one ministerial statement in the Parliament dealing specifically with the proposed $100m rural reconstruction scheme. This apathy and complacency starkly reveal the low priority which the Government has accorded this most serious problem of debt reconstruction and general industry reconstruction. In the eyes of the Government apparently such matters as law and order as affected by student demonstrations, and the perennial Communist bogey, are far more important to the nation than the critical economic crisis that is threatening the economic livelihood of rural areas throughout Australia.
In October last year, 6 months ago, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics officially informed the Government that at least one third of Australia’s sheep producers were facing serious economic and financial problems. At the same time the Bureau warned that many wool producers, particularly those in Queensland and Western Australia, have already reached or are close to insolvency. Despite the urgency of these findings nothing positive has been done by this Government to implement a rural reconstruction policy. Is it any wonder that the wave of resentment against the Country Party has gathered such force in rural areas, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, that even such conservative bodies as the New South Wales Graziers’ Association are now openly condemning the gross ineptitude of this Government on this matter. The most telling evidence in support of the urgent need for effective rural financial reconstruction is the drastic decline in the real net farm income of sheep producers. The picture is frightening- and this is not an exaggeration. In the last 5 years the net farm income of sheep producers in real terms has declined by an average of 66 per cent in the pastoral zone, by 55 per cent in the wheat-sheep zone and by 23 per cent in the high rainfall areas. Translating these percentages into comparative levels of real income, over the last 5 years we see that a net income of, for example, $5,000 5 years ago has now been reduced to $1,670 in the pastoral zone, $2,250 in the wheat-sheep zone and $3,850 in the high rainfall areas. Of course, 1971 will be worse because wool prices have worsened and costs have increased.
Certainly, the financial position of the sheep industry in the pastoral zone has been affected by periodic droughts. Western Queensland, of course, has been devastated. But because of the inability of sheep producers in the pastoral zones - that is in the arid and semi-arid areas - to increase productivity, due simply to the technological constraints placed on increased carrying capacity, or the various physical factors associated with increased productivity, the economic position of a large proportion - perhaps almost all - of the producers in the pastoral zone can only be regarded as hopeless under existing levels of wool prices and levels of production costs.
Let us look very carefully at the current position of wool prices and costs. Firstly, we must take a pessimistic view of future wool prices. We can all paint a picture indicating that wool prices will go up but I think that in this case we will be far wiser to take a pessimistic view. The relationship of production, consumption and prices of synthetics versus wool offers sufficient evidence to conclude that in the near future there is little hope of any significant increase in wool prices, certainly in real terms. Secondly, we must also take a pessimistic view on the future level of farm costs in Australia. I have stated my views in this House on several occasions, but let me quote the Bureau of Agricultural Economics - the Commonwealth’s top agricul tural economic authority. It has officially informed the Government as follows:
There is no reason for expecting any significant slowing down in the rate of increase in costs and prices in the economy in future years.
We have, therefore, the combination of low and perhaps even worse wool prices in the future, coupled with rapidly increasing costs. This is a hopeless situation for woolgrowers and for all people who rely on wool, particularly in pastoral areas, for an income. In fact, most face what could be called bankruptcy. Unless costs can be braked or reduced and unless wool prices are increased in those areas where productivity increases are severely limited, there is simply no hope for these people under present cost-price conditions.
In a dynamic situation such as this it is deplorable that the Government has failed to inform growers of the principal objectives of the rural reconstruction scheme and how it will affect individual producers. Piecemeal and unco-ordinated makeshift policies, as has been the case with the dairying industry over the last decade for example, will only worsen the situation if this is the basis of the Government’s rural reconstruction policy. Primary producers throughout Australia want the facts and policies. They want facts on the future of wool relative to synthetics, facts on the future of dairy products relative to margarine and all facts relevant to the marginal areas of Australia. I believe that the Government must give serious consideration to some measure of price control. As I have said before in this House, I do not mean price control over everything, but selective price control, giving the Commonwealth the power to intervene if necessary to stabilise the wage-price spiral in Australia. I believe that if there were a referendum tomorrow on whether the Commonwealth should have the power of selective price control the farmers of Australia would vote overwhelmingly for such a measure.
– The last gall up poll showed that 55 per cent would vote for it.
– That is right. The increase in rural debt has now reached such serious proportions that the net debt is running at around $ 1,400m. The total debt is in the vicinity of $2, 100m and approximately half of this debt belongs to the sheep industry. The latest evidence available suggests that in Western Australia more than 3,000 farmers, including 650 new farmers, are in a hopeless financial condition. I ask: Is the Government going to help these people? It is the policy of the Government which has encouraged new farmers to expand into marginal areas, to grow wheat and to run sheep complementary and supplementary to wheat. It is the Government’s policy which allowed wheat producers in Western Australia to expand at an unhealthy rate and it is the Government’s policy which allows farm costs to spiral at a rate which is crucifying rural producers in export areas. Is the Government going to help these people, who are now in a hopeless financial position? Long term loans at low interest rates will not help them because they have npt the capacity to service the debt. What will happen to those people in Western Australia and in western Queensland and other parts of Australia? They cannot get out of the economic and financial mess that they are in today. I shall not embarrass the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) by reading the various statements and criticisms of him or of his Government made by grazier chiefs, by State Ministers and by the Queensland Premier, but he knows what they are.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that all honourable members are aware of the extent to which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) gets himself involved In political intrigue, and I find it rather farcical that he should raise a matter today which alleges procrastination on the part of the Commonwealth in the introduction of its rural reconstruction scheme. I believe it is essential that we get legislation into the House, and get it through. In fact, in answer to a question - not this morning but a few weeks ago - I explained that it was our firm intent that this should happen this session.
Of course there are necessary procedures which each of the States have found they have wanted to pursue before they were prepared to accept the proposals submitted to them by the Commonwealth. In respect of the negotiation of the terms and conditions on which the $100m should be made available firstly to the States and then through the States to individual producers, there has been a succession of meetings dating back to late last year. Indeed, the last of the ministerial meetings was held, as I explained at question time, in Melbourne on 14th April last.
In the application of the scheme the major problem has been the marked extent to which conditions and circumstances, particularly within the wool industry, have deteriorated even since the scheme was first proposed. It is true that the scheme is not peculiarly relevant only to the wool industry. However, it has been drafted with the circumstances of the wheat and wool, and particularly the sheep and wool, grower in mind. What has been produced is a scheme which tries to encompass, as far as possible, a way in which farmers will be able to consolidate their debts and will be able initially to overcome their debt position and will be able, perhaps through the ambit of the second part of the scheme, to move into some measure of farm buildup, if that is appropriate, and so be able to expand their field of operation and, one would hope, get back into a viable operation.
The statistical position of the rural industries is very much as the honourable member for Dawson has stated. There has been a marked decline in profitability, particularly in the wool industry. I think we are all aware in general terms of the way in which there has been, over a succession of years, a decline in wool prices but I do not think many are aware of the extent that this has meant for individual wool growers a decline in their income with the result that while the scheme, which has been formulated on the basis of viability, can be seen to be very laudable when wool prices are higher it does create difficulties for individual governments if wool prices remain at their present level. Unfortunately it is not possible to look accurately into a crystal ball and say definitely what wool prices will be. In the last 3 weeks - the week before Easter and last week - there has been some definite firming in the market. As honourable members know, the Government took firm steps to introduce the Australian Wool Commission into the market late last year in an effort to try to ensure that wool prices should be more stable. The decision taken at the beginning of this year and announced by the Australian Wool Commission to maintain wool prices at an assessed average of 30c a lb greasy for average 64s was taken in the light of the marked uncertainty that was then apparent in the market. The Government, in framing rural- reconstruction, has had to take into account the States concerned and the fact that wool prices, even at 30c, would place a large number of growers with considerable indebtedness in a critical position. At a meeting of the New South Wales Graziers Association the other day 1 gave a few figures to show that as actual receipts for wool had declined by $100m between 1968-69 and 1969-70 - they are expected to be down a further $170ni this year - the wool industry’s outstanding debt as a ratio to net farm income had increased from one and a half times in 1968-69 to more «han 4 times in 1970- 71. This means that there is a very real difficulty in framing any completely adequate rural reconstruction scheme.
In the discussions I have had with the States we have sought specifically to ensure that farmers are given an opportunity again to become viable, given the forces that work generally in marketing our products and in terms of the opportunities for selling large percentages of most of our primary products abroad. However, the States have expressed a genuine concern that if the present prices for wool continue there will be a need for supplementary assistance to be made available to farmers, apart from the rural reconstruction scheme itself. While I have announced and reiterated in this House today that the rut al reconstruction scheme, as originally conceived and as now agreed upon between the States and the Commonwealth, will be introduced - 1 hope later this week or at the latest at the beginning of next week - the difficulty that the State governments have is thai in their normal day to day administration, particularly in New South Wales where there is an existing Rural Reconstruction Board, they believe there should be a scheme which could apply to many farmers who might be viable if wool prices were again to firm or if the level of indebtedness, contracted because of market fluctuations from a period of good seasons into a drought, were to be overcome. In Queensland and in western New South Wales drought has been a very significant factor in affecting profitability. Indeed, many growers have launched into borrowing, the extent of which is quite frightening and it is this fact as much as any other about which the States have expressed concern in the formulation of the proposed $100m rural reconstruction scheme. Essentially, however, the States and the Commonwealth are agreed that whatever other assistance might be made available, this rural reconstruction scheme should be embarked upon as soon as possible.
I have explained in this House before that in my opinion there are 3 categories of rural producers. There are those producers who on present economic expectancy are unlikely to be profitable, and there is without doubt a need for some rehabilitation assistance, some retraining and some help to be given to them to enable them to sell their properties to adjacent landholders or in other ways to move off the land. Another category of rural producers - this is the category that the rural reconstruction scheme itself is designed to assist - is those who, given a better consolidation of their debts and given a longer term on borrowings, might reasonably be expected to get back into a position of profitability. The third category of rural producers is those who at this stage perhaps do not need assistance but who increasingly, given the general short term period over which most of their funds are borrowed, will need some rephasing of their debts so that they may get over a longer period terms which will enable them to get back into a reasonably profitable situation.
For the first group, that is those farmers who have to be helped off the land, there is some provision within this reconstruction scheme. As to the details of this, I will be making quite a lengthy statement in the course of my second reading speech and I do not intend to go into this in great detail now. However, it is necessary that there should be consideration, not just of financial assistance or the provision of funds for farm build-up, but also of some retraining in order to assist those farmers who are unable to carry on. As to the second group - the rural reconstruction group of farmers who need an immediate consolidation of their indebtedness - there has been agreement on the part of the States that the $100m should be provided on the basis of 75 per cent as a loan at 6 per cent interest per annum, repayable over 20 years, with an initial 3-year holiday from the repayment of principal, and 25 per cent as a non-repayable grant. There was an alternative proposition that a loan should be made available bearing interest of 3 per cent per annum, repayable over 20 years with an initial 3-year holiday from repayment of the principal. I know that no State has accepted that alternative.
In addition there has been very marked discussion on the way in which each area of the reconstruction proposal should be undertaken. As to the use of the funds by the States, this is to be substantially undertaken through some organisation such as the Rural Reconstruction Board which already operates in New South Wales. As to the interest rates chargeable to farmers, there has been quite extensive discussion with State governments in regard to existing schemes. In New South Wales, for example, there is a concessional rate that has applied since the early 1930s through the Development Bank. In that case funds were made available generally at the rate of 6i per cent per annum. The idea is to try to get to a point where interest rates are at a concession which is at the level of rates available through other schemes, but which is not such as to preclude farmers from bearing some of the change in interest rates which has happened. This would mean that farmers can be expected to move relatively with the movement in interest rates in the community generally. So while there is to be a concession, there has been discussion with the States as to the extent of this concession.
In this scheme there is provision for rehabilitation and retraining. Generally in the operation of the scheme there is provision for a review in the light of the change of viability and as a result of changing wool prices and changing economic circumstances. The main area of difficulty for the States has been in the field of unforeseen losses. The actual field of administration is complex because of drought and because of wool prices. It is because of this that there has been continual discus sion with State governments. The operation of the scheme will create difficulties while the price of wool is at the present rate of 30c per lb. Indeed at our ministerial meeting this was generally recognised and discussion centred around this point and the unforeseen losses that the States might find themselves involved in as a result of wool prices not returning a reasonably viable income. The States felt that perhaps this scheme needs to be supplemented in some way or even radically reviewed, but in order to ensure that the scheme can be commenced the States have accepted that it should be implemented in its present form. There have been modifications by the Commonwealth in some fields and by the States in other fields of this scheme. The review itself is to be reviewed from time to time and this will enable a complete overhaul of any of the fields in the scheme should this be considered necessary.
I have not gone into the specific details of this scheme because I intend to make my second reading speech outlining the details within the next few days. I believe that the debate initiated by the Opposition does not in any way contribute-
– I ask the Minister under the Standing Orders to table the document from which he has extensively quoted in the last 5 minutes.
– The document is a speech I delivered to the Graziers Association and I will be happy to forward a copy to the honourable gentleman if he has not already a copy in his box.
– I have not.
– I think copies of the speech have already been distributed. It covers a lot of detail. Here today I have given an analysis of the details of a scheme which the States and the Commonwealth believe will be of notable assistance in the formulation of a scheme to assist rural producers in the present difficult circumstance in which they find themselves. To argue as the Opposition has today and to suggest that there has been protracted delay in implementing this scheme completely ignores the difficulties that the States have had with each other within their existing organisations in regard to the formulation of a mutually satisfactory scheme.
The negotiation has been amicable, and there has been a mutual recognition of the seriousness of the position of rural producers. I believe that out of these discussions will come a scheme which will be of very considerable assistance. In addition, of course, there is the farm loans insurance scheme which will be necessary for those who are presently viable. It will give them an extended term of loan, and possibly some further assistance will be necessary for those who have to be helped off the land. I have referred to all of these matters previously. I believe that the Government in no way has been neglectful of its responsibilities. I hope that when the legislation is introduced shortly the Opposition will ensure that it receives expeditious treatment in this House.
– The honourable member for Dawson asked the Minister for Primary Industry to table a document.
– He said he would table it.
– I did not say that 1 would table it. I said that he would have the speech already in his box.
– lt is not in my box.
– It has been distributed.
– We have not received it.
– 1 will give the honourable member a copy of it.
– Very well.
-Does the honourable member for Dawson want to proceed with his request?
– No. All we want is a copy of what the Minister said.
– There is an urgency about the present situation in the countryside which does not seem to penetrate the fastness of Canberra’s castles, and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has given us evidence of this. The Parliament and the countryside have been listening to soothing sounds from the Government for H years during one of the worst periods which the rural half of the nation has experienced for a whole generation. But what sense of urgency has been displayed? Following on Government deci sions on wheat and the hangover of the long drought, thousands of farmers and share farmers found themselves in trouble. It was not trouble of their making. They were responsible for neither the weather nor the unexpected Government decisions. But it was obvious when this Parliament first met on that famous 1-day sitting that the crisis was growing. Yet the Government programme outlined by the GovernorGeneral indicated that all was well with the nation and that there was no crisis anywhere.
The former Minister for Primary Industry, now the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), told the Parliament that there was no need for an urgent debate on country problems. Indeed, he attacked the very action of the Opposition in raising the question of the crisis at the first opportunity. An urgent conference was sought by banking institutions and appropriate government agencies with a view to injecting confidence and collateral into the countryside. The reply of the then Prime Minister to my request on that occasion was to tell the Parliament that rural indebtedness had increased for a ‘number of reasons’, but that assistance had been given and that if more was needed the Government would do what it could. There was no hint of urgency there. Then when it was obvious that the Government had made a massive miscalculation on wheat, it took continuous efforts by the Opposition and many butts and jousts with reluctant Ministers before they recognised the situation.
The same lack of urgency has been displayed over wool. Wool prices suddenly collapsed, and it was obvious that the industry was drifting into economic difficulties. Again the Government did nothing but abuse the Opposition for raising the matter. We announced a policy within weeks; months later the Government gave birth to its answer to the wool marketing problem, and the end result of that has been that the Minister for Trade and Industry has talked about the price of wool going back up to 40c per lb in 10 years, and one of the officers of the Australian Wool Commission has talked of wool prices of 30c or 32c per lb prevailing in the future. In fact, he said that the price might be lucky to hold at 30c per lb in the next 10 years. That seems to be the
Government’s assessment of the wool situation. This has been the Government’s record in relation to key industries and their problems; adjectives yes, action no.
So we come to the fact that thousands of farmers are in trouble. The continuing inference by the Government is that there is a lack of efficiency - ‘viability’ is the term almost used as a synonym here - on the part of primary producers. In the one comprehensive report commissioned by the Government there were 6 main points. They were: That large numbers of Australian farmers should be helped off their farms; that company ownership would tend to replace family enterprises; that a farm mortgage loan insurance scheme should be introduced; that there should be higher interest rates to ensure that any loans that are made are not made at an uneconomic level - I think that was the term - and that land values should not rise; that there should be support for rural reconstruction boards; and that the so-called hopeless cases should be helped to sell their properties at what the Government’s report called normal market values’.
Against this philosophy the Government announced a SI 00m reconstruction scheme. Today the Minister for Primary Industry said that there are 3 categories: Those farmers who have to go, those who need some help from the rural reconstruction board and those who need no help but perhaps some debt rephasing. He makes all sorts of general statements, but there is no indication of how many farmers he has in mind should go, from where they should go or what criterion is to be applied. What does this $100m farm reconstruction scheme mean, anyway? In practical terms in New South Wales it means help for an additional 100 farmers in a single full year. That is all. There is to be no help under the scheme in that context unless the farmer is pushed to the point of bankruptcy, or just beyond. Already thousands of farmers are verging on bankruptcy and they are being refused assistance because in New South Wales the Rural Reconstruction Board just has not got the money. Applications are coming in from some areas at 10 times the previous rate. The Board is able to help only a minority of applicants because, again, it does not have the finance. Decisions are being forced on the Board through this lack of money. As a result of turning down the applications, forced sales and court proceedings are taking place and families are going. All this has flowed from the Commonwealth’s delay and the Commonwealth’s lack of action in this regard.
The Rural Reconstruction Board in New South Wales has at its disposal expertise which could tackle the worst cases in the most effective way. I repeat again that the Board is being denied the funds to do so. More than half the producers in trouble will have to be denied help unless the Commonwealth faces up to its responsibilities. The delay is disastrous. Every week the economic freeze worsens. The Commonwealth has had a duty to act over the months in fact, over the last H years. The alibi that was given to us by the Minister today is that the States have procrastinated; that it is the States which are at fault. But what have the States been concerned about? They have been concerned about the very conditions of this $100m reconstruction scheme, because the Commonwealth wants to see higher interest rates and to ensure that there is no rise in land values. But the States have contested this. In fact, they are so concerned about the matter that recently the Victorian Minister said that the scheme could very well add to the present hardships and create new disasters. So there is reason for the States to have had doubts about the Commonwealth and the way in which it has offered the money to them.
The Minister did not tell us today what the criteria will be for the farmers who have to go, and that was the point he made - that many will have to go. He made that statement clearly and definitely again today. So, as I say, we have been waiting for this basic sum of money. It is not a huge sum of money. The construction of one new complex in Melbourne will cost about the same sum of money. But this is the answer which the Government so far has given; it has delayed implementation of the scheme for months. But what is happening at the moment? For example, the Rural Reconstruction Board in New South Wales could give further assistance if large first mortgages were re-scheduled. Knowing that this is so, I took the precaution to contact the Minister for Primary Industry about one case in which the Board was willing to take action on the balance of the problems if the Commonwealth would come in on the first mortgage. I am referring to the re-scheduling of the first mortgage. This is what the Minister told me:
While other assistance such as rural loans insurance scheme is under active consideration the introduction of such a scheme is necessarily complex and the Government is not yet in a position to decide how it might be implemented. For this reason regret unable to encourage -
And I suppress the name of my constituent - to think Commonwealth assistance can be provided to meet his circumstances.
That farmer will go. This has been going on for some considerable time - week after week and month after month - and we are still in the same position. The Minister says that he will come in and make a second reading speech on the matter which will fix it all up. In relation to this one aspect alone, I repeat that this $100m reconstruction scheme which sounds so magnificent probably will mean, so far as New South Wales is concerned, some assistance to only an additional 100 farmers who are bankrupt or facing bankruptcy. So let us have a look at what else can and should be done. In fact, the Government has given the impression that farmers by and large have great inefficiencies and that many of them will have to get big or get out. Just how many farmers will be affected? I submit not more than 10 per cent of farmers across the nation, and at the present time most economists would put the figure at IS per cent at the most. So when the Government is talking about reconstruction and helping people to get off their properties, to get out of the countryside, this is the number of farmers about which the Government is talking at the moment. According to the economists, this figure is 15 per cent. But 10 per cent, I submit, is probably nearer the figure. But what about those who have been exposed to the Government’s economic blizzard to which the honourable member for Dawson referred? What about those others? The farm loan insurance scheme is not operating at all at the moment.
The other point that I wish to raise in the minute remaining to me is that we already have seen created within the Department of Primary Industry a section on farm reconstruction. But a veil of secrecy has been drawn over this section. It has been created. Officers are working there. No statement has been made in the Parliament as to what this section is supposed to do, how many officers there are in it or what their brief is. This is a contempt of the Parliament and of the countryside. We should know what is intended by that unit which has been created and which is operating. Perhaps the Government is ashamed of the fact that it set this section up and it is not quite sure what the officers have to do. Well, I think that the Parliament has the right to know. I place a plea before the Government today to tear away the veil of secrecy, first, on its philosophy touching on this ‘get big or get out’ theory, secondly, on what it has done already administratively and in secret and, thirdly, on what its estimate is of the Austraiian farming population that will be banished from the countryside at the present time. Of course this matter is urgent. The countryside is in crisis. The Government is in limbo. The Parliament is being diverted by sympathetic symphonies by Ministers who have an infinite capacity to fiddle interminably.
– 1 suppose that there are 2 ways in which we could handle this occasion. We could kick one another around the political arena and try to score political points off one another. We would probably get some satisfaction out of it and go out of the House and say that we had won the debate. We may get some satisfaction. I can assure the House, particularly the Opposition, that the farmers will not. Farmers are inclined to listen with cynical amusement to political exercises of this kind. I thought that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) would have learnt that when he had his fingers burnt rather badly over wheat.
The farmers know that there is not one farmer amongst members of the Opposition. They know that the Australian Labor Party has been the Party that advocates a 35-hour week. They know that the Labor Party runs in double harness with Mr Hawke. We know what this philosophy is doing to farmers’ costs. We know that the poor old Labor Party cannot make up its mind about its policy on tariffs. We understand that it has been going through acutely painful birth pangs during the last week or two. I do not know what is going to be brought forth. We will probably have a look at the monstrosity during the week. We can do this: We can try to score political points off one another; or we can get to work and look at the basic problem of farm reconstruction. We can look at the incredible difficulties of the problem that is before us.
