27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers’.
– I present the fol lowing petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Lake Pedder, situated in the Lake Pedder National Park in South-West Tasmania, is threatened with inundation as part of the Gordon River hydro-electric power scheme.
That an alternative scheme exists, which, if implemented would avoid inundation of this lake.
That Lake Pedder and the surrounding wilderness area is of such beauty and scientific interest as to be of a value beyond monetary consideration.
And that some unique species of flora and fauna will be in danger of extinction if this area is inundated.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate steps to act on behalf of all Australian people to preserve Lake Pedder in its natural slate. All present and particularly future Australians will benefit by being able to escape from their usual environment to rebuild their physical and mental strength in this unspoilt wilderness area.
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 Membersof the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Lake Pedder, situated in the Lake Pedder National Park in South-West Tasmania, is threatened with inundation as part of the Gordon River hydro-electric power scheme.
That an alternative scheme exists, which, if implemented would avoid inundation of this lake.
That Lake Pedder and the surrounding wilderness area is of such beauty and scientific interest as to be of a value beyond monetary consideration.
And that some unique species of flora and fauna will be in danger of extinction if this area is inundated.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate steps to act on behalf of all Australian people to preserve Lake Pedder in its natural state. All present and particularly future Australians will benefit by being able to escape from their usual environment to rebuild their physical and mental strength in this unspoilt wilderness area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
It is obvious the people of Australia are vitally concerned about the welfare of some 9,000,000 East Pakistan refugees that have crossed the border into India. Also they are equally concerned about the desperate plight of millions of displaced persons in East Pakistan, many of whom are worse off than the refugees, as they are not even receiving relief supplies. The involvement of the Australian is evidenced by their willingness to contribute substantial funds to voluntary agencies, to assist their work in these countries.
As some 20,000,000 refugees and dis placed persons are today facing acute problems of hunger and privation nutrition and child family problems ultimate famine and death on an unprecedented scale the Commonwealth Government must plan to come to their assistance in a more sacrificial way
Your petitioners, therefore, most humbly pray that in tackling these great human problems in Bengal, by far the greatest this century, the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will request that a special meeting of Cabinet be called to provide$10m for relief purposes In India and East Pakistan, and a further $50m over 3 years to help rehabilitate the refugees in East Pakistan.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Capital Territory Pharmacy Ordinances 1931-1959 Section 46, Sub-section (1) states that ‘A person shall not publish any statement, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, to promote the sale of any article as a medicine, instrument’ or appliance … for preventing conception.
And that this infringes upon each individual’s right as a human being to all available information about contraceptive devices in order to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the words ‘or for preventing conception’ be deleted from Sub-section (1) of Section 46 of the Australian Capital Territory Pharmacy Ordinances.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices is 271/2 per cent. (Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act 1935-1967). Also that there is Customs duty of up to 471/2 per cent on some Contraceptive devices.
And that this is an unfair imposition on the human rights of all people who wish to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And furthermore that this imposition discriminates particularly against people on low incomes.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices be removed, so as to bring these items into line with other necessities such as food, . upon which there is no Sales Tax. Also that Customs Duties be removed, and that all Contraceptive Devices be placed on the National Health Scheme Pharmaceutical Benefits List.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 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 Australia is educationally and administratively desirable, and is 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 Inquiry, on which are represented the Department of Education and Science, institu tions 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.
– 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 survival is 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 responsible for the management of Australian wild life.
Withdrawal of Troops from Indo-China
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of ‘ the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we urgently request:
The immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all Australian military forces from IndoChina and the cessation of Australian aggression against the people of Indo-China, irrespective of United States policy.
That Australia recognise in practice, the Indo-Chinese peoples’ right to national independence and self-determination.
That Australia end its present policies of military intervention in countries of Asia ‘ and the south-west Pacific.
The immediate abolition of conscription for military service and the withdrawal of outstanding or pending charges and penalties against all who have refused to be conscripted into the army.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the honourable members of the House of Representatives will immediately take steps to effect the above requests.
And we your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
That the immediate prospect in East Bengal is of mass starvation on a scale unprecedented in modern times.
That only quick settlement of the Bangla DeshPakistan conflict will make it possible to avert the death of many millions. We therefore urge the honourable members to:
Raise to fi Om Australian aid to refugees now in India from East Pakistan.
Support all efforts to guarantee the’ fully autonomous development of the people of Bangla Desh.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware of growing discontent among employees in the aircraft industry about future employment prospects and the future organisation of the industry? Is the Government yet in a position to resolve this uncertainty, particularly over the proposed merger of the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation? Have inspections been made of GAF equipment by senior staff of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation? Has correspondence been circulated to staff of the Government Aircraft Factories indicating the inclusion of the GAF factory at Avalon in the proposed merger? Finally, are Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation engine and helicopter operations involved in merger proposals?
– From time to time announcements have been made about continuing talks with a view to rationalising the aircraft industry at Fishermen’s Bend, where the Government Aircraft Factories’premises are adjacent to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation properties. Those discussions are being carried on with some sense of urgency, but it is expected that nothing will result for many months yet. I answered a similar question to this one not so long ago. I understand that there is a similar question on notice although I believe that the honourable gentleman’s question put different emphasis on some aspects. I think it has to be under-, stood that this is a very complex matter. There are many features that need to be integrated. However only this morning, in speaking with officers of my Department, I asked for some report to be given to me on the current situation, and I will communicate that information, when it is available, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and those other honourable members who I know are interested in this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement in today’s newspapers by 12 of Australia’s leading academic economists urging the Government to realign the Australian dollar somewhere half way between the United States dollar and the yen. I ask the right honourable gentlemen: Firstly, is it a fact that manufacturing and rural industries and mineral exporters have been urging realignment on the basis of parity between the Australian and United States dollars? Secondly, is it a fact that, if the course urged by these powerful pressure groups were adopted, it would add fuel to the fires of inflation, whatever else it might or might not do? In these circumstances, can the Prime Minister give an assurance that, when the Government announces its decision, it will table a White Paper honestly distilling the advice tendered to it by its experts in the Treasury, the Reserve Bank and elsewhere, in order to reassure the people that a responsible decision has been made?
– I have read with a great deal of interest the recommendations that were made by 12 economists and the various alternatives that they suggested, particularly with relationship of the Australian dollar to the United States dollar, sterling and the yen or somewhere half way between the US dollar and the yen. At the moment it must be obvious to everyone that we could not make up our minds definitively as to what we should d6 because, at present, none of these currencies is fixed in terms of parities in the international monetary markets. Whilst they remain, as it were, floating, we can not tie ourselves to one or the other.
Our position is clear and was made clear by me in a statement that I made in this House. We will keep all our options open. We will not be affected by pressure groups because we will act in the interests that we deem to be those of the people as a whole. So, consequently, we will be watching the problem carefully. I have had several discussions personally with Reserve Bank and Treasury officials. Some of the various alternatives that were put up by officials and by economists have been considered. But I can assure the honourable member that we will have one concern only, that is, the interest of the total of the Australian people.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The right honourable gentleman will know that petrol is sold in Townsville at the same price as in the State capitals. I ask him: What attempts have been made in pursuit of decentralisation to have, for instance, wheat and steel sold in Townsville at the same price as in the State capitals, each of which except Perth is closer to another capital than Townsville is to Brisbane?
– There are a number of f.o.b. ports in Australia at which common pricing policies do apply. I am not sure what the circumstances are in relation to the commodities that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, but I will certainly find out for him. The actual pricing policy for steel is a matter for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to determine itself. I will find out for the honourable . gentleman and let him know whether the benefit in this respect is conferred on Townsviile.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Because of the extent of our overseas balances - I believe that these are at record levels - I ask the right honourable gentleman where these overseas balances are mainly held? Will w« have to meet large contingent losses if and when the United States dollar is eventually devalued? We suffered great losses when sterling was devalued in 1967. What protective monetary devices can be used to ensure the safety of our hard earned overseas balances?
– For many years the Government has been spreading our overseas reserves as widely as practicable. Consequently, wc have our reserves not only in gold, in the gold tranche of the International Monerary Fund, but also in sterling, in US dollars and in at least 2 other currencies. We have taken these steps in order to ensure that should there be a devaluation then its effect would be minimised because of the wide spread that we have. But the honourable gentleman also has to recognise that we have other objectives. First of all, we have commitments in other countries. In other words, we have indebtedness in those countries which have to be balanced by deposits. So frequently, if there is a change in the exchange rate, what we gain in one way we lose in another way, and the : loss overall is not particularly great. Secondly, the distribution of reserves that we now have appears to me to be the optimum. We have looked at this matter on frequent occasions, but my officials cannot advise me of a better way in which we can place our overseas reserves.
– Will the Minister for the Army, subsequent to his assurance that all troops will be home from Vietnam for Christmas, and bearing in mind that some Western Australian servicemen have been advised that they will have to travel from Townsville in Queensland to Western Australia by train and that they will arrive in Western Australia after Christmas, either arrange earlier departure dates from Townsville to ensure that Western Australian servicemen arrive home for Christmas or arrange air transport so that families and servicemen will not be disappointed? Further, will he give assurances that all troops will in fact be provided with transport within Australia which will allow them to be reunited with their families for Christmas Day?
– I regret to say that I could not hear all parts of the honourable member’s question, but I think the essential part of it was that he wanted to be assured that the majority of troops will be home in time for Christmas.
Opposition members - All troops:
– Honourable members opposite have already been advised by the Prime Minister in his statement that most of the combat elements will be home by Christmas. They have subsequently, been advised by myself and by the Minister for Defence of the forces that will be remaining and what they will be undertaking during the few months for which they remain in Vietnam after Christmas. Honourable members opposite also have been advised in relation to those troops whom we are endeavouring to have home by Christmas. We mean by that that we hope to have them embarked and home with their families by that time. The methods which we will need to use to do this will be covered by the normal financial arrangements as agreed to by other departments. But honourable members opposite can be assured that we will do all in our power to have those who arrive in Australia before 25th December with their families on that date.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Have Japanese purchases of coking coal decreased considerably in the last 3 months? Will this have a serious effect on the operation of our coalmines and the coalmining industry? Can the Minister advise on the current situation?
– I am afraid that I have not the figures relating to orders that have been delivered during the last 3 months, but I assume that the honourable member is referring principally to the shipment of coal from ports in New South Wales. The total figures for the last few months have shown some slight increase over the previous 3 months when there had been a downturn in the orders that were being delivered. One of the problems at the present time is that there has been a falling off in the steel industry in Japan. This has meant some slowing’ down in the Japanese taking up orders which have already been placed in Australia, and also some stockpiling at ports and at pit heads for a temporary period. That situation has been overcome to some degree over the last couple of months, and the understanding is that the new but lower base that has now been established for deliveries in the future will be maintained. On present indications these deliveries will be under the estimates which have previously been given for the period up to 1975. However, we expect that the base that has now been established will be maintained, with some possibility of its improving over the next 2 years.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education and Science. Did the Senate of the University of Sydney decide yesterday to increase student fees by an average of $70, or 161 percent, for the 1972 academic year? Is this decision likely to be the catalyst for Australia-wide increases in university fees? Does the Government take a serious view of the rising economic barrier to higher education? If so, will steps be taken to give such financial assistance to universities as will make further increases in fees unnecessary?
-The honourable member would know that the question of the fees imposed at a particular university - a State university - would be a matter either for that university itself or for the university and the State Government concerned. The Commonwealth’s support of State universities is not affected by the level of fees. The contribution forthcoming from the State is affected because we match on a $1 for $1.85 formula the total of fees plus whatever the State Treasury contribution might be. This is therefore a matter that is within the province of the university concerned or of that university and the State Government.
I do not accept that there are rising economic barriers against young people studying at universities or at colleges of advanced education. There have been - if not in every year in very many years - very substantial increases in scholarships of different kinds from the Commonwealth and from the States - State teacher training studentships in particular. If the honourable member were to check I think he would find that there are now record numbers pf scholarships available from Commonwealth sources, very substantial numbers of State studentships from State sources and a higher proportion - I do not want to be held entirely to ransom for saying this but I think my memory is right - of students- at universities on Commonwealth scholarships than has been the case in the past. I will check on that. If it is not correct I will let the honourable member know. But I am pretty certain that my memory is right. So the Commonwealth has acted in these matters. The living allowances and other provisions under Commonwealth scholarships have steadily increased also as costs and other things have risen.
The honourable member seems to share with some other members of the Australian Labor Party the philosophy that it is all right for some things in the community continually to rise, namely, wages but that the cost of other things, namely, services and the various provisions made by government should remain static. That is just not a reasonable proposition. If a situation exists in which the costs of running universities and other institutions and the provisions made by the States are to increase considerably on an annual basis because of very substantial increases in wage levels it is unreasonable to expect the cost of providing those services to the community - in this case the cost of providing higher education - to remain as it was in earlier times when wages and other matters were at very much lower levels. I think the honourable member would help the situation if he were to direct his plea for restraint not only to the universities but also to other sections of the community as well.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House why the Australian Wool Commission is offering PAP - price averaging plan - wool at auction to the exclusion of growers’ wool? Would it not be better to clear the growers’ wool and to allow the PAP wool to remain in stock?
– I am not quite sure what lies behind the honourable gentleman’s question. My understanding is that PAP wool is growers’ wool. Consequently, no matter what label it comes under, it is all wool that is owned by growers that is being offered at auction. However, I would be delighted if the honourable gentleman or anyone else were to put in a few bids at the auction. I can assure honourable members that, whatever the category of wool, we are looking for buyers.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As this Government assures us that Australia is: primarily concerned with the democratisation of Vietnam, did Australia have observers in that country to witness the conduct of the recent presidential election? Can he inform the House whether separate ballot boxes were used by those who wished to vote for and those who wished to vote against the only candidate? Is it true that in order to regain their identity cards citizens had to attend at a polling place and cast a vote? If these allegations are true would they not account for the high percentage of citizens who turned out to vote?
– I have no wish to make any comment about the election conducted in South Vietnam. This was a problem for the South Vietnamese Government and my Government does not believe in poking its nose into other people’s domestic affairs. Equally I have no desire whatever to defend the system of voting that was used there but I can repeat what one of my colleagues said overseas in recent days: We cannot expect the same high sense of feeling towards democracy to exist in some Asian countries as exists here. It is my great hope and great wish that the Opposition will recognise that democracy is. critically important to us and that if it wants democracy to succeed here it should get rid of the incubus that surrounds it compelling it to vote according to a policy determined by the biennial conferences of the Australian Labor Party and by persuasion from the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– What about your own Party?
– There are no compulsions on us. As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, we deliberately refrained from sending observers to Vietnam because of the way in which we knew the election would be conducted.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Swan. I agree that when the Australian troops return from Vietnam they should be sent home as early as possible for Christmas. However, will the Prime Minister ensure that when the Army returns to Australia it is given some form of acclaim . by the Australian public and is not just allowed to disband? Will he ensure that either a full scale review or a march past in the capital cities is undertaken so that the Australian people can give acclaim for a military job well done?
– I agree with the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question that the members of the Australian military forces who have served in South Vietnam have done a remarkably good job. As one who has been there on several occasions it is my belief that they are the finest troops that have ever been there. As a consequence of that we should be certain that there is a nationwide review or a march past, if either can be arranged, in the various capital cities where the troops will be stationed temporarily. I will take this matter up immediately with the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army arid, if necessary, with the other Service Ministers to see what can be done.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. By way of explanation I mention that I have received a letter from the General Secretary of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council concerning the work being performed by Japanese technicians in Townsville because it was felt that the same work could be done equally well by local tradesmen. I ask: Is it a fact that Japanese workers are engaged in the construction of television stations and repeater stations in which a fair amount of highly specialised Japanese electronic equipment is used? If so, will the Minister state how many Japanese workers are employed, their classifications, rates of pay and other relevant details of the terms and conditions of their engagement and the circumstances under which they were admitted to Australia.
– From the information given by the honourable gentleman it is not easy to identify positively the employer in question although he may have in mind, as 1 recall it, an employer named the Nippon Co. which was involved in the construction of a microwave link between Townsville and Mount Isa. If that is the company the honourable member has in mind the answer is that the company was given permission to introduce into Australia for a short-term period a general manager and a number of telecommunications engineers in order to complete the project. I might say in reply to the honourable gentleman that it is the policy of the Department of Immigration in cases involving the introduction of specialist labour for short-term periods to check carefully with my own Department, the Department of Labour and National Service. Permission for entry is not given unless it is clear that suitable alternative local labour is not available. My understanding from my own Department is that this was the case in relation to the matter which is now under reference. The honourable mem,ber asked a series of other detailed questions relating to rates of pay and conditions of employment. I will ensure that this, information is provided to him and I will send him a letter during the course of the next day or so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior and I refer to the committee comprised of Federal Ministers, members of Northern Territory Legislative Council and departmental officers set up to investigate the granting of greater constitutional powers to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. Can the Minister advise what progress has been made and what plans there are for further discussion?
– The joint study group that was set up by the Government has met on 2 occasions, the last meeting being held in June when the officials appointed by the Government discussed the matter of constitutional reform for the Northern Territory wilh an equal number of members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council.
The Government has decided that the Ministers’ meeting requested by the councilors should be granted if it is sought after the Legislative Council elections are concluded and when the Legislative Council has been reconstituted. I have written to the Administrator of the Northern Territory conveying this decision to him so that he might inform the President of the Legislative Council in the immediate future.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. The question’ relates to the crucial need for Commonwealth insurance legislation. May I preface my question by drawing the attention of the Prime Minister to a reply I received from the Treasurer on 7th May 1971 to a question on notice. It reads:
It has not been proved practicable to introduce legislation during the present session, but it hoped that legislation will be ready for introduction during the Budget session.
I ask the Prime Minister:. Is he aware of a report tabled in the Victorian Parliament last week on the . unscrupulous activities of one of 11 insurance companies, declared bankrupt over the past 18 months? Is this due to the ineptitude of the Government in not providing adequate legislation? Will the Minister give an assurance .that the proposed legislation his Treasurer., promised 5 months ago will be introduced into this House during this session?
– My attention has been drawn to a report relating to the East Australian Co. Ltd to which I presume the honourable gentleman refers and, also to the action taken in New South Wales by the Workers Compensation Commission in respect of the Fire and All Risks Insurance Co. Ltd in that State and one other company the name of which I cannot remember. It is true that my colleague, the former Prime Minister, gave an assurance that the Government would introduce legislation relating to general assurance. What I want to point out is that the case of the East Australian Company Ltd arose over 12 months ago. It .. was one of the companies in relation to which we were informed and it was a decisive element in making up our minds that there should be legislation on general assurance. I am informed, too, from my personal inquiries that a general assurance Act is an extremely difficult one for the Commonwealth to frame.
Negotiations between the States and the insurance companies are proceeding at an intensive pace. The officials and the parliamentary draftsmen are doing all they can to have legislation introduced at the earliest practicable moment. I have pushed as strenuously as I can to see that the matter is hastened. But I cannot give the House any assurance at all that the Bill will be introduced during the course of the next few weeks. I am trying to see that it will be introduced during this session of Parliament and permitted to stand over until the autumn session.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Has the new voluntary code to restrict television advertising of cigarettes to young people come into force? Does this code frown on advertising of cigarettes between 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.? Is it a fact that a recent survey by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board showed that a high proportion of 13-year olds are watching television as late as 9.30 p.m.?. In these circumstances does the Minister think that the voluntary code is a serious attempt to reduce the exposure of young people to advertising of this drug of addiction which is a known health hazard?
– The television advertising of cigarettes and tobacco in Australia has been a controversial matter for a very long time. The selling and the use of cigarettes and tobacco have never been prohibited by any government. Since commercial television organisations depend upon advertising revenue to conduct their operations, it is believed by the Government that there should be no prohibition on advertising of cigarettes and tobacco. The Government has been advised through the Department of Health, which in turn has received advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the views . which have been expressed have been taken into consideration by the Government. Discussions have taken place between the Department of Health, the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board and the cigarette and tobacco companies. The latter have developed a voluntary code which was brought into operation on 1st October. I should like to let the honourable member have a copy of the new code.
Included in it is a requirement that there should not be advertising of cigarettes and tobacco in close proximity to children’s programmes but in any case that there should not be a telecasting of this advertising between 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. The honourable gentleman asked whether the Board indicated that 37 per cent of 13-year olds are watching television at 9.30 p.m. The answer, of course, is yes. But I do not believe that this necessarily has a relationship because, as has been explained by the Board and by me, the Broadcasting Control Board believes that adults substantially undertake viewing from 7.30 p.m. onwards and that the responsibility for children watching television after that hour lies with parents. It is not the responsibility of the Broadcasting Control Board or the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. The question does not concern the insurance proposal promised in September last year by the former Prime Minister but another proposal promised by the former Prime Minister during the election campaign in October last year, namely, the proposal to establish a rural finance insurance corporation. I ask him when the House can expect to receive a Bill on this subject, which also is within the constitutional power of this Parliament, which also was promised more than a year ago by the Gorton Government, and which also has been more than ever justified by events in the meantime.
– I am not fully conversant with the problem of the proposed rural insurance corporation. I will find out and let the honourable gentleman know.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy. In view of the apparent lack of security at the Williamstown Dockyard and other naval establish ments, which has been mentioned by the Minister, and the fact that new naval ships are under discussion, why does not the Government make a clean sweep of personnel at the Dockyard and employ men who are not security risks? If this cannot be done, why should this equipment be produced in Australia?
– I think it is necessary to get in proportion the picture that I presented recently. We have in our Dockyard a great preponderance of men who are loyal and extremely capable. I have delighted recently in going to presentations of awards to apprentices who I believe, have given evidence that their capabilities are equal to those of any other young men of this group in the world. The workmanship of our Dockyard is something of which we are proud. Hence the suggestion of a clean sweep is, I think, a little extravagant.
However, security relating to new naval construction is a matter of concern, as I said recently, because ali reports indicate that there are in the Dockyard a number of men whose allegiance would be to the Communist Party as well as to this country. I have assumed that they would claim that it was in both quarters. When we see events such as Australia being embarrassed by having to bring Centurion tanks back to Australia by means of the shipping of another nation because our own waterside workers refuse to unload tanks not going to Vietnam but coming back to add materially to the defence capacity of this country, I believe there is added reason for concern at the presence in our work force of men who openly claim to be and are leaders of the Communist movement.
It is this to which I have referred and which is a continuing problem, but the people of this country have seen fit to indicate that they believe the Communist Party should be regarded as a legitimate political entity or rather that it should not be outlawed. There is therefore no legal process whereby one can discriminate and thereby dispense with the services of a person simply because he is a member of the Communist Party. If this is not so, then there are certainly industrial reasons why it should have to be demonstrated that the work performance of these men was not acceptable. Of course, 1 am not referring to work of a classified nature.
Certainly in that case we are able to exercise discretion, but a lot more things can happen in terms of detrimentally affecting the Navy’s performance and the work of the Dockyard than things which have direct relationship to classified and secret equipment. la the ordinary work of the Dockyard there can be the frustration of continual industrial unrest adding materially to’ our costs and setting back our schedules. This is a problem that must be looked at over a wide perspective and I believe it is one of the major problems that confront this country in terms of its naval defence construction programme.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the fact that restrictions apply to many Aboriginals in remote areas in applying for and receiving unemployment benefit if they are not in employment, what is the criterion laid down by the Department before these Aboriginals qualify for receipt, of unemployment benefits?
– The procedure and the criteria in regard to Aboriginals are exactly the same as for other Australians.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether the causeway project at Garden Island in Cockburn Sound will be completed on schedule? Can he say also whether naval base development projects are planned to proceed at the completion of the causeway project? If so, can the Minister indicate when such works will proceed and what is involved?
– The causeway project is up to date; indeed, it is ahead of schedule. It is planned that the project will be completed by mid 1973. This will mean that Garden Island will be linked to the. mainland in such a way that the rest of the project, which it is envisaged will accommodate several submarines and destroyer escorts, will certainly be able to be completed on time. Of course, this is related to the fact that there exist overall necessities for the operations ‘ of our fleet and the men and equipment which will be provided for the base. The whole progress of this operation is taking place, I believe, completely satisfactorily and 1975 should see the base fit for operation in the first phase of its development. The naval base is a project that will grow and continue to expand in importance and significance as the nation expands. I take this opportunity to point out that the construction of a major naval base is not just a matter of providing a support facility such as the one we are engaged upon in Cockburn Sound but, as with Garden Island, we must rely upon a great industrial infrastructure which is essential to the whole work of equipping the fleet. This infrastructure, is presently situated at our major dockyards in the 2 largest Australian cities. As Perth and Fremantle grow and as the engineering facilities and other capabilities of the State expand, so I confidently expect the naval capabilities of Cockburn Sound to expand.
– As one who intends to live to 100, provided I do not die in the meantime, I ask the Prime Minister a question about life assurance legislation. Firstly, will he initiate an inquiry into the provisions of the Life Assurance Act of 1949, which is now 22 years old, with a view to introducing amendments, if this is thought desirable, to its provisions so that policy holders will receive greater benefits than are prescribed in that legislation? Secondly, will he have an investigation made into the desirability of extinguishing the rights of private companies to engage in life assurance because under the Act as I understand it a private company can take 20 per cent of the profits - although they do not take anything like that amount - and so that people insured with such companies shall have greater benefits than they can now obtain?
– As to the first part of the question, I will make inquiries immediately with the Treasury and ask that it submit a report to me. As to the second part of the right honourable gentleman’s question, I think the private life assurance companies in Australia have done a really worthwhile job and, from the information that was submitted to me in my last year as Treasurer, I think it will be found that in most cases those companies are at least the equal of overseas corporations.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Navy. I refer to the search for the crew of the 7- man vessel ‘One and All’ missing off the east coast of Australia, ls the Minister in a position to confirm or deny that the vessel sailed without seaworthy certification by the Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine? Secondly, will the Minister assure the House that the search for the survivors will not be abandoned while hope still exists?
– I think this question more properly would be addressed to the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– I do not know the correct answer to the first part of the question but I will make it my business to find the answer for the honourable member. With respect to the search that has been going on for the ketch ‘One and AH’ I would like to inform him of the latest position. On Tuesday, 5th October, at 11.16 a.m. in a position about SO miles north of Middleton Reef an orange object about 2 feet to 3 feet in diameter was sighted by a searching Orion aircraft. The HMAS ‘Otway’ was immediately requested to proceed to the area, where she arrived at 8 o’clock last night. At 2.20 p.m. yesterday, a few miles from that sighting a hatchboard or box 8 feet by 6 feet and three 8 feet hatchboards and a yellow plastic bottle were sighted by the search aircraft scattered over an area of one mile.
The United States destroyers ‘Edson’ and ‘Lang’, which were en route to Brisbane and New Zealand joined ‘Otway’ in searching at 2 o’clock this morning. But with the exception of the sighting of one piece of broken timber by ‘Otway’, no contact with debris has been made. The 2 American destroyers were to break off the search and proceed on voyage at about 10.30 a.m. today. Two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft are searching an area of 2,000 square miles flying legs 3 miles apart, which will give a 90 per cent security clearance of the search area. The weather in the area is good, with light southerly winds and excellent visibility except for occasional passing showers. This debris has been sighted more than 50 miles from the position of probability and it must be emphasised that it cannot at this time be positively identified as coming from ‘One and AH’, but the search is still proceeding.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry tell the House what is the present level and value of the wool stockpile held by the Australian Wool Commission? Have substantial purchases on behalf of overseas countries, including Russia, been sought by direct negotiation with the Commission and have some sales been not approved by the Government? If so, will the Minister outline the Government’s guidelines and restrictions which apply to the Commission’s commercial transactions and which in one case negatived a move and possible sale to the value of $8m?
– 1 was interested some time ago to read a Press release by the honourable gentleman which related to alleged facts of this order. Like so many of the other pronouncements of the honourable gentleman, I think it emanated more from his imagination than from reality. The circumstances of selling wool held by the Australian Wool Commission are that the Commission has endeavoured to open contacts with a number of countries through other countries who have buying and broking associations with such countries.
At this stage preliminary negotiations have been entered into with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics but no final arrangements to purchase wool have been made, nor has any embargo been placed by the Government on such arrangements. At the same time an arrangement has been made between the Government and the Australian Wool Commission that they should as far as possible maintain the levels of wool prices that are at the moment established at open auction.