This is a splendid subject to talk about. I remember that some of the finest speeches that I have ever heard have been made about farm reconstruction. The phrase has a lovely rolling sound about it It suits eloquence splendidly. But fundamental fact is that solving the problems is incredibly difficult. We do not reconstruct industries. We reconstruct farms. Each industry, be it wool, wheat or whatever, is made up by a series of farms. Let me bring home to the House here what we are talking about For instance, if we say that we will tackle the problem of the reconstruction of the wool industry, what do we really mean? Surely we must mean that we will say that a viable unit - and that phrase is a lovely, rounded one that will appeal to the economists in the House - will be, say, a four thousand dry sheep equivalent. That is what we would have said a year ago, particularly if the unit was based on fine wool. That was the position a year ago. We know now that that would not be a viable unit
If we had set to work and charged around the countryside basing reconstruction schemes on that kind of information it would have been wrong. That would have been the only point about it. It would have been wrong. It could certainly have been done promptly, but the people on the properties would have gone broke. Otherwise, it would have been perfectly satisfactory. We must remember that the advice on what shall be a viable unit is going to come from people including civil servants as the honourable member for Dawson was once. They are dedicated and capable civil servants. But one point always should be remembered: The advice that they give with their dedication and ability will always be wrong to some degree, and often very wrong. It should be remembered also that any person who can foresee the supply and demand situation for any product in the future is not a civil servant for long. He is living in the south of France with his feet in a bucket of champagne.
It is important to realise that every time one makes prophecies about the future one will be wrong to some degree. I know this. My family has been farming the same property for about 100 years. My grandfather was chairman of the land board. My father was a member of the advisory board of agriculture. I was a member of the advisory board. I ought to know the problems of my own location if anybody does. Yet the advice that I give myself and the advice that I give to my fellow farmers is very frequently wrong to a very serious degree, and I am almost always wrong in some detail. This is the message that I have for the House today. The problems that we face are incredibly difficult. It is no good just saying that we are going to hand the problems over to those handling a reconstruction scheme that will be set up over the weekend. It was quite proper that the Government should go into this problem in very great detail. To do less than that would have been quite nonsensical.
I make a plea to the Government. 1 do not know whether it will accept the plea. 1 make a plea today as 1 have done and will do again that, because of the nature of the problems we face, because of their complexity and because of the seriousness of them, a rural industries board be set up to examine the problems of rural industry in the same way that the Tariff Board has tackled the problems of secondary industry. These are the kinds of problems that one can state quickly off the top of one’s head. These problems include: What is the long term future of the wool industry? What is the good of commencing a scheme to reconstruct farms when we do not know what the long term future of the wool industry will be? What should be the size of wool farms in different areas? Should quotas on wheat be negotiable? Should there be a two-price scheme for dairying? What kind of policy should we have in relation to drought? If we are honest with ourselves we will realise that most of the steps that the Government takes to mitigate the effects of drought are usually taken in the wrong way and for the wrong people. Should we have a scheme for marketing meat or a different way of selling our meat? There is a desperate need for these kinds of problems to be examined -in depth. I pay full tribute to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The members of that organisation are well able to bring their expert knowledge to bear in considering these kinds of problems.
– You said that they are wrong.
– 1 did not. I say that everybody who tries to predict the future will always be wrong to some degree. If the honourable member does not know that he should look at some of the advice that he gave the Government in the past; it will be wrong to some degree. I will be happy to spell it out if the honourable member is in doubt.
– You spell it out.
– What I am saying is that I am not questioning the ability of the BAE. There is a tremendous amount of virtue in taking sworn public evidence, in having public discussion, public report and public information on these important questions. We then find out in more detail what steps we ought to take in the solving of these incredibly difficult problems. I am confidently waiting for the Government to bring forward this rural reconstruction plan. The Minister has hinted pretty plainly that the legislation is fairly close around the corner. I can assure the Minister that I am fully aware of the tremendous responsibility that he carries in this situation, knowing as I do that there are no easy or popular answers. Indeed, the answers are more likely to be right if they are unpopular. This is part of the problem and this is where I would see the use of a rural industries board, to be a help to the Minister and something for him to shelter behind if necessary. But the thing that we as a Parliament must recognise is that there is no sense in wasting our time on silly resolutions of this kind when we know that just around the corner there is a full dress debate coming on legislation which the honourable member for Dawson must have known was to be introduced in the next week or two. Why we should waste the time of the House in this way today I can never understand.
– I wish I had the childlike faith of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) who questions the soundness of our procedure in discussing this matter of public importance on the grounds that we know that there is about to be implemented in this place legislation to deal with the things that we are discussing in this debate. Without taking my mind back very far at all I can recall that some 5 years ago we were told the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme was to be introduced in that year. We were told at intervals of about 6-months at the most that its introduction into this place was imminent and that there was no cause for us to be concerned.
– What held it up?
– I will deal with that, too. In fact, the legislation was introduced about a year ago after 4 years of procrastination. It was to operate for a 4-year period and the amount of money involved was only $25m. How do we know that there will not be the same interminable procrastination with this legislation? We are told that it will be introduced in this sessional period, but we know, too, that this sessional period will come to an end late next week. It would be most unusual if the legislation were passed in so short a time. Most legislation is not passed as quickly as that.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) asked what the hold-up was with the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme. The hold-up, as we were told by the former Minister for Primary Industry, was because the States could not come to an agreement with the Commonwealth. It will be recalled that when the legislation was introduced in this House only one State was in agreement, and that was Western Australia. But once the legislation was introduced here it was only a matter of a week or two before another 2 States, one of which was Tasmania, agreed to the scheme. Of course, all the States concerned have now agreed to the scheme. So if we are to be told again that the reason we have not proceeded with this legislation is that it has been impossible to get agreement with the States, surely we can look back only 12 months and see what was done in the field of dairy farm reconstruction and realise the need to get the legislation through and allow the States to come to an agreement on it once it has gone through, if that is the way it has to be done. But perhaps in this debate it may be necessary to give some indication of the situation in which the Government is being asked to act. if any honourable member was to go to the Parliamentary Library and see the file on this subject he would find that it is about 3 inches thick and dates back for some years because this is not a situation that has developed suddenly. It has been developing for at least 5 years and has become apparent even to those with only a most cursory interest in this field, let alone those involved in the industry. It was reported in the ‘West Australian’ of 11th September last year, for instance, that there were 3,000 wheat and sheep farmers in Western Australia who were in immediate danger of being forced off their farms within a very abort space of time. It was also reported that there were 5,000 other farmers who were not in immediate difficulty but who, unless there was a definite upward trend, would be forced off their places within 2 or 3 years. That is the situation. Unfortunately in Western Australia it was exacerbated by the term in office of the Liberal-Country Party Government which endeavoured to throw open one million acres of new land each year to give credence to. its argument that we were a State on the move, a developing State. Unfortunately, the people who went on to the extra million acres which was opened up every year have found themselves in very grave difficulties and it is many of those people who have left their farms and will leave their farms within a short time.
But it is not only those people who are leaving. I know men who came through the depression, men who have weathered the storms, who are unable to weather this storm and are leaving their properties. The report in the ‘West Australian’ also stated that in the previous 18 months farm values in the State dropped by 20 per cent to 25 per cent. That, of course, is something of very grave importance to people who have borrowed on their farms and also to people who have inherited farms and are faced with paying the probate and other taxes on the property at the taxation valuation - and, of course, the taxation valuation at that time continues to the present time and causes grave difficulties. In the ‘West Australian’ of 16th September there was a report on the situation in Esperance, one of the booming sections of the State only a few years ago. The report states:
Claims that some farmers in the Esperance area are unable to raise finance to buy food were made at a meeting in Esperance today of more than 100 farmers. It was also claimed that children were being forced to leave schools and colleges.
Four resolutions were adopted, lt was agreed:
To ask the Government for immediate finance for living expenses for farmers affected by drought. This finance should be available till drought relief or any other help became available.
That finance should be made available by thi’ Government to cover the cost of the secondary and tertiary education of children from rural areas affected by the current economic situation.
That the Commonwealth Development Bank should be asked to delay interest and principal repayments on development loans for at least three years and possibly five years.
I think that those points are worthy of very careful consideration, particularly the one that refers to the education of children in rural areas. Action should be taken on this because the children concerned will be forced to stay on the farms or become rural workers and labourers because they have not been able to obtain the education which they require. I know people in my own electorate who have previously been able to send their children to colleges in the capital city but who are now forced to put them through correspondence courses - and we know how comparatively inadequate they are and how it will be almost impossible for those children to make their way in life. The Government should have acted to see that this sort of situation was not allowed to develop because these are people we will have to try to re-train at a later time and that possibly unnecessarily if earlier action had been taken. If it is suggested that this situation is not entirely restricted to Western Australia that suggestion would not be disputed. To answer what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said about the Government not procrastinating I would like to read what was said at a graziers’ meeting in New South Wales and reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Friday last. The report states:
Entire rural communites would have to shut up shop unless the Federal Government provided immediate help for primary producers, the annual conference of the New South Wales Graziers’ Association was told yesterday.
Mr P. A. Wright, a delegate from Uralla, said Government ‘proscrastination’ in rural reconstruction was creating a ‘tremendous social problem’ which the Government did not appear to understand or recognise.
He said a mass movement of people off the land could become a tide with social effects which would be very difficult to predict.
If the Government persists in procrastination it could find a situation on its hands that no government could retrieve,’ he said. 1 think that is the situation, lt is a most serious one and cannot be exaggerated. It requires urgent action. I wished to go on to illustrate some of the action that 1 believe
Ought to be taken but I can give only the main points I had intended to speak on. I believe that the legislation should contain provisions similar to those in the marginal dairy farms scheme but that it should be implemented more quickly and be more far reaching in its intentions. I believe there should be a debt moratorium or cheap interest allowed over a short term to potentially viable producers. I believe there must be retraining schemes and that they must be introduced in this sessional period even though there is so little time left. I believe that assistance to country children at secondary and tertiary level is of the utmost importance if we are to avoid having those children become labourers in the community. The need for action is most urgent. Such action must be soundly based and not something done in the way in which the $30m wool grant was dissipated over a wide area with no effect. If that $30m had been part of this scheme and added to the Si 00m it would have achieved a lasting and valuable effect. Instead it was very inequitably distributed and virtually dissipated.
– The matter of public importance brought before the House by the Australian Labor Party claims that the Government has taken no action in rural reconstruction to counter impending economic disaster in major rural sectors in Australia. Listening to honourable members opposite one might think that they had the answer to all our problems. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) indicated, for instance, that he could see little future for wool and that synthetics were a real danger. Perhaps a rural reconstruction scheme would be worthwhile but it is not the complete answer to our problems. It is important to remember that under the Constitution the Commonwealth can initiate talks with the States on a broad basis. The Commmonwealth has no power to operate within the States. It can and is, of course, supplying the necessary finance, as it did in the dairying scheme the proposals for which, I remind the House, were discussed for some 2 years before any agreement could be reached with the States. So the Commonwealth so. far as. this operation is concerned is very limited by constitutional considerations.
The overall situation is that there has been a considerable increase in net debt in rural area. Nobody argues against this; we all know it. This has been brought about as I see it by 3 main events; firstly, the droughts which were across the country and which had tremendous repercussions; secondly, wheat quotas which also had repercussions; thirdly, wool prices. We were hit with these 3 events almost simultaneously. The rural industries were not in a position to withstand these events.
– What about costs?
– The honourable member for Dawson asks about costs. Certainly costs are a factor but the Government has reduced costs. Two years ago the figure was 1.9 per cent; for the last full year it was something less than 1 per cent. Sure costs are a factor but they are not the real problem. The real problem is a prices problem, an income problem for farmers over the years which has been brought about by the 3 events I have mentioned. To illustrate this in real terms I refer to the latest figures of the Reserve Bank published in its ‘Statistical Bulletin’ in February 1971. These are about the latest figures we have. The base for these figures is 100 on the consumer price index for the year 1952-53. In September 1970 food was 157 on the consumer price index. Wool was 49 in September 1970. It is worse at the moment. The average weekly earnings for all industries in the same month was 253.5. That indicates where wool was standing at that time. It is not in as good a position as that at the moment.
This is the real problem in primary industries today where there are 100,000 wool growers, a lot of whom are mixed growers growing grains of some description as well as wool. We cannot take out of an industry such as this hundreds of millions of dollars over this period of time and not expect it to be in trouble. That is the situation today and that is the basis of our real problem. As I see it two things are needed if we are to assist farmers. We need a refinancing corporation and an insurance corporation. We have had some experience in setting up refinancing corporations. At the moment farmers have borrowings amounting to more than $2,000m. On the other side of the ledger deposits amounting to about $900,000 are held on behalf of farmers.
What is required, and I have been saying this for some time, until the situation can be rectified is a stand still in capital repayments. The only way this can be done with this huge amount of money is by establishing a refinancing corporation. From my investigation, this can be done to a large extent within the present banking structure. It could be attached to the insurance corporation. But whatever we may do in the fields of reconstruction and refinancing and these other areas we may wish to get into, the basic problem is the price of wool. Nobody can convince me that on the world market today wool is not worth more money than it is bringing. It went up last week in Brisbane and Melbourne by about 2) per cent These are the real problems. If we study the economics of the overall situation we will see that all our efforts should be made in this area. I firmly believe that all the reconstruction programmes in the world will not work unless there is a reasonable return to the farmer. The main downfall here is in relation to wool. Under the quota system we have a reasonable return from wheat because we have legislation which gives certain guarantees to wheat growers. In fact, the legislation brought down some 2 years ago for the ensuing 5 years guarantees to growers something like $2,000m during that period. It is reasonable to suggest that wheat growers will get more than this over a period.
But the real problem is the price of wool. It is my belief that this is the area in which we should be concentrating. We should be expecting and asking a greater price for wool before it moves out of this country. It would be better to put a reasonable price on wool before it leaves Australia. A reasonable price is certainly at least 10c or 12c higher than the average price in Australia today. If it is not sold immediately, that is nothing new in commerce. It is not new in relation to grain; it is not new in relation to any form of commerce. There are always surpluses. There is always a surplus of fuel. There is a great surplus of iron ore; there is a great surplus of practically every mineral. But this does not mean that those commodities are sold at give-away prices. If there is a slump in wool prices at this time it would be good economics for Austrlia to hold onto a parcel of her wool. The results of this would not only give a decent price to Australian growers but also give the Australian Wool Commission an opportunity to gather up parcels of wool and move in the world markets and sell on that basis. The Commission cannot operate on the shoestring; it must have huge quantities of wool before it can move into the world and sell. The Commission has to put itself into that situation.
Why give our Wool away? Why send broke tens of thousands of growers of a commodity which has stood the test of time? lt will not stand the test of time unless we do what is done in every commercial walk of life where there is a good commodity to sell. We have to put a reasonable price on the commodity and go out in the world and sell it. The Australian Wheat Board has done this in recent years, in its early days it did not move out in the world but simply sent cables here and there. When the wheat growers of Australia moved into greater production the Australian Wheat Board moved out into the world and sold wheat in huge quantities, as it is doing today. The Australian Wool Commission must go out into the world and sell our wool for a reasonable price. If the entire wool clip were given to countries in the northern hemisphere to be put through the textile mills there, it would not alter one iota the price of the finished article coming out the other end. There is no relationship between the price of raw wool and the price of the finished article. In my book, this is the basic problem we should be discussing today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)
Order! This discussion is concluded.
– I move:
That standing order 103 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended until the end of next month.
It has become traditional for the Leader of the House to move this motion for the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule. The sittings, which began earlier than usual this year - on 16th February - are due to conclude on 6th May. The Government has a heavy programme of legislation on the notice paper and there are still several Bills to be introduced. To give the Government the necessary degree of flexibility in arranging the programme of business for the House I move the suspension of the standing order.
– The Opposition opposes the motion for the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule. The Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) began his statement by commenting on what he described as something that was traditional in this House, that this motion should be moved towards the end of a session. It is common knowledge that the House will complete its sittings towards the end of next week. I understand that it will conclude on Thursday of next week. This means that about 6 sitting days are left for the Parliament to conclude its business. The Opposition opposes the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule. After this motion is carried, as I expect it will be because Government members will undoubtedly support it as they have supported similar motion in the past, the Government will be in a position to introduce new business into this House after 11 o’clock p.m. It can have only one result. That will be that this House will, as on other occasions, indulge in late sittings.
Honourable members will be called upon to debate new business and new Bills after 11 o’clock. We had one experience last week when, as I recall, Parliament sat until about 3.20 a.m. No one can seriously suggest that the business of this Parliament can be dealt with effectively under these circumstances. The Government knows that this is the position. While honourable members opposite may argue just as consistently that it has been traditional for the
Opposition to oppose the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, I believe that the Opposition does so for very good and cogent reasons. First, one has only to look at the business that is now before the Parliament. It might be advisable for me to provide some of the statistics. The Minister for National Development and Leader of the House said that more business, more Bills, are to be introduced. If this is the position it means that the 29 Bills that are now on the notice paper will be increased in number. So, before Thursday of next week this Parliament will be expected to debate, under the extraordinary circumstances that the Government wants to prevail, the 29 Bills that are already on the notice paper in addition to those that the Minister has foreshadowed this afternoon will be introduced.
Let us look at some of those 29 Bills. If the Government were able to argue successfully that the Bills that we were debating would not involve any great difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, that they were Bills upon which there would be a general consensus and agreement, then the Opposition might be able to support the Government’s motion for the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule. Let us look at some of the Bills we will be expected to debate this week and next week. First there is order of day No. 8 under Government Business, the Customs Tariff Bill 1971, on which the debate is to be resumed. Everyone in this Parliament knows that the tariff is a controversial subject in this country today. It is a matter upon which there is not a general consensus between members who sit on this side of the House and honourable members opposite. It is expected that there will be a difference of opinion upon some of these matters and that the Opposition will want to state its attitude.
Order of the day No. 11 is the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1971. Order of the day No. 13, the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1971, is a matter of very great importance to the Opposition. Yet if this House is to conclude its business by Thursday of next week obviously honourable members not only on this side of the House but also on the Government side will not have the opportunity to deal with these issues effectively.
Order of the day No. 18 is the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1971. Surely the Government does not expect that measures of such profound importance should be guillotined through this House. If the House is to rise according to the schedule laid down by the Government, obviously honourable members on this side of the House will not have the opportunity fully to debate this measure. It can be debated only under circumstances that will be applied by the Government. I refer to the application of the guillotine.
Order of the day No. 24 is the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill 1971 which again is a matter of very great importance. Order of the day No. 25 is the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1971. Surely everyone in this Parliament appreciates the importance of that Bill and the opinions that honourable members on both sides of the House will want to express. I have referred to only a small number of the 29 Bills that are on the notice paper. Every one of them is of major importance. Yet we are told by the Government that it wishes us to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. This can have only one result and that is that the Parliament will be debating these measures in the early hours of the morning. I know that in the past honourable members have had certain things to say about the result of debating legislation in the early hours of the morning. There is no need for me to repeat that argument at this stage.
– It is a disgrace.
– As the honourable member who has interjected says, it is a disgrace. It has been pointed out in the past that the purpose of the Government in having the 11 o’clock rule suspended in the dying stages of a sessional period is merely to enable it to bring in new legislation after 11 o’clock. I have referred only to the 29 Billa. As I have pointed out to the House, the Minister foreshadowed that additional legislation will be introduced. No-one on this side of the House knows what kind of legislation is to be introduced, whether it will be controversial or otherwise or whether it will require honourable members on both sides of the House to debate it at great length or otherwise. If some of the 29 Bills on the notice paper are to be left there, surely the Minister should be in a position to say so.
But he has indicated that the business will be dealt with.
Let me turn now to the questions that remain unanswered on the notice paper. There still remain to be answered 596 questions. What a disgraceful state of affairs for the Government. Yet by the end of next week this Parliament will rise. What does the Government intend to do about these matters? The logical answer to all of these problems is, as the Minister knows, for the Parliament to continue. The Minister, in what is probably the shortest statement that I have heard in this Parliament, did not give any indication why the Parliament is to rise at the end of next week. What is the reason for this? Surely there must be some very good reason why the Government wants to adjourn the Parliament at the end of next week. If one studies the records over the last 2 or 3 years it will be found that this Parliament is sitting less and less each year. This Government does not believe in the administration of the country by the Parliament; it believes in Executive administration.
I see the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) shaking his head, but no one more than the Minister for Repatriation would want to see the parliamentary sessional period end. He is one of the most vulnerable Ministers in this Parliament and there are many others like him. The Government wants this sitting of Parliament to end. It wants to be able to make its decisions outside Parliament I do not want to reiterate the arguments that I have used in this Parliament before about important statements being made outside the Parliament. That is exactly what happens. When the parliamentary sittings conclude Ministers make their statements and there are no opportunities for honourable members to debate them. I think that if this matter were put to the people of this country they would agree that the Commonwealth Parliament sits less or certainly no longer than any of the State legislatures, and it could not be argued that the Commonwealth does not have more responsibility. It has more legislation to deal with than do the State Parliaments.
I have pointed out that there are 29 Bills listed on the notice paper, and more are to be introduced. In addition 596 questions on notice remain unanswered. There are ministerial statements still on the notice paper, and honourable members on this side of the House will not have the. opportunity to deal with these ministerial statements, some of which they have initiated. There are 6 statements of very great importance and covering a wide range of matters. The Government completely dismisses them out of hand. In addition to the ministerial statements, honourable members on this side of the House, under the traditional rules and rights of this Parliament, will continue to introduce matters of public importance, and so they should. Yet these will have to be included with all the other matters to be debated in the short sitting period that remains. What does the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) think about this? He is the Deputy Government Whip. The honourable member for Angas will not rise in his place and defend the point of view of the Opposition on this matter. Like other Government supporters, he will be happy to see the Parliament rise. Where are those members on the Government side who argue consistently in this Parliament that honourable members do not have sufficient time and are not given the opportunity to debate issues that ought to be debated in the Parliament, not outside it?
Still on the notice paper are 2 reports from parliamentary committees. These are matters of very great importance. One is the report of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. This issue remains unresolved. The Government has not yet determined where the new Parliament House will be built, and there is a great deal of division in this Parliament about where it ought to be located. Again no opportunity is given for discussion of the matter during this session. We will soon rise and the issue will remain unresolved. The report of the Standing Orders Committee dated 10th June 1970 was presented and the debate was adjourned on 21st August 1970. The debate on the report of the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee was adjourned in about August 1970, 8 months ago. These matters are still unresolved. The Government will proceed with its plan to adjourn the Parliament on Thursday of next week. Eight tariff proposals dating back to 22nd May 1970, nearly 12 months ago, are still on the notice paper. Are these issues not important? Finally, I turn to the question of general business to show how much business there is on the notice paper and the Government’s lack of courtesy, its complete contempt for members on this side of the House, its contempt for the traditions of Parliament, and its contempt for those who want to take part in these debates, those who have initiated legislation and those who have initiated motions in this Parliament. Under general business there are 6 outstanding notices of motion. If one looks at the notice paper it will be found that some of these notices of motion have been there for nearly 12 months. They will never be debated. I conclude by saying that there is no reason why this Parliament should not sit beyond the end of the first week in May. The actual date of rising is to be 6th May. Unless the Government can provide some legitimate and reasonable excuse for adjourning the Parliament on that day, I believe the Opposition is carrying out its responsibility to the people of this country by protesting in the only way we can protest when the Government introduces a motion of this nature to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. Suspension of the rule means that the Government will call upon members to debate legislation in the early hours of the morning and that the Government will be able to initiate new legislation after 11 o’clock to which members will then be called upon to speak in the early hours of the morning. That is no way to treat this Parliament. It is certainly no way to treat the people of Australia.
– 1 want to support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). For some weeks we have heard the rumour that the Government intends or wants to close the Parliament early in May. First of all we were supposed to finish at the end of April, but now it will be in early May. Most people who heard the date on which Parliament is supposed to adjourn did not believe it because frankly in the sitting time that remains it will be impossible to get through the business before the Parliament at the present time let alone get through the Bills that have not yet been introduced. What amazes me is that today the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) gave notice that he is to introduce into the Parliament this week or possibly next week one of the most important Bills in the history of primary industry in Australia. I refer to the Rural Reconstruction Bill, which will involve $100m and which will certainly be one of the most controversial and important Bills to be introduced into this Parliament. Yet apparently we are supposed to pass judgment on this Bill in several days next week without being given an opportunity to study it or debate it properly in the Parliament. It is quite obvious now that this is the Government’s intention.
It has gone about implementing this intention to close the Parliament in a stealthy and surreptitious way. First of all it has moved for the suspension of standing orders so that new business can be introduced after 11 o’clock, thus allowing the Parliament to go on till the early hours of the morning. Obviously the Government wants the Parliament to rise - apparently the rumour now appears to be correct - at the end of next week. I think that the people of Australia ought to know about the shallowness, the complacency, the apathy and the arrogance of this Government with respect to this matter. I represent 100,000 people and 50,000 electors. I do not represent them by spending 6 months in my electorate. I represent them in the Parliament, and this is where they expect me to be for most of the year. They expect me to be in the Parliament putting forward their case to the Government on behalf of the Opposition as spokesman in my particular field. I speak also for every other member of the Opposition. They want to be present in this Parliament. This is their place. Their job here is what they are being paid for. This is what the electors put them here for.
Today we have seen the disgraceful performance of the Government in declaring its hand by revealing that the Parliament will rise, or so it hopes, at the end of next week. How on earth can it? We have so many matters before the Parliament. We are told that 29 Bills are to be debated. Goodness knows how many motions are listed on the Notice Paper. Surely there are many important matters relating to the economy of Australia which need to be debated on behalf of our constituents. Yet the Government intends to close this Parliament down in May. Obviously the Government believes that it is good strategy to close Parliament down because ministers will be able to make their statements unchallenged outside of the Parliament before we reassemble for the Budget session.
I do not intend to go over the ground covered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who pointed out the importance of much of the legislation that is now before the House and will be coming before the House. I invite honourable members to go through these Bills, some of which have been on the Notice Paper for up to 12 months. There is the controversial off-shore resources legislation which brought forth a vote of no confidence in a Prime Minister which almost succeeded. We still have not had the opportunity to debate this legislation despite the fact that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), when introducing the legislation, said it was of great urgency. The legislation was introduced in April 1970 and now it is April 1971. We still have not got round to debating this legislation. Although all of this business is listed on the Notice Paper the Government intends to close the Parliament down.
What must the people of Australia think of us? We are treated now with a lot of disrespect and cynicism. I can assure honourable members that we will be treated with a lot more when the people of Australia know about what the Government intends to do. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Opposition will not take this lying down. If you think, or the Speaker thinks, that you will have an easy ride from now on to the end of next week after 1 1 o’clock each night I can warn you now that you are making a very sorry mistake. The Opposition does not intend to sit here till 2, 3, 4, or 5 o’clock in the morning debating Bills just for the convenience of the Government so that it can have the Parliament rise at the end of next week. I think that what the Government is proposing is an absolute disgrace.
Honourable members on this side of the House have been tricked. Two weeks ago the controversial crown of thorns starfish report was introduced. 1 moved that the debate be adjourned on the understanding that it would be debated during this session of Parliament. Obviously I did not believe that the debate would not be held before the Budget session. I have been informed that there will be no debate on the crown of thorns starfish report because there is not enough time. What are honourable members to do from the first week in May until the start of the Budget session? Of course, all of us have plenty of work to do in our electorates. But I repeat that we are elected to this place by our constituents, to earn our money by representing our electors in this Parliament as much as possible. This is something in which I strongly believe and as long as 1 sit in this Parliament I shall fight for it. 1 guarantee that you, Mr Deputy Speaker and Mr Speaker, who I hope is listening to my speech, will get a pretty rough time from me from 11 o’clock onwards each night for the rest of this session. I can assure you that I speak not only for myself but also for every member of the Opposition when 1 say that we are totally fed up with the arrogance of this Government. Closing the Parliament down in a week’s time just for the convenience of the new Prime Minister and his luxury Cabinet is the last straw. The action of the Government boils down to the fact that Government supporters are not game to get up in this Parliament and debate the issues of the economy. They want to apply the gag at every opportunity. This is not the way to good government. With these few words I can assure you again that you will not have a very easy time in the next couple of weeks.
-I call the honourable member for Wilmot.
Motion (by Mr Giles) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr J. Corbett)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Swartz’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr J. Corbett)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the eighth report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate moneys to carry on the necessary normal services of the Government during the first 5 months of the financial year 1971-72. The total amount sought in this Bill is $1,21 9,758,000 comprising departmental, $706,396,000; defence services $488,362,000; and advance to the Treasurer, $25m. These amounts do not, of course, include the requirements for expenditure under special appropriations for which standing parliamentary authority is available under the relevant legislation.
The amounts included for salaries and payments in the nature of salary represent Treasury estimates of the payments which will be made on the 11 pay days falling within the supply period. These are,of course, subject to the staff ceilingsimposed by the Public Service Board following the Government’s call for restraint, last February, in the rate of growth in Public Service employment. The amounts included for administrative expenses are five-twelfths of the 1970-71 appropriations. Amounts included for other services are limited to commitments which departments will be required to meet in the supply period. No provision is made for new services. An amount of $25m is sought to enable the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year and to make moneys available to meet expenditure on services of the Government, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate $313,554,000 for certain expenditures to carry on the necessary services of the Government for the first 5 months of 1971-72. The total amount sought comprises:
The amounts for capital works and services are to meet commitments for approved programmes only. It is estimated that $33. 5m will be required during the Supply period for advances by way of loan to the Australian Wool Commission. Advances during the current financial year are being provided by the Commonwealth under a special appropriation provided in section 31 of the Australian Wool Commission Act 1970 and by trading banks. The provision in this Bill is estimated 10 be sufficient to meet the Commission’s working capital requirements in respect of commitments entered into during the 1970-71 wool selling season and not requiring payment until after 30th June 1971, and finance in respect of possible operations during the first few months of the 1971-72 wool selling season.
Provision has also been made for further advances up to $5m to the Papua and New Guinea Administration for construction of the township at Arawa in connection with the Bougainville copper project. Amounts included for ‘payments to or for the States’ are based on existing arrangements for approved payments from annual appropriations. Generally, they do not exceed fivetwelfths of the 1970-71 appropriations but where the arrangement is for quarterly or half-yearly payments provision has been made accordingly. Other payments to or for the States will be made from special appropriations and the Loan Fund. An amount of $25m is sought to enable the Treasurer to make other advances which will be recovered within the financial year and to make moneys available to meet expenditure on services of the Government, particulars of which will, afterwards, be submitted to Parliament. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 23rd April (vide page 2006), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, as is well known in this House, 1 do not read speeches. But I do read statements, so tonight, for the first few minutes of the short time available to me I will read a statement that I have made available in certain quarters. I want its contents to be known to this House. The statement has to do with the primary producer and the Australian economy. It reads as follows: I believe it is best to refer to primary industry and not to the primary producer for, if primary industry is prosperous, efficient and provident, primary producers will share that prosperity. The discovery of vast deposits of precious metals in Australia has given our economy great financial aid, but the proceeds from the sale of these minerals do not directly assist primary industry, either by increasing our sales of primary products or in bridging the gap between costs and returns..
Generally speaking, employers and employees in our country towns and provincial cities are dependent for their livelihood and progress on the product of the surrounding farmlands and the price one can get for it. Protective tariffs force our industry to buy in one of the world’s highest price markets and to sell a substantial percentage of products at prices far below the Australian standard. High freight rates further protect secondary industry from overseas competition and, at the same time, freight rates act adversely against primary industry’s exports. It must never be forgotten that the export of Australian primary products has been the main factor in building up and maintaining our overseas balances with which we purchase much raw material, not available in Australia, without which secondary industry could not function satisfactorily.
Our metropolitan areas are experiencing a boom, perhaps greater than ever before, but conditions in primary industry are quite the reverse. The practice of protecting one section of the community is unsound and unjustifiable. It is essentially important that the family farm unit be sustained. Success is, generally speaking, relative to ownership interest in management. However, no country under a low tariff, inviting sharp competition and large importations from abroad, is likely to continue in prosperity, but would probably end in financial and industrial disaster, affecting adversely every interest, especially primary industry and the wage earner.
I have therefore, in and out of Parliament, put the case and strongly advocated that, as an alternative to sharp tariff reduction, primary industry should receive Government price support, where practicable, for its exports on a basis that is at least as financially favourable as that which is enjoyed by secondary industry through tariff protection. There is an ever widening gap between the economies of secondary and primary industry, and this must be bridged if we are to continue in the satisfactory building of our nation. If primary industry could buy in Australia everything it needs for production and could sell all its produce in our high standard market, urgent assistance would be unnecessary.
Many of us are loud in praise of our home market but it is not extensive enough. What is a market? A market is where one buys and where one sells. If the market to which we allude is the market where we buy practically all primary industry requirements, but which is able to absorb less than half of primary industry production, then it is less than half a market in primary industry transactions.
We can give primary industry much financial aid. Immediate grants are necessary to meet soundly based commitments, but long term loans can be successful in fostering reconstruction only when primary industry is in receipt of its share of our national prosperity and not forced continually to face the menace of rising costs without being able to change the price tag as in secondary industry. Only by including primary industry in the buoyant economy that is apparent in our metropolitan areas can we be sure of adhering to democratic principles and promoting national development.
That is the end of the statement I desired to read. But as I still have some time available I will deal with one or two other matters. In this House recently I spoke about fostering the ibis populations which are so important to the primary producer in combating certain pests, such as grasshoppers and crickets, animal diseases, such as fluke, and other things which harass the primary producer. When making the speech I referred to a recent visit to Kerang, the place I mentioned, by an American professor whose name 1 could not remember at the time. But thanks to the ‘Northern Times’, a newspaper that circulates within the electorate of Mallee, I am now able to give the professor’s name. Also I shall quote from the newspaper one or two passages in regard to what the professor said about the great ibis rookeries in the Kerang district First of all, the man was Professor Parratt He described the rookeries as one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. The newspaper headline states: ‘ “Greatest Bird Spectacular”: US Professor At Ibis Rookery’. He went on to describe the rookery as ‘the greatest bird spectacular I have ever seen’. The article in the newspaper continues:
He said, ‘I have seen quite a few bird spectacles in my life but this was the greatest I have ever seen and comparable only to the scarlet ibis in the Carani swamps of Trinidad.
There are some areas comparable to a certain extent in the Florida Everglades, but this would be hard to beat anywhere and I intend to tell people about it back home.’
He also said that viewing the rookery was the highlight of the trip that he has undertaken so far in Australia and that he intends to publicise the rookery in the places to which he travels.
The speech I am making on the Appropriation Bill has been cut in two. I spoke for 8 minutes in the debate last Friday and I am continuing my speech tonight. I wanted to give the name of the professor, which I could not remember when I spoke on this matter previously, and also the county of Trinidad to which he referred. There is not the slightest doubt that what I have said about the Kerang rookery should be supported by many members of this Parliament for the simple reason that, according to this professor and to other, men, nowhere in the world will one find rookeries for the breeding of ibises as spectacular as those at Kerang. It would be a great tourist attraction but, as I said in my speech last Thursday, I am not dealing with tourism; I am dealing with farmers who require something definite with which to combat pests. Of course, ibises eat pests. When I put a question to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Fairbairn) in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, it was pointed out that there is a tremendous number of grasshoppers in certain areas and that no matter what number of ibises were put into these areas they could not eat all the grasshoppers. That is so, but ibises moving across the paddocks can eat grasshoppers before they get on the wing; when grasshopper are at a stage of development before they do the damage. Ibises eat grasshoppers and keep them down to a controllable level
It will be remembered that towards the end of my speech on the Appropriation Bill last Friday I referred to Anzac Day. I was speaking on 23rd April and Anzac Day was 2 days later, on 25th April. I said certain things before Anzac Day, and now I want to say certain things after Anzac Day. I was very pleased to see the great roll up of ex-servicemen in Anzac Day marches throughout Australia. I am sorry that, chiefly because of inclement weather, marches were not held in certain areas. I believe also that we should not make a holiday out of Anzac Day. When Anzac Day falls on a week day, a holiday should be held. But how can anyone justify having a holiday on the Monday following Anzac Day when it falls on a Sunday? On Anzac Day we commemorate the deeds of those men who fought in war. Whether they were at Gallipoli, in Malaya, in France, in the desert or anywhere else, at no time did they have a holiday when on service.
Let me say briefly on this subject that we are proud to recall that every time Australians served overseas in our fighting forces they were not on a quest in search of gain nor to invade and outrage weaker nationalities in lawless rage of conquest. We are thankful that their mission has always been as pure and as noble as any soldiers undertook to rid the world of would-be tyrants. Who were the tyrants? First, there was the Kaiser, then Hitler, and now we have such people as these around the world. They would like to take control of the world. These men seek world domination. Such men have been defeated by our fighting men in conjunction with servicemen from other free nations throughout the world. We do not glorify war on Anzac Day. We pay tribute to those men and women who served Australia so greatly. On the subject of peace, I point out that we in Australia want peace. We all know that. What is the alternative to going to war if the need arises? It has often been to fall at the feet of an invader, to be slaves of a foreign power. So, to those young men and others who talk about peace, I say that we are peaceful. But I ask: What happens when an enemy invades our country? It is on record th 2,1 one young man, who was a conscientious objector, I understand, said that if a foreign foe invaded this country and one of its troops was about to molest his mother he would take no action to combat that attack. These are the kinds of things that make me feel that we need more and more the ideas of patriotism. ‘Patriotism’ is defined in the dictionary as being the fervent love of one’s country’. Anarchy flees before patriotism. Therefore, we must be proud of our great nation and of our servicemen and servicewomen who have gone overseas ‘on active service’ during periods of war. This is the way their action was described. We have often heard of our servicemen and women being ‘on active service’. It has become urgently necessary that Australians today should be on active service always in this country. They must be on active service to build the nation, to build it in its conduct and to build it in stability for future generations.
- Mr Speaker, 1 was interested to hear the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) make his statement to the House on the question of rural industries and tariffs. His speech contained some considerable logic, and this is quite unusual. I could not help wondering whether he had received any letters from Jack McEwen, the former Leader of the Australian Country Party-
– Well, the answer is no.
– . . . because there seemed to be some similarity in the phraseology of the statement with statements by that gentleman. I must say that I fully agree with many of the sentiments that the honourable member expressed on tariff policy. He does not believe in any wholesale reduction in tariffs because this would mean dislocation of industry and of jobs. This loss of employment and other factors then could have a detrimental effect upon country areas as well as city areas. I am glad to hear that the honourable member has perceived this logic because, unfortunately, many of his confreres on the Country Party benches do not see the same sort of logic. Admittedly, Jack McEwen did. lt is quite obvious from some of the statements emanating from the Country Party recently that this logic is not appreciated. Accordingly, it was a welcome relief to hear that attitude expressed tonight by a member of the Country Party.
– Do you reckon that Jack McEwen wrote that statement?
– 1 would not like to accuse him of that. I would not like to do it that way. I just say that there is similarity «n the phaseology. I was glad to hear the honourable member for Mallee give us tonight the first lesson in economics, that is, that a market place is where goods are bought and sold. I fully agree with him. That is quite correct. However, I do not wish to refer further to these matters. I wish to deal with a number of other questions during this debate.
First, I refer to the status of this chamber. I believe that a steady deterioration has occurrd in the importance of this chamber and in its influence on policy and on events. I believe that, more and more, honourable members are becoming ombudsmen and are dealing purely with the problems of constituents. Undoubtedly, our best work is done outside this chamber and no doubt we get a great kick when we win an important case. But the fact is that sufficient time is not available and because of the way in which this House operates we have not the opportunity to ensure that we obtain a full understanding of current events and policies as they affect this country.
I believe that far too often we must even go down on our knees before members of the public service and the bureaucracy in dealing with problems of constituents because we find that it is often better to approach public servants than to approach the Minister responsible. If we approach the Minister, we put our submission in writing. If we can chat with the public servant concerned, we - the lesser persons - may convince the public servant that our case contains wisdom. Although sometimes we do win a case at ministerial level, I think that most honourable members will agree that if we go to a Minister with a tough case the odds are against us. Far too often the lesser influence is the Minister or the parliamentarian. Far too often the greater influence is the public servant and the bureaucracy.
For these reasons, I say that certain reforms arc required in this chamber. We have seen what has happened in the Senate. Admittedly, the Senate committee system is suffering teething problems but it is beginning to achieve something, to the extent that apparently it is causing a deal of embarrassment to some people in authority. As an example I mention the recent inquiries into some of the share dealings that have occurred in this country. I believe that a great need exists for the introduction of such a committee system in the House of Representatives even if the committees established are joint Senate and House committees. At the same time I believe a great necessity is presented for the position of the ordinary member of the Parliament to be uplifted instead of denigrated. One of the best ways that this could be achieved would be for the parliamentarian to be given a research officer who would make inquiries on such subjects as the important conduct of various Commonwealth departments and who would feed material to the parliamentarian so that the parliamentarian himself could be a watchdog on the administration or Cabinet on the one hand and on the public service or the bureaucracy on the other hand.
We would find great opposition to such a proposal because the adoption of such a system would mean that life would be made a little more difficult in the future for the administration, Cabinet, the public service or the bureaucracy. These bodies would need to watch their step far more carefully in the future. I believe that, at the same time, the member of Parliament should receive more assistance in the way of staff in order to deal with problems of constituents. In other words, the situation should not be as it is at the moment where the position of the member of Parliament is being denigrated. The member of Parliament should not be subservient to the bureaucracy or to the administration.
In this respect I quote an example from the United States of America. I may stand correction as to actual numbers, but I do recollect hearing some time ago that a Congressman in the United States has IS people on his staff. These people handle his electoral problems and research needs. These people present submissions to him so that he may put a more concise case to the body to which he has been elected. I believe that if we had similar advantages members of this Parliament would be far better equipped to serve this country. I can see public servants who are in this chamber tonight smiling at that suggestion. I know that we would be opposed if we put forward any proposition which would lift the standard of this Parliament. I realise there would be strong opposition to any proposal which would mean that those public servants would have to watch their recommendations to the administration and to this Parliament, and I do not think it befits them to wear great big grins when this is suggested. In any case I believe the adoption of such a proposal would be of great benefit to the workings of this Parliament and in particular of this chamber.
I also wish to deal with the question of assistance to the perimeter areas of the great cities. I believe we should look at the problems of these new areas which are developing at such a great rate on the perimeters of our cities. One of their problems is a lack of local government finance. One can see the results of this in areas such as Mount Druitt, Green Valley, Liverpool, Blacktown and so on.
– And Redfern.
– Of course, Redfern is a very respected and well developed area which the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) represents. However, I believe that we should look at the problem of the lack of local government finance for such works as roads, footpaths, guttering, playing fields, swimming pools and community centres. I think one of the best examples of this lack of services is Mount Druitt where the State Government has already built approximately 5,000 homes. The average age of people in this area is 8 years which is, I believe, the lowest average of all areas of this country. There is a complete dearth of facilities available to these people. The houses and people have been put there and yet the industrial areas do not even have sewerage services so that industry may provide local employment. There are no adequate playing fields, swimming pools, community centres or the necessary transport and education services. As I said, there is not even any sewerage in the industrial areas, the provision of which would enable the building of factories which would provide local employment. As a result people have to leave home early in the morning and arrive home very late at night because of the distance involved in getting to their place of employment. The residents have to pay comparatively high rents and the wives have to work as well as the husbands. It is probable that there are proportionately more children in these areas than in any other part of this country. So for this reason I suggest, as I suggested before, that, special grants should be provided to these new and developing perimeter areas. At the same time, I suggest that one of the best ways to start to alleviate the position of local government would be to abolish pay-roll tax so far as it affects the councils of these perimeter areas. This would give some relief to these councils and enable them to finance these very important works.
Another matter with which I wish to deal tonight once again concerns these perimeter areas and it relates to the great shortage of doctors in these areas. I can quote the situation in my electorate and the areas surrounding it.
– We have plenty here we could let them have.
– Yes, we have a few here. Tt is practically impossible, sometimes, to get a doctor to attend one’s home at night or over the week-end. The doctors are now starting emergency services. They are staffed mainly by young men doing their training at the hospitals and wanting to earn a little bit extra. As I said, there is great difficulty in getting a doctor to visit homes in the western suburbs at night or on the week-end. One of the reasons for this is that the doctors are grossly overworked because of the shortage of doctors in these areas and consequently, of course, they cannot give enough time to their patients. I believe that one of the things required today is more competition amongst the doctors themselves, and accordingly we need to train more doctors.