The problem that is facing the Australian Wool Commission in realising its wool stocks at the moment is that there has been, mainly on the part of private buyers as I understand it, a tendency to quote -prices somewhat below those ruling at auction. Consequently, whereas there might be some possibility of negotiating contracts if this were not so, those with whom there might be a capability of entering into some arrangement are offering prices very much below those ruling at auction. The whole question of .what is a reasonable price for wool obviously is one With some considerable complexity. It is true that, as a result of the buying policies of the Australian Wool Commission and the maintenance of the reserve price established as from 8th January last, quite considerable quantities of wool had been purchased and, from Easter till June, there were substantial quantities of that wool sold at auction and released back into the normal wool pipeline. The position at the moment is that the Australian Wool Commission released details of the amount of wool that it had acquired. I think,’ as at the end of last season. From time to time it will make releases as to the quantities of wool that it holds. There is no intention on my part to do other than leave it to the Commission to make its announcements as to the level of stocks it holds according to its normal commercial function.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for National Development) - Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 19 J 5-1970, I present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with the Commission’s financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements, statements of gaugings during the year, furnished on behalf pf the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria and statements of diversions during the year, furnished on behalf of the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
; - Pursuant to section 30 of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949-1968, I present the twenty-third annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the year ended 30th June 1971 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on these statements. .
– Pursuant to section 11 of the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act 1969, I present the annual statement on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of certain action that the Government has taken in regard to Australia’s participation in the third replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association, or IDA as it . is commonly called. Honourable members will recall that in May of this year Parliament approved legislation authorising Australia to contribute a further sum equivalent to $US48m to IDA over a period of 3 years commencing in 1971-72, in accordance with the agreement previously reached between various countries regarding the third replenishment of the resources of that institution. This agreement, however, is subject to the explicit condition that it will not enter into effect unless and until at least 12 developed member countries with subscriptions and contributions totalling not less than SUS 1,900m have formally notified IDA that they have taken all the steps necessary to enable them to make the payments designated for them. In practice, this means thai the agreement cannot become effective unless and until it is ratified by the United States. lt was hoped that this condition would be satisfied by 1st July, by which time IDA had exhausted all its existing commitment authority. The position at that date, however, was that 10 developed member countries, including Australia, with subscriptions and contributions totalling SUS 1, 008m had given the requisite formal notifications to IDA. Although the United States Administration had commenced proceedings to have Congress pass the necessary legislation to authorise payment of the subscription and contribution totalling $US960m for that country, action on this matter had not then been completed and indeed still remains outstanding.
This left IDA in the position where it had to curtail its previous rate of lending substantially, since there was no guarantee that funds would be made available to it when needed to finance new projects approved after 1st July. A similar situation occurred 3 years ago when the second exercise to replenish IDA’s resources was held up for 12 months due to a delay by the United States Congress in ratifying the relevant agreement. Then, IDA was able to carry on only because a number of countries, including Australia, agreed to make voluntary contributions to it in advance of the second replenishment formally entering into effect.
In view of the critical importance of IDA to the many developing countries with pressing external debt servicing problems and a limited capacity to service additional borrowings overseas on commercial terms, the President of IDA, Mr McNamara, appealed to individual developed member countries recently to make voluntary contributions to IDA in advance of the third replenishment formally entering into effect. That IDA has been able to continue its lending activities since July has been largely due to the fact that a number of countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan and Yugoslavia, have responded to this request and agreed to make such voluntary contributions to IDA.
As. . has been previously stated in this House, Australia continues to hold IDA in high regard as an effective and efficient aid institution. It is by far the largest agency lending on concessional terms in the world today. It has been of particular benefit to developing countries in our own part of the world. In the past, about three-quarters of all IDA lending has gone to countries in the Asian region, including in particular India, Pakistan and Indonesia. There is no need for me to emphasise the importance of these countries to Australia, or our interests in helping them to develop their economies and raise the living standards of their populations, in future. It is also likely that Papua New Guinea will benefit from the third replenishment of IDA’s resources. So far, Papua New Guinea has received loans and credits totalling $US45m from the World Bank group. Further proposals to borrow from these institutions on the Territory’s behalf are under consideration at the present time.
With these considerations in mind, line Government decided that Australia should join the other countries I have mentioned in making a voluntary contribution to IDA equivalent to the first annual instalment - $US16m - of our commitment under the third replenishment exercise, subject to the explicit understanding that this contribution would be duly credited against Australia’s obligations under the relevant agreement when it enters into effect. I might add that because of the usual lag between commitments and disbursements of funds by IDA, this action is not expected to add to the burdens on the Commonwealth Budget in the current financial year. IDA is not short of funds at the present time. What it is seeking is authority to enter into additional commitments which will require outlays in the future.
The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) announced the Government’s decision on this matter during his address to the annual meeting of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - and its 2 affiliates, IDA and the International Finance Corporation - in Washington on 29th September.
The International Development Association (Further Payment) Act 1971 which was passed in May provides sufficient legislative authority for Australia to make such a voluntary contribution to IDA without further recourse to Parliament. However, I thought it only right and proper to inform honourable members of the Government’s decision and to give some account of the considerations which lay behind it. I present the following paper:
Voluntary Contribution to IDA by AustraliaMinisterial Statement, 6th October 1971.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Just briefly, I should like for once to praise the Government for its action in this direction. This is one of the very few occasions on which the Government seems to be acting independently, before waiting for the United States of America to act. During the weekend 1 happened to read the annual report of these organisations which were tabled in this House last week, and in many respects they are very depressing as far as the future provision of international aid to the underdeveloped countries is concerned. 1 refer particularly to page 49 of the annual report of the World Bank. After referring to an inquiry being inaugurated by the World Bank, the report states:
Barring a major reversal of recent trends in the volume, compositions and terms of capital flows to the developing countries, little significant increase can be expected over the next decade in the net transfer figure of roughly $5 billion, excluding equity investments . .
I think it is a most regrettable situation that the great country of the United States is so reluctant to advance its proper share to the International Development Association and I think it serves to highlight the kinds of international currency and trade difficulties that confront us at the present time. It is this slowness of acting in the face of a crisis which makes the situation even far worse than it ought to be. As the Minister for the Army and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Peacock) pointed out, the principle beneficiaries of IDA have been our neighbours particularly India. Pakistan and Indonesia. To my mind, IDA is the best of this team of international organisations because it advances money on what are called ‘soft terms’, that is low. no or nominal rates of interest.
I think that all of us in recent days have been impressed by the number of public demands that have come to us directly and indirectly for Australia to give greater aid in the immediate and appalling circumstances in East Pakistan. I do not deny that the Government has not used its good offices where it can. I realise that the problem in East Pakistan is not primarily one of money: it is one of taking scarce resources to a place where it is very difficult to apply them. Of course, this is ultimately one of the reasons why the progress of primitive economies to something more substantial is a slow one. But nevertheless such financial aid as other countries cangive to enable these underdeveloped countries to acquire techniques, capital assistance, consumer goods and so on is welcomed and 1 should like to com mend the Government, at any rate, on having heeded the request from Mr McNamara who said: ‘Do not wait until the big fellows put in. You put in and it will help us in our immediate and difficult circumstances’.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill 1971.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1971.
Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill 1971.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendment - ;
Payroll Tax (Termination of Commonwealth Tax) Bill 1971.
Payroll Tax (Territories) Assessment Bill 1971.
Without requests -
Payroll Tax (Territories) Bill 1971.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the 58th conference of the InterParliamentary Union held at The Hague between 1st and 9th October 1970. I move:
Mr Speaker, as the deputy leader of the Australian delegation at the InterParliamentary Union conference at The Hague and also as one of the Council representatives at the meeting which took place in Monaco in the Australian autumn of last year, I should like to thank those people who assisted the delegation. I refer first to Mr Bowen of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who was the adviser to the delegation on policy matters. I wish also to mention Mr Alan Cumming Thom, who was secretary of the delegation to The Hague, Mr Colin McDonald, Charge d’ Affaires at the Australian Embassy at The Hague, and his staff also provided a very large amount of assistance to the Australian delegation.
Having said that, I would like to point out to the House - 1 do not intend to go into the actual details of the report - the fact that Australian delegations are generally placed at a severe disadvantage because they do not have any continuing representation at these conferences. Most delegations from other countries have some continuing representation which enables the members of those delegations to be more fully acquainted with the personnel involved at and the operations of InterParliamentary Union conferences. I think it would be of value to the Australian delegation if it had some degree of continuity of representation at these conferences. 1 think the greatest value of these conferences is that they enable members of parliament to converse with each other on matters which affect parliament and parliamentarians. Some of the more interesting debates which took place at The Hague - from my point of view anyhow - were on the various concepts of democratic government and parliamentary democracy represented at that conference. About 56 member groups comprising some 478 delegates were present at The Hague. The number of member groups present was reduced by, I think, about five because of the death of President Nasser almost immediately before the start of the conference. The various Arab nation delegations which were in mourning for the President of the United Arab Republic withdrew from the conference.
One thing which struck me - it took place at the spring meeting and not at the conference - was the manner in which the delegations from quite different ideologies were able to get together and bring forward draft resolutions which were acceptable to the whole of the conference. Whilst some Western nations may regard the decisions taken at these conferences as not being decisions of great importance they are nevertheless decisions which have been made by parliamentarians representing their parliaments and, especially with the Eastern bloc nations, the decisions are taken quite seriously.. It would appear from the level of assistance provided by the United States of America and some other Western countries that those countries also consider the decisions taken at these conferences to be of some importance. Very heated debates took place on the situation in the Middle East and on other matters, but it was always possible to come forward with recommendations which were adopted almost unanimously. I think that this spirit of co-operation could be widened if more consultation took place between not the people who administer the forms of government but those who are directly responsible for the decision making in the various parliaments. 1 mean by that the members of the various parliaments.
I do not intend to delay the House much longer, but I would like to make one other suggestion. I understand that the practice of providing officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs to delegations on a continuing basis has been discontinued. I would like to suggest that some consideration be given to involving the research staff of the Parliamentary Library in these conferences in an advisory capacity. The delegations that represent Australia are drawn from the Australian Parliament and not from the Australian Government. I think it would be of advantage to not only the research staff of the Parliamentary Library but also the Australian delegations themselves if advisers who were independent of Government policy but who were equally well informed were able to accompany the delegations to these conferences. It would also be of value to those people who are doing research work and providing material for members of this Parliament if they were able to make contact with the various people who attend these conferences. [ think it would be one way of broadening the outlook of the Parliament. It would increase the degree of independence of Australian delegations.
Finally, 1 would also like to mention those people who prepared the various briefs which were presented to the delegates at this conference. The amount .of information which was provided to us was of extreme value. I would request members of the Parliament to have a look through the record of the various debates which were held. Some very interesting points of view were expressed. I think it would be of interest to honourable members to examine the different points of view which were expressed, especially those view* on the structures and operations of Parliament which were expressed by people from countries which practise forms of parliamentary democracy different from ours and which have different ideological understandings of democracy. It was very educational to me to learn that we are not the only people who believe we have the best system of government.
Motion (by Mr Giles) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I want to say one or two things. This matter will never come on again for debate. It states on today’s blue business sheet that a debate on this subject may proceed. I want two or three moments to say something.
– Order! The question is ‘That the debate be now adjourned’. Those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no.
Opposition members - No.
– I want a division.
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr Hallett)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 October (vide page 1908), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr Patterson had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: while not opposing the Bill, this House is of the opinion that a single national marketing authority should be established which will be the sole authority responsible for the export marketing of Australian apples and pears and which will administer, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme’.
– We are dealing with an Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill but the debate has ramifications beyond just apples and pears. I would draw attention to the terms of the amendment which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) moved. They are: . . while not opposing the Bill, this House is of the opinion that a single national marketing authority should be established which will be the sole authority responsible for the export marketing of Australian apples and pears and which will administer, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme.
What we have said is that it is our considered opinion that there should be a national marketing authority and we have invited all members of Parliament to join us in this expression of opinion. It is not a matter of supporting the Government as all honourable members opposite or their predecessors have done for 22 years. It is a matter of being members of Parliament and giving expression to a principle. This is a terribly important point because across the countryside at the present time we have very just and correct demands nol only for a national authority to end the petty wrangling between the provinces which are called States but also for a national authority to govern citrus marketing as well as the marketing of apples and pears. We have a great ground swell of opinion in favour of a national meat marketing authority. We have these suggestions put ‘forward. But we also have many honourable members opposite who, when the occasion suits them, pay lip service to this principle. They are being asked today in quite a reasonable way to say as members of Parliament and not as members of their respective political groups hiding behind the Government that this is their opinion. That is all. It does not change the Government’s legislation. All it calls for is an expression of support for a principle which has wide and deep support in every State of the Commonwealth. But what have honourable members opposite tended to say in this debate?
– It is wrong.
– I am delighted to hear the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) say that there is no support for national marketing in his bailiwick among the people he represents. At least he is consistent because he spoke last night on this measure and said that national marketing authorities are more trouble than they are worth, involve too much money and are not good to us at all. He may not have used those words but he knows that that is the impression that his remarks were intended to create. Fair enough; he stands by those remarks today. I hope. that when these great bodies across the nation .go to honourable members opposite , to. put for ward these views and receive the sweet words they will understand that they are getting one answer in their electorate and another answer in the House of Representatives. That is the situation. The honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) told the House that 60 per cent of the agricultural income of Tasmania comes from apples and that the Huon Valley is eminently suited for the production of this crop. Then he said that the growers’ request for a marketing authority raises constitutional and financial difficulties. I might say that he was joined by his friends in this view. They say: “Oh, yes, we will have to have that one day in the future’. It will be one day in the future, but meanwhile 50 per cent of the apple growers in Tasmania are bankrupt and just hanging on. How long are they supposed to hang on . while the Government organises its members and while its members find their courage.
It is a little tiresome to come into. this chamber and to listen to honourable members put up alibis for doing nothing. Fifty per cent of the people they represent are in trouble, yet they come in here and talk of constitutional and financial difficulties and say: ‘By all means let us find the money when they go broke; by all means let us move them off their farms.’ The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) said that growers in his electorate were broke and he asked the Prime Minister for assistance the other day. I suggest that one of the greatest forms of assistance we could have is a proper marketing system, which is desired across the nation.
– 1 have tried to do more than you have for the cannery people.
– I think it is terribly important to have recorded in Hansard the remark of the honourable member for Murray that he did more for his people. Well, God bless him and I hope he keeps doing more for them. But I suggest that now he has found this courage and he has a burst of independence let him demonstrate his courage so that we can see where he stands on this -matter. People are going broke and these are the people who need the assistance and expertise of an orderly marketing system. It is of no use for honourable members to yawn as they sit in
Government in this chamber. I say to them, stay awake and stay with it because what 1 have to say to them is this-
– It is an old Australian custom.
– The honourable member for Angas says that it is an old Australian custom. This is all nonsense. The honourable member should tell his constituents that he came into this chamber and voted against an expression of opinion, not a matter which affects the fall of the Government or a matter which affects the people he has supported for 22 years. I am not cavilling about that but I suggest that honourable members opposite should find their courage and vote on an expression of opinion on a principle. That is all I ask. What I am saying is that here we have a situation where we have invited an expression of opinion. That is all we have asked for. In return all we received was a series of alibis, except from the honourable member for Angas who is directly opposed to our proposal. The honourable member for Denison says to the 50 per cent of the Tasmanian apple growers, who are in serious trouble and who . are on the verge of bankruptcy: ‘Wait, my friends. We will come up with it when we can see our way through the difficulties.’ But in fact in his own State under the authority of the Tasmanian Parliament there was a report from a board of inquiry which stated very clearly and definitely: ‘We recommend the formation of a statutory body.’
Then it has been said in Tasmania that the Premier of that State was so seized with the importance and urgency of this matter that he wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). My colleague, the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) made a very simple inquiry of the Prime Minister. He asked: ‘Have you received the letter?’ The Prime Minister said: ‘I do not recall having received it. I may have and it could be on my desk but I do not know if I have not really got it.’ The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said: ‘Yes, you have.’ That had a very great impact on the 50 per cent of the people of Tasmania who are bankrupt. He had lost the letter. He found it, perhaps. Someone may have it but we do not know. The Tasmanian represen tatives in this Government sit smilingly in their seats while their growers go broke. I think they should be ashamed of themselves. There is no urgency in the matters they have raised. They, did not address themselves to the deficiencies of the scheme. They did not address themselves to the fact that the scheme starts a year behind scratch with cost right away. They did not address themselves to the fact that there are 3 million bushels of fruit swinging in the scheme, They did not suggest what we might do with that fruit, and these are the supporters of the Govern- ment with the expertise and the weight of government with them. What will they i do with the 3 million bushels? . They would have to have monumental jumpers up which to put that amount of fruit.
I am a bit saddened because after all this is an industry which is in serious trouble. A committee of inquiry was set up under the authority of the Tasmanian Parliament and in this industry we have people for whom I have deep respect, yet we. have a measure which is obviously inadequate. We have said in a very reasonable way: ‘Let us have it and let us try to improve it.’ What we have said - and again I think we are being reasonable - is that wc are not asking the Government to go back on a decision of its caucus or its supporters. We have simply said, for goodness sake admit with us that something more has to be done. What did honourable members opposite do? They immediately made a political issue out of it. We did not do (his. No honourable member from this side of the House who has spoken in this debate has said this. The honourable member for Dawson dealt with the facts of the situation. That is ali he did. I think it is about time that there was a little bit of maturity on the Government side in relation to these matters, and I am sorry that there is not. The Minister for Primary Industry went to Tasmania and he was widely reported as issuing a warning to the Tasmanian fruit industry. I will quote a report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which I think is usually accepted as being reliable when it reports statements by Ministers. It reads:
The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, has warned the Tasmanian fruit industry that unless it improves handling techniques, Commonwealth aid to assist in freight increases would become impossible to justify’.
This is what the Minister said when speaking at the conference of the Tasmanian Apple and Pear Growers’ Federation. That article went on:
It must review marketing and handling arrangements from wharf to point of sale. It must also review all aspects of the call-up and loading of fruit, the utilisation of cargo and minimum quantities to shipping mark and bill of lading’, he said.
This is tremendously good advice but who can do this - the growers in the Huon Valley, the Federation or that conference? Obviously there is only one body which could implement this very desirable recommendation of the Minister himself, and that is a statutory authority. Of course it is. This is a reasonable position and the reality of the situation. The Minister has said: ‘All right, these things need to be done’. I accept the Minister’s assessment. No doubt he was well advised on this occasion. But he said to the growers: ‘You must do it’. The growers have said very plainly: ‘We want a statutory authority and we want it to help us to do these things’. The growers have said to the Tasmanian Government: ‘We want this. Will you try to bring it about’? The Tasmanian Government, as I understand it - and it is very difficult to understand the Tasmanian Government but I give it the benefit of the doubt - said that it also supports the growers and it has asked the Commonwealth to show some initiative. Once again Government supporters say that it is up to the growers. This is absurd, and I think the Government supporters know this, lt is a form of procrastination. It is of no use to proceed along these lines. Of course financial outlays will be involved.
After all, what are we faced with at the present time in our rural industries? We are at present faced with outlays for rural reconstruction. We are faced with real losses in terms of people not producing or being unemployed. The banking system - and I am not terribly concerned about the banking system because it seems to be doing quite well without my assistance - has a stake with the pastoral finance companies amounting to about $2, 000m. It can be seen that a lot of people are involved. Surely to goodness we are not asking for too much. When I say ‘we’ I speak on behalf of the growers. I will show why I have said these things on their behalf in a moment. It is not only on behalf of my own growers but also on behalf of the people in the Huon Valley. Surely it is not asking too much to say to the Federal Government: ‘For once show some initiative’.
I have just said that I feel I can speak with some sincerity and some knowledge of growers’ problems, apart from my own involvement in the Riverina district in the production of apples and pears. At the invitation of my distinguished colleague, the honourable member for Franklin, I went to Tasmania and I went from Rich*mond where the honourable member lives down to and right through the Huon Valley. I visited properties and I was told by the people on those properties what their problems were and what their cost situation was. I attended a meeting of about 300 apple growers ot Geeveston, which is a delightful spot. The growers at that meeting were not there for any party political purpose. They were there simply to express their thoughts as individuals and the thoughts of their industry as it is organised. They said what they hoped would be done for their industry which, as has been pointed out, earns 60 per cent of all the export income of Tasmania as far as agriculture is concerned. They were quite definite. They said they wanted a statutory marketing authority.
– There was not one dissenting voice.
– There was not one dissenting voice, as my colleague says. The growers at that meeting said that they had approached the Tasmanian Government and as far as they could understand their State Government - they were quite blunt; they did not have the greatest confidence in it - that Government also supported the growers’ view and presented it to the Prime Minister and the Federal Government. The growers also pointed out that their burdens were growing. One grower, a very efficient grower whom I would be very proud to have in my electorate, said that he was now spending in a single year $7,000 on spray materials. That is a tremendous investment. He asked why he as an Australian and as a Tasmanian could not enjoy the same assistance as his New Zealand competitors did. The Minister for Primary Industry told me in answer to a question in August of this year that the majority of insecticides and fungicidesused by New Zealand orchardists are imported duty free and this is an arrangement by the New Zealand Government which in some cases results in our competitors in New Zealand receiving spray materials at a cost as much as SO per cent !ess than our own people do. They asked only for that. When h came to shipping they were confronted with the monopoly situation on the Australian waterfront. I refer to the shipping conference monopoly. They went from one monopoly to another. Again they said: ‘Why could not our national Government display something of the enterprise even of the New Zealand Government which moved in an effective way to reduce freights on apples and pears from New Zealand which resulted in a saving of $800,000 a year? Why could not our national Government for once, even in its old age and decline, have used this sort of initiative?’ We have not seen this sort of initiative but there is no reason why we should not ask for it. There is no reason why the Government should not give this sort of consideration to the problem.
It has been said in relation to the overall problem that perhaps 25,000 tons of pears could go to waste in the Goulburn Valley - drop on the ground and rot. Surely there is a need for an overall national programme, as I said with some emotion at - the beginning of my speech. I think I could be pardoned for showing some emotion in these matters. - lt does not give me great pleasure to go to industry after industry, group after group and family after family to find them asking questions to which we are not given answers in the national Parliament. One of the things which is obvious in our country is that since Federation we have not yet become truly a nation in trade, finance, investment or any of the other major matters. We are still a cluster of petty provinces. This is dramatically so when it comes to marketing fresh fruit.
I said last night in. answer to a Government supporter who was speaking that the same problem arises in relation to citrus fruits. Have honourable members ever seen a group of salesmen of foreign citrus in Asia, for example? If one finds 3 people who are at each other’s throats more than anyone else, these 3 people will probably be identified as 3 Australians from 3 rival areas happily cutting one another’s throats publicly because of the fragmented and stupid way we have marketed for a long time: This is a matter of economic life and death for literally thousands of people in Tasmania - not only the growers but also the people in the towns such as the port of Hobart. Yet the Minister for Primary Industry inexplicably has wiped the Parliament again and has left us. That is not a right and proper procedure. He should be here when his own legislation is being debated, lt is his duty. If he cannot manage his manifold duties then I suggest he should step down and make way for somebody who can. It is not good enough to have this casual kind of approach to a matter which is so vital and essential to the people of a whole State. There has been a long delay in this legislation. We have had legislation that is inadequate on 2 major counts. The first is the cost basis after 2 years.
– Four years.
– The honourable members says 4 years. My goodness, that is an indictment if ever there was one. Four years for a people in trouble, and the best the Government can come up with in answer to the constructive suggestions that the Opposition has made is that it will do something when it overcomes the constitutional difficulties which were not seen by the committee of inquiry that sat in Tasmania and when it overcomes some of the financial difficulties which never seem to exist in matters appertaining to the mining industry, for example. When it comes to these matters for a primary industry, no matter how important it is, we get this very casual approach which has led us into our present trouble. It is still not too late for members of the. Parliament, as distinct from members of the Government, to find their consciences in this matter and to say: Yes, it is right. We will need a national authority. It is our opinion’.
If the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) is not of that opinion, then let him hold it. The only thing I would ask him to do is that when he is asked in his electorate whether he supports it or not, he will be consistent. That goes for each and every member of Parliament whether he is on the other side of the House or on this side. I commend the amendment for all those reasons which I have stated fully with all the sincerity I can muster.
– I was amused to listen to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) taunting members of the Government and challenging us to vote for an opinion. I am not on the list of speakers for this debate but I want to say that the honourable member for Riverina must decide between voting for an opinion and voting for the original motion, because he has no alternative. If he votes for the amendment and it is carried the Bill will not be read a second time and the scheme will be defeated. Is that what he wants? Does he want nothing but an opinion? The motion before the House is that this Bill be now read a second time to which the Opposition has moved an amendment that all words after that’ be deleted with a view to inserting other words. If the amendment is carried the Bill will not be read a second time and therefore will be defeated. So the honourable member asks us to vote for an opinion and to toss out the substance. Of course we will go for the substance.
– I wish to support the amendment moved by the Opposition to this Bill. I dp so because I am concerned about the financial position facing fruit growers in my own electorate in particular at Harcourt and the future of the townspeople whose livelihoods depend so much upon the growers. I have already spoken on the position facing Harcourt. I would merely add in’ general reference to the position of fruit growers in Australia that their incomes are in the vast majority of cases totally inadequate by today’s standards. Costs of all goods and inputs are escalating, and prices andprofits are diminishing. The uncertainty of present overseas markets leaves a large question mark over Australia’s fruit growing areas. This very serious economic position one of stagnation is affecting fruit growing towns and contrasts markedly with rising profits and wages in other sectors of the Australian economy.
Growers are leaving their properties, many of them heavily ensnared in debt which has been aggravated, in the case of Harcourt, by a series of natural disasters including hail, frost, wind and . fire.
Orchards have been bulldozed and properties are up for auction. The employment situation is very grim, and the threat of depopulation hangs over the area.’ The future of Australia’s apple and pear markets is very much in doubt. The United Kingdom takes about 55 per cent of our export apples, which are admitted duty free. But competition from our main rivals South Africa and New Zealand has intensified, and Great Britain’s possible entry into the European Economic Community will mean not only the loss of our concessional entry into the United Kingdom but also the impositionof tariffs on our imports, with the removal of tariffs on exports from the EEC countries. To face these threats, Australia will have to concentrate more on the production of those varieties and sizes of fruits that are most popular in our export markets. It is good that much has already been done in this matter by growers themselves.
It may perhaps also mean that increasing quantities of apples and pears will be used for processing to save them from the hazards of seasonal fluctuations in supply and demand. We will also have to act with more imagination and vigour to diversify our trade outlets in the Asian area to take up the. slack that will arise in the United Kingdom and Europe. I pay tribute to the growers who have already made economies in picking and packing, for example, to reduce costs. But they will always be at the mercy of exporters and shipowners. Against these, only the Government can take effective action. In this context I join with the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) in expressing concern that the support prices in this Government’s stabilisation scheme are related to f.o.b. returns and have no relation in particular to shipping charges. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Government must fight the shipping combine which is now demanding a vicious 24 per cent increase in freight rates. The Government must support the case of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. If the Government does not do this then I believe that it should protect the growers against these savage freight increases by subsidising the freight rates or by including freights as one of the costs in the stabilisation scheme.
There is no doubt that the increases demanded by the shipping lines will almost cripple the export of Australian apples and pears. The increase could mean the addition of about 40c to 50c to the cost of a bushel of fruit. This has come at a time when returns on the 1.5 million pears exported from Victoria last year were only marginal and when the . export of some 645,000 bushels of apples this year will draw on the federal stabilisation scheme to the extent of about 45c to 47c a bushel. Little wonder that Tasmanian growers have been advised that if the freight increases are allowed it will be worthless, indeed ruinous, for many growers to export their fruit. It would be more advisable to let the fruit rot on the trees. I stress that it costs approximately $6.24 to put a case of apples on sale in England, that is, from the Australian grower to the shop in the United Kingdom, but of this, $3.33 is eaten up in shipping and marketing charges. This is the sacrifice that the Australian apple and pear growers have to make.
I would like to refer briefly to the formula of stabilisation in the Government scheme in which a maximum of 80c a bushel is the maximum support for a total of 4.4 million bushels sold at risk. The Bill allows for a review of the support price but not for the rate of stabilisation. I believe this is a very unrealistic situation and it can only mean greater hardship for growers in (he future. Why was the figure of 4.4 million chosen? After all, some 70 per cent of apples and 45 per cent of pears are exported at risk these days. There is every reason to believe that the level of exports will continue to be around 10 million bushels. The amount exported on consignment this year was around 7.5 million bushels. So where does this leave the maximum offer of 80c, which sounds so impressive? As the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pointed out in the debate yesterday any excess above the 4.4 million bushels will diminish the maximum price. This will be totally unrealistic to the Australian producer. Thus, if the support is for 7.5 million bushels and not for 4.4 million bushels then the support to the grower will prove to be about only 47c a bushel if his fruit does not reach the price set in this Bill. This will put growers in a hopeless position.
Australia can give very substantial protection to its secondary industries; it can give a very effective stabilisation plan to wheat growers; and it can provide fairly effective schemes such as the dried fruits stabilisation plan, the dairy industry stabilisation plan and the tobacco stabilisation plan. We can also offer a deficiency payment for wool of quite substantial proportions. Yet the Government so far has refused to give similar security to apple and pear growers. This is why the Opposition believes it is essential that a more realistic figure for the rate of stabilisation should be provided, and accordingly it will move for a review of the rate of stabilisation.