I have here some figures which I took from the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ of 13th May 1967. In the period of 1947-54 the annual average number of medical graduates was 478. The projected figure for the period 1971-76 was 930. But honourable members should keep in mind the fact that although the average for 1947-54 was 478 the average for the period 1961-66 was only 603, and this does not take into account the fact that more and more doctors are going into the service of drug companies and into the public service. We have been training doctors for overseas countries such as the Asian countries and we have now reacted the stage where, if we removed the Asian doctors from hospitals, in much of the metropolitan areas of Sydney the hospital system would collapse. I can quote the case of hospitals in my own area which are now essentially dependent upon Asian doctors and if these Asian doctors were sent home then the hospital system would collapse. Many of them are, of course, kept here for that reason.
For this reason I believe that the time has come when far greater emphasis should be given to the training of doctors in this country. I can show very clearly that one has to be in the top bracket of those who receive Commonwealth university scholarships to get into a faculty of medicine. I think my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) would agree with me on that point. I think one of the best ways to train more doctors would be to establish tie much required and much publicised university in the western suburbs of Sydney, and I think that one of the first faculties to be established in that university should be a medical faculty. I think this would help to overcome the shortage and we should keep in mind that the Commonwealth is already giving financial assistance for teaching services in hospitals. Grants are given for this purpose. I think the Commonwealth should set the example and take the first step in assisting in the training of more doctors by making a specific grant to New South Wales for the establishment of a university in the western suburbs with the stipulation that that university should have within it a medical school.
I believe that these issues which 1 have raised are the important ones which face our country today. I believe that it is important that we should see that the authority, the influence and the reputation of this Parliament is not denigrated as it is today but is uplifted. I believe that this can be done, as I said earlier, by equipping members of Parliament so that they are not purely ombudsmen dealing with constituent problems but are equipped with the wherewithall in the way of staff to enable them to inquire into the matters which greatly affect this country, and thus act as a watchdog upon the bureaucracy, the administration and the Cabinet itself. These are vital and important matters. Let us face reality: When we get out into the lobbies many of us speak of the frustrations that we feel. I believe for this reason that the committee system must be introduced. Honourable members should be given the staff to make these inquiries so that they can then act as the watchdogs that 1 feel they should be. I also realise that there will be strong opposition, both from Cabinet and from the bureaucracy, to any proposal such as this because they realise that life will be far more difficult for them in the future. I am not as big an idiot as the honourable member opposite who is interjecting. I am trying to draw some logic.
-Order! The honourable member will not cast reflections on another honourable member.
– I withdraw the remark. Let me put it this way. 1 believe that the honourable member would be far better equipped to represent his constituency if he seriously took into account some of the matters I have raised here tonight about which many honourable members on his side of the House are as concerned as are members on this side. It is important for the future of this country and the maintenance of a democratic system in this country that this Parliament be far more workable, far more effective and far more efficient, and have the necessary equipment to maintain that efficiency, than it has been in the past or is today.
– The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) said that there were aspects of importance that he wanted to mention. He did so and during his comments he covered a number of subjects which he thought should be given very careful consideration. In the time available to me this evening I want to comment on something I feel is very important and which concerns the destiny and future of this nation. Because we are fortunate to live in this country, taking for granted all the benefits it has to offer - they are there every day - we do not think seriously enough about matters outside Australia which affect the safety and security of this country. I do not in any way deny the importance of the economic problems that confront this country, particularly the rural industry. The Government and the Cabinet have my wholehearted support in the action they are taking in an endeavour to solve some of these problems. Many Government supporters in recent weeks have mentioned the complexity of these problems and difficulties and the fact that they are not easily solved. I certainly agree with their comments. On the other hand, the defence and security of this country also are important because without the security of this country our main benefit - our economic security - is in danger.
I appreciate the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) taking my place last Friday and making his contribution in this debate. Being a matter of significance at that time, he spoke of Anzac Day, not only of its importance but also of the things for which it stands. I must confess that I am a little disappointed in the New South Wales newspaper, the ‘Countryman’, because it has not given as much emphasis to this matter of defence and security as I feel it should. I want to relate my remarks particularly to Rhodesia, South Africa and other African countries because I believe these are areas of great importance to us. As has been said by honourable members on the other side of the House, Africa is important also in its relationship to Asia, and both these areas are important to Australia. I think we should pause and look around and really give consideration to these matters. I say that to all of us - to members of this House, to the Press, to business and to all those who are in positions of responsibility.
The comments on Rhodesia and the situation that has developed there in recent years - the criticism that has been made of Mr Smith and some of his leaders in Rhodesia - in most cases are made by people who are completely unaware of the situation and of the attendant responsibilities, lt was my privilege to do a period of service in Rhodesia under the Empire Air Training Scheme and there I received the. hospitality of the Rhodesian people. I gained a knowledge of their character, their strength of purpose, their sense of community responsibility and their sense of responsibility, to use the term in its broad sense, to the native people of Rhodesia. Of course, we also know that there were men and women of Rhodesia who served in the Services in the defence of those things that we held dear in those times. Their character, purpose and sense of duty were revealed. The prattling of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), who is interjecting, is so insignificant that it does not count. If we think that these people would have suddenly changed their character there is something wrong with the people of Australia, as there is something wrong with a section of the people of the United Kingdom.
I think the United Kindom should stand ashamed of its attitude towards Rhodesia under the Labour Government and under the Prime Ministership of Mr Wilson. The United Kingdom Government was guilty of appealing to the lower elements in many instances not only in Britain but in the international scene. The British society has become in some sections a permissive society. It seems to have lost all its tradition and its noble heritage. I am reminded of a story of a most famous British character who at one stage during a speech in the House of Commons gave a description of a person who was then the Leader of the Opposition. The speaker said that when he was a young man he was visiting Madame Tussaud’s waxworks. Amongst the exhibits was one called the Boneless Wonder. He wanted to have a look at it but his mother said: ‘Come along, we have to go away; your father is in a hurry’. He said to her: ‘I want to have a look at the Boneless Wonder’. She said: ‘We have not time. One of these days you will see it again’. The speaker said: This is now true. I have now seen the Boneless Wonder - the Leader of the Opposition’. He was referring to Ramsay MacDonald. Unfortunately in the British Labour Party at the moment there are many boneless wonders. If I was to make the comment I would like to make in reply to the honourable member who is interjecting I would be out of order so I will not make that comment; I will only think it because I believe it is true.
We have had many comments about the apartheid policy of South Africa. I do not agree with that policy but there are many people who speak on this subject who have not the faintest appreciation of understanding of the complexities and factors relating to it. Not the least is the religious aspect. This goes back many years and many generations. I cannot agree with this policy. I do not think that one can separate the African native from the economy of South Africa. This poses one of the greatest problems that confronts the South African government. Let us look at it. The Bantu are not an indigenous people of South Africa. They came there as the Europeans did. At this moment there is still a great inflow of these people into South Africa, even when they know the conditions and circumstances in South Africa.
We must realise and appreciate that there is a difference of opinion. In recent weeks we have heard comments from people there, including Sir Villiers De Graff. I know the job that the Opposition Leader in the South African Parliament has done because 1 have been to South Africa on a number of occasions. We have heard comments from union leaders, even from the coloureds and from some of the top leaders of the natives who have said that they want these tours of the South African sporting teams to Australia to continue because they believe that more harm will be done by stopping them than by allowing them to continue. Should these people not know what they are talking about? They are living there. They know the circumstances better than some of the people - for want of a better expression which would be unparliamentary - here who are critical. What about Hunte and Sobers, who as I have mentioned before, say that one of the ways of overcoming this problem is to go and live with the people and be with them? Would we say that they are completely and absolutely wrong? Yet whenever honourable members suggest anything like this, the Leader of the Opposition, typically jumping on the bandwagon, says that we are doing great harm to Australia in the eyes of other nations.
I have never been so disgusted in all my life as I have been by the attitude of the World Council of Churches and of some of its executive. It is about time they had a look at the situation. Either they are completely unaware of the situation and are therefore so naive that they are dangerous, or they also are trying to jump on a bandwagon. Their action in giving funds to the terrorists in Africa is dangerous. Let the Opposition face up to this. The terrorists in South Africa are inciting rape, murder and slaughter, and the World Council of Churches piously says that this money is not going to go for anything like that. If they really believe that, I am sorry for them. I cannot believe they do. 1 have been to South Africa and I have spoken to the natives there. The natives are fearful that the terrorist, is going to take charge and take control. Because of this the terrorist undermines the natives and gets them to throw bombs into their employers’ homes. They do it. not because they dislike their employers but because they are fearful of what might happen to them. Does the action of the World Council of Churches assist in any way?
Unfortunately, these men show a complete lack of appreciation of the situation and close their eyes to the reality of it instead of facing up to it. We might criticise South Africa. We talk about things that have happened there. One of the incidents that has been quoted is Sharpeville. Literally, in some instances, because of the action of these terrorists, the South Africans are under seige. What would our actions be in similar circumstances? I do not justify what they are doing, but one needs to live there to understand it. I had the experience in 1957 of being at the United Nations on the Trusteeship Council which was concerned with many problems, not the least of which related to South West Africa. I had discussions then with many South African leaders and also - I say this for the benefit of honourable members opposite - with those who were opposed to South Africa. From those discussions there came an appreciation that this problem was complex and would not be solved overnight, nor would it be solved by the attitude advocated by Mr Hawke, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), by the World Council of Churches and by some others.
But is there not another factor? I would have thought more of those rugby union players who object to the tour if they had so objected when they were selected to represent Australia. The only reason they might be selected now is to act as ball boys, and they might have difficulty doing that. I cannot understand their attitude. I could appreciate it more if they had taken that attitude while they were still capable of being selected. New Zealand - I know something about New Zealand rugby - selected 3 Maoris to play in its team, for the first time, on the last tour in South Africa. Evonne Goolagong, the Australian Aboriginal, participated in tennis matches in South Africa and received a welcome. The D’Oliveira case has been criticised. Let me say one thing about that. The Marylebone Cricket Club handled D’Oliveira’s case in the worst possible way. I do not criticise D’Oliveira in this instance but I criticise the way in which the situation was handled. Australia has been asked by the South African trade unions and the Leader of the Opposition in South Africa and by many other people not to try to stop the tour because, they say, it will be worse if we stop it. Eighty-five per cent of the people of Australia have agreed that these tours should go on. Are we going to say that these people are wrong? Honourable members should read some of the letters that have been written. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has been looking at figures too much. In a situation where 85 per cent of the people agree, are we to allow a small percentage to dominate the situation and tell us what is going to happen?
– Eighty-five per cent of what colour?
– I would say to the honourable member for Capricornia that a good deal of the colour of the opposition is yellow and a lot of those people belong to his organisations. We say to the people of Africa - to the people in Kenya, the people in Nigeria and to the people of such countries - that they have to play their part and not just have everything given to them. I have been to the home of the late Tom Mboya. I could say that I was a friend of the late Tom Mboya. I have talked to leaders of the people in his home country. I have talked to many of the people in these countries in Africa and I know that they want to turn around and play their part and not have everything handed to them on a plate.
Let us look at the other side of the situation. The people who are the greatest advocates of contact with Red China are the greatest opponents of South Africa. Does the same argument that they use in favour of talking to Red China not work in relation to talking to the South Africans? Does the argument they use in relation to visits by the Moscow soccer team and the Moscow circus work in exactly the same way as the visit of these other teams? No, it does not. The attitude of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) for instance in standing here duplicates the attitude of the people they support and shows the same character. The arguments they use against South Africa are opposite to the arguments they use in support of everything they want to put forward. Let us look behind their arguments to see what are their motives. I suggest that members of the Labor Party - not the honourable member for Sturt and the honourable member for Robertson but the men who have been solid members of the Labor Party - have a look to see what is behind the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and the actions he takes. They will find Chat they are completely opposite. What tremendous influence the left must have on this Leader of the Opposition, as was seen and shown in the debate on the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill, when all members of the left wing spoke out against the legislation that was being put through.
They talk about kicking the Communist can, as they call it. It does not matter about kicking the Communist can in this sense, because the arguments they have put forward in support of their association with Red China and with all other Communist nations must be held to be firm also in their associations with South Africa and these other countries. They adopt exactly the same attitude on Vietnam.
They bring forward every single thing that the Americans or the allies do, and there is no comment on anything that the Vietcong or those opposed to the United States do. This occurs a hundred times. Let me say to the honourable members that I would back what I say in the electorate that it is my privilege to represent. I know that the people in my electorate, including many Labor voters and Labor supporters, would support the things that I have said tonight. But let me also say that if they did not I would not want to be a member of this honourable House.
– I think it is a shameful situation to see an honourable member, who I understand is a leading member in the Christian fellowship, coming into this House and bitterly criticising the Chruch. I think it is a terrible thing that a man who has apparently been the guest of the South African Government should speak as he did. Seeing that I am possibly getting under the skin of some honourable members opposite I will proceed with the matter I intend to raise. Once again I raise the urgent need, and it becomes more urgent every day, to provide some further assistance to the gold mining industry. An increase in assistance is so vitally important to ensure the continuation of the industry at no less than its present level of production and employment for at least the next 5 or 6 years.
It could well be that honourable members opposite might feel that the Government has given its decision and that by raising this question once again tonight I am simply flogging a dead horse. Certainly the attitude of the Government under the previous Prime Minister and under the previous Treasurer gave us no cause for optimism, but we are now hopeful that a more responsible, a more realistic and a more sympathetic view will be taken of the situation as a result of the changes in the portfolios to which I have referred. We - when I say ‘we’ I mean those of us who are resident on the goldfields - are strengthened in our hope as a result of a letter that I received from the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 30th of last month in which he said that he would pay close attention to the situation. Previously all we had received were blunt refusals and no suggestion that any further consideration would be given to extra assistance for this industry.
So we are hopeful tha the new Prime Minister will quickly realise that the requests for further assistance are quite genuine, and we are confident that if he does make an inquiry into the situation he will quickly realise that there are problems facing the community which can be overcome only by the continuation of the gold mining industry activities. We hope that he will act quickly to ensure that the problems will largely be disposed of by increasing the assistance, at the latest, in the next Budget. We also realise that the new Treasurer (Mr Snedden) is an ex-Western Australian, and that gives us an added reason for optimism, not because we suggest that he would favour Western Australia or differentiate between Western Australia and other States but because we know that he has some personal knowledge of the gold mining industry, its problems and its communities, and further because we know that he has a realisation of the effects on the community when, due to the closure of the mine, the residents have no alternative but to leave the district.
We realise also, of course, that other members of Cabinet have a voice in the discussions and in the decisions on this question. In addition we would expect that all other members of the Government, both members of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party, in this House and in the Senate, front bench and back bench alike, are in a position where they can use their voice and influence to bring about the further assistance which is so desperately required. We want them to have the knowledge of the actual situation, and we invite them to come to the gold fields if they feel so inclined to see the situation for themselves. The grim fact is that a continued refusal of further help will have very serious consequences, and this is becoming clearer as each day passes. It will have a serious effect upon the livelihood of many people, both young and old and including those in business, not only in Kalgoorlie but also, and perhaps more significantly so, in the towns of Mount Magnet and Norseman, to which I shall refer later. It is for those reasons and because this is the final session of Parliament before consideration is given to the contents of the next Budget that I again raise this question this evening.
What was the position on 23rd June last year? The Treasurer of the day, Mr Bury, by way of a Press statement said that the Government felt that continued financial assistance at the existing rate was justified for a further 3 years in order to allow gold mining to phase out gradually without disruption to the population or economy of the area. Never before to my knowledge have we heard the suggestion that the gold mining industry should be closed down, and I want to place on record my complete opposition to any such proposal. In doing so I ask the Government, and particularly members of the Country Party, where they really stand with regard to decentralisation. Where is this wish to establish industry and to extend population into the outer areas of Australia? Where do they stand on that question when they recommend, for the sake of a couple of million dollars, the closure of an industry already established in the country and one which is the means of providing employment and livelihood for a substantial population and will continue to do so for a considerable number of years to come? Surely an additional $2m, or something like 15c per head of population each year, is not such as to require a national government to close down such an important and decentralised industry. If it is, let us forget all this talk about decentralisation, because if we honestly want decentralisation we have to spend money in some direction or another, and certainly much more than $2m will be required if we want to set up a population of some 25,000 in some other area.
Unfortunately some people - and this would appear to include some members of Cabinet and apparently a large majority of Government supporters - are under the erroneous impression that the discovery of nickel in Western Australia has solved all the problems surrounding a declining gold mining industry. Quite definitely, however, it is a wrong impression; it is a false conclusion. At this point of time, while we cannot be certain that nickel mining will ever be able to replace gold mining as far as employment and population are con cerned, we can say that certainly it will not do so for several years to come. No doubt this false impression was created from the activity in and around the main centres resulting from the early rush to peg leases as possible nickel areas or perhaps in some cases, as recent events suggest, the desire to place on the stock exchange something that was only supposed to be a good nickel prospect.
As a result of that early rush we saw large numbers of small aircraft on the several aerodromes; we saw a considerable number of Land-Rovers and such running about; and we saw the entry, but not on a permanent basis, of geologists, surveyors, peggers and ordinary bush workers and so on, and also of course there were associated building works. That activity has now largly ceased, and it is quite common to hear people say that Kalgoorlie has quietened down considerably. Then there is another aspect to be considered. Even at this moment, and despite the fact that only a couple of companies are substantial producers of nickel, there is a fear that the nickel market, the demand for nickel, may not be as strong as was first thought. It was only in his last quarterly report that the Chairman of Western Mining Corporation pointed out that supply had overtaken demand, and he was happy that his company had elected to sell in the controlled market rather than take a chance on free trade. Therefore there could be grave doubt in the minds of some new company officials that the demand for nickel on the short term basis is such as to warrant the very substantial capital outlay that is required to open up and establish nickel mines unless the grade of ore is exceptionally good.
Then, of course, there is another factor. Even if the market were unlimited, even if the grade of ore had no significance and even if it were financially possible to open up and operate all prospects, it would still be physically impossible to open up a mine to a reasonable working and production capacity in less than 5 years. Some people seem inclined to fall into the trap of accepting Kambalda as a guide for nickel exploration and the establishment of population. But here again they are taking a false picture. The fact is that Kambalda is a Western Mining Corporation project situated just a short distance from Kalgoorlie.
When Western Mining decided to open up at Kambalda it was already firmly established in gold mining activities in both Kalgoorlie and Norseman. As a result it had all the resources of those activities ready at its disposal to use at Kambalda. Therefore its task was comparatively simple compared with what it would have been otherwise.
I venture to suggest, and J am quite certain that any person who is knowledgeable in the mining field would agree, that had Kambalda been a venture by some new company its progress would have been very much slower and that at this time even the production side would have been hardly off the ground. The same situation as that at Kambalda applies at Scotia, the second nickel producer, where Great Boulder Gold Mines moved in with its equipment and know-how and closed down its gold mining activities in the process. It is completely idle and illogical to compare the progress made by companies already established in the area with that which can be expected from new companies making an initial effort. Yet, this apparently is just what some people, and people in responsible positions at that, are actually doing.
The stark, grim fact remains that, notwithstanding what the Government has apparently accepted as being correct, and no matter what its advisers have told it, the gold fields community will face very serious problems with regard to both employment and economy if gold mining activities are allowed to decline over the next 5 or 6 years below that they are today. The Minister assisting the previous Treasurer accused me during a debate on this subject last year of being emotional and divorced from economic realities. I am not emotional on this matter. In fact I am being quite factual and completely logical. I am looking at and putting forward the situation as it actually is. But unlike the Minister I happen to know what I am talking about. Earlier I said that I would refer further to Mount Magnet and Norseman, the only 2 centres outside Kalgoorlie at which gold of any quantity is being produced and where the activities of gold mining support a substantial population, which in turn will be seriously affected and in fact will practically disappear if the mines close down. Each place is dependent on one mine - the Hill 50 at Mount Mag net and the Central Norseman at Norseman. If the mines cease operations there is absolutely no chance of alternative employment. There is nothing outside the gold mines. At neither place have any worthwhile deposits of nickel been located. Even if there had been it would be a very long time before labour in any numbers would be required.
It can safely be said that if the gold mines at Mount Magnet and Norseman close down practically every person in those towns - not only the mine workers but the shop assistants, the business men and everyone else - will have to move. Where they will move to is of course a problem they face. Whether the Government will compensate them for the loss of their houses or business places is another question that the Government will have to face up to if it continues with the decision to close down the mines. I shall now refer to some estimates that have been compiled from the census of 1966 and very recent local authority statistics which show how employment and population in the Kalgoorlie area alone will be affected if the gold mines close down in the near future. These figures show that it is in the period as from now until at least 1979 that the danger lies. I would ask supporters of the Government to study these figures and at the same time bear in mind what could properly be referred to as their Govern.cent’s promise that in phasing out the gold mining industry it would ensure that there was no disruption in either the population or the economy. The 1970 figures show that at that time some 1,550 persons were employed in the gold mining industry with a total population of the area of 23,600. By the end of this year the number employed on the gold mines is expected to be approximately 1,000 and the total population 20,500.
The additional fall in population beyond the reduction in mine employees would be brought about by the movement of some of the employees themselves and their families, together with the expected fall off in the numbers employed in the nickel exploration field which is gradually diminishing and also in the transport and building construction fields associated with the nickel exploration. On the other hand there would be a slight increase due to actual nickel mining. By the end of 1972 the number employed in gold mining is estimated to be as low as 2S0 and the total population will be only 17,500, which would represent a reduction of 6,000 as against the population of 1970. This may seem an extremely high figure but the estimates are based on the ratio of population to employed persons as shown by the census of 1966. That ratio was slightly better than 2i in the population to each 1 employed. In 1966 there were 3,000 persons in the gold mining industry and the population was 21,910. At that time employees in other industries such as public utilities, building and construction and so on numbered 5,550. In 1970, as I pointed out, the number in gold mining had fallen by approximately 1,500 but employees in the nickel industry had risen to 450 from nil. Exploration numbers had risen from 300 to 1,300 and building and construction from 1,000 to 1,400, with slight increases elsewhere which made up the population to the figure 1 quoted.
By the end of 1973 gold mining will be out completely or almost completely and the population, it is estimated, will be down to just over 1,600. It is further estimated that at that time when the population is at its lowest point there will have been as against 1970 a fall of some 500 in the number employed in commerce. This would result from the reduction of mine employees since 1970 of 1,500 or so. Also there would be a reduction of approximately 100 in the number employed in transport while in building and construction the reduction would be approximately 700. The total overall reduction is estimated to be 3,000. As from the end of 1973 the employment numbers and the population will gradually increase due to nickel muling. There will be a gradual build up in commerce, transport and so on as a result of the nickel mining expansion. But it will not be until 1979 that nickel mining is expected to employ the same number as were employed in gold mining last year. In turn, it will not be until 1979 that the population will again hit the 23,000 mark. For instance, the population will not reach 20,000 until 1977 or 22,000 until 1978. Those figures show the period of time during which there could be much suffering and certainly a serious disruption in population and economy. I suggest it would be a situation which we should do everything to avoid. Such a situation can be avoided if we can keep the gold mining industry at its present level of employment during the next 6 years.