I would like to support also the Opposition’s call for the establishment of a single statutory national marketing authority. I am surprised that so much opposition has been recorded by Government supporters to this proposed amendment. Government supporters continually talk about the growth of bureaucracy and the danger from big brother when such an authority is not only essential for the apple and pear industry but also actively sought by growers themselves. I have never yet heard any Government supporter complain about the bureaucracy and big brother characteristics of the Australian Wheat Board, and very rightly so. Yet they are all now making the same fuss about the establishment of a marketing authority for apples and pears that they made before the establishment of the Wheat Board.
The simple fact is that the present marketing of apples and pears overseas is unco-ordinated, over-complex, archaic and costly. The first victim of this outdated system of private enterprise marketing is the Australian apple and pear grower himself. A multitude of exporters compete with each other or co-operate for private gain in the marketing of this invaluable Australian resource. Some 19 of them are involved in Tasmania alone. In marketing this involves quite unjustifiable extra costs that could be avoided - both in Australia itself and on arrival at the overseas port. We find, for example, that if the fruit is not unitised it may be confused and mingled in storage on board the vessel and may have to be sorted out again on arrival overseas. One could mention that in some cases the comparatively long delay in arranging the packages after they arrive at the port may mean that the fruit arrives at the shop perhaps less attractive than that provided fresh by our foreign competitors. At the same time, it is nonsensical that Australian fruit should be sold overseas Under about 150 brand names. This is private enterprise gone mad. lt is particularly Unjustifiable given the use of one brand name by New Zealand and South Africa whose fruit is exported by a single marketing authority in each case.
Apart from the economy and efficiency that can be obtained by the means mentioned, a single marketing authority could also speak for the entire industry with a single voice and, as the Government has said again and again, this is just what it likes to see and hear. There is no doubt that this would strengthen Australia in its exploitation of present markets and its pursuit of new markets which will be needed in particular if the United Kingdom enters the European Economic Community. Also it would strengthen the fruit industry in its negotiations with shipping lines over freights as all growers would be speaking as one through the authority and the authority would be that much stronger. There is no doubt that the Australian Wheat Board has been outstandingly successful, when Government political policies have not obstructed it, in its consolidation of existing overseas markets and in its search for new markets. There is no reason why such a body should not provide ‘ the same benefits for Australian fruit growers. 1 have no doubt that apple and pear growers cannot get the maximum return possible on their produce so long as the existing marketing system continues. It urgently needs overhauling, not in the name of increased bureaucracy but for the sheer well-being of producers who are at present in serious straits, and in the interests of the well-being of Australia. South Africa and New Zealand have learned only too well the costly lessons of having multitudes of middle men between the producer and the purchaser.
Australia urgently needs new ideas and new methods. Other economies that could be made and passed on to the grower would include the purchasing of fertilisers, packing materials, sprays and so forth, because they would be handled by the one authority. In particular a strong single statutory marketing authority is essential to provide leadership in the industry and to plan ahead for the future. Many growers have pointed out that there is no single authority within the whole industry which can identify all its problems, make recommendations on how to tackle them and then supervise their carrying out. The future of the industry demands a positive sense al direction and positive leadership. The lack of this can only hinder the industry. For example, the industry lacks the means that such an authority could’ provide to tackle rising costs and unnecessary costs at their roots, and can only try to keep up with these after they have been caused. So this scheme before the House, like most Liberal Parry schemes, accepts the unnecessary wastefulness and costliness beyond the growers’ control in production, presentation, financing, shipping, marketing and so on, and leaves the grower completely exposed and largely unable to prevent them.
The Labor Party believes that just as there should be one single statutory marketing authority with one of its functions being to have supervision over all problems of cost affecting wool growers, so should there be such an authority for apple and pear growers. I note from the speeches that were made during the debate yesterday that Government supporters have asked 2 questions: Firstly, would such a body be constitutional? Secondly, where is the money coming from? I have been handed a document by the honourable member for Braddon in whose capable hands my birthplace remains. This document is the sub-‘ mission of the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania and it answers questions that were raised by the Hon. D. F. Clark, MHA, the Minister for Housing in Tasmania, on 20th June 1971. The Minister asked:
The cost of operating could be $20m annually with $2-3m being required in cash. It is clear where this money is coming from?
The answer given by the Federation was:
The chief source of finance would be the the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank whose function is to provide finance to statutory marketing boards and similar authorities. Such finance would be made available on the security of the fruit vested in the Authority. The Bank may require a State Government guarantee. Anything in the way of marketing expenses could be financed from this source including such items as the cost of overseas freight (about $12,300,000) and cartons (about $5,500,000).
The Authority should be in a position to make limited seasonal advances to orchardings to cover the purchase of spray materials and other supplies. These should be financed in a sound business basis. The source of finance for this function would be a State guaranteed overdraft operating on a seasonal basis. The continuance of an effective stabilisation scheme will play a vital part in ensuring that growers costs are partly covered and in giving financial stability to the Authority.
It is expected that the Authority would carry out its functions without the State Government having to subsidise the industry. The greater savings possible under an Authority would assist to achieve a more solvent position in the industry than currently exists. Suitable financial arrangements with the Authority and orchardings in respect to credit arrangements could well encourage trading banks to come back into a field previously vacated by them in favour of exporters.
The money to repay seasonal advances will come from the same source as under the present system, the grower, who recoups it from the proceeds of the sale of his fruit, and if this is insufficient as sometimes happens, from his own pocket. Exporters sometimes make losses when they speculate on fruit but when the market risks are apparent as they were in the 1971 season these risks are borne by the grower.
The second question that was raised was related to the constitutionality of such a scheme. The Tasmanian Apple and Pear Growers Federation was asked:
Would the Australian Apple and Pear Board be able to issue a sole licence to the Authority and if so would this be challengeable in the High Court?
The answer given was:
Where Commonwealth and State legislation conflict the Constitution of the Commonwealth prevails. It is difficult to see where such conflict could eventuate in respect to the granting ofan export licence to the Authority.
In other words, Government supporters are opposed to a proposal which is of the utmost importance to the growers concerned and they have raised specious points which have been refuted by the growers’ organisation itself.
The right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann) said that if Government supporters agreed to this amendment it would mean defeating the Bill. What are the facts? Following a vote in favour of a statutory marketing authority, the Bill could be resubmitted immediately and be passed the same day. The right honourable gentleman must be joking. It would take a few minutes or a few hours at the most. The point is that members opposite do not want to put themselves into the embarrassing position of supporting an idea which was proposed by the Australian Labor Party and which has the support of the growers themselves.
I should like to conclude by thanking the Minister for his prompt reply to a question that I asked about stabilisation in the egg industry. I mention it now because it concerns the whole problem we are now considering. In his answer, the Minister pointed out that a great deal of obstruction was being offered to the introduction of a stabilisation scheme for the whole of Australia because of the arrogance, small mindedness and complacency of the Victorian Government. Personally, I find it disgraceful that while many small farmers are being driven off their poultry farms in the present chaos, the Victorian Government still refuses to recognise its responsibility to egg producers by refusing to join the other mainland States whose governments favour control of production. I raise this point because the area of Harcourt, about which I have been speaking, is an important poultry producing area in which many egg producers are facing uneconomical returns from their produce, their future is very much in doubt because of the arrogance of the Victorian Government. 1 have referred to this question previously and I thank the Minister for his prompt reply and also for the action that he is taking in an attempt to put some pressure on the Victorian Government.
– I should like to reply briefly to the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who has just resumed his seat after a very well read address to the Parliament.
– What are you doing?
– It is quite in order for the honourable member to read his speech and it would be quite in order for me to do so. Honourable members opposite become offended quickly; they are very touchy. 1 make that comment in passing. The honourable member for Bendigo said that he was surprised at the amount of opposition by Government supporters to the Opposition’s amendment. My colleague, the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann), pointed out that if the Government voted for the amendment, it would be voting against the Bill. This is true; there is no question about it. It is conceded, I am sure, by anyone who understands the situation, although anyone who does not understand it might not fully appreciate it. The honourable member for Bendigo, in reply to that argument said that if the amendment were carried, a Bill could be resubmitted immediately. On this point I shall quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair).
– That would not be hard to do; he spoke for only 2 minutes.
– No, he did not. The Minister said:
Industry leaders, after consultation with the industry generally, have indicatedtheir very strong support for the scheme to which legislative expression is now soughtto be given through this Bill and the associated Apple and Pear Stabilisation Export Duty Bill 1971 . . .
The Minister also referred to the other 2 associated Bills. I point out to the honourable member for Bendigo and to members of the Opposition generally that the Minister also said:
That it is possible today to bring down in this House a Bill to implement a scheme for the stabilisation of returns to apple and pear growers is a tribute to the common sense and spirit of co-operation which have marked discussions and negotiations between industry leaders and representatives of the Commonwealth for well over 3 years and which have led to the present position being reached.
This scheme has been agreed to and accepted by the industry, yet the Opposition, because it feels that for some reason or another it must oppose something that the Government introduces, has moved an amendment. The Opposition will not accept something which the industry wants.
I am particularly surprised at what has been said by Opposition members from Tasmania although, in all fairness to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) he did say:
We welcome this scheme. However it is not a full blooded stabilisation scheme like the other stabilisation plans. . . .
He said, in effect, that he welcomed the Bill. However, the amount of opposition to the scheme surprises me because the scheme is much needed. There is great difficulty in securing agreement between States in every field and this occasion is no exception to the rule. As the Minister for
Primary Industry mentioned, the scheme has been negotiated for well over 3 years. I think that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) said that it has been negotiated for nearly 4 years. So, it is obvious that there is great difficulty in getting agreement between the States. We have agreement now and we cannot afford to spend another 3 years in trying to get the industry to agree to the proposition which is being advanced today by the Opposition. The Government will not allow a stabilisation scheme for the apple and pear growers to be delayed any longer.
– You are joking.
-I am not joking. In effect the Opposition’s amendment would cause delay. Members of the Opposition do not want this agreed scheme but want to bulldoze something else through. I should like to inform the House of the Government’s attitude to this matter. I agree completely with the Minister when he said:
As honourable members well know, this Government never seeks to impose an orderly marketing or stabilisation scheme on an industry. The proposals for such a plan must be developed through a well tried and proven system of consultation and negotiations between’ the Government and an industry so that, when they are presented to the Parliament, it can be confidently affirmed that the proposals conform to the requirements of the Australian Constitution and to our responsibilities in the field of international . trade; that they are legally and practically realistic and that their implementation is sought by the industry concerned.
If members of the Opposition do not agree with this, let them say so. If they are not in conformity with this idea and if ever it is the misfortune of this country to have them in office and they are going to bring in schemes irrespective of what the industry thinks, let them stand up and be counted now and let it be known that this is what they intend to do. This is not what the Government intends to do and that is why we oppose the amendment and support the Bill.
I said earlier that I was surprised at the opposition which has been expressed by Opposition members from Tasmania because we all realise . that Tasmania is dependent upon a stable apple and pear industry. If the honourable members for Braddon, Wilmot and . Franklin (Mr
Sherry) do not agree with this, that is OK. I am surprised that they do not accept it because it is of greater advantage to Tasmania than it is to any other State in the Commonwealth.
I commend the industry and its leaders, and the Government and its negotiators on arriving finally at agreement, because I know how difficult it is to get agreement. We have seen this in many instances. We have seen other endeavours made by the Commonwealth to get agreement by the States to schemes we have brought forward which we felt were in the interests of Australia generally, but there was opposition from one State or another because it did not agree with all aspects of the scheme that had been brought forward. It is very difficult to get agreement, and I am delighted that at last the apple and pear industry and the Government are in agreement on this stabilisation scheme, because it is vital to the industry, vital to Australia, vital to Tasmania in particular, and vital to the fruit growers in the Stanthorpe area in my own State of Queensland.
I make no apology for getting up here today to speak on this Bill, because I represent the only large apple and pear growing district in Queensland. We are sometimes twitted about not representing the people. I am standing to represent the apple and pear growers in the Stanthorpe area of Queensland as well as, I believe, people in the industry generally, because the industry has shown that it wants to have this stabilisation scheme brought down.
Another aspect surprises me. I refer to some remarks made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). I understand that he said in his speech that he spoke on behalf of the growers in Tasmania because he had been down there at a meeting. I think this is an indictment of the other honourable members who represent Tasmania. I wonder what the Tasmanian growers will think when they find that the honourable member for Riverina has come up here and put the case for the apple growers of Tasmania when they are very well represented by other honourable members. He said he was going to explain why he was to speak on behalf of the apple growers of Tasmania. Surely the honourable member for Wilmot, who is the Secretary of the Tasmanian Labor Party Rural Committee, and the other 2 honourable members I have already mentioned, the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Franklin, can speak very effectively on behalf of the apple and pear growers of Tasmania.
– They do.
– The honourable member for Riverina took over and said he was going to speak on their behalf. I suggest that it would be a good idea if he gave full credit, as I do, to the representation made - by these other honourable members.
– I did.
– There is no need to say you are speaking for the apple and pear growers of Tasmania. I am speaking specifically for the apple and pear growers of Queensland, and I am proud to say that. I believe that these people are a very .. deserving section of the community, and I - would like to make a few points with regard to them. The Queensland apple and pear industry is very anxious to see this stabilisation scheme brought into being, but of course Queensland as a State is not as dependent upon the apple and pear industry as are other States, particularly Tasmania. Nevertheless every apple and pear grower in the Stanthorpe district is as important as any other apple and pear grower in any other part of Australia. I emphasise that the Country Party represents the people, and 1 refute the suggestion that is sometimes thrown at us that we do not.
The apple and pear industry in Queensland has increased its production very considerably. Apple production in Queensland has increased from 1,375,000 bushels in 1966 to 2,500,000 bushels in 1971. I know , that is a small production compared with what is produced in other States, but I . mention that growth. Whilst that growth has taken place, exports of both apples and pears in 1971 are slightly less than they were in 1966, although there have been fluctuations in the intervening period. Growers in the Stanthorpe area realise the importance of export markets and they export quite a quantity of apples and pears. Last year 190,000 bushels of apples and 8,000 bushels of pears from the Stanthorpe area were exported. Exports have an effect on the industry generally, and the growers have endeavoured, as I have pointed out, to establish local markets for their fruit. This would benefit the whole industry because, in view of the exports that come from other States, the smaller the amount is that is exported from Queensland the better. The Queensland growers have endeavoured and have succeeded in establishing local markets.
As some idea of the value of the industry, the granite belt fruit industry does not cover a very large area, yet it is estimated to support directly or indirectly some 7,000 to 8,000 people. So the industry is of very great benefit to that area. I commend those in the industry not only on the effort they make to market their apples locally, for which of course there is an incentive because of the financial benefit attached to it, but also on their endeavours to establish a cannery in the Stanthorpe area. We all know of the problems that are associated with canneries. But at the same time the growers face a problem with regard to hail; so it is very essential that a cannery should be established in that area or, failing that, perhaps as second best a fruit juice industry. Endeavours are being made to establish a cannery, and J am sure that they will succeed.
The apple and pear growers welcome this stabilisation scheme. Although the present position of the industry makes the degree of stabilisation proposed in this Bill a very welcome measure, and although this scheme will stabilise the return to growers in a very difficult and disturbing period for the industry, the measure certainly does not do everything that the industry wants. We realise that. Of course the Opposition can say that it will do everything everybody wants because it does not have to find the finance with which to do it. The Opposition does not have to do anything except say: ‘Whatever you do we will do better’ irrespective of any other aspect of the scheme. But the cost of the scheme to the industry could be in the vicinity of $I0m over 5 years. The important point is to get the stabilisation scheme into effect. If we can then improve on the scheme, so much the better.
There is another angle to it. While the scheme falls short in terms of the returns it will provide to growers, it is necessary. We would all like to see the growers receive the profit that it is reasonable to expect for their capital outlay and for their energy. There is no reason to believe that the whole scheme cannot be looked at in the future. In fact, if there is a need for it, the scheme will be reviewed. This has been mentioned. The scheme can be looked at again if it becomes out of balance or for any other reason. I am sure that the Government would be very happy to look at the scheme if it were approached by the industry or if a view was expressed by the industry that this scheme was not bringing about all the benefits to the fruit growers that was expected of it.
I am not suggesting for a moment that this scheme is doing everything that the fruit growers would want but it is certainly doing something. It is a step in the right direction, and I am amazed that’ anyone associated with the fruit industry would not be very willing to take this opportunity to get this scheme into operation and then, if necessary, do something further about it. I was interested too in the remarks made by the honourable member for Franklin, who I am pleased to see is in the House at the moment. He referred to the absence of industrial trouble in Tasmania. He said:
T would like honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House to listen to this, because so. often in this House we hear about the outrageous behaviour of the trade unions with regard to primary industry.
He went on to say that Mr Clark expressed his appreciation to the Waterside Workers Federation. I am very honest and I am very fair in my approach, and I recognise that this is so. What I want to point out is that, as only too often is the case, this is the exception which proves the rule. I would like to quote from the Courier Mail’ of yesterday an article headed ‘Wool Men Stay Out’. It states:
Storemen and packers employed by Brisbane wool broking and wool dumping firms have decided to continue their strike until at least next Friday. Between 400 and 500 Storemen and Packers’ Union members walked off the job about 8.30 a.m. last Friday, in support of a union claim for a general wage increase of $10 a week for all classifications.’
The wool industry in my own State is suffering’ very greatly.
I would only hope–
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I remind the honourable member for Maranoa that this Bill relates to apples and pears.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I accept your very wise ruling. Coming back to the legislation, I hope that the example which has been given by the honourable member for Franklin will be accepted by people in every industry and particularly in industries which are suffering very greatly as a result of industrial trouble. It is pleasing to me to hear this comment that was made by the honourable member for Franklin. I am sure that the industry will appreciate the efforts that are being made by the Government. I regret that it has taken as long as this to introduce legislation to put this scheme into operation. I sincerely hope that noone will be foolish enough to upset this proposal now and that the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition will be rejected in the interests of growers. I hope also that this Bill will be enacted as quickly as possible in the interests of apple and pear growers in Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I am reluctant to join with my good friend from Maranoa (Mr Corbett), but I must put the record straight. In his speech the honourable member said that he was surprised that Tasmanian members and he included me specifically by naming my electorate opposed this legislation. May I direct his attention, in order to set the record straight, to my speech whichI delivered last night in which I said:
In supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson I do so with the desire notto impede or to obstruct the legislation before the House. . . .
Further in my speech I quoted from the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). The Minister had stated:
I said earlier that this stabilisation scheme will not solve all of the industry’s problems. However I believe it is a fair and just scheme and will give the industry considerable assistance.
Following that quotation, I said:
We of the Opposition very sincerely hope that in fact the Minister’s hopes will be realised.
Merely to set the record straight I state that at no time have I indicated that I was opposing this legislation; I simply support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who is in charge of this measure, is not in the House. This is typical of his treatment of the industry which he and other Government members profess to support and represent. I wish to draw to the attention of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) certain matters relating to the statement that he madelast night and which he made some belated attempt to correct in this chamber during the course of his contribution this afternoon because of the wrong impression that he had given.
The honourable member asserted that 10 ships were held up for 9 days or 9 ships were hold up for 10 days in South Australia thus affecting the export of apples from that State. 1 can inform the honourable member that he most certainly is incorrect. In fact, during the season of which he spoke man hours lost on the Port Adelaide waterfront as a percentage of the man hours worked was a mere 1.8 per cent. Those hours were not all lost because of stoppages. If the honourable member saw 10 ships waiting in Port Adelaide in the last 2 years, most certainly he has been on a trip of some sort or been doing something of that nature.
I wish to make some brief reference to the remarks of the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) who spoke in this debate last night. Listening to the remarks of the honourable member for Denison 1 was reminded that he is a doctor. He acts on philosophies. He is a doctor of philosophy. I am reminded further that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. This is what will happen to him if he continues to address the House in the fashion in which he addressed it yesterday evening with regard to his so called support for apple growers. He spoke again of the old bogy of diversification and said that Tasmania could not continue producing apples in greater numbers. His colleagues from time to time say that production of sugar in Queensland, cotton in Western Australia and wheat in the southern half of the continent - to give 3 examples - cannot continue.
I remind the honourable member for Angas who expressed last night his bitterness towards the Premier of South Australia concerning marketing and his attitude towards national marketing schemes that-
– I did not mention him.
– Oh, yes, you did.
– I did not.
– Keep quiet! The honourable member can rise on the adjournment tonight or tomorrow night if he wishes. Is it not a fact that we have a national marketing authority not only for wheat but also for honey and sugar? Was the honourable member not a supporter of the Government - I may .not be quite correct here-
– You have not been correct yet.
Mr FOSTER . . . which set up the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which dealt with this matter some years ago? I refer to page 131 of the report of that Committee. The Government Parties have not yet plucked up sufficient courage to bring this matter of constitutional review before this House for debate so that something may be done on this matter. I ask the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who is at the table, whether he would agree to the reference to ‘Future Marketing Problems’ as set out at page 131 of that report being incorporated in Hansard. It is an indictment against the Government. Let me quote from the report briefly, ft completely shatters the arguments of some honourable members opposite in regard to-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I ask the honourable member to direct his remarks more closely to the subject matter of the Bill before the House.
– Well, I will in that case-
– - What is the report referred to? That might help.
– I will quote briefly, because it will be incorporated, from this report on constitutional review. The report states: 959. The case tor a Federal marketing power is all the stronger when probable future developments are taken into account.
I will say no more than that on that score. On further aspects of this report which relate to the measures before the House and to which consideration might be given by this Government, I also ask to be incorporated in Hansard, if the Minister will agree, the Committee’s recommendations in paragraphs 970 and 971 relating to ‘Proposed Constitutional Alteration’.
-Order! Is the honourable member seeking leave to incorporate the extracts to which he has referred?
– I am.
-Is leave granted?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it is usual to produce these documents to the Minister at the table.
– There was no Minister at the table.
– I have not seen them in the time I have been at the table. Therefore, leave is refused.
-Order! Leave is refused.
– I beg your pardon! May I detract for a moment from my remarks to say that when I dug this information out my intention was to take it to the Minister at the table-
– But you did not.
– There was no Minister at the table. Say what you like, when you like, how you like-
– I have been sitting here for an hour.
– There was no Minister at the table until the Minister for External Territories moved from his usual position in the chamber to the vacant chair at the table. Like it or lump it, that is the truth of the matter.
Let me return to this question of industrial unrest which was mentioned by a number of Government supporters. I wish to quote from the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which is responsible to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). I quote from the latest available report which is for the year ended 30th June 1970. The report deals with the subject of industrial disruption. It states initially:
The labour force at the 3 Tasmanian fruit ports was augmented by. 264 seasonal transferees at Hobart, 32 at Beauty Point and 6 at Port Huon; and at Port Huon was further increased by the recruitment of 62 men.
The report continues by setting out a table in which the quota of waterside workers for the various apple ports in Tasmania for the seasons under consideration is stated. It reveals that fewer waterside workers than the quota provided for were employed. This represents some savings in the guarantees which were applicable or later became applicable in that regard. Further, the report deals to some extent with crops, making some comparisons between production in the year under review and previous years. It mentions also the aspect of deliveries to wharves and makes some criticisms in this regard. The shipping programme is also referred to.
On the subject of industrial disruption, the report states:
Paradoxically, an effect of the5day general strike at all Australian ports from 21-25 March 1970 was to benefit the turnround of fruit vessels, which were exempted from the strike and thus able to obtain maximum labour.
Any disputation at other ports was to the advantage of Tasmanian ports from which apples were exported. This is clearly indicated by this report to the Government from one of its instrumentalities. So we see the hypocrisy and absolute stupidity of the remarks of honourable members on the Government side who have endeavoured to confuse apple growers on the matter of their conscience. Why does not the Government, out of the goodness of its heart if it is fair dinkum, give consideration to granting to Tasmanian apple growers the direct benefits that flow from the rates of work performed in the apple ports of Tasmania? The bulk of the apple crop is grown in Tasmania. What is wrong with the Government applying that principle and giving that benefit to Tasmanian apple growers who ship their apples through ports which in a sense have become specialised in shipping apples abroad as com pared with what happens in Melbourne or Adelaide where the shipping of apples is interwoven with the shipping of wool, dried fruits and what have you? In Melbourne or Adelaide delay in the shipping of apples is not necessarily brought about by delays in work; it is brought about, mark you, by different stowages at different times. Men have to discontinue loading apples and load dried fruit or something else and then return to loading apples later on.
I ask the Government to bear that in mind and to realise that it has in fact inflicted an unnecessary and intolerable burden on Tasmanian growers because of the subsidy which loading rates attract as a result of the shipping conference. Let me once again quote from the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Under the heading ‘Rates of Pay’ it states:
The efforts of waterside workers, stevedores and all others concerned with the loading of the 1970 fruit crop were sufficient to earn for fruit growers the maximum freight rebate of 7c per bushel offered by the Conference Lines for a daily average conventional loading, throughout Australia, in excess of 12,000 bushels.
The actual average daily loading rate in 1970 at all Australian ports was 12,056 bushels per day, as compared with 10,972 in 1969 when the freight rebate earned was 4c per bushel.
It is obvious that something has to be done in this regard so that Tasmanian fruit growers receive the maximum benefit from the system of shipping apples through Tasmanian ports. I think this is important, and I hope that the 2 Tasmanian representatives who are present in the chamber will take note of it.
Without any doubt, the best speech which was made during the course of the debate on this Bill last night was delivered by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). He dealt with a question which was most significant. If I may digress briefly, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) laughs. He said in his speech what he had done in this area. He was elected to this place not so long ago. But the fact is that as a member of this Parliament he need not boast about what he or his Party has done in the interest of pear growers in his district. I would remind him that any so-called financial assistance given in the Shepparton area carries a tremendous loading of 7 per cent interest. So what has he done? I challenge him on that point. 1 read the report of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SPC in an aircraft on a Friday just before the by-election in the electorate of Murray. If my memory serves me correctly, the report appeared in either the ‘Australian’ or the ‘Age’ - I am not sure which. What was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SPC complaining about most? ft was the thing that is most relevant to this question: The tiresome burden inflicted by the overseas monopoly of shipowners. The report was made in about December 1970. The honourable member for Murray should dig it out and have a look at it.
I return to the speech which was delivered so adequately and ably by the honourable member for Braddon yesterday. He dealt with these pirates. I will offer some advice to this weak-kneed Government: If it wants to take some action against the shipowners, it should stand up to them because they would be the weakest organisation in this country. As the waterside workers have measured them up in the last 10 or 20 years and wrought from them the justifiable benefits that they have been able to demand from the shipowners, it is about time that this Government stood up to the shipowners instead of acquiescing, going cap in hand and adopting a grovelling attitude to the Conference Shipping Lines which had the temerity to increase freight rates by 24 per cent. We hear Government supporters bleating about a lousy wage rise of 6 per cent. What does the Government propose to do about these shipowners? When will it wake up to the fact that they have priced us out of our markets? When will it wake up to the fact that these burglars, these pirates, these absentee shipping lords are imposing a crippling burden on rural industry and, for that matter, to some extent on the exports of secondary industry?
When will the Government take a lead from New Zealand? Indeed, for that matter, when will it take a lead from Africa, which ships fruit into Asiatic ports for one-half of what it costs to ship fruit from Australian ports into Asiatic ports? It amazes me how the Government puts up with these pirates. An honourable member opposite today referred to the Eastern Bloc countries and to their attitude to freights. AH the wheat which the Government sold to China was not carried on a Conference ship. One of the things which China did, so far as Australian wheat was concerned, was to say: ‘No deal on freight. We will arrange our own.’ Russia has done the same. I think that what was said earlier about wool marketing collapses on that point. Sufficient has not been said.
The Minister, in reply to a question last week, said that the apple and pear industry has to improve its methods and so on. That is fair enough. But has it not done that to some extent? Pictures depicted in the report from which 1 have quoted show apples, instead of going on board in lots of 40 cases at a time, on 2 sling loads, doubling up. are going on board in lots of 280 at a time. There are not 24 men working down below in a ship’s hold as there were 3 years ago. There are lucky to be 2 men working down below now. With the container concept, sometimes there is only a mechanical operator. There are not 3 deck men on a ship any more: there is one and sometimes there are 2. Instead of shins being in port for some 8 or 9 days, they are there only one-half that time. This gives tremendous savings. We must look at the figures relating to the number of men employed today as against the number employed 3 years ago. Consideration can be given to this matter as it affects the whole range of the export and import of goods from and to Australia.
But no honourable member opposite yet has had enough courage to stand up in this place and say: ‘So far and no further. We have bowed to the shipowners and we have bowed to the pirates long enough.’ We have seen gathered around in the Australian ports some of the greatest consortia and shipping cartels and monopolies which ply the high seas. Rather than oppose them and the burdens which they have inflicted upon the community generally, the Government has gone cap in hand with an odd vessel here and an odd vessel there and said what good fellows we are. Honourable members opposite stood in this chamber last year when we were dealing with shipping - and this is relevant, Mr Deputy Speaker - and criticised labour organisations for a loss incurred by the Australian National Line. But a week later they bit their tongues when they took time off to read the report of the Chairman of the Australian National Line, Sir John Williams, who said that the loss was brought about by the fact that an Australian National Line vessel was tied up with the Conference that plies between Australia and Japan. The loss was incurred this way: Because that one vessel gave us the right to 15 per cent of the cargo and we exceeded that figure by approximately 4 per cent, the National Line had to pay in excess of $2m to the Conference of Japanese shipowners. If honourable members opposite can tell me that a deal or an arrangement or an agreement like that - call it what you will - can be considered by so-called responsible people to be in the interests of Australian trade and the Australian economy and the people who produce the goods, then I do not know where their brains are. Nothing worse can be inflicted upon the grower of primary products than to get back for his produce a bill instead of a cheque. The honourable member for Angas can laugh, but there is nothing more frustrating than to get back a bill instead of a cheque. It is a disparagement to one’s efforts during the whole of a season to have to pay money instead of receive a cheque; but that is what has happened. Last night the honourable member for Braddon mentioned a shipowner who carried apples from a grower to an Asiatic port. Did he show a loss? Did he have to meet any costs? The only fellow who did not show a profit out of the transaction mentioned was the poor unfortunate person who worked his guts out to produce the consignment. He received nothing for his efforts. Instead he was billed for sending his apples overseas. I cannot think of and 1 could not describe a more depressing circumstance.
I support the amendment. I do not go along with the claptrap in the extremely short speech of the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann). He said that if the Opposition’s amendment were carried the Bill would be defeated. Supporters of the Government have only to remember how long it took the Government to get a wool measure through in the closing stages of the last session of the Parliament. How much time did the Government allow for a debate on that measure? How long did it take before it went on to the statute book? The debate merely took a matter of a few hours. The same procedure could be followed in relation to this measure.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you have spoken in this debate as the representative of the electorate of Maranoa. You would be fooling yourself, Sir, if you were to think that this measure will be of any long term benefits to the people you represent. Freight rates could go up by another 24 per cent. When is the Government going to get off its bottom and do something about this matter? lt should not bow and scrape to the vicious cartels that are holding a gun at the head of everybody in this country who relies upon the sale of primary products overseas.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Corbett)
Majority .. ..7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Support Price).
– I move:
This is an important matter which relates to one of the key points in the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech made this clear when he said:
In the determination of the average export support prices for a season other than the first season, regard will be had to established movements in cash costs.
The Opposition agrees with this principle but nowhere in this Bill is there any provision for this intention. What the Minister said is certainly an expression of intent. The Parliament is not passing judgment on the second reading speech but on the legislation before it. The precedent for such a provision as we advocate is the wheat stabilisation scheme. Honourable members will recall that there was a change in the formula for varying the guaranteed price according to movements in the price indices relating to full costs of production. The variation provided that the guaranteed price in the future would be adjusted according to movements in certain cash costs, principally the one deleting the interest on land factor. The Opposition supported this principle and there is no point now in going into our reasons. The Minister knows these full well. At that time I dealt at great length with the interest on land deleted and my arguments then also apply to this Bill.
The logic behind the argument is simply this: When the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was introduced the then Minister for Primary Industry made virtually the same second reading speech as far as it concerned this type of clause and said that the price would be varied each season according to movements in cash costs or having regard to cash costs. In the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill this was made clear to the satisfaction of this Parliament by the inclusion of clause 7 sub-clause 3 (b) which is virtually word for word the same as the amendment I have moved except that I have substituted the words apples and pears’ for the word ‘wheat’. However, the principle is the same. If this provision is good enough to go into the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act why can it not be included in the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Act?
Honourable members might ask why I have moved for the postponement of clause 7. lt is not really an amendment to move that the clause be postponed and honourable members should not jump to the conclusion that I am trying to have this clause deleted from the Bill. I am not. But because of the procedures of this House this is the only way in which I can get a debate on this clause. It would seem from the advice that the Opposition has received that an instruction would be given to, I assume, the Governor-General to vary, possibly by increasing, the appropriation in the future to take into account the variations in cash costs. On the advice the Opposition has received this may not be possible by way of introducing legislation in the Parliament. That does not cut any ice with me. The Parliament will decide what does and does not go into the Act and I am conscious too that the Senate has some say in the matter. The logic is quite clear. If the Government’s intention is to vary the price of apples and pears according to movements in cash costs - after all, this is most important in a time of inflation - surely in the legislation there should be some provision under which this can be done. Every member of Parliament on both sides of the House would agree with this and if any honourable member does not agree it is quite obvious that he does not understand the elements of the Bill.
The Minister gave an assurance to the industry but the only assurance worth anything is that which the legislation contains. The second reading speech is not legal in any sense of the word; it is the legislation that is passed by this Parliament which is legal and that is all that can be taken notice of. If this provision is omitted from the legislation every apple and pear grower in Australia will be fully entitled to argue that the Government has no intention of varying the guaranteed price in accordance with movements in cash costs. I do not intend to argue, and I hope the Minister will not suggest that I am arguing, that the Government will not make such variations in the price. Of course it will. It is a responsible Government, ‘responsible’ being used in the legal sense, and has authorised a statement which would be binding on any responsible government. On the other hand there could be some very doubting apple and pear growers who do not believe that this Government is responsible. Therefore, they might say ‘unless we see this in the Act we will not take any notice of what the Minister tells us.’ The right thing to do is to make certain that this provision is placed in the Act somehow and if it cannot be done by the procedure which the Opposition has adopted I hope the Minister in reply will suggest how it can be done.
To give honourable members some idea of the importance of cash costs, the average total cash costs for apple and pear orchards in southern Tasmania vary between $18,000 and $19,000 and packaging materials, sprays, services and hired labour are the main elements. In the northern area total costs amount to approximately $14,000. The average gross return from the apples and pears produced is between $24,000 and $26,000. This gives honourable members an idea of the small margin between cash costs and total returns. When imputed costs, that is, depreciation, owner-operator’s labour, family labour, interest on land, and other interest items, are taken into account the total costs in many cases exceed the gross return in recent years.
It is obvious that the total cash costs are of vital importance to the future cash income of apple and pear growers. This is why it is essential for this Parliament to find some way to enable this provision to be included in the Bill. I find it incredible that we cannot get it into this Bill because of some procedural matter involving an instruction to the Governor-General. As far as I am concerned we ought to abolish the Governor-General’s part if the position is that this sort of procedure holds up legislation in Australia which is of national importance and which affects industry, the economy and the States. I hope that the Minister will inform the House whether this clause can be incorporated in the Bill because it should be included in this legislation, (f it is not the statements made by the Minister in relation to cash costs would not be able to be challenged in this Parliament.
We on this side want to know more about the type of cash cost movements, for example, and how the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will weight the various price indexes by the use of price relativity methods. I am fully aware of the methods that the Bureau has used in the past but I would like to find out more about the details of the specific cash costs involved.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The actual field of difference between the Opposition and the Government on this issue is not very wide. In fact it had been my intention to try to include a clause in this part of the Bill in an endeavour to give to the Minister for Primary Industry the responsibility to make the determination in accordance with a listed series of additional cash costs on the basis that exists in the wheat stabilisation legislation to which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred. However, there seems to be some conflict between the procedures which are acceptable to the 2 Houses of this Parliament. I am told that there is a feeling that it is advisable in measures of this sort for either House to have the ability to disallow a regulation, which, of course, would be the consequence of a prescription of the cash costs if imposed in accordance with clause 7 as it is now framed. For that reason the preference expressed in the other place is that rather than give the discretion to the Minister there should be a requirement that there be a prescription that gives to the Parliament itself a continuing right to review from year to year the level of support price that might be set.
It is for that reason that in this instance the Bill has been drafted in its present form. It would seem to me that, although I acknowledge the comment of the honourable member for Dawson, the statement in the second reading speech to this Bill has not the force that it would have if it were in the Bill. I think it is nonetheless true that, in view of the statement in the second reading speech and the affirmation of it which I give at this time, the factors to be used will accord with those that are in the wheat stabilisation legislation and could be generally referred to by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in determining movements in cash costs. I would reiterate that the Parliament itself, by the drafting of this Bill in its present form, has a continuing right to accept or reject prices that are set as a result of the consideration of the variations in cash costs year by year. For that reason the Parliament is more master of the variations when the support price is to be determined by prescription than it would be if it were to lay down in the legislation the form by which those support prices should be determined. While I have some sympathy with the point of view that has been put forward by the honourable member for Dawson, I cannot accept the amendment moved by him and I would propose that this Bill be passed in its present form.
– It appears from what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has said that this Parliament is so hide bound that we cannot alter the support price as laid down from 1st October each year in respect of the season for which the stabilisation plan is to operate. I regret this very much. I cannot see any reason why some movement in cash costs cannot be dealt with by a responsible government. Surely there must be some way by which recognition can be taken of movements in the various prices and the costs which the grower has to carry. Before 1 go on I want to let the Government supporters who have spoken in this debate know that the Tasmanian members on this side are speaking with the support of the industry leaders. It was at the request of the industry leaders that we attended a meeting of the Australian Labor Party Rural Committee in Canberra and put to that meeting the request of industry leaders to have this escalating provision included in clause 7 of the Bill. This is a result of representations made by quite a large number of orchardists in the Mersey Valley in northern Tasmania at a meeting a few weeks ago and also by a large group of orchardists last Saturday in the Huon Valley.
At that time 1 received the request from the growers in the southern part of the Huon Valley that we attempt to get the Government to accept an escalating clause in regard to the movement of costs. I do not think there is any need for me to labour this point but I simply point out, as I did last night, that the support prices are set on 1st October 1970, say, for the 1971 season. As the orchardists point out the cost of a carton alone has risen from 65c to 70c. By looking at a table on presentation costs and cost of production drawn up by the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania it will be seen that the cost of a carton represents quite a substantial part of the cost of production and presentation costs. Therefore any movement in the cost of a carton during the current season must materially affect the f.o.b. price or the return which the grower receives.
This is one item and unless we can get some single marketing authority to replace the present fragmented state of the industry, which is at present controlled by some 19 exporters, the growers will be faced with additional costs. If we can establish a single authority to act as the marketing agency for all cartons required by the growers we feel that some substantial reduction would be obtained in the cost of cartons. At the present time this is handled by at least some 20 different agencies. This multiplicity of orders must increase costs. If we had a single marketing authority to handle all the orders for all the cartons required for the apple and pear crop it would effect some sort of reduction in the cost of cartons to the grower. Until we have that authority any movement in the cost of cartons, as there has been since the support prices were set for the 1971 season which has just ended, must have some substantial bearing on the f.o.b. costs for which the grower must get a comparable return in order to cover his costs of production.
In addition, at the beginning of this year there was the 6 per cent national wage rise which flowed over to orchard labour. In looking at production costs we see that the labour for a carton of apples represents 38c from a total production cost of 76c.
Therefore labour alone per carton represents 50 per cent of the total production costs. In regard to presentation costs, the packing shed labour is shown in the table I referred to earlier as 45c for a carton of apples. This is out of a total presentation cost of $1.65. The packing shed labour alone represents about 25 per cent of the. total account. The 6 per cent wage rise naturally flows over into such costs, as would be shown in cool storage, country freight, shipside freight, the Marine Board wharfage and, not so much the transient insurance but the pallet charges and so on.
It is a pity that the Government cannot see fit to get around the problem so that it could accept an amendment which has been put up in all good faith, not so much by politicians but by industry leaders. I assure the Minister that the amendment has come from dedicated people who are pioneers in industry, who are responsible for a tremendous amount of good and who have been in the industry for many years and are looking forward to some form of stabilisation now that the Government has decided against devaluation compensation. In all good faith, these people felt that there should be some provision for movement in the cost structure. If the growers have to endure this movement in costs, which is entirely beyond the control of the growers, then surely some way could be found to incorporate it in the support price structure so that the growers would be able to receive the benefit.
The growers are at the end of the line all the time. Like all primary producers, irrespective of what industry they are in, the growers are not able to pass on costs as they occur. It is unfortunate at this time when the Minister, in all sincerity, is trying to do something for the industry - I hope that when he sees the position as it has deteriorated day by day he will be able to do more for it - that this request cannot be accepted somehow by the Government.
– 1 merely want to reinforce what the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) has said with regard to escalating costs. I can assure the Minister for Primary Industry that this projection is not one of the Opposition’s inventiveness but is the wish of the industry. I am quite certain that he would be prepared to accept that proposition. As the honourable member for Braddon has said, it is quite true that only last week I met almost 300 growers who were quite unanimous in seeking that the escalation clause be included in this Bill. I have some sympathy for the Minister who has made the explanation that, because of some constitutional constriction as applied by the Senate, he is unable to include the clause in the way indicated. I fail to recognise the validity of this argument or proposition. I can only put my own view on this.
The Minister has been responsible for the introduction of the legislation into this chamber and it is quite absurd that he is not also endowed with the responsibility to make a variation or addition to the legislation. I find it very difficult to go into the electorate, with all due respect to the Minister, and give the electors - that is, the industry - the answer that the Minister has given us here in this chamber this afternoon. They will not understand the constitutional complexities. If they do not understand them then they will possibly reject the Minister’s answer. Let me say merely that I reinforce the comments of the honourable member for Braddon in relation to the particular problem that we have.
In conclusion let me put 2 questions l-“> the Minister with regard to freights, because they are relevant to this clause. I would like the Minister to state, if he has the information available, what position currently prevails in the freight rate negotiations which were the subject of discussions last week? Can the Minister confirm that an American shipping consortium has offered to ship the Tasmanian apple and pear exports for the next season at the rates that prevailed last year? If he can give me some indication as to what level these discussions have reached we can then go out and tell the people that the escalation we are talking about is at least receiving prime consideration and we are hopeful that the problem can be resolved in a satisfactory way.
– It would seem that the Government and the Opposition are not in difference, really, on the intention of this clause. As I understand the position, the Minister for Prim ary Industry advised that the Senate could not accept the amendment, I assume, on constitutional grounds. In the Australian Labor Party caucus the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and other Labor senators accepted the amendment. An identical clause for an identical purpose was accepted by the House of Representatives and by the Senate in the woo! stabilisation scheme. Surely the correct procedure would be to test the Senate to see whether or not this can be done. It has been done before by this House and by the Senate and the Opposition says that it should be done again. The Minister’s reply is that he has been advised that the Senate will not accept the amendment. We can be certain of this only when the Senate votes on the position. I assume that the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee will consider certain aspects of the matter.
It is quite logical, certainly to my way of arguing, that if such a proposal has been accepted before by this House and by the Senate the way to proceed is to insert the same clause for the same purpose. This is what the Government wants and what the Opposition wants. If the Senate wants to reject the clause, it is up to the Senate to reject it. But until the Senate does reject it I believe we have the right not to accept the Government’s explanation. For that reason the Opposition will force a division on the issue.
– One of the great weaknesses of the Bill is in this clause. For instance, as my colleagues have probably said, the support price was fixed in October 1970 for the 1970-71 season - approximately 15 or 16 months before. There have been too many changes in the cost structure between the fixing and the operation of the support price. We feel that the Bill, because it is not based on what we call a genuine Bureau of Agricultural Economics cost structure or cost of production survey, is an inadequate Bill. There is only one way to fix a true support price and that is to have a complete BAE survey made. The Opposition, when it becomes the Government, will have an annual BAE support price production figure for the board or authority when it has to make its decision. With the great changes in freight rates this scheme could break down within the next 12 months if the American line that has just offered to ship our fruit at last year’s prices is not accepted or if, in some other way, we are blackmailed into shipping our freight through the 5 non-Conference shipping lines that have been negotiating with the Board. So all in all we are baiting on a very sticky wicket in relation to the freight factor in the support price. I believe that the Government should underwrite changes in freight charges, unless it writes the variables into the support price. The Government cannot have it both ways. A support price that does not allow for freight variations will be a failure. So clause 7 should be postponed for the reasons we have given. Unless all variables are taken into account in the fixation of a support price it will be inadequate and a failure.
– Perhaps I should answer a couple of points that have arisen during the debate. First of all, in case there was any misunderstanding, there are differences in cash costs as between the wheat industry and the apple and pear industry. When I was speaking before I was not intending to convey in any way that there would be a complete identity of movements in costs as between the 2 industries. There are differences and I would not want it to be thought that there would be a complete parallel. As far as the matters raised by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and perhaps the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) are concerned, I think those honourable members were referring to movements in cash costs within the season as distinct from the broader picture which was presented by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I do not believe that it would be practical to move the cash costs within the season although I would acknowledge difficulties when it is necessary to set the price long before the start of the season.
It does, I believe, make it quite impossible in this sort of scheme to vary your costs within the course of the season although I appreciate completely the arith metic that was presented by the honourable member for Braddon, and 1 can assure him I have some personal understanding of the very critical financial position in which many of the apple and pear growers are now placed. In regard to the request by the honourable member for Franklin for advice on 2 matters relating to shipping, let me .assure honourable members that it would be intended that freight costs would be one of the items taken into account when considering cash movements.
I am told that the Apple and Pear Board has re-entered shipping negotiations. As I understand it, a number of approaches have been made to the Board by companies suggesting that they might be prepared to carry fruit. Because I know that these negotiations are under way I would prefer not to disclose in this place the extent of those offers. I believe that they do provide some alternative to the service that was previously available and no doubt the Apple and Pear Board will be using those alternative offers as a basis from which it might hope to negotiate a freight rate with whichever group of shipping companies or whichever individual shipping company it would see as giving the best rates for the transport of fruit. There are very real difficulties in coming to an agreement with the shipping companies and the aspects of costs which affect producers in relation to the impost of freight is something that has been canvassed fairly adequately during the second reading debate on this Bill.
While I can appreciate the difficulties that the honourable member for Dawson and others see in the form of words now included in the Bill I believe that it is best that the Bill should go forward in this way. I can assure honourable members that the cash cost movements will be taken into account by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Even though the honourable member for Wilmot did cast some doubt as to whether they would be based on a genuine analysis by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics I can assure him that they will be based on genuine cash movements and for that reason the Government intends to proceed with this legislation in this form.
That clause 7 be postponed.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr J. M. Hallett)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - The question is, “That clause 7 be agreed to.
– It is impossible to debate this Bill without the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) being present so I move:
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The question is, ‘That progress be reported’. Those of that opinion say aye, of the contrary say no. I think the noes have it.
Question resolved in the negative.
– With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Chairman, I point out that we are considering a technical Bill and the Minister should be present. Here he is now.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 11. (2.) The rate of a stabilisation payment shall not exceed an amount per reputed bushel, or part of a reputed bushel, in each container of fruit equal to -
a number of cents equal to the product of 80 and 4,400,000 divided by a number equal to the number of reputed bushels of fruit picked during the season concerned that-
– I move:
The reasons for the Opposition moving this amendment are quite obvious. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) accepted the fact that there could be specific changes in the relationship between the quantities of apples and pears of various varieties produced. The Minister also accepted that there could be other pertinent changes and he made a statement which the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) quoted in the House last night. The Minister said: . . the Government will be prepared to discuss the matter with the industry to see if it is necessary to amend the arrangements under the plan and legislation.
The Opposition takes the view, 1 believe quite rightly, that this statement should be incorporated in the legislation. As the provision now reads, clause 1 1 is final; that is, it relates to the 2 variables of 80c and 4.4 million bushels. As honourable members, particularly those from Tasmania, pointed out, the figure of 4.4 million bushels could be a dicey one and within 12 months the risk proportion of total sales of apples and pears could continue to be significantly greater than 4.4 million bushels.
As 1 pointed out last night, with costs of production increasing, we must be wary of the actual level of the support price and its relationship to the 80c because 80c is the maximum payout. I gave examples of this last night. With a production of 6.6 million bushels, the stabilisation rate would approximate 53c and at 8.8 million bushels, 40c. These figures are related to the actual support price. It is a rather technical mathematical formula. Nevertheless, the Opposition is making what I believe is a simple request - that what the Minister said in his second reading speech be incorporated in the Bill and that at the end of each season or prior to the determination of a support price, there be a review of the rate of stabilisation.
The honourable member for Murray went to some pains to criticise this proposal. He pointed out, quite rightly, that in all probability there will be exported at risk a growing proportion of fruit which will certainly exceed 4.4m bushels. If the honourable member is fair dinkum about wanting to ensure that apple and pear growers in Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and other States are fully protected he will have no alternative but to vote for this amendment. The amendment simply seeks to insert in the Bill an additional sub-clause to enable the position to be reviewed prior to the fixing of the support price. The rate of stabilisation payment and the variables of 80c and 4.4m bushels should be reviewed every season. Surely there is nothing in the amendment to which the Government could object. The only objection to our amendment to clause 7 was related to the constitutional difficulties between the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, I believe that if a Minister makes a definite statement in a second reading speech and the Government is to be consistent those words should be incorporated in the legislation.
In the opinion of the Minister, our amendment to clause 7 could not be accepted because of the constitutional problem. However, there is no constitutional problem in this amendment. It is a simple and important request, as has been made clear by honourable members. The variables of 80c and 4.4m bushels are the really key variables in the whole scheme and with them is allied the particular price of each variety of apple and pear in relation to the movement of cash costs every season. The 3 key variables are the price support, the 80c and the 4.4m bushels and the Opposition has moved its amendments around those 3 variables. The Opposition was given an explanation with respect to the first amendment. I repeat that this amendment is a simple request. I can see no reason why the Minister, if he wants to review and is prepared to review aspects of the scheme, cannot incorporate those words in the legislation.
- Mr Chairman, I would like to refer to a couple of points with regard to this amendment because the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has mentioned my position in this matter, and I think the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) did also in his speech last night. The amendment as it is moved does not solve the problem that I was trying to explain last night. The problem that I was trying to explain really concerns the relative position of pears and apples under this legislation. I was not referring to the total cover of 4.4 million bushels, 5 million bushels, 6 million bushels or 7 million bushels but to the relative proportions of the two types of fruit. The point I was trying to make and which evidently has not been understood properly is that because of the overwhelming strength of apples as against that of pears - the ratio of apple exports to pear exports is 4 to I, or 80 per cent of the total - the pear grower feels himself to be very exposed in that he has not any form of guarantee that what he considers to be a reasonable share of any assistance under this scheme can be saved for him. In other words, the quantity of apples sold at risk can dominate the total scheme.
The point is that no matter what happens the quantity of pears sold at risk could probably not exceed H million bushels per annum, but as I pointed out last night the quantity of apples sold at risk could easily rise from about 3.3 million bushels to over 6 million bushels. Even if the figure were lifted to 7 million bushels we still would not be guaranteeing against what the fresh pear exporters of the Goulburn Valley consider to be their vulnerable position. If an amendment were moved to guarantee the stability of this section of the industry it would have to provide that about 20 per cent of the assistance under this scheme be reserved for the pear industry or that some minimum figure per bushel be established below which the support price of pears may not drop. The reason why I do not intend to proceed with any amendment is that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) gave an assurance in his second reading speech that if a relative lack of fair treatment for the pear section becomes apparent he will review the situation. I wanted to make that point clear. Really it is a case of the relative strengths of the pear section and the apple section within the scheme.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Once again I assure honourable members opposite that our request is made on behalf of the industry itself. We were accused earlier today of putting up our own scheme but the request comes from the industry. I have had hundreds of representations from people in the industry. I could refer to only one or two of them last night, but I would like to refer to some more of them in a minute. The whole question is that the quantity sold at risk has doubled in the last few years, and we are now selling about 7.5 million cases of fruit per annum at risk. This situation has been brought about by the fact that, because of the dock strikes in England in 1970, the people who bought apples in the orchards lost millions of dollars as the ships that were carrying the apples were diverted from one port to another. Sub stantial costs were incurred by the exporters who owned the apples at this time; as I say, the cost ran into some millions of dollars. So we found that in the 1971 season no buyers visited the orchards as they had done for the past 50 years, and the large quantity of fruit that was forwarded on consignment during the 1971 season is a direct result of the loss that was incurred by the people in the Old Country to whom we sold in advance. We do not think - I speak for the industry - that they will come back in the near future. It might be some years before sufficient confidence is again engendered in the industry for these buyers to reappear in the orchards during the apple season.
I think the Government agreed more or less to the stabilisation plan as a substitute for the devaluation compensation that growers once received. I think this was referred to by the former Minister for Primary Industry when he opened the annual meeting of the Apple and Pear Federation conference in Hobart last year. The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) opened the second annual conference last week. This scheme is a substitution for compensation devaluation. The growers have asked us to come to the Parliament and to ask the Minister whether he will try to do something under this scheme because, for the 7i million cases that will be sold at risk, the growers will receive only 45c a bushel. That is not even equivalent to the devaluation compensation payment.
The present position of the industry was brought about by the devaluation of sterling. The Government decided to compensate growers for the lower returns they received on fruit they sent to markets in countries which had devalued their currency. But even in the first year of devaluation compensation payments growers in Tasmania were in a parlous state. But this year, when we will give the growers 45c a bushel under this stabilisation scheme, they will be in a far worse state. As I said last night, in 1968, the first year following the devaluation of sterling, some 68 per cent of growers in northern Tasmania had net farm incomes below $2,000 a year despite the fact that they had received an average of about $1,900 for each orchard as devaluation compensation. In other words, the net farm income was only $100 a year. Under the stabilisation scheme the payment must be considerably less than $1,900 for each orchard, and growers will be in a very bad state. If there had been no devluation compensation in 1968, growers in northern Tasmania would have bad a net farm income of minus $1,200, and the growers in southern Tasmania would have been a little better off with a net income of plus $600 a year.
Surely the very basis of a stabilisation plan is to try to put the industry on its feet. The figures I have quoted obtained 3 years ago. My word, we have gone down very quickly in the last 3 years. I refer also to the disastrous bushfires that affected southern Tasmanian orchards in 1967. So we had not only devaluation of sterling to put up with but, as I say, bushfires also. In the couple of minutes I have left I want to make a plea to the Government to do something about this because the bushfires that affected these orchards were an act of God. As we know, because we debated the matter in this Parliament, the fire travelled through the air. As 1 have said here, 1 can show honourable members slides depicting dry country with not a skerrick of fire damage on the ground for acres and acres and yet the tops of telegraph poles were burnt off and wires collapsed. Fires added greatly to the indebtedness of the orchardists in the Huon. Next year will be the most difficult one that I think we will go through. The Government loans that were made to farmers after the fires in 1967 have an interest rate of only 3 per cent, but the first call on this money will be made on 1st April 1972. The first instalments will have to be met on 1st October 1972. Some of the loans are on the basis of twenty 6- monthly instalments and some of them are on the basis of ten 6-monthly instalments. I know of farm after farm that is up for $700 or $800 every 6 months. Even if they had received the income that they obtained in 1968, as I tried to point out. the position would have been practically hopeless. But in the 3 intervening years a downturn has occurred in the industry. The 45c a bushel which is to be paid under the stabilisation scheme will nowhere near compensate even for the devaluation loses.
The position of those engaged in the industry is very grim indeed. Those in the industry know that they cannot obtain any more than 45c a bushel. They were hoping for 80c a bushel. I realise that an amendment proposing this increase cannot be moved to this Bill because the sum appropriated with respect to the Bill would need to be increased and amendments of that type cannot be made. But I do appeal to the Government to accept the proposed sub-clause so that this figure will be reviewed each year prior to the establishment of the support price for each season.
The growers realise, as a result of the returns achieved, that the position is hopeless. With the payment of 45c a bushel under the stabilisation scheme the position will still be hopeless. Last night I quoted the case of one grower who dispatched 222 cases of apples and received a bill of $104 in respect of them. He was $650 down the drain - that was the break-even figure - before he received the bill for $104. I do not wish to weary the House with these examples but they show that the situation in different orchards is similar. One grower consigned 440 cells of sturmers - honourable members should note that different types of apples are involved - on the vessel Halifax Star’ to Rotterdam. The sturmers brought $858 or $1.95 a bushel. This represented a loss of 86c a bushel. The compensation payment will be 45c a bushel only. So, this grower will still lose 41c a bushel. Put another way, he will lose $378.40 on that shipment of apples.