Therefore I feel completely justified in raising the matter once again. I ask the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Government as a whole immediately to set in motion another survey of the situation. If this is done the Government will find a marked difference from the situation 12 or 18 months ago. I ask also that the Government reconsider its previous decision that the industry should be phased out of existence over the next couple of years. Quite naturally I want to see the gold mining industry continue in Australia. I firmly believe that in the not too distant future it will come back into its own again. I believe that providing the industry is kept properly alive for just a few more years it will not be so long before it will flourish and require no more assistance whatsoever and will once again become a very considerable and valuable export income earner. As I have said in earlier debates, there are many people more qualified than we are who are of the same opinion.
In October of last year I quoted several world recognised economists on this subject. I pointed out that as a result of a recent survey, a Mr Lloyd Jacob had said that he and others associated with the survey would be surprised if the price of gold did not rise to around $45 per ounce in 1973 and $50 by 1975. It was interesting and rather important to note in the Press of only last Sunday a report that Mr Lloyd Jacob together with Mr Peter Fells, another qualified gold economist, have claimed that the international price for gold could reach SUS80 an ounce within 9 years. What a silly situation Australia will be in if at that time all our gold mining industries have been closed down and this amount of export income is lost to us.
One is entitled to ask and to know whether the Australian Government, before it decided that the industry in Australia should be phased out, had made any extensive inquiries or surveys to find out whether people such as Lloyd Jacob, Peter Fells, Dr Aschinger, Mr Brooke and others were correct in their assessment of the future of gold. Surely we are not expecting too much in asking that such an inquiry should be carried out when the survival of such an important and decentralised industry is at stake. Such an inquiry could establish whether there is, in fact, a good chance of the industry standing on its own feet within the next few years.
– Before I address myself to the subject that I want to talk about I take this opportunity of congratulating the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who made a satisfactory and excellent contribution to the debate and revealed an understanding of the position in southern South Africa. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) should understand that the honourable member for Lyne was not criticising the church, as was suggested, but was criticising certain people in the church, namely, the World Council of Churches and the Australian Council of Churches. The essence of his contribution was that they had all forgotten how to preach the Gospel.
– That is an outrageous statement.
Mf McLEAY - It is a completely truthful statement. I thought that the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) made some worthwhile points in his speech, particularly when he referred to the need of all conscientious members for research officers. I support this suggestion. I do not say that members on this side claim all knowledge of all things. Obviously some members on the other side claim some knowledge of some things. But this is one matter on which we agree. I have a recollection of his reference to the need for help in our duties as ombudsmen, and tonight what I want to talk about is something that would fall within the duties of an ombudsman. I shall speak about the Commissioner of Trade Practices and resale price maintenance. I will be rather critical of some of the actions of the Commissioner of Trade Practices, realising that this is a body set up by my Government.
I deplore, as do I think most people in the Australian community, the way that Mr Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions by the use of industrial action have achieved what amounts to a resale price maintenance. I wonder whether the Australian community realises that there is a strong likelihood that the ACTU in its takeover of Bourke’s depart ment store will not be paying any income tax. This seems to me to be completely unfair and unreasonable and it places the ACTU in an unfair position in respect of the rest of the trade. I believe also that certain radio stations in Australia owned by the Australian Labor Party and trade union organisations do not pay income tax. I am looking forward to receiving a reply from the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) to a question I have asked on this particular matter.
I deplore the unions’ attitude in relation to compulsory unionism, because that is what it amounts to, in the retail trade in Australia. I know that at least one large departmental store in Sydney was threatened just before Christmas by the Transport Workers Union with a denial of supplies delivered to and from that store unless compulsory unionism was introduced. I know that at this very moment in Victoria carpet factories are under the same threat. I am reminded of what happened on Kangaroo Island, in South Australia, 6 months ago, to a farmer who was not prepared to be bludgeoned into using union shearers. Labour was withheld from those people who were transporting his goods. He could have starved for all the union leaders cared.
On the question of restrictive trade practices I feel that there is a likelihood of a rather dangerous partnership being formed. On the one hand there are the militant unions; on the other hand there is the ACTU and Mr Hawke- and I do not know how one would describe him; and on the third hand, if one can have a third hand, there are high taxes. It seems to me that when there is an amalgamation of all these factors it becomes increasingly difficult for small businesses to survive, lt is about small businesses that I want to address a few remarks. In talking about small businesses and what happens in South Australia I should point out that there is an extra compound in South Australia and that is the Early Closing Act which was introduced by the South Australian Labor Government. This Act will assist in putting many small businesses in the metropolitan area out of business.
It is in the context of the furniture industry that I wish to speak and I refer to the Third Annual Report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices for the year ended 30th June 1970. On page 4 of that report he dealt at length with the success that the Commission had achieved in the last 12 months in dismantling certain trade agreements. In particular he referred to an agreement in Tasmania between the Australian Retail Furnishers’ Association (Tasmanian Division) Ltd and the manufacturers of furniture in Tasmania. He said:
The essence of the agreement was that members of the one association would deal only with the members of the other association. Anyone not a member of the appropriate association could be subjected to a trade boycott. This happened to a long established retailer in respect of his Tasmanian and his. mainland supplies. The retailer had left the association after it fined him for breaking its rules by advertising the amount of his reductions at his annual sales.
After consultations with the Commissioner the associations terminated the reciprocal trading agreement and the boycott was lifted. Presumably this was in the public interest, because the expression ‘public interest’ appears throughout this report. I want particularly to refer to what is happening in South Australia at present because we have the same sort of situation where a South Australian retailer has been excluded from membership of the furniture association there. As a result the Commissioner of Trade Practices apparently is investigating that agreement with a view to dismantling it just as he did in Tasmania.
I have a list of questions that were compiled by the manufacturers of furniture in South Australia. This list of 35 questions has been directed to persons in the trade in South Australia but not to the secretaries of the associations. The most interesting question is the question which is numbered 17. Factories in South Australia have been asked:
From what has been stated in the Press is it likely that any of the rules between the 2 bodies may be changed to allow retailers to use the word discount’ in advertising?
From this I would interpret that the Commissioner of Trade Practices has seen Press reports of what have been supposed to be false and misleading advertising about discounting and as a result he wishes to move against the association. I thought it would be interesting to find out just what was reported in the Press, because the furniture associations, both wholesale and retail, have approached me and are anxious to have this matter discussed openly. I find this difficult because I have a longstanding connection with the industry. This is a matter for an ombudsman but I believe I have an obligation to the people of Australia and to the Parliament to bring this matter out into the open even if I am accused of having some interest which, in fact, I really do not have. However, the first Press reference appeared in January in the ‘Advertiser’ in South Australia. The article refers to a general meeting of the Retail Furniture Association of South Australia which expelled a member of the Association for allegedly intentionally breaching the group’s rules on ethical advertising. My understanding of the position is that the report is true. Further on in the same report the person managing the particular store was asked to comment and he said:
I don’t think this is freedom. I think we should enjoy the same freedom to discount as these supermarkets that have just cut their prices.
It is the issue of discount which is relevant. That person went on to say that the store had been fined $2,000 by the Association for similar offences over the past 8 years. It is my understanding that this is not true and if an investigation is being held it is based on an inaccurate report. In a subsequent reference in the same newspaper the question of discounting of prices once again came up and the store claimed that because it was discounting it had been virtually thrown out of the Association. I asked the Association to give detailed reasons for the expulsion of this store from the Association. There were several reasons. One was that an article had been advertised but misrepresented. There was no question of discounting there. Another reason was that the store had bought articles outside the terms of the agreement. The store denied this but had subsequently been proved wrong. The store was fined on those 2 counts.
The third reason is really the nub of this whole problem. Some time in the future we will have to examine carefully what the Commissioner of Trade Practices is doing about what he has described as discounting because I claim that this is not discounting. Honourable members will recall the old days when washing machines and refrigerators were sold at inflated prices and inflated trade-ins were allowed. That was not discounting. In the instance I refer to the firm purchased an article of furniture which normally had a mark-up of 42i per cent. I can assure honourable members that that is not a very large mark-up these days in any sort of business. On top of that mark-up had been added an amount of $50. This is known in the trade as jacking up the retail price.
The advertisement to which the Association objected was that this piece of furniture could be purchased for $50 off the marked price upon trading-in a similar piece of furniture. In effect anyone who went along to buy that article and traded an old article ended up paying the retail price and the store still had the traded article to sell. These are the grounds upon which the Retail Furniture Association of South Australia moved against that store. The Association claims - I support its claim - that that is not discounting. I suggest to the House that if the proposed investigation proceeds and the agreement is dismantled in South Australia, as it has been in Tasmania, the public interest is not being looked after. In fact there are suggestions of personal connections between officers of the Commissioner of Trade Practices and the complainant. I trust that these suggestions are incorrect. In point of fact there has been no contact between the Commissioner and the secretary - between the 2 parties concerned - as there should have been in accordance with the terms of the relevant Act.
I wish now to refer to the report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. If the honourable member for Sturt pays attention he will learn something because this affects our future retailing in this country. In his report the Commissioner refers to the opportunities that stores, associations and companies have to appeal to the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Commissioner said:
Although businessmen assert that their restrictions are not contrary to the public interest -
The term ‘public interest’ is the key - they desire if possible to avoid becoming involved in Tribunal proceedings, with the attendant publicity and expense . . .
As far as associations are concerned, including the one I have been talking about, they are very happy to have this matter discussed publicly. There is no question of wanting any secrecy about this matter. The subject of the expense involved is another matter. Without doubt it is an expensive project to go through the forms of appealing to the Tribunal. I believe it is a form of blackmail which is available to practise against corporations and associations. The Commissioner has a staff of 94. It cost the Australian public $750,000 last year to maintain the Commissioner of Trade Practices. It is completely unfair to expect small companies and associations to spend enormous amounts of money in professional representation, as is set out in the Commissioner’s report.
I think the question of discounting is a relevant matter too. I want to refer very quickly to a couple of definitions which appear in a very good article in the issue of ‘The Bulletin’ of 23rd January 1971. That article dealt with the announcement by Woolworths Ltd and G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd that they were in the interests of the public reducing the prices on grocery lines. Discounting was denned in that article as:
Discounting is merely a method of trying to increase the volume of sales by reducing the retail profit margin and thus, hopefully, finishing further ahead than the more conventional retailer.
By adding discounts, double discounts and super discount specials to the confusion, the big chainstores ostensibly are motivated by a concern for. the family budget - ‘Your total food bill must cost less’. . .
The manager of the Queensland Retail Traders Association said - I agree with him - that the announcement is nothing more than a promotional gimmick. Another retail spokesman said that the announcements were most ill-advised because they create the impression that the companies concerned and in effect all grocers have been overcharging during the past years. I have not sufficient time to read other extracts from that article but the comments are all along those lines.
In another part of the report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices the Commissioner suggested that he should have similar powers to those of the Tariff Board, and he compared the activities of those bodies. I would say there is no comparison whatever between the activities of the Commissioner of Trade Practices and the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board is answerable to this Parliament but the Commissioner is not. Honourable members will recall that since the report of the Tariff Board on the cherry industry was presented to Parliament a number of questions have been asked and answers given in this House. I make the point that the danger is that the Commission is likely to destroy the smaller associations and the smaller producers first. If the Commissioner of Trade Practices wishes to do something effective I suggest that he take on the really big boys. in relation to the restrictive Trade Practices Act I would like to refer to resale price maintenance. I have not heard any reference in this place to what happened in Great Britain in 1962 under the equivalent of her restrictive Trade Practices Act when an agreement, similar to the one I have been talking about, was brought up for consideration and judgment. In the Restrictive Trade Practices Court in that country judgment was banded down by the President, Sir Stanford Cooper, Mr Justice Buckley, Mr W. L. Heywood and Mr D. V. House after the court had considered the matter from June until October. At the end of a very long judgment - this illustrates why we need to have research - on an agreement between book publishers and booksellers - I suggest we could substitute just about any other trade - they said:
The detriments to the public which the registrar says arise, from the agreement are (1) that it reduces the incentive to publishers and booksellers to keep down costs; (2) that it deprives booksellers of opportunities to dispose of stock at their discretion and so increases their overheads, and deprives the public of opportunities to buy more cheaply; (3) that by preventing price competition it keeps prices up; . . . (S) that by protecting margins it compels the public to pay more for books than would otherwise be the case. Of these alleged detriments, (3) and (S) are, in our view, for reasons already given, generally speaking, the opposite of the tuth. . . . As to (1) we have already stated that the publishing trade is a competitive one-
I would like to know any trade in Australia which is not competitive - and we think that publishers have a high degree of incentive - to keep down costs. The profits earned by stockholding booksellers are modest, and the margins on which they trade are relatively small. They have a strong incentive, for these reasons, to keep their costs as low as possible. We do not think that the public suffers any detriment by reason of any such reduction of incentive as is suggested.
Finally, in the last paragraph of the judgment the learned judges said:
We will, therefore, declare that the Net Book Agreement is not contrary to the public interest .. .
I put the view that the agreements about which I have been speaking are not contrary to the public interest, and 1 trust that the Commissioner of Trade Practices will instruct his officers, instead of skulking like rats in cheese, to come out into the open and discuss this question with the professional secretaries of the 2 associations and act in accordance with the instructions laid down by the Parliament.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like to raise my voice in this House in support of the lower paid employees of the Parliament. 1 think it is about time that the attention of the House, of the Parliament and the Australian people was drawn to what is, in my considered opinion, an iniquitous situation. 1 refer to the pay rates and conditions of attendants employed in this House. They are the lowest paid people who work in this Parliament, and I think it is about time that their case was raised in the proper place, that is, in the Parliament. Here we are battling for conditions. We on this side of the House are battling for improved working conditions for the Australian people. In this very House we seem to have Jet slide the conditions of the attendants who are the lowest paid employees in this House. I should like to give a few figures relating to the rate of pay actually received by attendants, in order to illustrate my point.
I refer to case No. 1, which relates to an attendant whose normal gross pay is approximately $125 a fortnight. He happened to work a little overtime during the period about which I am speaking and he received approximately $24 for it, which increased his gross pay to approximately $150 for the fortnight, out of which there were taxation deductions of approximately $24. This left him to take home pay of approximately $125 for the fortnight. He is a married man with children. How can any person live and rear children on $125 a fortnight?
– In Canberra.
– Particularly in Canberra, as the honourable member for Wilmot has stated. Case No. 2 refers to an attendant whose gross pay was approximately $124 a fortnight, from which were deducted tax of approximately $18 and a payment of approximately $2 to the hospital benefit fund, leaving him to take home pay of about $103. Again, how can a person possibly live in Canberra on $103 a fortnight? Case No. 3 refers to an attendant whose gross fortnightly pay was approximately $130, out of which he had to pay tax of approximately $17. He also had to pay about $4 to the hospital benefits fund in order to protect him in case he became sick. He could not contribute to the Superannuation Fund so he had to insure himself, which cost about $10. He lives in a Government home, and he had to pay rent of approximately $19 which was taken out of his pay. His take home pay was the very fine sum of approximately $79 a fortnight That was the amount of income on which he had to exist in Canberra.
Case No. 4 refers to an attendant whose normal pay was approximately $124 a fortnight. Luckily, he worked a fair amount of overtime in this fortnight, which helped him to survive. If he had not worked the overtime his take home pay would have been about $105. This man happens to rent a house in Canberra. He pays rent of approximately $40 a month. He has 3 children aged 9, 7 and 3 years. How do we expect a man to exist, let alone to live, on a normal pay of approximately $104 a fortnight? This attendant happens to be a Catholic, but he cannot afford to send his children to a Catholic school, as is his wish. He sends them to a State school. This has taken away from him the inalienable right to educate his children where he wishes. The reason he cannot educate his children at a Catholic school is the lowly amount that is paid to him by this Parliament.
I turn to the question of the shifts which attendants work. This matter is not widely known, and I think it is time that members of this House and the Australian people knew something about it. Canberra is not all that it is cracked up to be for the lower paid employee. During sessions attendants work a shift of 42 hours a week. In recesses they work a shift of 33 hours a week. Let me take the situation which arose recently. This House sat until 3.15 a.m. These attendants, the bar staff, the refreshment rooms staff and others left Parliament House at approximately 3.45 a.m. and they had to wait for taxis. They had to be back at work at 8.30 a.m. I spoke to one man who told me that he did not even get to sleep, and he had to be back at work at 8.30 a.m. I suggest it is about time that we had a serious look at the pay and conditions of the lower paid people in this House.
I think I have shown, from the cases I have quoted, that a lot of things need to be considered in this House not only in regard to the higher paid employees but also the lower paid employees. I do not deny the higher paid employees the conditions which they enjoy. They are highly trained men and they do a tremendous job in this Parliament. They are not over paid, and I would not for one moment suggest that they are. But let us be honest; let us also have an honest look at the pay and conditions of the lower paid strata in this House.
There is one other point I should like to make. It may be said that attendants enjoy other conditions. Let me tell honourable members about some of the conditions, because I suggest that very few honourable members either inside the chamber at the moment or outside it know of the extraneous conditions which attendants enjoy. In my opinion these conditions are not very lucrative to the attendants. Attendants are provided with an allowance of $8 with which to buy a pair of shoes. Can any honourable member tell me where a person can buy a decent pair of shoes for $8? If an attendant wants to buy a decent pair of shoes he has to pay more for them. Where does he go to buy these shoes? He is given a voucher and he has to go to a local firm. I will not mention the name of the firm because it might be classed as advertising. They do receive a 10 per cent discount by going to that firm. The situation that arises - this is what my inquiries have revealed and if I am wrong I am quite happy to be corrected - is that if a person commences duty in February he must wait until the following December to receive that $8 allowance for his pair of shoes. In the meantime, that attendant must wear his own shoes.
I turn now to the subject of shirts. These are some of the matters which are not widely known. Each attendant in this House is paid $12 per annum for the shirts that he wears on duty which he is required to wear on duty. This allowance is paid each June. If an attendant commences duty in August, what must he do? He must buy his own shirts, sweat it out and wait until the following June before he receives his $12 allowance. The argument may be put that an attendant is provided with a suit that he wears on duty. 1 am informed that attendants must wait until such time as a suit to fit them is available and that if no suit is available the attendant must wear his own clothes. When no new suit is provided for an attendant, that attendant must wait until such time as a suit that will fit him is available, even though 6 other people may have worn that suit before that attendant.
The point that I am trying to make is this: Let us not look at our own condition alone. Let us not look at the conditions which have been ‘hardly’ won - by that I mean justly won - for other officers in the Parliament. Let us look at the conditions justly and honestly of everyone employed in Parliament House, down to the lowest paid members of the staff that works here. Whilst I am on this subject, I pay tribute to the courtesy, attention and dedication to duty of the attendants who work in this Parliament.
I wish to raise a further point in this respect. I bring it forward quite seriously, not so much in the spirit of criticism as in the spirit of honest endeavour to try to improve conditions for these people. As far as I am aware in every industrial award in Australia - and those awards have been gained through the conciliation and arbitration courts either by consent or by determination - provision is made that a break of at least 8 hours should occur between the time that a person ceases and recommences duty. I suggest that there is no position in the Commonwealth Public Service for which a salary comparable with that paid to parliamentary attendants is received for which the conditions of employment that apply are the same as those required of parliamentary attendants. I doubt whether the conditions under which parliamentary attendants work would be tolerated under any industrial award in Australia. I ask therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you bring to the attention of the appropriate authorities in this House the case of the parliamentary attendants who are the lowest paid members of the staff of this House in order to try to obtain for them better conditions than they have now.
A number of girls are employed in this House. I am pleased to see this. Last week, these girls who commenced duty at 9 a.m. worked until approximately 4 a.m. the following day. Is this reasonable? Whilst I am on this subject, I refer to the amenities that are provided to non-members in this House. I bring home to honourable members the state of affairs that applies in relation to the non-members dining room. This dining room is certainly not a spacious affair. As a matter of fact, I believe that the conditions for non-members, including attendants, are shocking to a marked degree when they are compared with industrial conditions as I know them to exist in other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service where I was employed for 34 years. During the parliamentary session, it is not possible to obtain a grill in the nonmembers dining room. I think that this is a ridiculous and childish situation. What hope have our attendants and the other lower paid members of the parliamentary strata when even the Clerk of this House and his counterpart in the Senate are so poorly treated in regard to salary by this Government that their salaries are well below those paid to executive permanent heads in the Commonwealth Public Service. If the Clerk of the House of Representatives cannot be paid at the same salary level as his counterparts in the Commonwealth Public Service, what chance has the parliamentary attendant to obtain salary justice?
In the short time available, I wish to refer to a situation that has arisen in regard to a subject on which I have spoken before in this House, that is, taxation. In today’s Australian Financial Review’, there is an article written by Maximilian Walsh headed Tax Loophole Reopened’. I will give the reason for quoting from this article in a moment. Mr Walsh refers to the case of the Commissioner of Taxation of the Commonwealth of Australia versus Casuarina Pty Ltd. This article states:
Friday’s decision -
That was the decision by the Full High Court handed down last Friday: . . opens a major breach in the 1964 amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act.
These amendments were introduced on the recommendations of the Ligertwood Committee.
The most important of these concerned the definition of ‘public’ as distinct from ‘private’ companies.
Friday’s High Court decision suggests that at least one major loophole has been found in the amendments which enables the spirit of the Ligertwood Committee recommendations to be avoided.
For the Parliamentary Draftsmen it appears to be a case of ‘back to the drafting board’.
I emphasise those words. The article continues:
On the condition, of course, that the Government of the day wants to alter the legislation.
I have grave doubts whether it will alter the legislation. If I had sufficient time, I would tell the House why. The article continues:
As it took the Government 3 years to translate the Ligertwood committee transactions in this area into legislation, about another 3 to find a convenient loophole and then a further 4 before it was finally judged by the High Court, it can be seen that Friday’s High Court decision left a sizeable hole in our tax laws.
Since entering this Parliament, I have raised my voice consistently in the cause of amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act to close up these loopholes. On 2nd September 1970, I quoted the words used by the Second Commissioner of Taxation, a very competent gentleman. At a public meeting in May 1960, he stated that ‘ these tax avoidance schemes are a social evil’. If the Second Commissioner of Taxation went as far as to make that statement publicly I have no doubt that these thoughts would have been put on paper to the Government in the form of recommended changes to the legislation. On 8th May 1970 I addressed a question to the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Wentworth, Mr Bury, who has since been either promoted or demoted - I do not know which - and he gave an answer which suggested that I should tell him what to do. As recently as 6th April 1971 I addressed a question to the present Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and in reply he finished up by saying: r ask that if he has any information that is still residual in his head -
I do not know what he means by that - will he please tell me and I will do all that I can to follow it through.