Another example that I have here concerns a consignment of 264 cartons of granny smiths. These apples are supposed to be the top line and the ones which attract the highest support price. This quantity of apples was sent on the vessel Port Nicholson’ to Hamburg in the last season. The return that they attracted was a little better than the return in the last example I gave. These cartons realised $675.97 or $2.55 a bushel. The loss on that shipment is $95.04. The next example that I give concerns a shipment of 373 cells of democrats on the vessel ‘Greenland’ to Hamburg. These cells realised $79.80 or 22c a bushel. The cost f.o.b. on the wharf in Tasmania was $2.91 a bushel. So, this grower has lost $2.69 a case or $1,003.37 on that one shipment. I could continue to give further examples. These statistics indicate that a more realistic figure than 4.4 million bushels should be adopted. That figure may have been acceptable 3 years or 4 years ago for the total at risk in relation to the state of marketing in the industry then. It is not a realistic figure now. If these growers are to be assisted in any way at all we must be more realistic and must increase the figure to 7.5 million bushels or something of that order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I fully support the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and my colleague, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). I am sure that my colleague from Franklin (Mr Sherry) supports those remarks also.
– I do and I will speak in support of them.
– We are very united on this side of the House.
– That is unusual.
– I am sure that if the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) was an apple grower he would support this amendment forthwith. But, not being an apple grower, he finds it hard to assess what we are saying. 1 can appreciate this difficulty. After all, if one is born in an industry, works in an industry, makes one’s living out of that industry, one can understand the finer details of it, while one who does not work in the industry cannot understand them.
Clause 11 has a grim finality about it. It provides for a payment of 80c a bushel in respect of 4.4 million bushels. No provision is made in the legislation to vary either figure. As we have said, these figures were fixed a long time ago. There are variables in the industry for which perhaps we could never cater completely. But we should cater for and make provision for those with which we can deal. The Opposition is prevented by certain constitutional provisions from moving an amendment which would increase the amount of money appropriated with respect to this Bill. We would like to have moved an amendment specifying 7.5 million bushels instead of 4.4 million bushels. But such an amendment would alter the financial structure of this Bill. The next best way to achieve what we wish to do is to move in the way in which we have. We propose that the rate of a stabilisation payment provided for in sub-clause (2.) of clause 11, especially the figure of 4.4 million, will be reviewed each year prior to the establishment of the support price for that season.
Heavens above, in asking for this provision we arc not asking for the moon. A review could be made for the next season and the Government could fix the same figure for the next year, if the present Government is still the Government then - God forbid! The insertion of this provision will provide a vehicle by which’ a review may be made each year. What we have now is a 5-year plan. The Government’s plans at this moment provide for the expenditure of $10m. But what will the state of this industry be in 5 years time? This legislation could very well end the industry altogether. In 5 years time the need for a stabilisation plan may not exist because the industry may not exist. I pointed this out in my speech last night. All we are asking for in this amendment is for an annual review of this provision. Growers in Tasmania in particular - but, I am sure, growers in the other States too - will be annoyed and disgusted if the Opposition’s amendment is not carried. It is a simple amendment. The Bill fixes a figure for 5 years. None of us can forecast what the situation in the industry will be in 4 years time, 3 years time or even 2 years time. The period involved is far too long for these 2 sets of figures in the Bill to; have force. The period is far too long for such a variable industry as the apple and pear industry is, subject as it is to market, freight and other problems.
Because, as the honourable member for Braddon has said, sales at risk now total nearly 7 million bushels, we say that it is absolutely essential to write the Opposition’s amendment into the Bill so that the figure of 4.4 million bushels may be varied. Otherwise this provision will be like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, unchanging and unchangeable. The Government is setting out to show that it is better than all the weathermen and forecasters of the world. It is predicting that this figure will be OK for the industry for 5 long years. We say that this forecast is impossible to make. If this amendment is not accepted, it will be ‘Goodnight, nurse’ for the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) at the next election in Tasmania, even though his electorate is not an apple growing area. This Bill in its present form will close the door to any changes whatever in this industry for the next 5 years. The growers of Tasmania will not stand for that.
– I will not keep the House more than a couple of minutes. What has been said is, I think, very true. I draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to the wording of the sub-clause which the Opposition seeks to have inserted after sub-clause (2.) of clause 11. It is: (2a.) The rate of a stabilisation payment provided for in the preceding sub-section, especially the figure of 4,400,000, will be reviewed each year prior to the establishment of the support price for that season.
I suggest to the Minister that the word reviewed’ is a soft word. It is a conciliatory word. It is not a fearsome demand. Its acceptance will not affect the legislation inherently. The amendment merely asks for a review. I think that this is a reasonable request to make.
In supporting the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) I point out that the honourable member stated our case clearly and concisely. That case has been supported by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). If the Minister for Primary Industry can detach himself from his conversation for just a brief second, I want to indicate to him that this word ‘review’ is not some sort of magical word which we on this side of the chamber have plucked out of the air. I shall read to him the resolution which was passed by the industry last week. It reads as follows:
That whilst this conference-
That is the conference of the Apple and Pear Growers Federation- strongly supports the industry authorities in their approach to the Federal Government seeking stabilisation scheme support of 80c per bushel on up to 7,500,000 bushels shipped at risk it is of the opinion that the stabilisation support price should be adjusted if necessary, to a figure in excess of 80c and sufficient to provide a coverage of additional costs including any increased overseas freight charges.
The Opposition is not plucking this word review’ out of the air. The industry itself is making the proposal. I suggest with all respect to the Minister that his own office would make demands upon him to consider the request of an industry even if he would not consider the request contained in the amendment moved by the Opposition. I suggest that if the Minister and the Government are not prepared to accept this amendment then they are in fact rebutting and rejecting the overwhelming desire of the industry in Tasmania for the very thing that we are proposing in the amendment. I strongly support the amendment.
– First of all, I think that it is recognised broadly by all honourable members that there has been a very marked deterioration in the financial circumstances of all horticultural industries, including the apple and pear industry about which we are specifically concerned tonight. The figures that have been quoted in this chamber today and yesterday by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and others have demonstrated the position in Tasmania. At the same time, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) has pointed out that in the Goulburn Valley in Victoria there are similar quite difficult circumstances which are affecting a large number of producers. These producers have been placed in a very unfortunate position partly as a result of seasonal conditions and partly as a result of market prices.
Originally, it had been intended to pass this legislation during the last session. It was introduced after very protracted discussions between representatives of industry in all parts of Australia. In fact, the legislation was fairly complex, and because it was complex it was not possible to introduce the Bill at the time thatI made a statement in the House which set out the way in which the scheme would operate. Of course, the scheme is operating from this season. So even though the legislation had not been introduced the growers themselves would be aware of the entitlement which they would receive under the scheme.
The proposal that we have before us in relation to this clause is that the undertaking which is expressed in the concluding paragraphs of my second reading speech should be translated into a new sub-clause, which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has suggested should be added to clause 11. The undertaking that I gave was intended specifically to cover the variations between pear deliveries and apple deliveries. As honourable members well know, a series of varietal pools create very severe technical difficulties in working out the balance between different varieties for different growers in different areas in relation to each season’s crop. It is true, as the honourable member for Dawson has said, that there are 3 essential parameters around which entitlement to assistance revolves. The first is the support price, the second is the contribution of 80c per bushel and the third is the limitation of 4.4 million bushels. The undertaking which I gave in my second reading speech, which I think is worth repeating, was:
In the light of this fact - and I had been referring specifically to varietal differences - the industry has asked for an assurance by the Government that should any major anomaly (such as an imbalance in the relativity between apples and pears) be so evident as to affect seriously the scheme at any stage in its lifetime the Government will be prepared to discuss the matter with the industry to see if it is necessary to amend the arrangements under the plan and the legislation.
That undertaking was given specifically to accommodate the particular position of the Goulburn Valley pear growers. At the same time I recognise that the position in Tasmania has been deteriorating. I had discussions, I think on last Monday week, with the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania. I told the Federation that recognising the fact that these difficulties existed, the Government would still look to the industry in particular to try to introduce some of the marked changes, in particular those relating to the delivery and handling of fruit for export, which seemed to have given to producers, for example, in New Zealand and South Africa marked advantages over Australian fruit growers. I said that if Tasmanian fruit growers introduced those changes and if they found that they were still in difficulties, then the Government would be prepared to listen to any case which they might present.
It is unfortunate that tonight we are dealing with a Bill which in fact is passing into legislation an agreement which is now 12 months old and which antedates negotiations that go back nearly 4 or 5 years before that. This particular clause, in fact, is the clause which sets the upper limit of the Commonwealth’s financial obligation to provide assistance to the industry under this stabilisation proposal. It is difficult to work out just how much assistance any particular industry in Australia deserves. Those of us who are associated with primary producers in particular areas are most concerned about the deteriorating returns which producers are receiving. The figures that have been given in this chamber demonstrate how producers in particular industries have been affected. In my second reading speech, I mentioned that the approximate cost of the stabilisation scheme was estimated to be about $10m over 5 years. While I recognise the deteriorating situation which exists, I do not believe that in this chamber at this time we would be in a position to accept an obligation to review a scheme which would materially add to the cost without considering all the implications of changed efficiency in handling which I believe it is possible to introduce and which I see as being absolutely essential before the Government considers further any request from the industry for additional help.
Whilst I recognise the deteriorating circumstances facing the industry and the concern which individual members who have fruit growers in their electorates have for their financial state - I have not an insignificant apple producing area in my own electorate so I am not unaware of the problems - I believe it is necessary that the industry should try to correct these deficiencies, particularly in export handling, which are apparent to all of us. Having done that, then I believe that if the position has not improved the fruit growers would be able to take advantage of the undertaking which I gave in my second reading speech, even though it was not specifically directed to that contingency, but to the one to which the honourable member for Murray has referred. For that reason, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment which the honourable member for Dawson has presented, but I am prepared to give the undertaking which I gave to fruit growers in Tasmania on Monday of last week, that if they take steps to improve the general efficiency of their operation and if they are still in extreme difficulties, at that stage I can see validity in their again coming to the Government to ask it to take whatever steps might be necessary to help them to offset their unfortunate economic position. As I have said, the Government does not propose to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition.
That the sub-clause proposed to be inserted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) he inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr Hallett)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 August (vide page 362), 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.
Consideration resumed from 19 August (vide page 362), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Order! I was listening outside the chamber to the broadcast of proceedings during the last division and the general level of noise in the chamber was a disgrace. I appeal to honourable members to keep the level of noise in the chamber to a minimum.
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.
Consideration resumed from 19 August (vide page 363), 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.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
Mr LYNCH (Flinders Minister for
Labour and National Service) (8.54) -I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to amend section 7 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1966 to give effect to changes which have taken place in the Port of Darwin upon the North Australian Workers’ Union application fortheregistration as an organisation under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Since 1920 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) has been the principal employee organisation operating in the Northern Territory and as such it has until recently recruited into its membership the registered waterside workers employed in the Port of Darwin. This position was recognised under the Stevedoring Industry Act by the definition which appears in section 7 (1) in respect of ‘union’ as follows: “Union” means the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, the North Australian Workers’ Union or any organisation of employees specified in a declaration in force under section nine of this Act and “the Union” means -
Subsequently in 1969 the North Australian Workers’ Union sought affiliation with the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia, an organisation also registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The necessary procedures under that Act have been complied with and, following hearings by the Industrial Registrar together with certain appeals before Mr Justice Aird, have resulted in the request being granted. During the course of these proceedings it was agreed that the Waterside Workers’ Federation should take over the North Australian Workers’ Union waterfront section’ comprising all of the registered waterside workers in the Port of Darwin and recruiting them into full membership of the Federation.
To all intents and purposes, the North Australian Workers’ Union has now ceased to exist as a registered organisation and until the Waterside Workers’ Federation is recognised as the appropriate union in the Port of Darwin there is an administrative void in respect of that Port. The amendment seeks to correct the position by changing the definition of ‘union’ as it presently appears in section 7 (1) of the Act by deleting the reference to the North Australian Workers’ Union in the preamble and elsewhere and according recognition to the Waterside Workers’ Federation, This is a simple administrative matter which is being introduced with the consent of all parties concerned in the stevedoring industry and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 16 September (vide page 1489).
Proposed expenditure, $4,829,000.
– At this time when the House is considering the estimates for the Parliament I think it is appropriate that we should take a look at the manner in which the Parliament is and has been working over a number of years. After 70 years of operation it is time for reflection upon the present structure of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The strength and influence of the mass media, the top heavy structure of the Liberal Party especially during the second Menzies period and the relative electoral weakness of the Australian Labor Party in the 1950s have led to a denigration of the standing of the Parliament in the nation’s affairs. The major decisions are made elsewhere. Members of the Government parties are forced to accept decisions to which they are opposed because of their loyalty to their leader or party. The fact that the Prime Minister has the sole right to choose who will exercise the effective power of government divorces the Parliament from any area of control over the day to day decisions of the government. Men of ability are excluded because they will not crawl or because their policies or personalities clash with those of the Prime Minister of the day. Once Cabinet decides to proceed with legislation, no matter how controversial or complicated, it will be rammed through the Parliament with little regard for the ideas or wishes of honourable members. Important amendments to major Bills have been avoided by the use of the guillotine to prevent voting and adequate debate.
Under the present Prime Minister the position of Parliament has deteriorated even further. Obviously unable to find confidence in his own leadership capacity he has decided to by-pass Parliament wherever possible. There is need for some real thought about the future operation of the parliamentary system of government if we are to restore its pre-eminence as a legislative and deliberative body accepting the fact that abolition of the Senate is at least not likely to occur in the near future. I would like to put forward some ideas for improving the effectiveness of the Parliament and increasing its control over the Executive. I would suggest that all Ministers should be members of the House of Representatives. The present situation where major ministerial responsibilities are exercised in another place is unsatisfactory for this House, and is used as a device to stifle questioning and debate on important areas of policy. Provision should be made for Ministers to be able to handle the passage of legislation under their control through both Houses. Ministers should also be rostered for question time in the Senate, as happens in the Indian Parliament. By this means the responsibility of the Executive is open to direct question in either House. The House of Representatives should have standing legislative committees to which all legislation would be referred after the first reading. These committees could be required to report on a Bill within a fixed period. The committees would have power to call public servants or members of the public during consideration of legislation. In order to facilitate this process the Minister would make his interpretative speech during the first reading of the Bill. He could if desired reply to the committee report on the second reading, which would retain its general debate function.
In order that the Ministry should reflect the will of the Parliament it should be provided that if one-third of the members petition the Speaker for a secret ballot such a ballot should be taken of the members of the House of Representatives, the question being whether the House accepts or rejects the Prime Minister’s nominees each being voted for separately.
– I can see why your Party would accept that.
– I do not care whether it does or not. In order that the Senate could play a full role in the Parliament and perform adequately its function as a House of review, a series of Senate committees should be established covering the major areas of Government activity. The chairman of these committees should be elected directly from the Senate. Such committees would have the power to conduct public inquiries into matters covered by their terms of reference. Bills may be referred to such committees, but must be returned to the Senate within a fixed period unless otherwise determined by the Senate. The committees should also have power to examine matters not directly before the Parliament.
The changes I have proposed would place a greater work load on members and add to their responsibility. They would minimise the possibility of persons becoming Ministers who are unacceptable to the majority and make sure that ill conceived, hastily prepared legislation does not pass into law. This is, I would hope, a proper function of the Parliament. The House of Representatives would be, as it is historically intended, the House of Government; the Senate would adopt the role of a House of review and examination. The existing wasteful duplication of functions would be minimised. In the normal course of events the flow of legislation would soon be regularised, and the Government’s timetable would be geared to the timetable of the Parliament. There would need to be special provision for urgent legislation, and possibly the Budget. I would envisage that statements and reports could be treated in the same way as Bills. There is one further point. I think it would be desirable if the Speaker had the power to direct Ministers to provide information to the Parliament where it is obvious that such information is required. Matters directly concerning the Parliament and members should come directly under the control of the Parliament itself. The functions relating to the Parliament that are at present administered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) should, I believe, come under the direct jurisdiction of the Speaker and President of the Senate.
The propositions which I have put forward, despite the interjection of one honourable member, are propositions to which I have given considerable consideration. Because I believe that any such propositions should be put forward in a proper manner, 1 took the trouble to write them out. I do not believe that these propositions are original ideas. I believe that other people have most likely put most of them forward before this time. This is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia and it should reflect the views of the people. It should reflect the majority views of its members. I do not believe that at present this is so and I do not believe that the Parliament itself at this point of time has within its Standing Orders the means by which members can influence the government of the day.
– Do you have a free vote on your side?
– You do not have a free vote on your side, so do not cloud the issue with irrelevancies. The situation is that this House is not acting as a House of Government. In fact it is probably true to say that neither House of this Parliament is acting as a House of Government I believe that the necessary provision ought to be made so that the Ministry was directly answerable to the Parliament and so that the Speaker could direct a Minister to make a statement on a matter when he believed that such information should be given to the Parliament. This is what happens in India which has a younger Parliament than ours. The Speaker of the lower House in the Indian Parliament can direct the Minister to make a statement in those circumstances. The Prime Minister of India and all the other Ministers in the Indian Parliament handle their legislation in both Houses of that Parliament.
In the event of these propositions being adopted obviously there would be a need for changes to be made in relation to such matters as parliamentary privilege. It may even be necessary to have constitutional alterations but these changes should not be a total bar to the adoption of any proposition for the streamlining of this Parliament. It is a totally unsatisfactory situation when matters concerning the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, which is a primary department, or the Department of Health cannot adequately be dealt with in this House because the responsible Minister is not in this place but is represented here by another Minister. A similar situation exists in the Senate when the Minister concerned is a member of the House of Representatives. If the Indian Parliament - which is the only one that I know with this arrangement, but I understand that there are others, - can provide for Ministers to appear in both Houses to accept the primary function of steering and answering for legislation in both Houses then I can see no reason why this could not be done in this Parliament. I think it would be a very strong step forward. I have outlined these proposals because I believe that some serious consideration should be given to them. I do not profess to be an oracle on these viewpoints but some serious consideration should be given by members of this Parliament to proposals that would make it a more effective body and with a view to placing its members in roles in which they will be far more effective in influencing the decisions of government from day to day. I am sure that when legislation is being considered-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN <Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Hallett, we are required under a clause of this Bill to vote a sum in excess of $4m for the running of this Parliament during the current financial year. The question is whether the public is getting full value for that money. I am not going to suggest radical things like the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has suggested but I will put some simple reforms that might make all the difference and which are within the power of the House if it chooses to exercise that power. First of all, why is the House so empty at most times? Just before I rose to speak in this debate I noticed that there were 15 people in the public gallery, 12 honourable members in the House, the Deputy Chairman, the 2 Clerks and 2 Hansard reporters. The number may have altered by one or two since then. This is a typical situation. Why is this so? Various reasons have been given but we ought to be asking ourselves why members and the public take so little interest in the proceedings of this place. There may be something the matter with us.
Sir, I would suggest first of all the inclusion of a standing order which was repealed about 5 years ago and which now permits honourable members to read speeches in this place. Nothing is duller than a read speech; a speech that is read, that is badly read, is not worth reading, lt is, I suggest, a simple means of infusing some life into a place that has become dead. Even those honourable members who sit here are mainly conscripts - conscripted by the Whips. Why is this so? Reading lacks the vivacity of the spoken word. Nobody attempts to answer what has been said by his predecessor because it is not in his script. The position is exacerbated by the cutting of the time honourable members have for debate. They do not have time to answer anything. They have to get on with the little bit in their script.
Let me pass on to the time that is wasted in this House, first of all in relation to the Opposition and then in relation to the Government. For matters of public importance 2 hours are allowed. This kind of thing sometimes occurs twice in a single week. The Standing Orders are suspended at any opportunity, and this again wastes time. Spurious points of order are taken and dissent from the Speaker’s ruling is moved. I would be the first to agree that when an Opposition is implacably opposed, root and branch, to a Bill brought forward by the Government it has every right to use all the devices of the House to oppose that Bill. But I am talking about senseless, inane, stupid obstruction for no purpose whatsoever. The result of this is that there is not then time for those things that ought to have time and that are really important. I am speaking about the inane abuse of the privileges and rules of the House.
Now I come to the Government’s situation: Today we have had, for example, apples and pears, pears and apples. We have got to the core of the matter a dozen times in the course of last 2 days. If every honourable member who has apples and pears growing in his electorate has to speak because he needs to have his speech published in the local Press, we should cut down the time for speeches to 5 or 10 minutes. Let him say his piece for the local Press and finish, and then we can gc, on with important matters.
There has been a haphazard timetabling of Bills. We dawdle through the early stages of the sessional period and then we rush through the last stages. I think that the last sessional period reached the very apex in this respect when something like 17 Bills were dealt with, if that is the correct expression, in the last 3 days. Either nobody is trying or nobody cares. In either event we cannot be surprised if neither honourable members nor the public are interested in our proceedings and the House is empty. Seldom do we receive reasonable notice in advance of Bills that are to be brought forward. So we do not have time for preparation. Speeches that are not prepared are not worth listening to.
Why do we not use White Papers in this House? The Westminster Parliament, on which we profess to model ourselves, uses this obvious device. If the Government has a policy which may involve bringing down a number of Bills and a number of administrative actions to put it into effect it tables a White Paper setting out the totality of the policy and then there is a debate on the White Paper which sets out the facts and argues the considerations. We do not do this. No, we have second reading speeches mumbled by a Minister at the table. Nobody listens. They do not really matter. Why can this not be done by White Papers instead of wasting time while Ministers mumble at the table? Let us have due notice as well. A White Paper could be reasoned at greater length than the Minister’s second reading speech which covers only part of the total policy involved. A White Paper could cover the ambit of a number of Bills and administrative actions. It could enable Ministers to make brief, crisp, debating speeches in introducing the debate on the White Paper instead of the abominations that we have. lt could provide a better basis for informed debate. But no, we do not have White Papers here. We stick to what we had 70 years ago when we were all colonies.
Let me refer now to question time. We have far too many party political questions inviting rambling party political answers. We have no provision for supplementary questions, and therefore no probing of answers is possible. The first question may be about Aboriginals, the next on the special drawing rights created by the International Monetary Fund, and the third question may be on skeleton weed in the Mallee. There is no possibility of moving on with supplementary questions to probe particular matters. What is required is a factual reply followed by supplementary questions, as is done in other parliaments. That is not good enough for us here. No, we stick to the old style - the way we have always done it.
Let me come now to the Estimates debates. What could be more futile than a debate like this? This is not a committee. I called the Chairman ‘Mr Hallett’, to be committee-like. But let us look at the whole of the surroundings. We are sitting here as if it were a second reading debate. The Minister’s advisers are sitting back there and he cannot turn around and ask them a question. Nobody ever raises a point, as used to be done once, long, long ago, as to why some item is larger or not as large as it was the year before. This does not happen here. I have seen it happen. I have been in Parliament 34 years. I have been in even long enough to have heard some question asked about the expenditure, which is what an Estimates debate is supposed to be about. Obviously we need an Estimates debate. I know that my friend, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), if he gets back here in time, will have something to say about the form of the Estimates. That is vital to a proper consideration of the Estimates. So many Bills are either technical or machinery measures that obviously at the Committee stage they ought to be referred to a committee instead of wasting the time of the House.
I refer now to private members Bills. Some of my colleagues here who appeared on television the other night had to rack their brains to think of a private member’s Bill that had ever been introduced in the House in their time. At last they thought of Mr Joske’s Bill many years ago. We do not have a private member’s day on which members can draw lots in a ballot to see which honourable member will have the opportunity of introducing a Bill, as they do in the House of Commons. We get no assistance whatever from the legal staff in drafting Bills, so we do not have private member’s Bills. I will not go on to mention the assistance that might be given to honourable members by more effective staff. I finish by saying that the other day I raised in the House - of course nobody took any notice - the question of the partial televising of Parliament for the purpose of a half hour session at the end of the day, taking out the essence of the debate and the things that had been raised during the day. I point out that this was fully and extensively debated in the House of Commons in 1966. The idea of having an experiment along these lines was defeated by only one vote. But we are not interested in that kind of thing. Let Parliament be buried. If the Bible had remained in Latin and had never been translated into the common tongue I suspect that the Bible would have been forgotten by this time. If Parliament is unwilling to use the modem means of communicating itself to the people, it too will be forgotten. Not only will it be dead, as it is now, but buried as well.
– Tonight we are concerned with the Estimates relating to approximately $4m for the operation of the Parliament. Both the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) have dealt with the Parliament itself. I want to say a few words on this also because I believe that any large business corporation which adopted the inefficient methods and practices of the Federal Parliament in the conduct of its business would become bankrupt. The inefficiency of the Parliament seems to be worsening. I believe that the full blame for this position must be borne by the Government. The Government blames the Opposition whenever it can. The honourable member for Bradfield did this tonight. But it is the Government that is in power and has been in power for over 22 years. The Government - which, technically is the Cabinet - seems to believe that it can treat the rest of the Parliament with utter contempt. in the past 18 months I have noticed the growth of a most obnoxious practice. Ministers seeking national publicity introduce important legislation or important statements into the Parliament and then either shelve the legislation or refuse to allow the important ministerial statements ever to be debated. Let me give an example. Eighteen months ago the Government introduced important legislation into the Parliament in relation to the territorial sea and continental shelf. This was designed to clarify speedily the controversy which had arisen over the ownership of the offshore resources of Australia. While this uncertainty existed and still exists the search for and the exploration and development of natural resources off the coast of Australia is languishing. Despite its great national importance the Government has not proceeded with this legislation or even allowed it to be discussed in the Parliament. The Government’s contempt of the Parliament, and indirectly the Australian people, can be gauged by the fact that when this Bill was introduced by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) 18 months age he said:
The Government feels that this issue should now bc decided once and for all and without delay.
I repeat that that was 18 months ago.
Seven weeks ago the issue of Britain joining the European Common Market was raised in this Parliament by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) after an overseas tour. This is a matter of vital importance to this Parliament and to this nation, but despite the assurances given by the Government to me that this matter would be considered by the Parliament without delay nothing has yet been done about it. There has been no opportunity to debate this statement. Nine months ago the Parliament was informed of the decisions of the inquiry into the damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef by the crown of thorns starfish. The Government gave us the decisions but has still not allowed the Parliament to debate this most important matter. It is patently clear that the Government is deliberately adopting tactics to delay or stifle debate on matters which could embarrass it. I believe these are defeatist, negative and bad tactics which are contemptuous of the Parliament.
Six and a half months ago we had 2 Bills dealing with fisheries and the continental shelf introduced into the Parliament They are different to the one I spoke about a moment ago. They relate to the conservation of our natural resources off the coast. They have still not been debated in the Parliament. I have seen here, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) can verify, Bills relating to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars go through with only one or two honourable members speaking to them, and then we see Bills which are relatively innocuous take one or two days to debate. The honourable member for Bradfield mentioned question time.
I want to deal with another aspect of the Parliament which concerns me and that is, one might say, a growing contempt of the Parliament on the part of the younger generation. Anyone who has had any experience of speaking at high schools, universities or wherever it might be, and of trying to explain how the Parliament runs will have run into this problem. I believe parliamentary procedure needs a drastic overhaul in order to streamline the business of running the country in line with modern thinking, and by that I mean with 20th century methods. We have ridiculous names given to important parliamentary officers such as the Serjeant-at-Arms. With all due respect to our friend, what does this mean? Perhaps it meant something in the 16th century in the House of Commons. In the Senate we have the Usher of the Black Rod. Can honourable members imagine their sons or daughters attending a Canberra high school saying: ‘My father is the Usher of the Black Rod’, or somebody else saying: ‘My father is the SerjeantatArms’? What does this mean?
I had an experience here last year when unfortunately I was wrongfully suspended from the Parliament for a few hours and I was escorted out by the Sergeant-at-Arms. My daughter was plagued at school by people who thought that I was escorted out by somebody armed with guns, ls it not time that these 2 titles, SergeantatArms and Usher of the Black Rod, were relegated to the scrap heap? The practice of the Speaker in the chair wearing a long wig and a type of monkey gown suggests that he is presiding over either a fancy dress ball or a bunch of criminals or other people in a court instead of honourable members of the Parliament. The most important parliamentary officer is the Clerk of the House. What sort of title is this? Anybody who knows anything about classifications in the Public Service knows that the title Clerk of the House does not mean very much. I think it is degrading to the Clerk of the House that he should have to try and tell people outside the Parliament that he is the Clerk.
– What name do you suggest?
– You are one of the old school. You ought to have been relegated, to the scrap heap about 30 years ago. We have the weird practice of admitting new members into what is called this chamber by means of some type of mock struggle. We have seen what happens when a new member comes through the doors. 1 happened to be one of them years ago. I was supposed to walk in here struggling with 2 fellows at my elbows. What sort of nonsense is this? This is more characteristic of a junior high school initiation ceremony than of an entry into the Federal Parliament. What do we see when the Speaker leaves the chair? The Sergeant-at-Arms leaps up, grabs what is called the Mace, and escorts the Speaker along the corridor. What for? Does he think that someone is going to waylay the Speaker in the Corridor, that there are a lot of thugs running around the corridors, and we need this
Mace? The word ‘Mace’ does not mean to us what it means to the modern people. They put a different interpretation on it. 1 suggest also that we scrap the title of Mr Speaker. A speaker is one who speaks; that is the connotation of the term. But Mr Speaker is in fact a chairman and he should be called that. Everybody knows what a chairman is. Then we come to the practice of addressing members as the honourable member for such and such’. How do we know they are honourable members? The word ‘honourable’ in the dictionary means something. Then the Ministers - whether they are serving or not - have the high-falutin title ‘the Honourable’. Even on aircraft passenger lists one sees ‘the Honourable Minister for something or other’. Again, what son of nonsense is this? Then we have Assistant Ministers - a new title - who are also called ‘the Honourable So-and-so.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister can say ‘Hear, hear!’ All I am suggesting is that if we think we are some elite, a class separate from the rest of society, we have another think coming because when a person mixes with some of the younger people one finds that on the average they have far more radical views than do older people. We should be moving with the times. This is the 20th century, as I said before, and not the 16th century. I would like to speak at some length on question time. If there is one thing in this Parliament that is a farce it is question time. I have been waiting for 3 weeks to ask an important question on wool and another on the effect on our coal exports of the international monetary crisis. I will probably get one in next week if I am lucky.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman) - Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that if anything would cause disrespect for Parliament it is the speech we have just heard from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in which he was trying to ridicule the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. When this Parliament is sitting it is the most important place in Australia in spite of what has been said by the honourable member. When he said that the Clerk of the House is a bad title 1 very quietly said: ‘What name do you suggest?’ Then, of course, in his usual manner he tried to insult me. The honourable member is generally pretty successful insulting people. If he gets any satisfaction out of it he can wallow in it as far as I am concerned.
– You are a nasty fellow.
– Yes, I am when he is very nasty to me. Most of the things the honourable member referred to including the Mace, are traditional. He does not believe in tradition. He speaks, too, of the young people with whom he has’ associated. I know that there is a percentage of radical young people with whom he has associated the honourable member has been associating with them. However, the majority of our young people honour the country, the flag and the Parliament and they do not act in the way that was suggested by the honourable member for Dawson.
– That is completely wrong.
– The honourable member for Bendigo says that it is completely wrong. If the honourable member wants to get personal I ask him: How do the people in Bendigo regard the Parliament? I travel through Bendigo when I come to Canberra and return home and I speak to people there. They hold this Parliament in. the highest regard. If the honourable member for Bendigo wants to join with the honourable member for Dawson in dragging Parliament down, he can do it, but do not let him start interjecting when I am trying to raise it to a higher level. I believe it is right that we should uphold the traditions of the Parliament and I believe that the people support the Government in this respect. If honourable members want further proof it is obvious from the fact that the Australian Labor Party has been out of office for 22 years. Do not think for one moment that all people in Australia are altogether foolish about happenings in the Parliament. This seems to be the view of the honourable member for Dawson and, I suspect, the honourable member for Bendigo by the things they seek to do in this Parliament. Why is it, then, that the people of Australia, if they are all down on the Government and on the way in which . the
Parliament is being conducted, have not long ago put the Labor Party into Government? This question should be asked throughout the nation.
– Why do you not wear a wig?
– That is the sort of interjection one gets from members of the Opposition. Why do I not wear a wig? Because I have not the same good head of hair as the honourable member. I can see other honourable members who are similarly afflicted. This is one of those personal, nasty sort of cracks that honourable members opposite make when they feel they are on the wrong end of the stick, and that is where the honourable member for Dawson is tonight.
I agree with some of the things that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) said but I disagree with others. First of all, he took over the role I previously undertook in condemning the reading of speeches by members. I decided not to persevere with this role, but he has taken it on. I believe that what he says is correct. Very few honourable members have been both in Opposition and in government and have had the advantage of seeing what happens on both sides of the House. The honourable member for Dawson certainly has not because he is one of the new boys here. I want to point out what happens when members read their speeches. I have campaigned for a long time against the reading of speeches. I have never drawn the attention of the Speaker to an honourable member who is reading his speech but I have heard of this being done on, I suppose, 12 or IS times. It is claimed that an honourable member is reading his speech and the Speaker usually says: ‘I do not know whether he is reading his speech or referring to voluminous notes’. Of course, the honourable member is reading word for word from a paper. All honourable members have seen this happen; I am not telling them something new.
One day in this chamber, as Hansard shows, I said that the one thing we want in this House is sincerity. I said that we know when members are reading their speeches and if the Speaker cannot decide whether they are and says that they must be referring to voluminous notes, the best thing we can do is to take out of the Standing Orders the rule that says a member shall not read his speech. Of course I was hoist on my own petard because at the next meeting this was done. The sincerity I want is that when a man is reading his speech, it should be recognised that he is doing so.
The honourable member for Bradfield’, in the same way as the honourable member for Dawson, likes to say a few words that are not very encouraging or courteous to honourable members. He spoke about what happens in the Parliament, about members visiting people and discussing their pensions, and people coming to members and wasting their time. He referred to question time and said that we get a question about skeleton weed in the Mallee’. All honourable members heard him say this a short while ago. The whole point is that most members of the Opposition - apparently the honourable member for Bradfield is tarred with the same brush - represent city areas.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order, ls it necessary for members of the Opposition to have to put up with this personal display of animosity in the Government parties?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman) - Order! There is no point of order.
– Of course, the honourable member for Grayndler constantly repeats things so I must also repeat them. Some time ago, the Melbourne Herald’ used to publish a regular article called Overnight at Canberra’. The honourable member will recall it well. I am mentioning this matter because he has taken repeatedly the same point of order. At that time, nearly every night he and I used to engage in debate. Of course, the debates went sorely against him. He never forgets the thrashings that I used to give him. Therefore, it is noticeable that every time he makes a speech he always refers to the honourable member for Mallee. If an honourable member can find in Hansard 10 of his speeches in which the honourable member for Grayndler has not referred to me he is pretty good at research.
– You are referring to him the whole time.
– No, I never refer to him at all because I think he is all right as long as he is not making speeches. Apart from the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) I am probably the only member to have raised the question of skeleton weed.
– It is a serious problem in the Mallee.
– Another city member, who is constantly interjecting, says that it is a serious problem in the Mallee but he is only being sarcastic.
– I am trying to help you.
– The honourable member is not trying to help me; be is being sarcastic. My advocacy in relation to skeleton weed has resulted in people in the north receiving hundreds of dollars from governments to fight this menace and consequently it is not the serious problem it was some time ago. I conclude by saying that members who have not had experience on both sides of the House are not in a position to talk of the things which are happening and about the hundreds of millions of dollars which are spent in just a few Bills. When I first came here, the expenditure of that amount of money was debated and approved at 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock in the morning.
– It never happened.
– It did happen and I have Hansard to prove it. I think that honourable members should hold up the traditions of Parliament. I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield that more members should be present in the House than is normally the case. We should have good attendances. How can we expect the people to take any interest if the members of Parliament do not? There are certain honourable members who are very good in their attendances and others whose attendances are disastrous. Why do honourable members not get together, sit in this House and find out what is going on instead of rushing in when there is a division with the call ‘What is the vote on?’
– You have only 4 members present. Where is the Country Party?
– The honourable member for Sydney who is interjecting is a fairly good attender in the House. I know that, and I appreciate it. I should like other’ honourable members who think that there is no more important place to go than this Parliament to realise, as I said earlier, that when this Parliament is sitting it is the most important place in Australia.
-I do not intend to reply to the personal invective and criticism of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). On the contrary, I hope to make some constructive and, as far as I am concerned, sincere criticism of the procedures of this Parliament. I believe that if ever there was a time when it was necessary for us to try to build up the image of the Parliament amongst the public, today is that time. No doubt Press criticism of the Parliament is degrading and it is having a serious impact upon the confidence of the public in the democratic procedures of this Parliament. For that reason I believe the time has arrived for some form of committee of inquiry to be established to determine the future procedures of this Parliament. I say this as, like many other parliamentarians, I am deeply concerned at the growing inability of the Parliament itself adequately to cope with the mass of legislative and administrative detail which comes before it. Unless something is done to correct this situation I believe that the government of this country will fall more and more into the hands of the bureaucracy, as happened in France between the 2 World Wars and just after the Second World War. We had the spectacle in this House during the dying hours of the last session of 17 Bills being guillotined through and the debate on a further 3 being gagged, with only the barest minimum of discussion. I am open to correction, but as I recollect it was stated that one Minister had only 2 minutes to explain his Bill in the debate on the motion for the second reading.
Amongst those Bills which were rushed through were very important items of legislation such as industrial legislation and amendments to the Trade Practices Act. Is it any wonder that these items of legislation are not as effective as they should be. and would anybody claim that the legislation concerned had received the full and careful consideration of this Parliament as required in a parliamentary democracy? Of course not. What really happened was that the Executive and the bureaucracy made the decisions without involving the great body of this Parliament.
The fact is that this Parliament is still working under much the same procedures in 1971 as it worked under in 1901, the time of federation. Let us have a look at the responsibilities of this Parliament in 1901 as compared with 1971. In 1901 there were 9 Ministers, including the Prime Minister, the other ministries being External Affairs, Home Affairs, Trade and Customs, Defence, PostmasterGeneral, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and 2 Ministers without portfolios. Today there are 27 Ministers. In 1901 we had no Department of Civil Aviation, no Navy that was established in 1911 by a Labor Government no Royal Australian Air Force, no Repatriation Department, no Department of Social Services, no organised Commonwealth marketing schemes in primary industry, no medical and hospital benefits legislation, no Commonwealth education and science legislation, no uniform taxation, no restrictive trade practices legislation, no uniform marriage or divorce laws, no Commonwealth Department of Housing no external territories responsibilities, no industrial legislation, no national service, no national development responsibilities, no departments covering Aboriginal affairs, the environment and the arts, no tourist activity responsibilities, no shipping and transport responsibilities including Commonwealth ships, and no organisation relating to trade and industry. In addition the massive tariff legislation which was introduced in the late 1920s to develop a semi-industrialised economy was not in being at that time; nor were the Commonwealth and Reserve banks, TransAustralia Airways and Commonwealth control over the note issue.
These are just some of the responsibilities which this Parliament has today and which it did not have in 1901, and there would be more. Is it any wonder that we are clogged down in masses of legislation which is not being properly considered by this Parliament. Are not all members of the Parliament concerned that we have to wait up to 4 weeks on the Opposition side of the House, as mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), before we can level a question without notice at a Minister? Would anyone oppose the proposal that question time be extended to allow the Ministry, the Executive and the bureaucracy to come under the scrutiny of the Parliament, the public and the Press? Surely these are matters which should be considered urgently by some form of committee of inquiry.
I believe also that the provision of a research assistant with the necessary stenographic staff and office accommodation for each parliamentarian would be a good way to commence correcting the steady growth of the superiority of the bureacracy of the Parliament and would enable parliamentarians to call upon research assistants to conduct research into various phases of government and thereby equip them to level constructive criticism in respect of the day to day administration of government as well as government policy. This would make far more effective parliamentarians, a far more effective Parliament and, much sounder government of Australia and would help towards increasing the power of the Parliament over the bureaucracy - surely a vital necessity for the future of Australia. 1 can recollect the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) saying at this time last year that he believed that some of the best work that a parliamentarian does is outside this chamber when he is dealing with electors and the day to day electoral representations that they put up to him. 1 believe that this is the case because the machinery being used in this Parliament is completely out of date. It is not a matter of attacking the traditions; it is simply common sense that the machinery being used in this Parliament is completely out of date in this year of 1971. We are still using the procedures that applied in 1901. Surely the time has arrived when this Parliament should look seriously at this matter. It is a very great issue affecting the future of democracy in Australia, and unless we are prepared to grapple with it, unless we are prepared to set up some form of committee of inquiry so that this matter can be researched fully and common sense decisions arrived at, it augers very badly indeed for the future of this Parliament and it augers very badly indeed for the respect that the public has for the forms, traditions, and activities of the Parliament.
– We have just heard a tirade of criticism of the machinery of the House and the rushing through of legislation. If we reflect upon the events of the last session of which so much was being made by the Opposition we will find that the Opposition agreed that the House should adjourn a week earlier than had been scheduled, and honourable members opposite took a very mean attitude in regard to the various Bills that were before the House. If they had not submitted unnecessary matters for discussions as matters of definite public importance we would have had very much more time to debate Bills which came before the House.
– He is telling fibs.
– I am telling the truth in regard to this matter because honourable members opposite had an extra week in which to deal with the legislation before the Parliament. There is nothing wrong with the machinery of this place. It needs only the will and desire of members of Parliament to do their job and everything is ready. All we hear from a great number of members of this Parliament are complaints. They would give their left hand to become a member of this Parliament, but once they get here they do nothing but complain and want to get back home. If it is necessary to have an all night sitting, let us put our shoulders to the wheel and remain here and not complain. Honourable members, before they come here, knew that there procedures had been followed for years, for centuries in the House of Commons, and that we had all night sittings. If they cannot take it it would have been far better if they had not come here. We have been elected here to do a job and if it is necessary to get certain legislation through we should put up with the inconvenience and not go home and complain. We have heard a lot of tirades against the machinery of this place. I want to tell honourable members that once you take dignity out of this House you have not very much left. Honourable members may sneer at the positions certain people hold in this chamber and they can sneer at traditions, but take dignity away from this place and there is precious little left. I ask honourable members to consider these points before they ridicule the past.
The time is rapidly approaching when we will have to consider the advisability of having all Ministers in the House of
Representatives and not some in another place. It is time that all Ministers of this Parliament belonged to this House. This is the House of initiation and management and it is time we brought all ministries back to the House of Representatives and re-established the other House for the purpose for which it was brought into being, that is. as a House of review. That is what the Senate is designed to be and that is what it should be. The committees that the Senate is establishing are only a subterfuge to take from this House what rightly belongs to this House. The House of Representatives is the House of management and initiation. It is about time that these functions were returned to this chamber.
– Does the honourable member want the 27 Ministers here?
– This is where they belong, my dear sir. This is the House of management and initiation. No Bill has ever the right to be initiated in the other chamber. That is a House of review to prevent extreme legislation either to the right or to the left. It has failed in that function. It is in the last 2 years only that the Senate has borne a semblance of a House of review. As much as the majority parties in this Parliament may criticise it, the Australian Democratic Labor Party has brought about something that our founding fathers always thought would occur. The Senate is now more a House of review than ever it has been since Federation. Both major parties would not wish this situation to exist. Let us be honest and fair in this matter. The Senate is now partially a House of review.
– 1 will show the Ministers in the Senate your speech tomorrow.
– Of course I am free to express my opinion where honourable members on the opposite side have to toe the Party line.
– Was St John able to do that? You had to sack him.
– Now that the honourable member has mentioned that matter, I point out that I have stood in my place in this House as an individual to register my opposition to certain matters. I challenge any honourable member opposite to do that even if they were here for 40 years. They are controlled by their caucus. They would vote against their conscience to keep in line with their caucus. But I stood here on 3 occasions, game enough and big enough to express my own opinion and to oppose what I thought was wrong. I would like to see honourable members opposite who are trying to interject be game enough to do that. I think that I have expressed some original views tonight; I will let it go at that.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, debates in the Parliament, as is shown by the activity in these last moments, are a theatrical performance with no real audience. The radio audience gets a very disjointed picture of the debate since very few people are able to sit and listen to the whole debate and, ultimately, the whole proceedings depend upon the mass media for communication to the electors as a possible audience. However, this inevitably means considerable distortion, which is not deliberate; it is simply a function of reporting rather than immediate contact. For example, a report of a Shakespeare play or a Brunell film is nothing luce seeing the real thing. Ultimately, the conclusions drawn by the electors depend upon the interpretation of the performance made by the reporter, which, of course, inevitably will be slanted by his biases. I am not offering this as a criticism of the integrity of reporters, just as a simple observation of fact. It is one of the inevitable deficiencies of communication, particularly through the mass media.
With the effect of debates on the Government usually nil, one wonders whether pressure of any sort can be effective. Quite clearly, pressure groups lobbying within the hallowed portals are far more effective than the Opposition in open debate. This, again, is not necessarily to suggest that the whole procedure is corrupt - not at all. It is simply a function of quiet discussion and reasoning away from the glare of publicity being able to have far more influence. Subject to pressures of this sort, the Government is able to change its mind without losing face. In fact, no-one can know that the Government has changed its mind. This, of course, is impossible if the pressure is in debate from the Opposition in the Federal Parliament. Clearly, due to the exigencies of having to try to win votes, and to persuade people that one is strong and able to cope, it is imperative almost for a government not to listen to any suggestions made by the Opposition.
I have noticed the same situation with questions on behalf of constituents. If one asks a question in the House, if it really is simply seeking information, the answer inevitably is that the Minister will find out and let the member know. This is a tamecat question which earns the derision or the scorn of the Press and nothing more at the time. Therefore, honourable members usually attempt to take a rise out of the Government by asking slightly embarrassing questions but, of course, this also inevitably leads to smart answers or evasive answers, and no real result. If one wishes to obtain a constructive result for the constituent, it is far better to write a calm letter, discuss the matter quietly with the Minister in private, and often one can obtain a result on behalf of the constituent as it involves no loss of face publicly for the Government. At the moment, the sole purpose of the Opposition appears to be to score points in snouting matches, but in essence to achieve nothing. But if one asks what should the real purpose of the Opposition be, surely it is to try to change the ideas of the Government and to effect real improvements in legislation, though, with public debating and the electorate outside eventually judging the protagonists by means of a vote, it inevitably means that the public performance must appear not to allow the Opposition any influence on the Government.
Despite the great ideals, one is forced to the inevitable conclusion that much of the parliamentary process is a boring waste of time and means nothing in real terms to anyone. It is simply a stage upon which the various actors strut and proclaim their lines in the hope that subsequently they can circulate copies of their speeches to the local electors and trust that this will induce the electors to continue to support them when it comes to polling day. No decisions are taken other than on strict Party lines according to the strength of the Party. Whilst the system when first evolved may have served a real function, in the 1970s I am afraid that it is naught but a hollow mockery of adult discussion, debate, consultation and decision-making. Having been fairly critical, let me make some constructive suggestions.
In all that 1 have said before, i am not in any way trying to suggest that the Parliamentarians are inadequate. On my prejudices before coming to Parliament, I suppose I had the view commonly held by, I would guess, a majority of the community, that parliamentarians are, in fact, fairly useless, ineffectual and doubtful propositions. However, having seen many of them at closer quarters, 1 consider that they are dedicated, sincere and hardworking in the main and that the inadequacy of their performance is not due to their own shortcomings but to an impossible system under which they work. Let me try to deal with the situation by describing how, perhaps, new legislation could be dealt with.
Firstly, the Government could give notice of its intention to legislate in relation to some specific topic. No details should be given, simply a warning that action is considered necessary. Then the topic is referred to a committee of the Parliament. The committee should consist of no more than 12 members, in proportion to the strength of the Parties in the House, with the chairman of the committee, the odd man, being the Minister in charge of the proposed legislation. The committee should have access to any experts it chooses to consult in the community, commencing, of course, with the public servants in the Government department concerned, but it should be free also to call on experts on the topic under discussion who have nothing whatever to do with the Government. There should be definite times set aside during the parliamentary week for the meeting of these committees and a time limit should be set for the committee to produce its report to the Parliament, with majority and minority reports if necessary. Although presented to the Parliament, the reports should not be debated at this stage, but simply presented for the information of the members. Then the Government considers the report and formulates its legislation. The Government is not bound in any way by the committee reports, either majority or minority, and the final policy put by the Government is entirely at the discretion of the Government. However, of course, if there has been a good report with lots of facts uncovered in both public and private hearings by the committee, then it is far more likely that the legislation will be intelligent, and more intelligent than we feel, at the moment, some legislation is. Once the Government has formulated its legislation it is then brought into the House for debate. By this time, one is certain that at least the committee members, both Government and Opposition, and mainly from the back benches on both sides, will have a more effective say during the debate in the House. Most of all, one hopes that the real suggestions which may have been made by Opposition committee members will have been taken into account by the Government, particularly if the Government committee members agree with the propositions. It may not be possible to identify the individual who made the proposal, but 1 think that is a minor point compared with the advantage to be obtained from this procedure.
If this procedure were followed, then it is quite likely that the long winded second reading debates would be considerably shortened not by active limitation by the Government but. simply because the need for long-winded, pointless speeches would have been eliminated. At the Committee stage and by that I mean the stage which we are in now we could consider the minor points which the Government may have omitted to notice or which it was not prepared to notice, as it does at the present time. But the crucial effect is that in the deliberative processes of the committees, before the Government formulates its legislation, it will be possible to tap the real ability of the many parliamentarians who at the moment languish on the back benches and never have an effective say in anything. At the same time it removes from the Government the danger of appearing to lose face by backing down on an issue because the real discussion has taken place privately and calmly before the Government has formulated its legislation. When 1 talk about the Government and the Opposition . 1 am not referring to the Liberal Party or the Australian Labor Party. It is immaterial to me which Party is in power in this context. I am talking about the concept of the Government and the Opposition attempting to utilise openly and constructively all the talents which quite clearly are in the House but which regrettably at the moment are in the main ignored, even on the Government side.
Another side effect which can only be helpful is that the committee processes, by the act of consulting numerous people in the community will increase the feeling of community participation in decision making. Once again, this can only improve the standing of the Parliament in the eyes of the community. The regrettable thing about debates at the moment is that they are held in the public gaze and we have to concentrate on maintaining our votes. Too often we stoop to making personal criticisms of one another and completely avoid the real principles under discussion. Of course, because a government depends on power it is almost mandatory for it not to appear ever to give way on any issue. For these reasons I am convinced that a committee process which will allow quiet discussion with members from both sides of the House, particularly back bench members, taking part, can only help the processes of the Parliament and also enhance the standing of Parliament in the eyes of the whole community.
– There are many aspects of the affairs of this country that cannot usefully be examined through the procedures of a debate in this House. All the detailed financial examinations which are the responsibility of this House fall into this category. A proper investigation of these matters can be carried out only by a committee which can examine witnesses and consult documents, and avoid the tactics of confrontationstatement followed by flat contradiction, ending in personal abuse that all too often result from the procedures of debate. Technical matters as distinct from policy issues, need to be inquired into, through the taking of oral and written evidence rather than debated.
This House recognised this problem when it established a Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This was a valuable step, but in my opinion it does not go far enough.I recognise that we must avoid the trap into which the Senate has fallen of setting up too many committees more than can be adequately manned and staffed. But I should like to propose 2 steps which I believe are within the capacity of this House and which would be greatly to the benefit of Parliament and the nation.
The first proposal I have is to set up a standing committee on taxation. In this chamber we scarcely examine taxation measures at all, yet there are many areas which are crying out for examination and the type of investigation which could be satisfactorily carried out only by a committee of the House, such as the regressive nature of income tax deductions; whether the tax deductions which are allowed should be from taxable income or from tax payable; whether income in kind should be included in taxable income; and the definition of an investor. The list is almost endless. It is true that these matters are presumably kept under review by the Treasury and the Commissioner of Taxation, but they are instruments of the Executive, and do not absolve the legislature from its responsibility for closely and publicly examining the tax structure. The decision on which tax measures to apply, of course rests with the Government, for it has to raise the money and it has to bear the odium. But an examination by an all-party committee would probably make it easier for the Government to correct taxation anomalies and it is, in any case, the responsibility of the House to conduct such a continuing inquiry, and this can be done only by a standing committee as I have proposed.
The second proposal is to set up a standing committee on expenditure. Our present control of public expenditure, through the Public Accounts Committee, is directed almost entirely to the legal aspects of control. Tha Senate committees on the Estimates examine some of the managerial aspects of control and as the ability of this small Parliament - Senate and House - to provide committees is limited, I suggest it would be wasteful for the House to duplicate the work of these Senate committees, although as the House retains the primary financial responsibility, arrangements should be made for the reports of the Senate Estimates committees to be tabled and if necessary debated in this House.
But none of this does anything about scrutinising the long-term or strategic planning of expenditure. We do nothing at all about this and it is probably the most important aspect of Government affairs. This neglect is caused partly by the annual nature of the Estimates, but chiefly by the archaic accounting style in which they are presented. Professor Parkinson points out that our present system of accounts was designed for use during one particular period of history. Introduced during the Second Dutch War in 1666, their primary object was to prevent money from the Navy vote being spent by Charles II on the aptly entitled Duchess of Portsmouth. Even for this strictly limited purpose the method chosen met with no startling success. The system was revised, therefore, so as to assume its present form in 1689, from which year it more or less prevented William HI from spending the money on his friends - who were not even girls. Like most of our other institutions, we inherited this system from Great Britain, and we still have it, although Britain is moving away from it.
The only clear justification for the present form of the Estimates is that it enables the Treasury to wield control over the day-to-day disbursement of public funds. Even for this limited purpose the present Estimates do not appear to be very effective, to judge by the frequency with which Supplementary Estimates have to be presented and by the enormous size of some of these. We would find the present form of the Estimates even more frustrating than we already do if we ever gave the Estimates serious discussion. Any commercial business which used such primitive and old-fashioned accounting methods would be bankrupt in a fortnight.
For long-term control our present accounts are useless. A functional classification of expenditure is essential for this. The national accounts are a first step towards functional accounting for economic purposes - ‘but this covers only a small part of the functions of the Estimates. The announcement of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) that he intended to make 3 year projections of expenditure will be immensely valuable to the House, provided they are prepared on a functional accounting basis and provided they are examined - not debated - by a standing expenditure committee of the House. We would then, I hope, have 3 committees dealing with financial matters: The Public Accounts Committee, determining whether moneys have been spent as Parliament ordered; the estimates Committees in the Senate, watching the managerial aspects; and the expenditure committee, watching the long term policy aspects of expenditure and using functional accounts for this purpose.
We need not, at the outset, go all the way towards planning programming budgeting for the expenditure committee I have proposed. I am sure we will get there in the end, in common with all other developed countries. This type of budgeting is designed to show the link between departmental spending and departmental objectives. By linking resources to purposes and inputs to outputs in a programme and, by looking ahead for several years, the programme budget would be designed to lead to a better appraisal of what a budget cut or increase would mean in terms of a department’s programme. Linked with this, although not an essential part of it, is systems analysis to provide a systematic and comprehensive comparison of the costs and benefits of alternative approaches to a policy goal. We need not be too frightened of this for it is nothing new. Cost-benefit analyses seem to have begun in the Garden of Eden, for one is mentioned in the third chapter of the Book of Genesis. But although perhaps we may not yet be ready for systems analysis, the time is long past when we should be examining estimates on a long term functional basis, relating ends and means. This is the right - no, the duty - of this House, and we are entitled to have the Estimates presented in a form which will enable a committee of this House to carry out this examination.
Mr Deputy Chairman. I am sure it has not escaped your notice that I have not spoken at all on the estimates before us. I am sure that all other speakers who follow me will not do so either, because this type of debate is completely unsuitable for the detailed examination of the content and implications of the estimates, which is the inescapable responsibility of Parliament. I hope that by the time the next Estimates debates are held we will have taken the steps I have suggested, and that we will then be able to fulfil our responsibilities both to the Government and to the people. If we do not act to reform known defects in the operation of Parliament we will damage the whole machinery of Government, which depends ultimately for its efficiency on the proper working of the checks and balances. And if we denigrate Parliament, we denigrate ourselves.
– The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) concluded his speech by using some mighty words, if I may say so. I happen to sit on the Opposition side of the House. As such I am the recipient of the tender courtesies of honourable members opposite when it comes to treating the Parliament as a debating institution. There are two honourable members with whom I wish to take issue briefly. I shall have to do so briefly because I am allowed only 10 minutes in which to speak. I wish to say to those honourable members on both sides of the chamber who reduced the time of speeches in this chamber that I think they have done the whole institution a disservice. But I shall have to leave that subject because I can speak only in a kind of shorthand this evening.
The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) made a telling denunciation of this institution and its membership. He said, I think, that the debates were inane, that the procedures followed were time wasting and that honourable members used the procedures of the House in an irresponsible fashion. I could perhaps explain exactly why some of these procedures are used. But I am not too sure that there is a great amount of personal abuse in this chamber. Is there that much personal abuse in the sense in which one normally uses the expression?
– Of course, not.
– 1 may denunciate the arguments put forward by the honourable member for North Sydney, but I still think he is not a bad sort of bloke. What I say has nothing to do with his personal qualities, which are estimable; it has only to do with his politics, which are terrible. I do not think I have done the Parliament a disservice by saying that. Most of the honourable members who participate in debates in this chamber are, in general, speaking on subjects which are not breathtaking in their excitement, but a good deal of preparation goes into their speeches. It is my personal view that, no matter how dull they are, they have a right to have their speeches heard.