I again suggest, as I suggested to the previous Treasurer, that if he does not know and he does not ask the Commissioner of Taxation he should either resign or have a bit of guts and introduce amending legislation to close up these loopholes.
– It is with a great deal of reluctance that I commence my few words on a personal note. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) found fit, in today’s ‘CourierMail’, to set himself up as my judge and jury. So I now propose to make a few comments in regard to this same gentleman. One of the subjects much discussed in Queensland at present is the sad, almost tragic, change so evident in the political attitudes of the honourable member for Dawson. The many country people in his electorate who once regarded him as their champion, as one who genuinely believed in a Canberra awareness of the necessity to populate and develop northern and remote areas, now see their Dr Jekyll exposed as a very shabby Mr Hyde. Once regarded as a moderate, he, like others in his Party, is suffering from front bench compulsion. He is now as much a left wing disciple of foreign ideologies as so many others in his Party - but there is a difference. Men like the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) have been consistent and completely honest in their convictions.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Is the honourable member for Sturt raising a point of order?
– No. Because of the action of the honourable member for Kennedy, I move:
Question resolved in the negative.
– The honourable member for Dawson has degenerated into a complete opportunist, far more interested in preserving his seat on the front bench than genuinely serving the interests of his rural electorate. If this is not so or if I am at all exaggerating the position, let him declare loud and clear where he stands on the question of one vote one value. As a further clear proof of his constantly seeking political opportunity, this darling of the
Press issues a challenge to me to apologise for what has been alleged was an insult to certain Western European countries. Here again is that left-wing sensitivity of these people opposite. Does anyone in this House for one moment imagine that the honourable gentleman is concerned regarding the feelings of these countries? Not one bit. Because he has been so-
– I rise to order. My point of order is that this is the gentleman who called Britain a mongrel nation-
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. T suggest to the House that if honourable members take these frivolous points of order knowing full well that they are using the processes of the House for a debating point they will be dealt with by the Chair.
– Because he has been so brain-washed and regimented, any word uttered to support the Americans-
-Order! I think all honourable members know that all imputations of improper motives or any personal reflections on members of the House are out of order. I will say further that in the last couple of weeks of this sitting there has been a marked increase in personal attacks on members of this House. I deplore them and I believe the House deplores them. As I have said before, I believe that whilst in this House we should debate the affairs and interests of the country and that personalities, personal imputations and personal prejudices should be obliterated from the debates of this House of Representatives. I feel it is time that the House made a reassessment of its duties and I feel also that members of this House have a grave responsibility to debate in this House without making personal reflections on and imputations against any honourable member. I want to say that this conduct has been evident on both sides of the House and I repeat again that I think it is time that the House took stock of itself.
– May I say that I will continue to respect the opinions which you have just given, Mr Speaker. I did say before you resumed the Chair that I very much regretted doing this but that the honourable member for Dawson had set himself up as my judge and jury in the Press today throughout Australia and I felt I had the right to at least make some comments in regard to it.
– Why do you not apologise?
-Order! The honourable member has the right to make such comments under the standing orders.
– I was going to say that the honourable member has been so brainwashed and regimented that any word uttered to support the Americans and the stand they have made with us and others is to be utterly opposed. In addition he imagines that he might stimulate some sort of Katter to the guillotine’ movement.
I now propose to give, very briefly, the facts of what occurred last Saturday, and the best part of 100 people can very easily confirm what I relate. As guest speaker at the State Conference of the Young Australian Country Party at Yeppoon - a lovely spot, a pity it is not in the electorate of Kennedy - I, as always, did my best to present to these delightful young people serious questions, but in a manner I think they appreciate, with levity, a little hilarity, and here and there an Australian colloquialism. My subject was ‘The American People and Polities’, based on my 3 months experience in the United States of America at the United Nations. I might mention that that subject was suggested to me by the Young Australian Country Party. I of course dealt with the matter of the Vietnam commitment. In the process I drew attention to the USA with ourselves and other small countries standing alone against an obvious threat to our future security in South East Asia.
The message I tried to get across is that we have a West European bloc which should be cohesive and that the situation would have been very different in Vietnam had a united front been presented when the Communist aggression, terror and bloodshed began. Then I went on - and this is where the Australian vernacular came in - to indicate that it is a mongrel sort of an attitude, meaning, as every single person in that room clearly understood, not standing by your mates. Never did I intend to call the people of Britain,
France, Holland and Sweden mongrels, and any impartial person with the slightest degree of commonsense knows this. Let me say here and now, as I have said publicly time and again during election campaigns and over the air, that I have the greatest admiration for the British people. I have expressed regret that these people, who produced a special brand of courage and tenacity during the last great war, should be suffering the economic ills and difficulties so prevalent in recent years. - As well as Britain, I have visited the other countries mentioned and mixed with their representatives at the United Nations: They are grand people. I pay tribute to them. Each has made contributions to and sacrifices for the progress of the world and its people. Having said this, I cannot under any circumstances alter my attitude and that is the unalterable Australian claim that a man must stick with his mates. The intrusion of Communist physical and idealogical conflict into our areas meant we wanted our mates to declare that they would stand with us. In their wisdom they chose to do otherwise. They have the right to their own attitude towards the Vietnam war, whether it be right or wrong. We were committed to it; we needed our mates.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has now confirmed as being true the report which appeared in the daily Press of an address given by him to the Young Country Party over the weekend. He told the House tonight that the subject matter of that address was chosen for him. Having spoken as he did at the conference about Great Britain it seems odd that tonight he should have attempted to make some belated sort of apology by saying that he did not insult the British people. After insulting the British people it does not seem appropriate of him to recall their stand during the war. I suppose something can be said for the honourable member for seeing fit tonight to make some amends for his wrongdoings insulting the people who stood alone during part of the world conflict from 1939 to 1945. No nation came to Great Brtain’s assistance, not even the United States of America, I might remind the honourable member, until its shores were violated by Japan. Therefore, it seems very odd to me that he should attack Britain for the role it played during the Second World War rather than the United States for the role it played.
I also want to make some reference tonight to some of the speeches that have been made in this House, particularly that made by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), who is not now in the chamber. He made an insulting speech tonight when he accused honourable members on this side of the House over their actions in relation to China. I have noticed in Hansard that a recently deceased member of this House once referred to the Chinese coolies as the greatest race of people on earth. Although his attitudes towards China later changed, he at no time moved away from the opinion he held at the time he made that statement that China was a great nation of people. I was appalled tonight to hear the honourable member for Lyne attack church organisations in this country for their attitude to Africa. While I will say a great deal about it, I thought it was odd that a minister of religion should carry on in such a manner.
Honourable members opposite have the temerity to hold up Taiwan as a classic example of democracy. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) recently in this House championed the cause of Taiwan. How much longer do honourable members intend to sit in this chamber and make such misleading statements about Taiwan? Why do they not tell the House and everybody who might be listening and record in Hansard that there has been no election in Taiwan since 1948? They can do nothing other than agree with what I have said. Taiwan, under a corrupt regime, would be one of the most ground down nations in the world. How long can honourable members listen to the rubbish -
Motion (by Mr Giles) put;
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). It would take too long to mention the number of things that the honourable member for Kennedy has just said about me. Amongst them he said that I had been brainwashed by the left wing, that I was deliberately misleading the people of the north, and that my allegations against him regarding his statement in Yepoon are untrue. I want to say simply that the allegations were reported in inverted commas in newspapers throughout northern Australia and in newspapers in other parts of Australia. I take great exception to the fact that the statements made by the honourable member were made in my electorate.
-Order! The honourable member may not debate the question. I allowed the honourable member to make a personal explanation as to how he had been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented. To illustrate that point I simply wanted to state what the honourable member for Kennedy said and what caused me to reply. That was the reason for it. What he said was this-
-Order! The honourable member will be in order, when he claims to be misrepresented, in making a personal explanation. When he seeks to debate the question of whether the statement should have been made or otherwise, he is out of order.
– In order to clarify this issue 1 seek the indulgence of the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) to make a short statement for 2 minutes.
-Order! Is leave granted?
– I am sure that the matter can be covered by a personal explanation.
– I took exception to the fact that the honourable member for Kennedy said that Great Britain, France, Holland and Sweden were the greatest lot of mongrel nations in the world, and that the statement was made in my electorate of Dawson.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He has gone far beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I raise a point of order. Seeing that the honourable member for Kennedy has explained that he did not refer to Britain and the other countries in the terms mentioned and in which he was reported in the newspapers as having referred to them as mongrel nations, and as Sweden is a country with whichI have some affinity-
– Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member is debating the matter. If the honourable member claims to be misrepresented he will say where he has been misrepresented and will not debate the matter.
– I did not claim to have been misrepresented. I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, on whether it would be in order to ask the honourable member for Kennedy to clear the country of Sweden from these allegations.
– Order! It would not be in order to so ask the honourable member.
Consideration resumed from 6 April (vide page 1481), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 March (vide page 1 187), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I rise to support the Bill. It is a measure of great significance to the pig industry in Australia. The purpose of the Bill was explained to the House at the time of its introduction. It will enable the creation of a fund for specific research to assist the pig industry. Basically it will enable the Government to make available a matching grant of about $150,000 to $160,000 to create a fund in the vicinity of $300,000 a year for research purposes. This amount is appropriate because of the growing importance of the pig industry. In the past 16 years the scope of the industry has practically doubled. The total number of pigs has increased from 1 million in 1953 to about 2.3 million at the present time. The annual turnoff of pigs in Australia nets about $100m. This is a very considerable sum of money and is of great importance, particularly in this period of lower returns in farm income.
One of the significant considerations is the fact that the pig industry is a very widespread industry. It is not just a single industry upon which people depend directly. It sustains a very large number of mixed farm enterprises. By that I mean that it is a very important ingredient in the total composition of a mixed farm. This is applicable to the dairy industry, the grain industry and many other smaller industries where pigs are kept as a sideline. I want to express the hope that in the work undertaken particular emphasis will be placed upon the problems confronting the smaller farmer, in the category of those who perhaps have a range of pig breeding based on 10 or 15 sows. Of course there are many enterprises that run piggeries of up to several hundred sows, even to the order of 1,000 breeding sows.
The problems which confront both the small operator and the large operator are very similar and the research work can apply right across the board. Nevertheless there have always been and will continue to be particular problems confronting the small operator. This is because of the more limited scope in such an enterprise in terms of the provision of facilities and the opportunity for such fanners to call upon resources to cope with disease and the very many complex factors that are encountered in successfully breeding and raising pigs and ultimately supplying the market with a satisfactory standard of live pig, which then of course is converted into pig meat for the Australian market and to some extent the overseas market.
The pig industry has been developed in a quite remarkable way in the last decade because standards of breeding, pig care management and so on have risen very sharply indeed, and at the same time there has grown up a very sound economy in the pig industry. Ten years ago the industry was beset by the problem of great fluctuations in price return, and this made it very difficult for farmers to be effective in their management and to create the degree of efficiency which is essential because of the very nature of pig breeding. But a more even market result throughout the industry iri recent years has brought about a great change, and I am sure that this research programme can contribute further to this important factor in the general trend within the pig industry.
I have a particular interest in this industry. I suppose everyone has his hobby. As a farmer before I came into this Parliament, I had a great personal interest in pig breeding, and I still have this interest today. I wished many years ago that there had been greater facilities for research, because many of the things that occurred, particularly in the dairying sector, may not have occurred had there been sufficient research. There has been a slow but very positive improvement in standards since the advent of a much more practical approach to the use of control measures for diseases and parasites in particular and the relationship of these to proper feeding and proper management. I can recall as a farmer years ago a very heavy mortality rate in the raising of pigs, and this very often occurred because of the lack of knowledge and the lack of sources of information and the difficulty in getting advice from people skilled in the problems of the care of pigs, including disease and other aspects. This had diminished a great deal, but at the same time there have arisen the sophisticated problems that flow from the use of modern drugs. A reaction may occur if a particular drug is used, and then there may be a need for a very speedy remedy if the effects of this drug are to be overcome. The problems of medicine, drugs and all the other sophisticated things in this day and age in the care of humans and of animals apply particularly to the pig industry. It is for this reason in particular that this programme of research, made possible by the introduction of a small levy on the industry itself and matching funds from the Commonwealth, will create a means of positive research which can contribute a great deal to the industry with which we are dealing under this Bill tonight. I strongly support the Bill. I believe it can do tremendous good for the industry. It can be of great assistance in the immediate and long range future of a very important industry. 1 believe this House will give it full support and will regard it as yet another step forward in what the Government is doing to help primary industry in a positive and practical manner.
– The Pig Industry Research Bill has been introduced at the request of the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation, and as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has indicated, the Federation represents by far the great majority of farmers in the industry. There was previously only the one organisation, the Australian Pig Breeders Association, representing the breeders of stud pigs. The commercial breeders felt that they should get together for the benefit of the industry, but unfortunately attempts to form a federation failed time and again mainly because of a clash of personalities. This was referred to by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who led for the Opposition in this debate. The organisation finally got off the ground at a meeting held in South Australia in September 1969, and 12 months later the Secretary wrote to the then Minister for Primary Industry seeking legislation for the implementation of a combined Government-industry research scheme.
It is unfortunate that 2 sizeable groups remain outside the scope of the organisation. I refer to the Victorian Division of the Australian Farmers Union and to a similar group in Queensland. The Pig Division of the Victorian Farmers Union has been seeking a poll of producers and an alteration in the constitution of the Federation to allow for any member group to have the power of veto rather than to allow for decisions to be made by a simple majority. The Minister has rightly ignored the protests by this group and has brought in the legislation that we have before us tonight. It provides for a maximum levy of 10c per pig slaughtered, with an operative levy of Se, which will raise between $150,000 and $160,000. With the Commonwealth’s matching grant over $300,000 will thus be available for research purposes each year. With all due respects to the Victorians, this research programme is long overdue. Ronald Anderson pointed out in his publication ‘Primary Industry Survey’ of October last year the long time backward nature of the Australian pig industry. He said:
It is an inescapable fact that in Australia pigs have been very much second-rate animals. The pig industry is, for example, one of the very few livestock fields in which the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation has not interested itself. There has been a remarkable and serious dearth of research and extension workers trained in modern pig production techniques and a minimal level of pig research generally.
He went on to say:
In the last few years, the pig industry has boomed. The specialist has begun to oust the sideliner and in the process there has appeared an urgent and burgeoning demand for more sophisticated levels of knowledge about pigs, their breeding, feeding, housing and all the other factors contributing to efficient, economic pig production.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) however, people do not breed as rapidly as pigs, and the level of knowledge now being demanded by specialist pig raisers, by the more advanced studs, and by the large intensive units is all too often beyond the limited research and extension facilities existing in Australia.
Lack of finance has been a constant trouble. I am aware of several students having approached the Australian Pig Breeders Association and its individual members, anxious to do some postgraduate research into the problems associated with the industry, only to be turned down because of the lack of the necessary finance. This will be remedied by the Research Bill now before the House, in that the Bill provides for the establishment of a Pig Research Trust Account and for a Pig Research Committee which will make recommendations concerning expenditure for the type of research that I mentioned earlier.
Moneys from the Trust Account will be used for scientific, economic and technical research in connection with matters related directly or indirectly to the raising of pigs, or the production or distribution of pigmeats and other products of the slaughter of pigs. It is anticipated in the Bill that a research programme will be planned to find solutions to problems of disease control, breeding, malnutrition, management and marketing. The setting up of progeny testing stations for the testing of boars throughout this country is essential in view of the desirability of improving carcase quality, or the ratio of fat to lean meat, and in improving food conservation. This is of tremendous importance economically, because with the correct food supply available to breeders of pigs it is possible to cut the food bill in half. The largest intensive unit in Tasmania, and incidentally one of the largest in this country, has conducted trials on pigs from 12 weeks to porkers, with remarkable results. The trials showed that 1.96 lbs of grain with a quantity of whey, totalling approximately 2.S lbs of food, converted to 1 lb of meat.
The well known Wonga piggery in New South Wales has also conducted tests and the results of these reflect the keen and thorough planning that has gone into the Wonga breeding programme. The food conversion ratio test under tests conducted at Wonga last year, resulted in 1.9 lb of food to 1 lb of live gain and this reflects very creditably with tests conducted by the British Pig Industry Development Authority where the ratio was 3.5 to 1 and with tests in Victoria showing 4.5 to 1. We still have a long way to go in the field of nutrition and management of commercial pigs. In his report on his study tour of pig production in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Holland and France in 1967, the eminent authority, Mr Vin Fagan, reported that in all these countries considerable sums of money were being expended on research in the field of nutrition of the commercial pig. The Pig Industry Development Authority awards scholarships for postgraduate study, whereas here in Australia, similar requests from postgraduates have had to be refused, up to now, because of the lack of funds.
The British Government also makes very large sums of money available for pig industry research, and the net result is that, there are many institutes equipped with the very best research facilities, each one staffed by experienced research workers supervising postgraduate studies by young graduates seeking their PhDs. There have been dramatic changes in the diet of pigs in recent years, and research is required to find alternatives, or to produce locally, whenever a shortage of the main food base, meat meal, becomes apparent. I understand that in any case, meat meals manufactured in Australia are of extremely low protein quality and we are importing fish meal from South America and soya bean meal from the United States of America to improve this protein quality. We, as a country, must conduct research in an attempt to find alternatives in Australia so that we will not have to rely on these imports. Skim milk used to be the main diet, but less and less milk separation is done now on dairy farms and whole milk is collected by tankers from the farms.
It is estimated that the total quantity of skim milk retained on Australian farms declined from more than 700 million gallons in 1955-56 to about 460 million gallons 2 years ago, and skim milk now represents probably less than a quarter of the total ration fed to pigs. In 1966 it was estimated that in Victoria alone if skim milk was withdrawn completely from the diet of pigs, an additional 78,000 tons of meat meal and 21 million bushels of grain would be required if Victoria was to maintain the existing level of pig meat production. We have the grain to meet the requirements of an industry based on food other than skim milk, but there is serious doubt within the industry about our ability to meet the increased needs of animal protein foods. This is one of the fields which the Pig Research Committee, set up under the proposed legislation, will undoubtedly explore, now that finance is available. The Minister also referred to possible investigations into marketing problems, and with an anticipated over-supply of pigs in Australia next year, I feel it would be wise if some research was undertaken first into this problem. We do not want the problem that arose in South Australia recently when, from memory, I think some 3,000-odd pigs had to be slaughtered before the target of 1,200 carcases of suitable export quality - which was less than half - could be found for a consignment for Japan.
Just before Easter the Australian Broadcasting Commission televised a programme which was seen by members of this Parlia ment and which dealt with an electronic machine from the United States of America which estimated the fat compared with the lean content of beef cattle. Electronic waves were passed over the back of the beast and a film was developed within 10 seconds. A graduated scale was superimposed over the film and the quantity of fat to lean meat was calculated. Perhaps an electronic device such as this, which can make a calculation in 10 seconds, could be used in the pig industry. Surely the research committee which is set up under the Bill could look at such a system. In this way we might be able to get over the problem of having to slaughter such a huge number of pigs in order to obtain the grade and type and quality required for the export market. In the near future we must come up with a Commonwealth scheme, acceptable on a Commonwealth wide basis, for a system of grading based on weight and grade, and not rely on individual State schemes.
Grading has never been practised in Australia on a Commonwealth level. Voluntary schemes in individual States have sprung into being and perished, due to violent changes in the pig population. However, for many years Australian authorities sought to improve the carcase quality of pigs produced by conducting carcase competitions which were judged by standards established by a committee of English scientists and personnel experienced in the meat trade. This system of carcase appraisal was known as the Smithfield system and was universally adopted throughout Australia from the early 1930s to the late 1950s when many authorities considered that the Smithfield system no longer met the requirements of the Australian market. Since then some 5 or 6 differing, and often conflicting, systems have been established in the various States, and each of them has been studied in research projects conducted by the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture and the Pig Research Centre at Wollongbar in New South Wales. In general it was found that the indices used in the Smithfield system for assessment of carcase quality were invalid. Because of uncertainty and reluctance to establish yet another system of carcase appraisal, Tasmania has continued to use the Smithfield system. As Mr Vin Fagan has pointed out, it was hoped that information would be available from British research centres, and in particular from the combined testing stations, where large scale dissection work is carried out, which would enable a system to be based on sound indices for desirable carcase quality characteristics. However, the information when subjected to close examination has proved to be very disappointing, and in particular a workable and accurate index for the assessment of lean meat content in the carcase has yet to be found.
Various research programmes are being undertaken at the University of Leeds, the Rowett Research Institute in the United Kingdom and the Vollebeck Research Institute in Norway, but here in Australia we have not adopted a practice of pig meat grading. The housewife is demanding more lean meat to fat and all we have done to meet this demand has been to decrease slaughter weights. Fifteen years ago the ideal baconer weighed about 160 lb, but now the processers do not want anything over 140 lb. Porkers have to dress out at 50 to 60 lb and this is a very expensive carcass to produce. This attempt at grading to meet the demands of the consumers is both expensive and wasteful and much research into a system of weight and grade is required. In this connection I was pleased to receive a report just released by Mr R. E. Brocksopp of Ulverstone, Tasmania. He undertook a study tour into pig meat grading and marketing in Canada last year and his findings would be worthy of study by the pig research committee which will be set up by the present Bill. Mr Brocksopp maintains that there are 4 lessons to be learnt from a study of grading, and I refer to page 11 of a report which he published on his return to Australia. He outlined the lessons as being:
This has always been a bone of contention with pig buyers.
The fourth lesson is most important. Other matters worthy of research include disease control and established pig housing. Pig housing is very big business today. At a cost some $400 to $500 per sow housed, it means an outlay of about $lm for an intensive unit of 2,000 pigs, and there are several such units now in Australia. I had hoped that the provisions of the Bill would have allowed me to deal with some of the takeovers that are taking place in Australia today by Canadian packers wim Mayfair and with Swift, and various moves in Western Australia and in Sydney, but this does not come within the scope of the Bill. However, I think it is worthy of some scrutiny by the Department of Primary Industry. I simply mention again that this is big business and some companies are investing up to $6m in certain takeover moves in various areas of the Australian pig industry. It is big business because it costs $lm today to put up an intensive unit for 2,000 sows.
In conslusion, I hope that the research committee, which will have some $300,000 annually at its disposal, will encourage research into some of the problems to which 1 have referred, namely, progeny testing, nutrition and management and marketing, and in the interests of the industry, will come up with some Commonwealthwide, uniform system of grading to the benefit of the export trade as well as meeting the needs of the home market and satisfying the housewife in her search for lean meat as against that containing a fair degree of fat. I am very pleased to support the measure. I know that it will be of great benefit to the industry in which I, like the preceding speaker, have taken a great deal of interest.
– My friend and colleague from Tasmania, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) who has just resumed his seat, is quite right when he stresses the importance of the pig industry at the present time. Figures indicate that the industry is worth $100m annually to producers, so it is no small measure that we are dealing with this evening. As honourable members know, the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. In fact, it has always been in favour of additional research and therefore there is no quarrel with the concept of the Bill. However, there are 2 points that I wish to raise. The first could be associated with the apparent departure from what has been a proclaimed principle of the Government in relation to industrial matters. The Government usually reiterates with great regularity that any measure will only come before this House from the Government side if the industry has specifically asked for it and if there is an overwhelming degree of unanimity. Perhaps, on this particular measure, the Government feels that there has been that degree of unanimity but I should like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to explain to the Parliament and to the pig producers concerned just what his attitude is to the 2 points raised by Victoria. The Pig Division of the Victorian Farmers Union has submitted that the introduction of a compulsory levy is premature and, alternatively, that the matter . should be determined by a poll. It has put these views sincerely. Of course, it has a significant stake in the pig industry. It submits also that a perusal of paragraph (a) of sub-clause (1.) of clause 9 of the Bill would indicate that this denies any right to the Victorian Farmers Union Pig Division or the pig section of the Farmers and Graziers Association of Queensland to be represented on the advisory board which is to be set up under the Bill to advise the Minister. As a principle is involved here I feel that the Minister should explain exactly what attitude has been taken in relation to these points.
The other major matter that 1 refer to was touched on by the honourable member for Braddon when he said that there is a considerable need to recognise the desirability of further extension work in this industry. Undoubtedly this has been a Cinderella industry from the point of review of research and extension services. Much more interest is being taken now in the pig industry and not only by producers. With increasing prices of many other commodities pork, in recent years, has come more within the scope of the average pocket. Australia is not known as a pork-eating nation, and sometimes I think that there is less pork in Sydney than there is in Jerusa- lem these days. I say that with great respect, but there is certainly an upsurge of interest in pork, so additional research would be welcomed.
Another point that should be taken into account is that research without adequate agricultural extension is sterile in respect of industry advancement. The Victorian Department of Agriculture, for example, maintains one piggery adviser to service the State’s 9,000 pig producers. This means that the adviser would be required to contact 45 pig raisers each working day to see every producer once a year. Of course this is not possible. In New South Wales and in the other States there is a need to look at the level of extension services. Australia’s extension services generally - and I speak with some deep feeling on the matter in view of my association with them - are probably the most fragmented in the world. They are not as effective as they might be not only in numbers but also in the recognition of the work that is put in hand and in the status of the workers. The Australian extension worker is still a long way behind the research worker in status and in recognition. It is not possible for a person to enter into extension work in a State or Commonwealth department and remain in that work as he marches the ladder of recognition and salary for as long as .. he would if he were a research worker. A person has to get out of extension work and go into administration if he is to keep pace with his research colleagues. This is not sound agricultural practice nor is it sound national administration, but this is the present position. It applies in this industry and in other industries. If this $300,000 for research work is to be utilised effectively it is necessary to ensure that a pipeline is available for research results to be transmitted for implementation in the paddock. In times past a 10-year delay has been experienced in getting a research result in the laboratory applied in a practical way. Australian agriculture cannot afford that sort of delay in 1971. It has not been able to afford it for some time but because of the fragmented nature of our extension services and the lack of recognition we have had to put. up with this.
I submit that in relation to this legislation and any other legislation that comes before this House seeking more money for research and asking us to validate efforts to secure more money from growers for research the only criterion we should be asked to apply is: ‘How will this be reflected in the dollars and cents return to producers?’. It is not an abstract matter. It is not a university project in which addition to human knowledge is the only criterion. This legislation is designed to help the efficiency of the industry and the individual producer. This cannot be done in research alone or by any means of research alone. It is essential for it to be done by an integration of research and extension services. In this regard I think that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) should apply himself to the problem which obviously unfolds in relation to this measure, but this is only one problem.
It is typical of many of the industries of this nation today that there is this gap between research and extension. Because there is this fragmentation of extension services it often happens that research will run a long way ahead of extension. It sometimes happens that extension catches up with research and there is a need to stimulate research activity. They do not run together in harness. What happens is that one gets ahead of the other and whichever it is is a matter for concern. This legislation proposes an increase in research work. The question we must ask is: ‘Are we to provide adequately for an increase in extension activity to enable the research to be applied practically?’. This is a matter to which the Minister should address himself in his reply. I have said in other places at other times in relation to the recognition of the work of extension people that some national attempt should be made to draw together the fragments of extension. I have submitted that the establishment of a national academy of extension would go a long way to provide the recognition and the status for an extension officer that is at present enjoyed by a research officer. I think that if we could apply ourselves to this we would keep in extension services many men who are being lost to administration. We would also ensure that there is the most effective use of research funds such as we are called upon to allocate under this legislation.
We are being called upon, in effect, to authorise the extraction of money from pig producers to go to research. It is not just research alone that we are interested in; it is the end result. Here there is a clear responsibility on the Minister to say whether the Government’s dictum in relation to industry consultation has been set to one side. This is the first thing to which the Minister should apply himself. Secondly I ask the Minister to tell us whether he has clearly in mind what will happen to the research results which we hope will flow from the additional funds. I commend the points I have raised to the Minister for his attention and I await his reply with interest.
– I will not detain the House long. I want to point out one or two things in relation to this legislation. The Pig Industry Research Bill defines ‘research’ as: research’ means scientific, technical or economic research in connexion with the pig industry, and includes -
We cannot have available immediately all the people whom we want to take part in research but the Bill makes provision for this and I suggest that this is in the best interests of the pig industry. As other honourable members have said, there has been a great upsurge in pig breeding and pig fattening throughout the country especially in places such as the electorate I represent, where grains can be used for pig feed. This gives to the primary producer another avenue for the disposal of his products and by which to make his living.
I support the Bill. Other honourable members have asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to make explanations and I am sure that he will do this satisfactorily. I believe that this legislation is in the best interests of the pig industry and of Australia generally, but what will happen in the future is something that research will dictate. We should leave this to those in authority.
1.10.56) - During the course of this debate reference was made to a couple of matters but I think that I should refer specifically only to one of them and that is the suggestion that the Bill does not reflect the interests and intent of the pig producers of Australia. It is now nearly 3 months since I was appointed Minister for Primary Industry. In that time nobody from any section of the pig industry has contacted me expressing any objection to any of the provisions of these Bills. I must therefore presume that there is not a very wide-felt concern as to the nature of the amendments. However, in general I am aware that the pig section of the Victorian Farmers Union has expressed some concern at 2 aspects of the legislation. I believe thai those concerned saw my predecessor and had some discussions with him. but as far as I can gather . the principal objection is to the constitution of the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation rather than to the legislation and to research itself.
I have been tola thai there is general acceptance of the necessity for research but that section’s dispute, if there is one. is whether the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation- is constituted with an equitable base for all State organisations. This appears to me to be more of a domestic matter between the organisations and not one in which I could in any way intervene. . However, I am advised that the Federation has put forward this scheme. The Federation is the only federal organisation of the pig industry and it is representative of producers in all States, although not necessarily all producers in all States. In addition this matter was submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council and it was considered by all State governments and the Commonwealth and it has been accepted by them. So in general as far as the necessity for a reference to the industry is concerned, I believe that there does not appear to be sufficiently widespread concern over the contents of the “legislation for this House to feel that it is in any way going against what wc have seen and taken and pursue as a continuing policy of endeavouring to implement those proposals which industry itself supports.
The other matter to which I wish briefly to refer is the general field within the Pig Slaughter Levy Collection Bill, which is one of the 3 Bills being dealt with cognately. I refer to the time limit in which a prosecution may be launched for an offence under this Bill. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in opening on behalf of the Opposition intimated that he would be moving an amendment seeking a reduction of the time limit of 5 years to one year. It is the Government’s intention to move an amendment that the period of 5 years should be reduced to 3 years. During the course of the debate there was a general expression that the 5-year period appeared to be an inordinately long time. While it is true that in other legislation relating to research, with the exception of the Dried Fruits Research Bill which was before the House a few weeks ago, this general field has been covered by a clause which allows a prosecution to take place without specifying a time limit, presumably this clause would enable prosecutions to take place at any time up to 5 years from the commission of an offence. It is felt that some time limit should be included. The Government . and I have recognised the concern of honourable members who believe that 5 years might be a little too long. 1 have mentioned the concern of the Department which has stated that a considerable increase in staff would be required in order to provide for adequate polling of the legislation if one year were to be included. Accordingly, I intend to move the amendment which I have just indicated. Otherwise, I commend the Bill to the House.
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 Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 25 February (vide page 662), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be. moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 February (vide page 662), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 8 (1.) The following amounts may be recovered by the. Commonwealth as debts due to the. Commonwealth:
levy that is payable;
an amount that is payable to the Commonwealth under section 6 of this’ Act; and
an amount that is payable by way of penalty under the last preceding section. (2.) In proceedings for the recovery of an amount referred to in the last preceding subsection, an averment or statement in the complaint, claim or declaration of the plaintiff is evidence of the matter so averred or stated.
– I move:
Omit sub-clause (2.).
The Opposition gave its reasons for the need to reject this sub-clause when we were discussing an identical sub-clause in the dried vine fruits legislation. Basically, the reasoning was that it has always been the practice in law that he who asserts must also prove. It would seem that this clause gives tremendously wide powers to the accredited inspectors, whoever they might be, with respect to particular complaints or offences. In fact, these officers could make any averment without having to prove it until the matter went to court. I do not wish to go over the arguments again but that is the principal reason for our amendment. The Opposition submits that this clause should be deleted.
– For the same reasons as I presented to the House in the rejection of a similar move in relation to the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill I again reject on behalf of the Government the amendment suggested by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The provision of an averment in this type of legislation is not new. It is incorporated in all Acts which cover research schemes for other major rural industries. It is used infrequently. But it probably would be the only means by which the authorities on whom Parliament lays the responsibility for collecting levy moneys can collect the revenue from a deliberate evader. The averment is used to initiate proceedings in court. In most instances the facts relevant to liability to pay the levy are facts peculiarly within the knowledge of the producer or proprietor. It is difficult for the Commonwealth to ascertain these facts because it is clearly impractical to have the oversight of all transactions either by posting inspectors at all abattoirs or by some such other means. The averment clause will enable the Department to carry out its responsibilities to collect levy payments without causing harassment to producers or abattoir proprietors.
Significantly I think one other factor needs to be made and that is that, in effect, the Commonwealth collects levy payments at the request of the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is not legislation which is designed to collect tax for Commonwealth revenue purposes. On the other hand, it is a tax designed specifically for the purposes of the industry and, as such, it is not a tax. It is rather funds which are used collectively by producers for their mutual advantage. If there were to be a considerable increase in administrative charges because of the difficulty of policing an Act of this nature without an averment provision, I doubt that it would be possible for the Commonwealth effectively to administer it. If it were not to be so administered thenI think it would be detrimental to the industry. In these circumstances I believe that it is fair for the Commonwealth to avail itself of an averment provision to collect overdue payments. Moreover, I believe there are adequate protections for individuals affected within the balance of the Bill. For that reason I reject the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 13 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 14. (1.) A person shall not -
Penalty: Twohundred dollars. (2.) A prosecution for an offence against this section may be commenced at any time within five years after the commission of the offence.
– I move:
In sub-clause(2.) omit ‘five’ insert ‘three’.
I move that amendment for the reasons whichI gave during the course of my reply in the second reading debate. It is felt that it is reasonable for the 5 years included in this clause to be reduced to 3 years. It is a period which gives a reasonable time for an adequate number of inspectors to administer the Act and still have a reasonable opportunity to levy penalties, if they should be necessary, against any offender. Accordingly I believe that the period of 3 years can reasonably be substituted for the 5 years which is provided in the original draft of the Bill.
– I foreshadow that the Opposition will seek by way of amendment to substitute the words twelve months’ for the words ‘three years’ as proposed by the amendment moved by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). This is a similar amendment to the one that was moved recently with respect to the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill 1971. We advance the same arguments on this measure as we did when considering that Bill. Honourable members will recall that, when the Dried Fruits Levy Collection
Bill went to the Senate, the Australian Democratic Labor Party put forward the argument that the5year period provided was too long. The Australian Labor Party argued that the period should be 12 months. The Government compromised by amending the Bill to read ‘three years’.
A remarkable thing has happened. This Bill has yet to go to the Senate, but the Minister has moved his amendment to substitute ‘three years’ for ‘five years’. I suppose that the Minister is working on the assumption that, when this Bill is before the Senate, the DLP will adopt the same tactics as it did with respect to the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill. To save time, the Minister has moved his amendment now to alter the provisions of the Bill as I have indicated. This does not affect in any way the argument put by the Opposition. We still maintain that the period should be 12 months.
The reason for the amendment that 1 have foreshadowed is that if we consider the Crimes Act as the yardstick in this respect, Section 21 (1.) (c) of that Act provides: where the punishment provided in respect of the offence is a pecuniary penalty and no term of imprisonment is mentioned at any time within one year after the commission of the offence.
That means that, under the Crimes Act, proceedings in respect of such an offence will be commenced at any time within one year after the commission of the offence. Therefore, why should primary producers in Australia be severely penalised by legislation which provides that they may be proceeded against 5 years after the commission of an offence, that period to be changed to 3 years if the Minister’s amendment is carried, whereas under the Crimes Act a similar prosecution may be commenced at any time within one year after the commission of an offence?
It is interesting to note that section 21 (1.) of the Crimes Act provides:
A prosecution in respect of an offence against any law of the Commonwealth may be commenced as follows:
where the maximum term of imprisonment in respect of the offence in the case of a first conviction exceeds 6 months at any time after the commission of the offence.
Let us compare in this respect an offence under this Bill with an offence of murder. the worst type of offence. It can be argued that the Department of Primary Industry has limited manpower resources and that its inspectors are engaged in duties in other areas as well as in policing laws relating to pigs and dried fruit. For this reason the Government or its delegate should have sufficient time to explore whether in fact an offence has been committed, and this may take more than 12 months. I have no argument with this sentiment at all. Perhaps the alternative is to have more inspectors, because I believe that there is no justification for penalising a section of the community, particularly when the penalty is more severe than the penalty under the Crimes Act.
The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) will probably speak in this debate. He will recall that we debated this point when the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill was before the House, and on that occasion he spoke in favour of both the5year and the 3year period on the ground that any primary producer would not be concerned about whether the period was 3 years or 5 years if he were innocent. In other words, it concerns those primary producers who have in fact committed an offence; in those circumstances there is no reason why the period should not be 3 years. The argument against that of course, as the honourable member for Mallee knows, is that we have no right noone has the right to suggest that these people are guilty until they are proven guilty. Therefore, such a matter should not be hanging over their heads for more than 12 months. If the Government does not have the machinery to take proceedings within 12 months it should bring into train administrative steps within the Department of Primary Industry to see that this can be achieved within that period. Quite frankly, I do not know how a provision for unlimited time found its way into other Bills dealing with the collection of levies for industry research funds.
– You accepted it and voted for it.
– Yes, I accept that and I accept full responsibility for not seeing it. I assume I was in charge of those Bills at that time. It is quite wrong that unlimited time should be provided, and I hope that the Government is taking as a yardstick for the future the prescription of a definite time. The Minister said that the period would be 6 years. I am not a lawyer but I assume that under the Statute of Limitations proceedings would have to be implemented within that period. The Opposition still maintains that the period should be 12 months and not 3 years. I shall move an amendment in those terms at the appropriate time.
– I would hate to disappoint the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) by not speaking in this debate because he said I was bound to do so. In fact, I thought he was going to make my speech for me. I have made this speech before and the honourable member for Dawson repeated what he said in his speech when the Dried Fruits Research Bill was before this House. But the very strange thing that the honourable member does is to give illustrations from other Bills. He even speaks about murder. The real point is found in the Bill itself Clause 14 reads: (1.) A person shall not -
If he does either of these things he is liable to a penalty of $200. What is pointed out is that a prosecution for an offence against that section may be commenced at any time within 5 years of the commission of the offence. That clause relates to when the offence took place.
Some interjections are asking me why I supported the 5year period. Of course I supported the similar clause in the Dried Fruits Research Bill when it was before the House. After passing through all stages in this House that Bill then went to the Senate. When the Bill was returned from the Senate the period had been amended to 3 years. I thought 3 years better than the 1year period which was proposed by the Opposition. I supported the Bill as amended and it passed through all its remaining stages. I want to refer to the illustrations given . by the honourable member for Dawson. He referred to the Crimes Act and the crime of murder, which has nothing to do with the clause under discussion. I have already read out the clause and I will not repeat it. It refers to certain returns and the fact that they must not be false or misleading, something which has nothing to do with the Crimes Act.
I gave an illustration concerning the income tax legislation under which inspectors can go back for 10 years or more, I think, finding out if people have put in false returns or if one had not put in a return for all those years while in receipt of an income. But the whole point is that they can go back, and we are saying that in similar circumstances if false returns are put in or no returns are put in by a pig producer that action ought to be taken. But what similarity is there between that point and the illustration given by the honourable member for Dawson? There is none at all. He even spoke of murder and the Crimes Act. But there is a similarity between what I am putting forward regarding the income tax legislation and what ls contained in this Bill. . It is practically the same. The Bill legislates against false returns, etc., so therefore I am supporting the amendment proposed by the Minister tonight.
– I would like to know what honourable members opposite are groaning about already. I rise to speak in rauch the same vein as did the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) because 1 also recollect that the Government, in moving its amendment, bowed to a political party which is not even represented in this chamber. When dealing with a Bill on the dried fruits industry recently the Government would not even recognise an amendment moved by the Opposition providing for a period of one year instead of 5 years. It is no good the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) standing up here and bleating about the fact that he supported the 5 -year period. He spoke in support of it. The Government now seeks to amend this Bill to provide for a period of 3 years, after the Democratic Labor Party and others in the Senate had jogged its memory about what happened in regard to the dried fruits legislation. But I would remind the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) while he is doodling on his pad at the table that I directed a question to him in connection with a similar provision in the dried fruits legislation which was recently before the House.
I asked him what position would apply where an offence had been committed under a joint ownership and the husband was now deceased and some 3 years after his death the Department decided that there was something wrong with one of the returns that these farmers, pig breeders or whatever you want to call them have to make.
– They are producers.
– I was looking across the other side of the House at the time I was thinking about them, but the fact is that the Minister was not. able to answer my question at . the time the Bill went through. I am on my feet now because I wish to protect widows who might get bit by a penalty of $200 some 3 years after their husbands have died. The Minister is supposed to be a responsible Minister so why can he not inform the House whether I am correct in my assumption or not? I would be happy to know one way or the other. It has not been spelt out in the Bill and that is why 1 am on my feet. I think that is wrong. I support the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Dawson and I want to remind my nearest neighbour in this place, the honourable member for Mallee, that he cannot have a dollar “each way on this. Either he is for what is in fact an infliction of a form of pains and penalties on the pig producer over and above what can be considered fair, or he is not. I cannot see how he can take any valid objection to the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson for mentioning that the Crimes Act, which covers more serious offences, did not have this type of provision in it. I am not saying that there should not be some punishment provision in the Bill, but I do not believe that it should go on for 3 years or that it should be inflicted on innocent people because of a business arrangement or business partnership. Mr Chairman, I think that the Minister should stand up in this place and inform the chamber accordingly.
- Mr Chairman, 1 have a number of questions that I wish to ask of the Minister. These questions arise out Of some of the points that I raised at the second reading stage of the Bill and relate to this clause. The Minister did not reply to the points I raised. I should point out that the Minister originally wished for 5 years in which to gain evidence and demand a prosecution. Perhaps he was thinking that because there was only one pig extension officer to every 9,000 pig producers, which would mean his duties would involve him in contacting 45 pig raisers each working day in order to see that total each year, it would take some years to make even contact in relation to the provisions of this Bill. I think that the Minister should have referred to the contact there was to be by the responsible authorities with pig producers in relation to not only the Bill and its implementation but also the research to which I referred earlier in relation to the other measure. I think the 2 points come together here.
What contact is to be made regularly through our extension and inspectorial services with the pig producers? After all, we have these measures, there are these penalties and there are these objectives in relation to research. I think the Minister was failing a little in his duty in not in the earlier measure applying himself to the gap which exists in the extension services. This carries on to the inspectorial services,, too, because very often they are related to the activities of State governments. I think the Minister may have overlooked these points. Perhaps he will apply himself to the contact which is going to be made under this legislation with the pig producers as individuals through the extension and inspectorial services.
– I did not pick up at all the point that the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) sought to make. However, I would like to reply briefly to the remarks of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). The honourable member asked what would be the position in the event of the death of a proprietor who has a liability. I draw his attention to clause 6 of the Bill, which the Committee has already passed. The honourable member will notice that the liability is set down under sub-clause (1.) of clause 6 and that there is an exemption capacity under sub-clause (8.). I am advised that normally in practice, in regard to each of these other items of legislation, the survivor of a person who is a proprietor is not pursued in respect of a research levy that is payable, so that a prosecution would not normally be launched against the widow for whom the honourable member for Sturt has expressed concern.
– Why did the Minister not say that a couple of weeks ago?
– I said that it was in the legislation, but I did not read the legislation. However, I thought it might be necessary to do so on this occasion. The specific question, however, relates to whether the period should be 5 years, 3 years, or 12 months. I have explained why I believe it is far better to have a longer period than a shorter period. I accept some of the validity of the argument which was advanced previously by the honourable member for Dawson that too long a period does create difficulty and uncertainty on the part of the person who is liable within the context of the legislation, but I would strongly contest that there is any parallel whatsoever between the Pig Slaughter Levy Collection Bill and the Crimes Act.