I see that I have only 8 minutes left in which to speak. I would have much more faith in the concern of the honourable member for Bradfield and the honourable member for Isaacs for the Parliament as an institution if they were to just once vote against the gag. This afternoon I rose in this chamber to speak for perhaps 3 minutes about the Inter-Parliamentary Union. On the blue business paper it said that a debate might proceed on a report presented by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on this subject. As a delegate on 2 occasions to conferences of that body I thought I could add something to the way in which the House treated the report. The gag was moved on me and every honourable member opposite, without exception, followed in a robot like fashion the dictates of their master. Where is the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) this evening? It is his duty to be present in this chamber when the estimates of the Parliament are being discussed. That is all the time I have to spend on him. We have come to the stage where the Senate is the Parliament of this country.
– His deputy is at the table.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise now the Acting Leader of the House?
– I have been for about 3 months the Deputy Leader of the House.
– I have the greatest respect for the’ Minister for Customs and Excise, who has some good parliamentary habits. But the man to whom we have to look for the duration of the debates on the matters listed on the notice paper, the man who exercises the authority on the business of the House, is the honourable member for Darling Downs, who is also the Minister for National Development. I think he is about the only immoveable feast on the other side of the chamber. He ought to be present at this stage. I do not care what else he is doing. The other Ministers ought to be present as well. The Public Service and the Press seem to have become the government. The House of Representatives has become almost redundant in the present situation; and’ I say that with deep regret.
How helpless are we? Honourable members should for a moment take a look at the Standing Orders to see how they can convene this Parliament once it has gone into recess. It can be convened only at the call of the Speaker. If the Government decides that the Speaker ought not to call it the rest of us - the 123 of us - could not convene this House. We are continuously on the edge of dictatorship. I am not saying that a dictatorship exists, but the parliamentary system relies for its protection on the continuous extension of courtesies between the Government and the Opposition and the acceptance of the view that the other fellow’s voice has a right to be heard. No matter how dull he may be and no matter how wrong he may be he has a duty to speak and a right to be heard.
It seems to me that this institution has 4 functions. There is the representative function, the executive function, the legislative function and the function which might be described as the scrutiny and surveillance of public activities in the general community. 1 do not believe it is possible to do any of those things effectively at the present moment. Certainly we have very little, if any, say at all in the executive functions of the nation. That has been pre-empted by the members of the Ministry. The rest of us may as well not be here for all of these purposes. Some 30 of the members of this Parliament have this God-given right. They have preempted it to themselves. The other 150 or so in this Parliament have no say at all in the executive direction of the nation. I do not blame the present- Ministry for what has happened, but I do believe that the parliamentary institution has reached the stage where it must change its style. Some honourable members opposite will agree with me on that aspect. I know that if we could get down to having some sort of a round table meeting we would come to some kind of agreement about this matter.
The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) made some very concrete suggestions about the legislative function of the Parliament. The representative function, which concerns us all, is I think the reason why we must protect the right to hear what the citizenry has to say, to speak about it in this chamber and to place it before the appropriate authorities. This works all right in some ways. We can take up the complaints of pensioners who come to us and assist them. But the rest of the members of the community feel as helpless as we do on the great issues that are of concern to them. Four Or five years ago we passed a referendum about Aborigines.
We may as well have done nothing about this matter because we still use the State functions to deal with them. Ninety per cent of the people of Australia said: ‘Get on with the job’. Even with that powerful and overwhelming voice it has been impossible to get action taken in the direction in which so many of us reckon it ought to be taken. On the other hand, I think we have a fair number of facilities at our disposal to deal with the question of scrutiny.
There are a number of other things 1 wanted to say, but I have only 2 or 3 minutes left in which to say them. What I think I should do is take my time now and at some time in the near future go to Toowoomba, which is the homestead of the Leader of the House, which is a little more devoted to these matters on most occasions, and tell his community what he is doing to this Parliament.
I believe that this chamber is a committee of wasted talent. There are 125 of us. Over 50 of us have university qualifications of some sort. About 30 of us have had extensive trade union experience. Over 50 of us have had fairly effective military service. I have in front of me a little chart which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library for the Parliamentary Handbook. It lists 5 doctorates of philosophy, 21 bachelors of arts and a number of bachelors of surgery. In fact, we seem to be overrun by the medical profession. However, it will be some time before the medical profession catches up with the bachelors of law. Would it be impossible to employ that talent in some executive function directly connected with the community? I represent this Parliament on the Council of the National Library of Australia. I suppose it gives me 12i per cent of the executive direction of that very fine institution. It is the only way in which my talents, what there are of them, are employed in the executive direction of the nation on behalf of the people I represent. I hold the view that the people in the electorate of Wills have the right to some say in the executive direction of the nation in the same way as the people in the electorate of Lowe have through their representative. I would think that a lot more members could be placed in similar positions on other statutory corporations to that which I hold on the Council of the National Library.
I cannot say any more at this moment except that the best demonstration of the ineffectiveness of this Parliament is the appointment in the other place of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. One has only to read its charter and compare it with the charter of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is a ministerial study circle. The problem we have is that Ministers - I do not blame only this generation of Ministers - are completely possessive and are carrying on the ancient mythology of the feudal system that the government is something different from the parliament. In my view the parliament of Australia is the government of Australia. This total body is the executive instrument of the nation and what we have to do to resolve some of the problems of the community is find the machinery by which we can all have some say somewhere along the line in the executive direction of the legislative programme of the Parliament, while still paying a good deal of respect to the fact that the majority will should prevail. I am not quite confident of what the real answer is but I know that the present isolation of the executive direction of this nation inside the one-man ministerial system is totally inadequate and that reliance Upon the system to produce legislation has become irrelevant.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This debate on the Estimates for the Parliament provides honourable members with the opportunity to have a good look at ourselves as a Parliament. It is always interesting to listen to honourable members on both sides speaking objectively on the Parliament and its procedures, our working methods and so on. It is a happy augury that there has been a bipartisan approach to this whole question although I would agree with my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), that the way in which we debate the Estimates is not really satisfactory. We still have to find a satisfactory method of dealing with the Estimates line by line and scrutinising and examining the expenditure in the way we really should. For example, the total amount of expenditure that is estimated for the Parliament for the 1971- 72 financial year - $4.829m - is not really being scrutinised line by line at all although we do have before us the details set out in Appropriation Bill (No. 1). I feel that we must bend our minds towards finding a better way of dealing with the Estimates.
Tonight we have heard quite a number of constructive thoughts and suggestions and, I regret, a few destructive ones. I do hot agree with those who deplore the traditions of the Parliament. I believe these traditions have been handed down to us and should be valued by us. As the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) said, if we take away the dignity of the Parliament what have we left? Not very much. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) made a good point when he suggested that the Government might consider introducing the system of White Papers adopted at Westminster. This might help to improve the quality of debates by informing honourable members of all parties in a constructive way and would greatly aid them in their research in various fields. The suggestion that there are too many motions relating to matters of public importance was a valid criticism. I would be one of the last in the Parliament to want to inhibit in any way the right of any member of any party to move any motion or use any of the forms of the Parliament in the proper way. However, I feel there are occasions, such as during the budget session of the Parliament when we are debating the second reading stage of the main Appropriation Bill, familiarly called the budget debate, and during the course of the present Estimates debate which will continue for some days, when we could well do without motions relating to matters of public importance. The same argument would apply to the AddressinReply debate. 1 am not seeking in any way to take away any of the rights of honourable members to use the forms of the Parliament. We spend a growing amount of time every day on the presentation of petitions and 1 hope that the Standing Orders Committee will in the fairly near future look at the whole matter of petitions to see whether some satisfactory means can be found of handling them, more effectively and expeditiously and in a less timewasting fashion. I hope too that the Standing Orders Committee will have a look at the necessity - I feel there is no necessity now - to have motions and amendments seconded. In passing, I understand that the House of Commons at Westminster abandoned the seconding of motions and amendments about 10 years ago. I think we all are in agreement on the need for the better streamlining of legislation during the session and I know that the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz), the Deputy Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) and other Ministers are trying very hard to co-ordinate the measures to be introduced in this present session to avoid the end of session rush with which we all are so familiar and which does the Parliament no good at all.
I have often felt that we are very unfair to the officers of the Parliament. We are very unfair to the Hansard staff; we are very unfair to the Library staff; and we are very unfair to the transport staff, including the drivers, when we sit late at night. I am one of those who believe that most of us do not function effectively after about 11 p.m. and I think that for the most part 11 p.m. is late enough on any ordinary sitting day except, perhaps, for the closing stages of a session when there is legislation to be cleared. Even then I hope we can find some means of regularising the procedures for debating Bills and handling their presentation in a more streamlined, more satisfactory and more efficient way than we have so far managed to do.
I want to make only a passing reference, since there is no question of an expenditure involved in the Estimates, to the urgent and growing need for the calling for a new Parliament House design. I am not advocating the expenditure of any amount of money, nor is any expenditure provided for in these Estimates that we are now considering but, as a member of the House Committee and a number of other committees on which I have the honour to serve, I see quite starkly the need for a new Parliament House to be designed and plans to be got under way. I have on good authority that it would be about 3 .years at least before any money would need to be outlaid, but if we do not get busy and if the Government does not make a decision fairly soon I feel, that by the time the present extensions to this building are completed there will be a demand and a need for more space. Unless there is a concentration of thought and better longrange planning on this matter of accommodation for members, staff and the ancillary services of the Parliament we will not be doing ourselves justice and will not have a properly functioning Parliament.
It should be mentioned in relation to the long sitting hours, very often until midnight and sometimes past midnight, that quite a number of officers have to do about another hour’s work in Parliament House and at the Government Printing Office before they can go to bed in their hotels or homes. When the House rises in the evening most of us are able to put on our hats, get into a car, go back to our hotels and go to bed but this does not apply to a lot of the senior officers of the Parliament. Attendants have to stay here to clean up after the day’s work, the transport people are still busy and the Hansard staff is also busy. Quite a number of others are also affected. I believe we should give more consideration to the staff which serves this Parliament so well and in future when we are thinking about the hours of sitting let us have more regard for these people than we have had in the past.
There is a great need for more committee rooms. This ties in with what I have just said about the long range need for a new parliament house and for designs for a new parliament house. The consideration of the report of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House has been on the notice paper since 8th April 1970. I urge the Government to make an early decision on the calling for designs for the new parliament house. It is inevitable - and we have to accept this - that there is a growing volume of work in this place. We have reverted to the 3-day sitting week and I think that we all want to make the Parliament function as effectively and efficiently as we can with the time available to us. Members of this Parliament have a lot of demands on their time in their own electorates and this is why, as we all know, we decided to go back to the 3-day sitting week. I believe that now we have adopted this course we have to accept that we must make the very best use that we possibly can of the 3 days that we sit in Canberra. The time will surely come, although per haps not while most of us will be here, when there will be even more members in this Parliament and an even greater volume of work to attend to and a greater number of Bills to deal with and more sitting days will be required. But for the time being I hope that we will not only avoid late night sittings but also that we will make more efficient use of the time that we have available to us.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Firstly I would like to endorse some of the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) in regard to the attendance of honourable members in this House. There is no doubt that the honourable member for Mallee and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) would have the best attendance records in this House. I do not doubt the sincerity of the honourable member for Mallee. We all know that he is a very sincere member but he is inclined to be parochial at times about his electorate. In passing, the Mallee, as we all know, is famous not only for its Federal member but also for the mallee fowl. Most honourable members in this House would be aware of the mallee fowl and its history. There is also another well known bird - the Ooah bird’. It is a unique bird because it lays square eggs. In the course of laying the square egg it says: ‘Ooah, 00ah’. That is how it came by its name.
I should like to comment in all sincerity on the suggestion of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) that all 27 Ministers should come from members of the House of Representatives. I believe that the House of Representatives is naturally the main House of the Parliament and the place where all legislation should originate. But I think it is ridiculous not to give the Senate some representation in the Cabinet. I believe that not only would a Labor government do this but a Liberal government or any other party in power would certainly ensure that the Senate was represented in the Cabinet.
– Does not the Labor Party believe in the abolition of the Senate?
– That is correct but I think it is impossible to implement it. As a matter of fact I do not think any State would carry it by referendum and as the honourable member would be aware, if he is at all knowledgeable in regard to the Constitution, the Senate can be abolished only by a vote of the 6 States with a complete majority in each State. The Senate can bc abolished not by the Labor Party or its policy, but only by the will of the people in every State of the Commonwealth.
This might be the last opportunity for honourable members on the back bench to congratulate Mr Alan Turner, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Possibly in the future there may be some eulogistic terms used about Mr Turner by the various Ministers and other honourable members but I think that one should take this opportunity to say what a grand job he has done in the Parliament. I do wish, him well in his retirement and I hope that he will have a very happy and healthy life.
One thing which I have failed to grasp after 16i years in this Parliament is the reason for the Government not having ever accepted any amendment on any major issues in this House. I think this is absolutely absurd. Irrespective of what party is in power, I cannot believe that an amendment with some meat in it has never been put forward by an Opposition. There have been many sensible amendments . proposed but they have never been accepted by the Government. However at times the Government has filched ideas from the Opposition. If I may I will quote a particular example. When the merged means test was introduced several years ago it was claimed by the Government to be a great success but this proposal was the idea of my friend who used to sit in this very seat, Bert Thompson. Bert Thompson plugged for a merged means test in this House for many years but Bert was never given any credit by the Government for its introduction. As a matter of fact the Government claimed complete credit for it and not one word was said in eulogy of Bert Thompson for his ideas on this matter.
If I may say so - and I do not say this in any sense as a eulogy of myself - I did thrash out year after year in social services debates the matter of people who were almost permanently on unemployed and sickness benefits but who did not qualify for the invalid pension because they were not 85 per cent incapacitated and so on. As a result of those speeches I made every year, the Government has altered the social service provisions. Now anybody on sickness benefits for 6 weeks or more qualifies for the invalid pension rate. I think that these matters should be brought out as often as possible by members of the Opposition, despite the fact that we might not get any credit for them. However, the fact is that it is very unfair particularly for sensible amendments moved by the Opposition time after time not to be accepted. Plenty of amendments of a sensible nature have been moved but they have never been accepted by the Government. I do not know the reason for this non-acceptance. I think that everyone in this House would agree that, irrespective of the way in which honourable members vote on our amendments, sometimes they must see there is a great deal of merit in some amendment. Of course honourable members vote against them because they are voting on party lines.
These are the sorts of things I would like to see altered in the future in this House because I believe that in the interests of democracy it is only right that when sensible amendments are moved in this House - whether they are accepted by the Government or not - they should be fully debated and if they are accepted after such debate we should ensure that the amendments are put into effect.
– My near neighbour on the back bench, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), threw out the challenge that nobody would speak to the Estimates after he had spoken in this debate. I must take up this challenge at least for a minute or two and perhaps lead on from there to other matters of a kind which have perhaps already been referred to. It is of interest in looking at the estimates for the Parliament for this year to see that the estimates of expenditure in relation to the Senate have increased from 69 per cent to 80 per cent of expenditure - estimated or otherwise, depending on whether it is for this year or for last year - for the House of Representatives. In the case of the Senate the actual figure has increased from $694,000 to $929,000, or an increase of 34 per cent. On the other hand the House of Representatives shows an increase of IS per cent, from $1,012,000 to $1,167,000. I do not imply that there is anything improper in that particular relationship but it would be of interest to know, if it could be measured, whether the reason for the relatively considerable expansion in Senate expenditure - I presume that reason is basically the expansion of the committee system - justifies the additional expenditure. Probably, a superficial assessment of publicity that comes therefrom would suggest that the money has been well spent.
Perhaps we need to look a little more closely than that and find the reaction of some of those honourable senators who, from my impression, appear to be very nearly prostrate in dividing their attentions among far too many committees. At the same time I think - I have expressed this view before - that it would be most unwise for the House not to consider the future implementation of proposals for two or three other standing committees of the kind already discussed by the Government Members House Procedures Committee which, in essence, were put forward by my colleague, the honourable member for Isaacs relating to expenditures and the assessment of the quality thereof. But I believe that we must strike a happy medium in these things. Without going overboard in turning the House into a series of committee meetings which manage to break up in sufficient time to report back to the House at large - conditions tend to approach that situation in the Senate - we have to move away from that extreme in which we do not have enough investigatory procedures, processes and machinery to the situation in which honourable members can contribute the sort of things on which I believe the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) touched. He gave us a quick run down on some of the- experience expertise and qualifications of honourable members and suggested that they were not being fully used.
At the same time I think it is unfortunate that some honourable members, even in this debate this evening, while attempting to be constructive on the whole, tended to denegrate and run down a little the role of the Parliament at large, although they tended to except the Executive from those remarks. This is an imperfect form of democracy. In saying that I have no wish to suggest that it should not be changed. I hope that in my relatively short time here I have made my share of suggestions and contributions to some of the ways in which it might be changed. If one attends a meeting such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Malaysia which I recently attended, and if one takes part in a debate for example on a topic such as government and democracy or democratic institutions, and listens to the views of people from Africa, Asia and elsewhere as well as of those from the long established democracies of the British Commonwealth, one will come to a viewpoint fairly readily that we have here, however imperfect, a form of democracy which many people in the world would be exceedingly happy to emulate if in fact they could manage to do so.
So while I make no brief whatsoever for our failing to attempt to eradicate the imperfections of this system in which there are many, I believe that we should be eternally cognisant of the fact that we have here one of the most representative democracies in the world today. While not quite approaching the capacity for selfexamination and self-criticism of the American democracy - which of course provides it with both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness in terms of day to day operation, the greatest strength being the long term likelihood of survival - our democracy is on the same staircase. We have our foot somewhere up the middle flight of stairs leading in the direction of knowing that we have a democratic institution, knowing that we are supposed to represent the people at large and, basically speaking, doing so from what would appear to be a reasonably equitable basis of representation. But there are so many matters which could reasonably be said to come under this head that I. am almost forced into the position of the honourable member for Wills in protesting about those terrible people who cut down the speaking times. Ultimately, I cannot agree with him about that because I believe it is better that we should have more frequent opportunities to contribute than to dilate at length on particular subjects. Surely somebody else will say it if we do not get time. Naturally, they will not say it as well. But that is one of the problems of this place. ‘
We have heard some very considerable contributions this evening. I mention the honourable member for Maribrynong (Dr Cass). I am choosing with a tremendous lack of bias from the opposite side of the chamber. The contributions from the honourable member for Isaacs, the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and others have touched on matters which are crucial to the improvement of this place. They mentioned White Papers, Green Papers and the proper estimate of where we stand in relation to both the people who elect us and those who share this chamber with us. We do not have an impossible working system, however hard we try to make it so. It is quite true that we fall pretty thoroughly between 2 stools, largely in relation to trying to meet the assumed demands of our electorates and the demands that seem to be upon us from this place. I will certainly place them in the inverse order of what I have just said.
At the same time, I think that in the future we must look to a situation whereby we inform ourselves with the aid of those very significant institutions, the Parliamentary Library and the Parliamentary Reporting Staff who are not overestimated for in these Estimates. We have to look towards a more constructive approach and the total use of whatever expertise we happen to bring to this chamber. I agree with the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) that this is the place for parliamentary authority as such and for ministerial authority for the implementation and production of policies. If the Senate were really to see itself totally as a house of review it would not be particularly interested in executive office but in totally reviewing the things which come before it from this House.
I feel that 1 must leave my contribution to this debate at that. But I believe that if we look at the speeches that have preceded mine and perhaps at those that follow we will find some useful contributions to be kept in mind when we look to the further appreciation of this parliamentary institution, as long as we are not too hidebound by tradition, although with some reasonable cognisance of it, as we proceed in the years to come.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $103,984,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $25,000,000.
– There are one or two things I should like to say about the Treasury estimates in the 10 minutes allotted to me. I want to say something about several matters that the Government claims it has under attention and about which nothing has yet been done. The first one I wish to refer to is insurance other than life assurance. I point out that in terms of section 51 (XIV.) of the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to make laws with respect to insurance, other than State insurance, and also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned. As my colleague the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) indicated in a question this afternoon the Commonwealth legislated in 1949 in regard to life assurance but there is no comprehensive legislation dealing with insurance other than life assurance. When it is pointed out that such premiums aggregate annually a sum of the magnitude of $900m it seems that insurance has reached a level where it is too significant to be allowed to run in the haphazard fashion in which it is now running.
We all know that recently there have been quite a number of scandals in the field of motor car insurance where members of the public have unwittingly paid premiums to companies that have proved to be little better than swindlers. This matter has been raised over a considerable period. I asked a question myself last year of the then Attorney-General, the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes), pointing out that the ability of companies to register in Canberra was being used to float these straw companies. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) this afternoon indicated that it was a very long business to draw up a comprehensive insurance Act. I would agree with that but I suggest that he should begin by appointing a commissioner in this field just as there is an Insurance Commissioner in the life assurance field.
One of the first things, that needs to be done is to increase the amount of deposit that has to be lodged before any company can undertake business. What happens is that these companies are formed and then shrewd salesmen go round concerned only to get premiums and not being concerned whether if a certain number of accidents happen the insurance claims ‘ could be fulfilled. Nobody ought to be able to start an insurance company in Australia under such flimsy conditions. I submit that it is not necessary to wait until a comprehensive Act is written that will cover every branch of insurance in Australia other than life assurance. The Government should begin by appointing someone who at least can begin to co-ordinate this business. We spend not very much less on insurance other than life assurance than we do on defence expenditure and I think this is too large a sum to be allowed to run in the haphazard fashion in which it has been allowed to continue.
The other matter that I think is highly significant as far as the Treasury is concerned is the question of doing something about what are called fringe finance institutions - institutions that in many respects are more like banks than they are not, but unlike banks are not subject to any overriding control of their ability to extend credit. In the current report of the Reserve Bank tabled in this House only a few weeks ago the Bank indicated- I am afraid I do not have the exact -quotation - that these non-bank undertakings were creating difficulties with important implications as far as policy is concerned. The Reserve Bank made no attempt to spell out what these important implications were and I suggest again that it is time that the Government began to give us some indication as to what these important implications are.
My Party has always believed that what ought to have been done here is to treat these fringe institutions as though they were banks and to legislate accordingly and if the legislation was challenged in the High Court then the Government could proceed to seek powers by way of referendum. Despite all the brilliant constitutional lawyers who suggested that it was not competent for the Commonwealth to legislate, apparently the High Court in the recent trade practices decision indicated that the coast was quite clear for any government in Australia to legislate in this field and I hope at last that that field will be entered fairly quickly and we will not again have to await protracted examination before some sort of skeleton attempt is made to grapple with it.
The other matter that the Government has also claimed it has been going to do something about is the introduction of what have been described as forward estimates. In the previous Budget the former Treasurer, my friend the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), indicated that the mechanism was set up and he hoped, had he been doing the Budget this year, for the first time to bring forward not just a series of estimates for one year but a series of estimates for 5 years. I think that was the period, but I am not sure that it was not later modified to 3 years. This has been practice now in the House of Commons for several years, lt was done originally in the form of what is described as a Green Paper as distinct from a White Paper and that, as I understand it, is simply a document that is available for discussion purposes to enable people inside and outside the Parliament, who are concerned about the problem to look at what is proposed and to suggest improvements and so on. I hope that that at least will be done here.
The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) earlier in the debate on the estimates for the Parliament referred to the inadequacy of the mechanism for judging the effects of financial expenditure. After all, when we are spending an aggregate sum of about $9,000ni - over $2,000m 0f which goes directly through the Treasury, the Department that is now under consideration - we should know more about it, although by far the major part is the grants that are paid directly by the Treasury to the States. Nevertheless the sums are vast and the existing mechanism is quite inadequate to evaluate the effects of expenditure. As we all know, an actual item that appears in the estimate for any department this year might be merely the continuance of a programme from the year before or the beginning of a programme that may extend over some years. I think that governments in the past have not been game to estimate in advance because they would have to make allowance for this dubious factor of inflation which has been with us but which we always like to keep, like somebody we do not want to be seen in public, behind the scenes. We certainly would have difficulties in estimating forward revenue if we had to admit: ‘Well, we are providing for a continuance of inflation of 2i or 3 per cent for the next 5 years’. If it is a fact of life, it is time we recognised the fact of life. I simply put these matters forward as ones that in my view call for early action on the part of this Government. I think this Government is rapidly being written off as a government of inaction in what are highly critical public and private spheres.
– This debate concerns the estimates for the Department of the Treasury covered by Divisions 540, 546, 548 and 552 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1971-72. Frankly, I have a great deal of sympathy for Treasury officials because they take the brunt of what other departments think they need for the ensuing 12 months - .not only what the departments themselves think they need but also what the Ministers of those departments feel they need and what Prime Ministers want for this purpose and that purpose. But it is the attitude of the Treasury that is indicated to us when we receive the Budget papers. In fact, what I have in mind was illustrated by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) a few days ago when he was asked a question about the $7m proposed for the establishment of a national film and television school to educate actors, television producers and the like which had been deferred. I was sympathetic with the answer given by the Minister because the Government has saved $7m in expenditure over the next 12 months and,” of course, the Treasury did not have to obtain this additional $7m in the form of revenue.
The second reason for my supporting the decision of the Government is the fact that I have had representations from certain people in the television industry and in other, industries who have pointed out that there are many actors, producers, script writers and the like who are presently unemployed. I see no reason why we should set up a television school which would produce more actors, television writers and producers when there is obviously unemployment in the industry today. I believe that it is a good thing that the Government has accepted the advice which was given by the Treasury in relation to the Budget.
Of course, there are many matters . on which Treasury officials give advice to the Government. Sometimes this advice is accepted and, at other times, it is rejected. However, it is the Treasury’s job to consider the demands from the various departments and from Ministers and to give a precise formulae to the Government, firstly on the way that the money should be expended and secondly, on how the money can be obtained from the taxpayers of Australia. It is then up to the Government to make a policy decision - whether to go ahead with this form of expenditure - and then to advise the Taxation Office, which is part of the Treasury, to find the money. In fact, it was the Treasury which warned the Government last year, in one of several papers that it issued, that the inflationary trend was besetting Australia. By implication, the Government should have accepted this view and done more than was done.
I believe that last year’s Budget was an inflationary one. We should have accepted the serious consideration given by the Treasury to these matters and done moTe to curb the beginnings of inflation than was done last year. The Treasury advised the Government that if it proceeded with the 1970-71 Budget, the inflationary trend would continue and some people in Australia would be distressed because of the effects of the Budget and the action taken by the Government. Of course, now. this has happened and some people are unemployed. The unemployment figures are higher today than they were last year and I forecast that they will be still higher as the months roll by, because we are now in the throes of what the Treasurer in his Budget Speech called ‘this pernicious inflation’.
Of course, other countries are also suffering from inflation. In my remarks on the Budget, I mentioned the problems that are besetting the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. Treasury officials, who see the results of government activities in other parts of the world and who can draw upon their own training and experience, can provide expert advice to the Government and I believe this advice should be accepted to a much greater extent than has been the case in recent years. Australia is dependent on exports to such a large extent that we should determine whether these, exports are to be competitive with those of other countries. If we continue to raise costs by raising wages then, of course, we will not be competitive with overseas countries. One has to look only at the once great rural industries to see what has happened in Australia. Of course, with the diluted economy which Australia now has, we can support the once great primary industries, which really established Australia, by providing subsidies and the like. However, this is adding water to milk and it is not a good thing for any country, particularly a country like Australia, to be given a bigger volume of diluted milk.
I believe that governments, particularly this Government, should be very prudent in their forms of expenditure. As I said, because of our high exports in relation to our population of 12 million or 13 million, Australia is more or less governed by decisions of other countries to a far greater extent than they are governed in their forms of expenditure. By this I mean that America, the United Kingdom and the members of the European Economic Community make decisions which have a greater impact on what happens in Australia than in their own countries. That is why I believe that the Government must in future, if it has not already seen the light, take more cognisance of what happens in our community and of what happens from Treasury advice and assess the future for Australia.
– Are you seeking controls?
– I have often heard the honourable member say that costs are rising at a faster rate than wages. This is true and it is interesting to see in which areas this applies. It applies to government departments to a much greater extent than it does in private enterprise. I hope, by quoting from IPA Facts’ of April-May 1971, to convince the honourable member that profits, which honourable members opposite seem to think are dirty! .are not the real cause of our problems . in Australia. This publication confirms that prices have risen more than wages, lt is interesting to see which prices have risen most since 1963 - in the last 8 years. At the top of the list are local government rates which have increased by 62 per cent since 1963. Local government shire councils do not make profits. They are not extortionate in their demands to keep the councils on the move and to look after their ratepayers. All they are doing is trying to cover the cost of increased wages. That is why rates have increased. The next item on the list is rail and tram fares. These instrumentalities of State governments do not make profits. Fare increases have taken place because of increased costs due to increased wages, nothing more and nothing less.