The maximum penalty within this legislation is designed solely to ensure that pig producers will meet a common responsibility for a mutual advantage. There is no parallel whatsoever between this responsibility and any responsibility that might exist under criminal legislation. In addition, the maximum penalty is, of course, a penalty of up to $200, which is in no way comparable to the penalties laid down under any of the provisions of the Crimes Act. There are real difficulties in relation to the employment of adequate persons but I do not think that these difficulties are insurmountable. I have been advised that there are some eight other research schemes where levy payments are involved and the inspectorate staff of the Department covers each of these Acts, but the point really is that inspectors do not visit all establishments every year. They try to rely on trust and on the Department being advised of the normal proceeds of the sort of work being done. Consequently the levy is collected on that basis. I believe that it is better not to harass producer abattoir proprietors. I think that 3 years is a reasonable period rather than too short a time in which to ensure that the provisions of the legislation are complied with. In addition, the Department has mentioned that, in the administration of other legislation, it does not pursue a policy of endeavouring to collect a penalty. It prefers to negotiate on overdue levy payments rather than have recourse to immediate prosecution. The objective of the legislation is to the advantage of pig producers. Quite often it is just on 12 months, and sometimes long after, before the Board determines whether there has been any avoidance of the levy and it would prefer that it did not launch a prosecution but negotiated for a payment. The Board feels that its capacity to do this would be prejudiced if the period was 12 months instead of 3 years. For that reason I think the 3 year period should be adhered to.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Dr Patterson) put:
Omit ‘three’, insert ‘one’.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Dr Mackay (Evans Minister for the
Navy) - by leave - I have just been informed that on 24th February of this year a leading junior recruit, J. D. Russell, who had joined HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ 4 months before, was involved in a fight with one of his cabin mates who had joined at the same time. In evidence given during disciplinary action which followed it was stated that the recruit had fallen out with his 3 cabin mates over the cleaning of their cabin and a fight developed. What began as an unimportant scuffle got out of hand when one of the other recruits lost his temper. The leading junior recruit was examined by a doctor less than half an hour later and was treated for concussion. He was sent for observation to the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia, and on 7th March - 11 days later - was walking again and discharged. On his return to HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ he had difficulty in walking and subsequently was sent back to hospital for treatment for an apparent nervous condition. This treatment is continuing at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, which is his home State. There is no evidence that the nervous disorder will be permanent. Doctors have learned that the recruit had both legs broken in 1966.
Two junior recruits were charged with disciplinary offences following the incident. One who was involved in the disturbance but not in the fighting received a minor punishment. The other pleaded guilty to charges of fighting and causing a disturbance, and now faces a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm. He has been stood over for punishment on the first. 2 charges. From preliminary reports of these 2 . incidents: - the earlier one which I reported to the House today and this later incident- which have resulted in injuries to naval recruits, it would appear that neither could be described as associated with initiation or so called bastardisation activities. Both would seem to be the result of fights between the boys concerned which came about for, different reasons.
I am most disturbed by the implications and will move immediately to have the whole matter investigated thoroughly. The case involving junior recruit Connolly - that is the case I referred to earlier today - is yet to be heard by the commanding officer and it would not be proper for me to comment on it further at this stage. However, the foregoing synopsis of the case of junior recruit Russell has been given to me within the last hour. Because of the importance of these events to the Navy and to the nation I make this report public, although 1 have not yet had an opportunity to examine it in detail.
I present the following paper:
HMAS Leeuwin - Alleged maltreatment of recruits -Ministerial Statement, 27 April 1971.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The House has listened to the report of the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) which has come out of a disturbance or an affair at the HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ training centre in Western Australia. The Minister related what he said had happened in respect to a fight. It must have been some fight, because it was 11 days before the boy could walk. Consequently, this is not exactly an idle matter. I notice that it is evidently so serious that the person concerned has been transferred to the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg which is in his home State. Evidently the fight was a serious disturbance. What the Australian Labor Party is concerned with are the reports that have appeared in the Press that this was a bastardisation test or an initiation ceremony. Honourable .members on this side of the House would like an assurance that, no matter, what . the Minister might have said, this is not just a whitewashing or glossing over of what actually happened at the centre.
I would like an assurance from the Minister some time that he will take the same action as the former Minister for the Army - now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) - took when he cleaned up the Duntroon establishment in respect to a somewhat similar occurrence. In this matter the boy’s mother is gravely disturbed by what has occurred. She said -in a Press report- that he went into the Navy with- a great deal of enthusiasm. Now she has been completely upset by, and is gravely - concerned about, what has happened. I know that the Minister for the Navy is new to his portfolio. We realise that he is endeavouring to do the right thing, but tonight we can hardly accept the fact that the situation is as placid as he might say it is. Therefore I hope that he will give us an assurance that a full and complete inquiry will be. held into all aspects of the matter. The Army, Navy and Air Force have a first class way of covering up their failings and shortcomings. There is no-one better than those concerned who can cover up in cases of this nature. They certainly would not want it to get out that it was an initiation ceremony.
Newspaper reports I saw indicated that it was. It seems to be a strange training establishment when 3 young fellows are initiated in the establishment and suddenly there is a fight from which it takes one fellow 11 days to recover. I come from a district which has had its turbulent days but there certainly would not have been many people in that district, even in its wildest days, who took 11 days to get over a brawl. Therefore this must be a pretty serious state of affairs. If the Navy is seeking boys as recruits for enlistment for training in the Service its efforts are not helped if there is a feeling that there has been an initiation ceremony and the Government or the Department is endeavouring to cover it up.
I remind the Minister for the Navy that I have had long experience in this Parliament. Not so long ago we had a discussion on the famous water torture case in Vietnam. The responsible Minister said in this Parliament that nothing of the kind had occurred. I understand that his adviser at that stage had more or less witnessed the torture. If that can happen in a case like that, is wool being pulled over the eyes of the Minister for the Navy in this case? Has there been an initiation ceremony? Is it the usual practice? These are matters on which the Opposition would like assurance. If the investigations by the Minister are not complete - and I hope they do not finish at the suggestion that this was a fight - I hope he will give the House an assurance that there will be a complete inquiry into this matter. If it takes a boy 11 days to recover from what has occurred, or from any initiation ceremony of this kind, there certainly is a need for a full scale inquiry.
I say no more about the matter. Possibly the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) might wish to say a few words about it. I shall simply express again the view of the Opposition. We hope there will not be a whitewash job. If there has been some initiation ceremony we hope that the practice will be stamped out. We would like the Minister for the Navy to act as definitely as did a former Minister for the Army when the Duntroon cadet business was the news of the day. We hope the Minister is not being misled, as was the case in the water torture incident which I mentioned a few moments ago. The Army and the Navy particularly have a great way of pulling the wool over Ministers’ eyes, which might be a bit of a problem in the case of the present Minister for the
Navy, as you and I well know, Mr Speaker. I do not say this in a disrespectful way; it struck me on the spur of the moment. I make those submissions on behalf of the Opposition and would like an assurance from the Minister along the lines I mentioned.
– As far as 1 know, until this year there have been no allegations about initiation ceremonies at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’. I never heard of any. A large number of people in Fremantle take junior recruits into their homes on Sundays or at weekends. This is a scheme initiated by the college authorites. These students speak to hundreds of Western Australian families about their lives. I am not going to say that initiation ceremonies have not started or that this case was not one of an initiation ceremony. All I want to say is that I have taken some interest in HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ and frequently have conversations with junior cadets, and I have not heard of initiation ceremonies.
However, the case presented to the Press by Mrs Connolly is very detailed and it touches on letters to her over a period of time which say that the boy involved was being pursued for initiation and then finally, apparently, was caught for initiation. The description given by the cadet seems to be an extremely serious case of bullying. His description relates to a punch-up by, I think, from what she alleges, 7 boys who took it in turns. He had to fight each, one after the other, and they were fresh when he was not. If that is so, it is an extremely serious case.
I noticed the assurance given by the Minister for the Navy (Dr. Mackay). 1 am not quite sure whether one can compare this case with the water torture case. The unsatisfactory feature of the water torture case was the tendency on the part of the Government to say: ‘It never happened and besides, she deserved it’. If you look back at the debates on that matter you will find that what Government speakers said was the equivalent of Billy Bunter saying: T never stole the pudding and besides the currants were rotten*. That was never convincingly explained in the House. I note the Minister’s assurance that there will be a thorough inquiry into this matter. I believe there will be. I also believe, to be honest, that the college authorities would not want this sort of thing to happen. 1 think they are pretty jealous for the good reputation of the place. There are hundreds of teenage boys at the college. I suppose there have been thousands of teenage boys in the Fremantle naval establishment over the years, but there have been very rare disciplinary problems. I can remember only one serious brawl outside the college in which, it was alleged, junior ratings were involved. That was in the case of the kicking of a musician. But I believe that their discipline and behaviour around Fremantle has been quite outstanding. The institution is a respected one, which speaks pretty highly of the morale of the officers who are in charge of it and the influence that they have on the junior recruits. If anything has, slipped, I am grateful for the assurance that the Minister is giving.
– The Opposition welcomes the Minister’s statement and in particular his assurance that a full scale inquiry will be made into this incident. We have had some unfortunate incidents in the past. One was the incident at Duntroon; this was fully investigated by the Government and suitable action was taken. One wonders, however, how many other incidents involving cadets and training centres have occurred. There is no doubt that the family of this boy was extremely upset. To those who watched television this evening it was quite clear that the family is most embittered. However, the Opposition is fully conscious, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said, of the ability of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force to cloud over the issues, to smooth over the issues. We saw this, as the honourable member for Grayndler said, with respect to the water torture case. Water torture, I am told, was one of the common things used at Duntroon. I do not believe that all members of the Government have the same gentle views as the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) has on these matters. Tonight the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and I had a difference of opinion. Last week in this Parliament he said:
I know what would have happened to this woman in any other country. In Mainland China, the country that honourable members opposite have been championing tonight, she would have had her head chopped off. It is a damned pity that the Australians did not do just that very thing.
I submit in seriousness to the Minister that not all members of the Government think as he does. What I have just quoted is the extreme view of an honourable member on the Government side who wanted to chop off the head of a woman because she was a spy. I will deal with that case later on. I want to say only this in conclusion: It is to be hoped that we will not have to wait too long before having an inquiry because, as the Minister well knows, not only is the Navy involved in this, not only is the boy involved in this, but also the family is involved. I ask the Minister to give the House an assurance that we will have an explanation before the House rises next week for the winter recess. That is what we want to know. It is no good receiving an explanation after we rise. We want an explanation before the end of next week, if that is the time at which it is proposed the House will rise. I hope that, with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, the Minister will give us that assurance.
– I would like to say just this at this stage: I thank honourable members for the way in which they have received the attempt I have made to put all the facts that have come to my notice or been brought to my attention before the House immediately. I have done so with a desire that we might avoid misunderstandings that could be damaging to the Navy. I thank particularly the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) for what he said from his own personal observations of the leadership at ‘Leeuwin’.
However, I am disturbed by the fact of these 2 instances although, putting them in proportion, there are hundreds of young men of this age - they are between 151 and 161 years of age when they join for a year - in residence at any one time and one must naturally expect that there will be scuffles from time to time. But I trust that they can be kept without the serious consequences of at least one of these incidents. I want to assure the House that I am not intending to have the wool pulled over my eyes. To quote the words of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), I do give an assurance that there will be a full and complete inquiry. But this, of course, will take time and whether the results of such an inquiry could be made available before the House rises is quite another matter.
However, the case of Connolly will be heard by the commodore in charge in the next few days - I trust, as quickly as possible and then the House will be able to judge for itself whether, from the evidence that is adduced in that hearing, this was a case of initiation, bastardization or anything of that kind, or quite a different picture. From preliminary evidence and reports that have been given to me, on which I cannot expatiate because the matter is sub judge, I personally believe at this moment that it was more a case of a fight than of an initiation ceremony. However, I give an undertaking to the House that there will be a full and complete inquiry as to how this type of incident has come about in ‘Leeuwin’ so that steps may be taken, if practicable and necessary, to see that such incidents are not repeated. But, for the moment, I believe that I had best leave what has been said in the statement as the information available to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
ArmyVehicles: Accidents (Question No. 2814)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It should be noted that Army drivers are required to report details of all accidents, irrespective of the amount of damage to vehicles. Approximately’ 70 percent of the figures quoted represent accidents of ‘a minor nature involving damage of less than $50 to vehicles. The figures also include accidents which occurred during Army driver trainingcourses.
With regard to civilians killed or injured in these accidents, no statistics have been maintained and to obtain this data it would be necessary to check each individual accident file. The imposition of such an administrative burden is not considered to be justified as this could only be undertaken to the detriment of other priority tasks.
Details of the number of soldiers charged are not maintained and cannot be made available for similar reasons.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Except for Part 2 (b) the information sought is not available and cannot be produced as there is no requirement to record this data.
Statistics of casualties to Army personnel arising from accidents involving civilian vehicles driven by Army personnel, but not owned by the Army were:
The number of accidents giving rise to these casualties was:
The figures quoted relate only to accidents involving death or injury to Army personnel. No record is maintained of accidents involving civilian vehicles which do no not result in casualties to Army personnel.
Armed Forces: Medical Services (Question No. 2905)
asked the Minister for.
Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
Sir William Refshauge, Director General of Health (Chairman)
Sir Frederick Chilton, then Chairman Repatriation Commission.
Professor S. Sunderland, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne.
Dr H. D. Raffan, Consultant in Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery.
Air Vice Marshal L. R. Trudinger, Joint Services Medical Advisor, Department of Defence.
asked the Minister for Cus toms and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Cus toms and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
COBOL Programming Language (Question No. 3131)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
What stage has been reached in the application of the COBOL programming language to the development of EDP Systems in bis Department,
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The COBOL programming language has been in limited use since early 1968, and a number of systems employing it are now in regular operation. This Language will be used for all major new systems developed for the Armed Services EDP Project in the future, and it is planned that systems not now using it will be progressively converted to its use over the next five years.
Defence Legal Services (Question No. 3137)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Sir Allen Brown, Member of British Phosphate Commission.
Mr F. J. Mahoney, Deputy Secretary, AttorneyGeneral’s Department
Mr G. P. Temme, Chief Executive Officer (Legal), Department of Defence.
To examine the legal services required by the Defence Group of Departments and the Armed Services and to report as to whether, and if so how, the organisations, arrangements and procedures should be altered to meet present and future requirements. In the course of the foregoing the Committee should:
It is expected that the Committee will report in July 1971.
Victoria Institute of Colleges (Question No. 3200)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
Is the Victoria Institute of Colleges the only body authorised to disburse Commonwealth moneys for the purpose of tertiary technical education.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Victoria Institute of Colleges is the statutory authority in Victoria charged with the balanced development of tertiary education other than that which is the responsibility of the universities. In discharging this function, it is the State authority responsible for co-ordinating proposals for Commonwealth contributions under the Advanced Education Program.
Papua New Guinea: ILO Convention No. 84 (Question No. 2968)
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1.) Yes.
PapuaNew Guinea: Business Licences (Question No. 2382)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
How many licences were issued in 1970 to (a) expatriates and (b) indigenes in each of the categories set out in his answer to me on 6th May 1970 (Hansard, page 1770).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Most of the matters referred to are those which fall within the authority of the Ministerial Members for Forests; Public Health; Labour; Mines; Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries; Trade and Industry; and the Assistant Ministerial Members for Treasury; Transport; Social Development and Home Affairs, in the House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea. The Administrator on the advice of these Ministerial Members and Assistant Ministerial Members has provided the following information.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
In regard to the increase in social service pensions payable in April, what proportion of age pensioners will receive (a) the full’ SOc increase (b) part of that increase (c) no increase.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As a . result of the recent amendment to the Social Services Act, 77 per cent of age pensioners were paid an additional SOc a week and 2 per cent received a part of that increase. The rate of pension in respect of the remaining 21 per cent of age pensioners was unaffected.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
What is the average age of Naval personnel, including officers.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The average age of Naval personnel excluding members of the Papua New Guinea Division and members of other Commonwealth Navies attached to the Royal Australian Navy who were serving on 31st December 1970 is 24.525 years.
Colombo Plan (Question No. 2685)
asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Will he consult with his colleagues on the desirability of changing the Colombo Plan and other related procedures so that, instead of Asian and African students being brought to Australia for secondary and tertiary education, highly qualified
Australian graduates in all faculties would be encouraged to teach in Asian and African universities and schools of advanced education for periods of 3 months or more with the resulting benefits that (a) more students could be educated in their own countries than is possible under the various schemes by which overseas students now enter Australia and (b) Australian boys and girls would not continue to be excluded from Australian universities to make way for non-Australians.
– As Acting Minister 1 provide the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Consultations between my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Immigration and other Commonwealth Departments involved in the training of overseas students are conducted each year through the Conference of Training Authorities. Consultations on the sponsored overseas student programmes are followed by a second annual conference’ convened by the Department of Immigration on private overseas student programmes. In addition there are periodic, high level, interdepartmental consultations on external aid. Recommendations as to the modification of policy made by these . conferences are referred to Ministers.
The supply of experts to assist in the development of national educational institutions in the developing countries, .is already a major part of Australia’s technical assistance programmes. The balance between training abroad and assistance to national educational institutions within the developing countries is determined in each case on the basis of the priorities established, by the recipient government itself, depending - upon the stage reached - in the development of the educational system in each country.
Within the Australian international training pro- gramme, there is a balance between university training and practical training in Australian Government Departments and private industry. Of the total 2,718 scholarships and fellowships for overseas students held in 1969-70, including those continuing from previous years, 1,408 or approximately 51 per cent were for under-graduate and post-graduate courses in Australian universities. Of the total intake of 1,151 new overseas sponsored students in 1970, only 290, that is approximately 25 per cent, were for university courses.
It is the objective of Australian technical assistance programmes to contribute to the achievement of self-reliance in the developing countries, however, in some cases it will not be possible to attain this goal for many years. Until the developing countries are able to meet their own educational requirements, I hope that Australia will continue to be able to offer opportunities for overseas students to attend our universities, either at their own expense or with the aid of our scholarships, both in order to contribute to the development of the skills available in their homelands and to maintain the contacts established between the young people of Australia and our neighbours in South East Asia, Africa and the Pacific which have contributed in a quite irreplaceable way to a real understanding of each other.
This does not exclude the provision of aid directly to national institutions both through expert assistance and the provision of scholarships tenable in the educational institutions of the developing countries themselves and in regional institutions within South East Asia.
The appointment of Australian graduates for short terms of service would be of limited value to institutions in the developing countries. The AustralianAsian University Aid and Co-operation Scheme for which a sum of $200,000 was appropriated in the Budget for 1970-71, provides opportunities for more realistic assistance in the secondment of experienced and qualified Australian university staff to assist in academic planning and the training of local staff of Asian universities. Opportunities also exist through the Australian Volunteers Abroad Scheme for young graduates to undertake work overseas on a voluntary basis. The scheme is administered with government support by the Overseas Service Bureau.
It is unreal however to imagine that the educational needs of thelarge number of developing countries assisted by Australia could be satisfied over the whole range of faculties solely by the provision of Australian graduates.
The enrolment of overseas students at Australian universities has had little effect on the admission of qualified Australian students to Australian universities. In 1969 a total of 5,594 students were enrolled at Australian universities representing 8.2 per cent of all full-time students at universities. This total consisted of 1,221 sponsored students, 3,199 students under the private overseas student programme as well as over one thousand outside these programmes. Those students outside the sponsored and private student programmes were United Kingdom, Canadian and New Zealand nationals and dependants of temporary residents such as visiting overseas businessmen and diplomats.
It is for bachelor degree courses that Australian universities have imposed admission quotas. In 1969 a total of 3,340 overseas students studying under the private overseas student programme or Australian aid schemes were enrolled in bachelor degree courses at Australian universities. These 3,540 students represent 5.9 per cent of the total of 60,325 full-time enrolments in bachelor degree courses. In addition there were over 20,000 Australians enrolled as part-time students in bachelor degree courses in 1969.
The February 1969 report of the National Council of the National Union of Australian University Students (now the Australian Union of Students) recognised that where restrictions on enrolments were necessary, Australian universities had a duty to the community to give priority to the education of Australian citizens, but it believed that the presence of substantial numbers of overseas students, particularly students from Asia, had in the past afforded opportunities for broadening of knowledge, interest and tolerance which it regarded as a necessary aspect of tertiary education and suggested that where there was the demand for it, 10 per cent of the total enrolment quota in each faculty in each university would be a minimum acceptable enrolment of overseas students. I commend this view.
ColomboPlan (Question No. 3122)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– As Acting Minister, I provide the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Mr M. ArefGhaussi, Deputy Minister for Planning.
Mr J. C Ingram, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines.
Mr Lyonpo Dawa Tsering, Minister for Development, Royal Government of Bhutan.
Colonel Thaung Kyi, Minister of Agriculture and Forests.
Mr Arthur Basnayake, Ambassador of Ceylon in Tokyo.
Mr M. G. Kaul, Additional Secretary, Government of India.
Mr Abdul Hamid, Indonesian Ambassador to Ceylon.
Mr Javad Vafa, Undersecretary for International Affairs, Minister of Economy.
Mr Toshio Urabe, Ambassador to the Philippines.
Khmer Republic -
Mr Hang Thun Hak, Minister of Community Development.
Republic of Korea -
Hon. Kee Hyong Kim, Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology.
Mr Phagna Inpeng Sunyadhay, Minister of Justice and Acting Minister of Plans and Co-operation.
Mr Hashim Bin Sultan, Ambassador of the Philippines.
Mr Ramchandra Malhotra, Member Secretary, Nepal National Planning Commission.
New Zealand -
Hon. L. R. AdamsSchneider, Minister of Customs.
Mr S. S. Iqbal Hosain, S.Q.A., Secretary, Economic Co-ordination and External Assistance Division.
Hon. Carlos P. Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Lee Chiaw Meng, Minister of State for Education.
Mr Pote Sarasin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Development.
United Kingdom -
Rt Hon. Richard Wood, Minister for Overseas Development.
Mr Maurice J, Williams, Deputy Administrator, U.S. A.I.D.
Professor Vu Quoc Thuc, Minister of State in Charge of Reconstruction and Development.
Aboriginals: ILO Convention No. 107 (Question No. 2969)
asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
On what occasions and with what result have discussions taken place with the International Labour Office since a former Minister’s answer on 19th November 1968 (Hansard, page 3007) in an attempt to clarify the intention of certain provisions of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107 Indigenous and Tribal Populations, 1957 in so far as they concern Aboriginals in the various parts of Australia and as to precisely what action, if any, is required to comply with them fully.
– As Acting Minister I provide the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I - have been informed that officers of the Department of Labour and National Service have had several discussions with the International Labour Office concerning matters related to ILO Convention No. 107Indigenous and Tribal Population, 1957; ‘ and particularly in relation to Article II of the Convention which states that “The right of ownership, collective or individual of the members of the populations concerned over the - lands which these populations traditionally occupy shall be recognised.’ These discussions have helped in clarifying some points but the overall position remains as set out in the Review of Australian Law and Practice Relating to Conventions Adopted by the International Labour Conference, published by the Department of Labour and National Service in October 1969.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710427_reps_27_hor72/>.