Another item refers to the 48 per cent increase in charges imposed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. While the Postmaster-General’s Department is a business undertaking and must pay a reasonable amount of interest on capital expenditure, it does not attempt to make profits in the normal sense of the word. I invite honourable members to examine this list because the last item mentioned concerns electrical appliances, etc. This is private enterprise in action. The increase in the price of these appliances has been minus 7 per cent since 1963. These are figures which honourable members opposite should examine before they criticise the Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the limited time at my disposal I want to draw the attention of the Committee to certain aspects of the Budget which I consider to be nothing short of a swindle sheet. I refer in particular to the role of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. In Hitler’s day the technique was to tell the big lie; so big that it could not be controverted and therefore, would be accepted. In just the same way, the manipulation of surplus taxation by this Government is nothing short of a national scandal. The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, of course, is a euphemism for a means of channelling surplus taxation ultimately into Commonwealth bond holdings. In other words, the Commonwealth
Government arrogates to itself the right to do what no private company can do. Under the company law of any of the States no company can buy in its own shares. But the Commonwealth Government can mulct the people in taxation and then divert a substantial proportion of it into Commonwealth bond holdings.
– Double tax.
– Yes. For example, the so-called domestic surplus for the current financial year will be $630m. It is up from $550m last year, and of that $550m, after a bit of bad luck on certain aspects of the Government’s administration, the Government is still able to siphon $280m into Commonwealth bonds. The situation is that in 1966-67 there was a sum of $915m in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. In 1970-71 the amount was $2,246m. With a total Commonwealth debt of $3,800m a goodly proportion, 70 per cent or 80 per cent, is held by the Government itself. Worse than that, it is being lent back to the States and interest is being charged on it. If we accept the official estimate of an interest rate paid on Commonwealth borrowings of 4.99 per cent, the interest being charged on this alone is a little matter of another $112m.
In our respective constituencies we are being assailed by the public and representative education organisations, parents and citizens associations, pensioners, people who are interested in hospitalisation and people who bitterly resent the swingeing increases in taxation which are being imposed on them by the State governments. It is nothing short of a major national scandal that this situation should exist. If surplus taxation is levied on this scale it could at least be put into national development. This Government, of course is maintaining quite a sham in controlling the Australian economy because, if any member of this Parliament chooses to examine the recorded speeches of Dr Coombs he will find that in 1953 over 70 per cent of the money flow of the Australian economy was under the control of the banking system. From 1953 to 1960 it has dropped from 70 per cent to 53 per cent! Today it is less than 48 per cent. Yet we have a government which has the gall to tell us that it is able to control the Australian economy. It can do nothing of the sort.
The proof of it is this: It was the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) who recently, in answer to a question from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), admitted that under the terms of the concrete pipes case this national Parliament has the power to move against the hire purchase institutions. Hire purchase institutions can serve very useful functions at fair and reasonable rates of interest, but it is time that they were curbed because today we face the situation where they are almost ranking with the banks in terms of their advances. As a matter of fact, the figures are these: The total overdraft advances by the collective trading banks of Australia are $4,655m. The hire purchase company advances are $3, 801m; and this is being tolerated. The rates of interest are beyond all dreams of rapacity. It is quite a common thing not only for interest to be charged at a flat rate but also for other fringe charges to be made as well. Research shows that at the present time the average interest rate that is being charged is between 18 per cent and 20 per cent, and that is a very conservative estimate. In fact, research has been undertaken by one gentleman from the University of Western Australia who put the figure as high as 23 per cent.
What does the Government offer? For example, let us take the case of interest on overdrafts since 1949. Interest rates have gone up from 4£ per cent to 8i per cent. Yet this is a Government which says that it is a businessman’s government. It is being assailed by some of its most fervent and loyal supporters of recent years - by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures - ‘because it is not prepared to let money go that ought to be put into circulation. The inflation that exists today is the responsibility of this Government. When in 1953 this Government chose to attempt to put some curbs on hire purchase companies by refusing to allow the banks to continue to discount their bills, their promissory notes and their hire purchase agreements, the hire purchase companies immediately said: *We will thumb our noses at you. We will borrow directly from the general public’. This racket and ramp has gone on ever since. Finance is government and unless the Government is prepared to govern and to control the totality and flow of finance within the economy it ceases to be a government and it ceases to have the respect and will ultimately cease to have the support of the Australian community.
I want to touch on one other matter. There has been quite a remarkable inflow of foreign exchange funds to Australia - a little matter of between $900m and $ 1,000m in the last 12 months. This Government has made no attempt whatever either to identify its source or to quantify it or to decide what is to be done with it. It is a dangerous situation. Undoubtedly some of that money has come in here for legitimate purposes, but the Government does not know because the Government never had a financial policy. It never had a policy on national priorities. It governs by guess and by God. It plays by ear, not to music. It is an empirical government and a government that improvises, a government that is at the will and caprice of its own supporters. The time has arrived when there needs to be a real government and a real concept of an Australian national economy. This Government’ has failed to do what ought to have been done. Australia is the world’s 12th ranking trading nation. It has failed to join the group of Ten. It has just crawled by the skin- of its teeth into the Overseas Economic Commission for Development. It has failed to make any reasonable forecast of future problems, and a very substantial proportion of our contracts for exports have been nominated in United States dollars.
What is to be the situation today if the advice of 14 leading economists as reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and other leading journals is to be accepted and the Australian dollar is to be upvalued? I think there is a case for its upvaluation, a moderate one, and preferably for it to be determined by allowing it to float. What provision is this Government prepared to make to allow this Parliament to come to grips with the real matters that concern people in Australia today? The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) made quite a dismal forecast of the future of unemployment. He is correct, and the figure is this: The Government expects an unemployment rate of 2i per cent because that is pre cisely the amount by which it wants to mulct the ordinary wage earner of extra wage tax.
In conclusion I pay a special tribute to the role of the credit unions in combating to some extent the rapacity of the hire purchase organisations. The credit unions of course have earned the opprobrium of this Government. They are workers banks. Workers themselves can understand the principles of banking, the principles of credit assessment, and the credit unions are doing a mighty job. Of course it is only to be expected that the Government would refuse to recognise them in relation to homes savings grants.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As usual, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has not said very much about the Treasury estimates. One little bit of his speech I did not understand, doubtless because of the words used; but no doubt he thought he was giving us an empirical improvisation to fill in the 10 minutes he devoted to the subject. To come to my own part, I was rather surprised that this year’s Budget did not have anything in it in connection with sales tax. Sales tax is always a bit of a problem. There are always people who are trying to get changes in rates. There is always some talk that an increase in this area or in that area will take place. But in his Budget Speech this year the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said that rather than increase sales tax he proposed to increase the existing 2± per cent levy on income tax to 5 per cent. The Treasury still has the idea that to allow people to have money in hand is to encourage them to spend it. The reverse argument that Treasury uses is that to curb spending - what it calls damping down demand - taxpayers must be required to contribute an extra 2J per cent in income tax.
These tax deductions from lower incomes do not really amount to very much. The increased tax reduces the take home pay by whatever extra amount is taken out of the pay packet. But the impact on the individual spending of people in this category cannot be regarded very highly. Such an increase makes no real difference to the purchasing ability of people in higher income groups. If they wish to buy they have the assets and they are able to obtain whatever they want. So, I do not really follow the idea that the level of spending is damped down by these methods. Salary earners in the top group these days get so much money that a few dollars here or there does not amount to very much.
I bring to the attention of the House a little fact in regard to something that happened this week. The associations representing officers in the second division of the Commonwealth Public Service rejected an offer of a 15 per cent increase in salaries which would have brought the minimum salary level to $14,300 a year. That is a pretty reasonable sort of salary. The offer was rejected because the second division officers want an increase of 19 per cent which would bring their minimum salary to $14,875.
In these days, by the method of increasing salaries by flat percentages, the whole range of salaries has been distorted. Wage earners at the lower level of the earning scale - those who receive $4,000 or $5,000 a year - naturally have a need for additional money if they are to have more of the things that they would like to buy. Not all of the people in this category give sufficient returns to justify a payment which would enable them to buy these items. Salaries at the higher levels are distorted by the fact that the same percentage increase is adopted with respect to them. A realistic assessment is not achieved when the same percentage increase granted to lower income earners is passed on to those in higher income groups.
Returning to the subject of sales tax, I point out to the Treasurer that while sales tax does provide a lot of money to the revenue - it is anticipated that $695m, which is a substantial contribution to the revenue, will be collected this financial year - it is spread over an amazing and crazy list of items. I do not intend to go into all the anomalies because I am aware that the officials responsible for administering sales tax know them much better than I do. Sales tax is imposed on toilet soap but not on dog soap, to give an example.
Why cannot the field of sales tax be tidied up? I can remember, many years ago, sitting up until 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning making out a sales tax return. The same work is required to process tiddly invoices as is needed for large invoices. It costs as much to process an invoice for 50c or $5 as it does to process an invoice for $500. Let sales tax be collected on motor cars and other items that cost similar amounts where a reasonable amount of money is obtained in one decent whack. The need to process sales tax returns in respect of goods with a unit value of anything less than $5, involving the making out of those returns in triplicate, submitting them within a certain number of days and paying the taxation before any return from the sale of the goods involved is received, is annoying and costs money. I do not believe the Treasury would lose very much revenue if sales tax was not imposed on lower units of sale. Obviously the Government finds that sales tax is a very convenient method of collecting money. Sales tax which is collected from the sale of motor cars is a simple example which comes to mind. The Government can obtain a decent sum of money by levying sales fax on large items such as. this. An amount could be budgeted for and in this way the procedures would be simplified.
I would like to refer to the example of a piece of hose purchased for use in a cowshed. This hose has been specially prepared for the purpose. However, of course, the same piece of hose can be used for other purposes such as watering a lawn. Nevertheless a primary producer has to apply for sales tax exemption if the hose is to be used for primary industry purposes. I believe that the classifications are wrong. In the limited time available to me I would like to point out that someone in the Department has to go to a lot of trouble and sometimes honourable members have to make representations to the Department when sales lax is not allowed. They have to ask why so and so has not been allowed his particular items without sales tax. I have quoted the case of a piece of hose that has been specially prepared for use in a cowshed because it has to stand up to a certain amount of work and to alkalis. An ordinary garden hose is not subjected to this sort of treatment. Because of the work to which the hose is put it should be free of sales tax, although it could be used for ordinary watering purposes.
Another matter which 1 wish to bring to the attention of the Committee concerns sales tax on oral contraceptives. I cannot imagine what happened to the thinking of the Treasury official who, when this drug first came up as a new product, because it was called an oral contraceptive at the time decided that it did have to carry the sales tax imposed on the other known contraceptives of the day.
– What classification is it?
-It was put under the amusement tax. I have representations in my hand from a very important family planning association. The oral contraceptive, along with other luxury items, is taxed under the amusement tax scales. But that is not the point. This item was put in with rubber goods which were carrying that rate of tax. In the whole range of pharmaceutical preparations this is the only ethical item obtained by prescription from a doctor which carries sales tax. I submit that whoever made the mistake at that time should be reprimanded. Indeed, instead of just reprimanding him it would be much better if the Government said that from now on it will remove the sales tax on oral contraceptives in the interest of the people of Australia.
Motion (by Mr Peacock) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to raise a matter which is of considerable concern to the employees of the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon in my electorate and which is also of concern to other employees in the aircraft industry in Victoria. Quite recently the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) informed me that the Avalon plant of the Government Aircraft Factories was not involved in any merger arrangements.
Yesterday Mr Churcher, the Manager of the Government Aircraft Factories, circulated a letter headed ‘Merger of Aircraft Production Facilities at Fishermen’s Bend and Avalon’. This seems to be a change in attitude in a period of only 7 days. In the letter which has been circulated the employees in the first instance have been told that they should not worry about their future employment. In the second instance they have been told that when the merger comes into effect most likely there will be substantial alterations in the staff structure. In the third instance they have been told that they should not leave the industry, that they should place their trust in the management of the Government Aircraft Factories and that the best people will be kept in employment. These employees have no way of knowing who are the best people.
I believe that a number of questions should be answered by the Minister, not by the employees of the various departments. I think that the matter should be fairly and quickly cleared up. There is a lot of misconception and before long there may be armed camps among the employees of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories, because in each case the employees are concerned about their future employment. The employees of the Government Aircraft Factories are, in the main, employed by the Commonwealth. A number of them are permanent public servants and they are concerned about their future employment and their future as public servants in any merger of the factories. The other matter which concerns the employees of the Government Aircraft Factories is the type of bias which might be displayed. The letter which has been circulated indicates that it is an industry with a commercial bias. I think that would mean that it is a commercial operation as opposed to commercial management.
There are a number of things which I think the employees and this House are entitled to know. First, what is the exact structure of the committees which are discussing the merger arrangements? Are the 2 undertakings equally represented? As it is now apparent that the Government Aircraft Factories at Avalon are included, are the Commonwealth. Aircraft Corporation’s engine and helicopter divisions involved in this operation? Is the merger to take place within a year, or will it take 4 years to arrange as I understand the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been told? Have the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s management personnel been itemising equipment and allocating positions for that equipment within their own factory? Is the Corporation’s own equipment largely due for replacement and therefore will the merger enable the Corporation to continue as a commercial operation without having to purchase new equipment? These are matters of substance which I think the Government or the Minister should clear up for the Parliament. Was a previous proposal put forward and rejected by a government under a former Prime Minister?
I am concerned about the feeling of insecurity which is building up among employees who for a long period of years now have been under a constant threat of loss of employment in a trade at which they have become extremely skilled and in which they are irreplaceable. I believe it is important that this industry should survive and extremely important that it should do so as a Government controlled industry. It is a part of our defence structure. Despite the remarks which have been passed from time to time by the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), there appears to be no suggestion that the naval dockyards will be handed over to private enterprise. I know that the situation in the aircraft industry is somewhat different but I think that this Parliament should be told fairly and clearly that the public interest in the aircraft industry will be protected. It should also be told that there will be no handing over of assets on any large scale to a private company which would mean that the taxpayers would be subsidising the company by providing it with equipment which it otherwise would have to purchase.
It is also important that those persons who are absorbed in any merger arrangement should be given some guarantees of future employment. It could well be that in the initial stages persons would be absorbed into the new industry but that within a very short time they would find themselves eased out of it. It could well be that they could lose Public Service positions by being merged into the new industry without any guarantees of continuity of future employment. This is a very important and touchy subject for the people involved in the industry. For a number of years - since I have been a member of Parliament - I have consistently had representations from the aircraft industry, as it is established in my electorate, because of its doubtful and dubious future and because of an apparent total lack of forward planning. At the moment the situation is such that uncertainty reigns supreme. 1 do not think anyone employed in the industry is very happy about the current situation. I do not believe that the letter circulated among employees has clarified the position to any great extent.
I want to raise one other matter. It concerns an individual employed by the Government Aircraft Factories. Some time ago the gentleman concerned applied to join the provident fund which is provided for employees of Government organisations. Subsequently, during processing, the file and his application were lost. He was told that he would have to submit another application, lt is approximately one year since his original application was made. From correspondence which I received from the Minister for Supply last week I am informed that there is no way in which the date of his acceptance as a contributor to the provident fund could be made retrospective to the date of his original application. While the Minister indicated that he regretted that this man would lose provident fund contributions for that period it was unavoidable.
This is a severe injustice. The person concerned submitted an application properly. Through no fault of his the application form is no longer available. I think there should be some way of getting, around the red tape involved so as to enable this person to benefit by being able to join the provident fund from the date on which his application was submitted. It has been admitted that his file was lost and that it was not his fault that the application form was hot duly processed. I believe that to penalise him by a substantial amount is a totally wrong attitude to adopt. There should be some way in which his difficulty can be overcome. I raise that matter because I believe it to be a case of a very serious injustice to an individual. He did not lose his file. Officers of the Department of Supply lost his file. He should not have to pay the penalty for someone else’s mistakes. That is the situation.
– The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has raised, under 2 headings, matters to which I would refer. The facts, as I heard them, in respect of the employee who has applied for provident fund membership are, I think, in the main correct. It is unfortunate that these papers were, as the honourable gentleman said, mislaid. I think it should be pointed out that once it was discovered that these papers had been lost the gentleman concerned was asked to apply again but he declined to do so. Unfortunately this matter has gone on from that day until this and, under the existing legislation, it would be simply not possible to back date his application. 1 am afraid that that position will continue until he submits an application. I give an assurance that as soon as he does so the matter will be immediately expedited.
I turn now to the matter raised in genera] concerning the defence aircraft industry. In order to put this matter in its proper context 1 shall, somewhat briefly in view of the time, repeat what I have said on occasions and what my predecessor, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, has said in relation to this matter. It is the Government’s stated policy to maintain a small, viable defence aircraft industry. My predecessor did make a fairly lengthy statement in the Senate in April of last year in which he covered the main circumstances in which the industry finds itself and alluded to the negotiations which were then and are still continuing in respect of rationalising that industry, particularly with respect to Fishermen’s fiend. By its very nature the aircraft industry - the defence aspect of it in particular - is subject to a fluctuating work load. The recent retrenchments at both the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories have to be viewed in that context.
Clearly, each generation of defence aircraft lasts longer than the time taken to produce it. The next generation of aircraft is not yet determined. The current programmes are now ending, I refer to the programmes in relation to the Macchi and
Mirage aircraft, and the next major equipment project - that is, the replacement of those 2 aircraft - is not expected to be undertaken for several years. Consequently, the Government has been encouraging the industry to become more commercially oriented. At the same time it is looking at the possibilities of rationalisation in the areas I have mentioned. In answer to a question which was asked of me by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who I know is interested in this matter and who I am glad to see is here this evening, I pointed out that plant at these 2 factories at Fishermen’s Bend is very largely complementary and it is clearly in the long term interest of the industry, and the employees in it, for some merger and rationalisation to be achieved, if it can be achieved under the right conditions. I will not in the time at my disposal go into the work-load prospects. There are some. I think the honourable members who have taken an interest in this matter will be aware of them.
I- wish, to deal now with the questions which were specifically posed by the honourable member for Corio. There was a large number of ‘them. I will endeavour to cover all the points he made. When I talked with him privately in my office some time ago - I hope on occasions like this it will never be necessary for me to have a stenographer present - I think I indicated that rationalisation discussions were continuing and that a number of working parties were looking at the position in the broadest way. I also indicated to him that- it was not entirely certain that Avalon would necessarily come into such a merger or such a rationalisation, whatever final proposition may be decided upon if indeed - let me emphasise this point - any final proposition were acceptable to both the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government.
The honourable member called on me this morning to clear up fully a number of questions. That simply would not be possible because these discussions are in their relatively early stages. I have indicated that these working parties are examining every aspect of the matter. Something in excess of 12 working parties are involved and I believe they are constituted approximately of equal numbers of representatives of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories. They are concerned with very many aspects, such as what the industry should be doing. Should it be in the field of assembly or part manufacture, or repair and overhaul? What facilities would it need for those operations? For example, would one machine shop and one tool room be sufficient? What will be the likely work load, as far as one can judge, in the future? An appreciation has to be made of that aspect. The work load would include the helicopters presently being constructed and the contract which has been made by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation with the Bell helicopters company. The Corporation is the principal sub-contractor for the Bell helicopter but a substantial part of the work will be done by the Government Aircraft Factories and by Hawker De Havilland Aust. Pty Ltd in New South Wales. An appreciation of major projects could be carried out. I am sure the honourable gentleman will agree that an important aspect to consider is what will be the rights, responsibilities and duties of all categories of employees in both the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories, and what, to approach a very difficult subject, would be their superannuation rights.
I emphasise that there is no certainty that the merger, to give it a name, will go on. The honourable member mentioned that the suggestion had been made that perhaps this ought to be arranged within one year, and it had been suggested to the Australian Council of Trade Unions that it might take place in 4 years. All of that is conjecture. It is quite impossible to say anything precise simply because the negotiations are in their early stages. The honourable member mentioned itemising plant and suggested that some plant might be due for replacement. Of course, this would be a necessary part of the review. I cannot be more specific at this stage. The Government believes that it is in the interests of the industry and the employees that this consideration go on. We believe that it is probable that some scheme may be forged. I repeat that it will have to be agreed to by the company and the Government before anything can proceed. The Government is sympathetic to the position of the staff affected, but 1 repeat that it is in the long term interests of that industry, if it is to survive, and its employees that some rationalisation - that word covers a wide scope - should take place.
– I am sure that honourable members will be aware that last weekend saw almost SO Australians killed on the roads. I have been fortunate in the last few days to receive from the United States a report, the foreword of which was written by Ralph Nader, of the Centre for Auto Safety. Thi report is entitled ‘The Volkswagen - An Assessment of Distinctive Hazards’. The report commences:
The Volkswagen Beetle is the most hazardous car currently in use in significant numbers in the United States.
This report is a damning indictment of the automobile and its manufacturer. The report points out that Volkswagen is the world’s third largest automobile manufacturer. In 1970 its sales were valued at $4.2 billion and totalled 2,211,000 vehicles. The Volkswagen was initially a product of the revolt against the Detroit monsters and was sold to the public as an economic runabout and a second car for the family. The sameness of the vehicle year in and year out was promoted as a virtue. However, it is clear that whatever changes were made were rarely safety related and then only to comply with safety standards set down by the Government. I quote again from the report:
The lack of a consumer movement in Germany and the absence of a critical engineering tradition with access to governmental authority lead to an overwhelming dominance of the corporation over the State in safety matters.
Dr Frederick Goes, chief of auto safety research for VW had this to say:
Government regulations are just another type of technical battle. If they want a padded dash they get it. If they want a sideguard rail, it is no problem to put one in.
However, Nader points out the extent to which VW has gone in the United States to lobby against and defeat proposed safety standard legislation and also to exert pressure on the Detroit giants, General Motors and Ford, to support VW or face economic retaliation by the German Government against their large investments in that country. Nader in his report continued:
Not content with such government timidity in issuing meaningful standards VW exerts strenuous pressure to prevent government crash-testing of VWs and disclosure of the results publicly.
The report then makes the following claim: - The Beetle has many serious design defects which have been responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of people. These are deaths which could have been prevented and injuries which could have been reduced in severity had Volkswagen been as aggressive in its safety policies as in its marketing.
It is well known through research that small cars are less crash worthy and subsequently prove injurious to occupants in the event of a crash. However, the VW beetle and the micro-bus seem to be the most dangerous of them all. Dealing in detail with the dangerous handling tendencies of the VW the report lists the following characteristics of the beetle: Directional instability in cross winds; over-steering behaviour, particularly in cornering near the limits of tyre adhesion, and a propensity towards overturning. The research that has been done shows that about 40.6 per cent of Vws involved in accidents overturned whereas the normal rate of overturning was about 30.2 per cent. These characteristics are stated as the reason for the unduly high proportion of single vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to go into the technical details outlined in the report but the location of the engine in the rear, the centre of pressure being located ahead of the centre of mass, the swing axle rear suspension design and the greater proportion of the car’s weight being on the rear wheels causing oversteer and its high centre of gravity and narrow track, make it less stable against roll over. The report also quotes the Consumers Union test survey of a number of small vehicles, and had this to say:
The model that Volkswagen calls the Super Beetle feels little different from the many unsuper Beetles CU has tested . . . Our Super Beetle rode better than have our earlier Beetles, thanks to a re-designed front suspension. But lt was still among the worst-riding cars in this test group.
Chapter III blasts VW for taking 10 years to introduce safety rims for tubeless tyres thus preventing an air-out. Possibly the most frightening section is that headed Out the Rear Window: The VW Ejector Seat’. The report states:
In a collision involving the rear end of the Beetle, the occupant of the seat exerts a strong force against the upper part of the seat back. Using the upper seat back frame rest as a pivot point, the seat back frame becomes a lever which wrenches the seat runner upward and oil its track. When this happens, the seat is no longer attached to any part of the car. The occupant ls now unrestrained and can be thrown backward against the top of the rear seat, the window frame, or even out the rear window . . . Seat belts are of little use in this case since the occupant can slide backward under the belt unhindered.
Dealing with the question of rear end collisions the report said:
Direct evidence of seat failures in rear end collisions was provided by an experiment conducted by UCLA engineering students under the guidance of engineers from the Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering. The UCLA team crashed a 1967 Ford Custom sedan into a fully instrumented 1969 Beetle which contained 2 full sized male dummies in the front seats, and 2 smaller dummies in the rear seat. The Ford was driven at 30 mph into the rear end of the stationary VW.
On ‘ impact, the dummy in the driver’s seat pitched backwards, causing the seatback to fail. The dummy then slid backward until its head struck the chest of the dummy directly behind the driver. The dummy in the front position occupied a strengthened VW seat. During the crash, the seat failed and the dummy experienced severe whiplash.
The left rear dummy, simulating the size of a 13-year old, slid along the collapsed seatback, and hit the rear window which popped out without breaking. The dummy’s head and shoulders cleared the opening and its head struck the hood of the Ford.
When his seatback failed, the. right rear dummy was also hurtled rearward, and partially out of the rear window opening which the left rear dummy had broken. The right rear dummy’s head also struck the hood of the Ford. .
Of this study, VW told its dealers in a confidential memo:
A test on VW seats in rear-end collisions was conducted by UCLA in 1969. VWoA provided cars for the test and they were ‘rear-ended’ by 1967 full-sized Fords at 30 mph. The back of the VW front seat bent rearward about 30 degrees, but the seat did not leave the track.
This is hardly an accurate description of what happened. The erroneous impression is left that the VW seats performed adequately.
I could go on, if I had more time, and detail the criticism of the. vehicles’ shocking door latches. But. I would like to quote from a chapter which is called ‘Up In Flames: The Beetle Fuel System’. I remind honourable members of the report brought down by the Traffic Accident Research Unit headed by Dr Henderson in New South Wales, which stated that a high proportion of Volkswagens was involved in accidents in which vehicles burst into flames. It was a much higher proportion than the proportion of Volkswagens to all vehicles on the road. I quote the following from that chapter.
The performance of the Beetle’s gasoline storage system in frontend crashes is a serious threat to the vehicle occupants. Several design factors contribute to this deficient performance: Tank location, attachment of the tank to the car, filler neck location, and filler cap design.
All Beetles except the 1971 Super Beetle have the gasoline tank positioned immediately to the rear of the spare tyre. Only the bumper and the hood are in front of the spare tyre, so that sufficiently severe frontal impacts can result in the spare tyre, its wheel and the sheet metal of the wheel well being forced against the gasoline tank. These forces tend to reduce the volume of the tank, building up pressure in the tank. Since gasoline is effectively incompressible, a tank which is nearly full will build up sufficient pressure so that the weakest part of the structure may’ yield. The integrity of the enclosure would then be destroyed, allowing gasoline to be released into the luggage compartment or to flow to the pavement.
There is considerably more contained in that chapter. The final remarks are contained in chapter 8, which is headed: ‘The Most Dangerous of Them All: The VW Microbus’. It states:
According to extensive data, this vehicle is the most dangerous vehicle by a wide margin which is sold in any significant numbers in the United Slates today. . . Consumers Union (CU) found the acceleration of the VW bus ‘so lethargic’ that in their estimation it constitutes a safety hazard. Lack of power affects passing ability, uphill performance and safety in merging onto turnpikes.
The most serious safety problem in . the microbus is the lack of occupant protection it offers in front end crashes. Such protection can be provided by incorporation into the vehicle design of sufficient ‘crush distance’, that is, the length of vehicle structure between the front crash surface and the front seat occupant space. In a crash, this structure collapses and absorbs the forces generated by the crash. While most full sized United States cars provide about 3 feet of collapse distance the VW bus provides ‘a scant half foot’.
– Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– I was pleased with yesterday’s announcement by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) of the increased foreign aid contribution of $1.5m to assist the East Pakistani refugees in India and the displaced persons in East Pakistan. I was particularly pleased to hear that the Government proposed sending $500,000 worth of rice to East Pakistan, as many of these people face famine conditions brought about by disturbances within the country. I say this because any aid that is provided by the Government must be provided free of political motives and must be given more on need and on humanitarian grounds. However, after some months of representations it goes without saying that I am disappointed with the Government’s increased contribution of$1. 5m. I have no hesitation in saying that absolutely no notice has been taken of my strong representations over a long period of time and I am beginning to wonder whether I have been wasting my time. I regret having continually to raise this matter in Parliament and in other ways. However, I would have thought that by now the Government might have got the message, that is, that this is the greatest catastrophe of this century and that we have a moral right and responsibility to come to the assistance of these unfortunate people in a more sacrificial way. To date little notice has been taken of my pleas or for that matter the pleas of anyone else. I am beginning to wonder who makes the decisions for the Government.
I would like to know who are the experts in this field and how they reach these decisions. When no notice is taken of one’s representations one begins to wonder just what his role in this Parliament really is. If assistance provided by the Government for the survivors of the tragic cyclone last November, which ravaged the off-shore islands and coastal regions of East Pakistan, is any indication of our concern for these people, as only $425,000 was provided, I am not really surprised that only $3m has been provided to date for the relief of Pakistani war refugees.
I have said before in this House that the Government is not tuned in on the frequency of human suffering or for that matter major catastrophes which occur from time to time around the world. It is quite obvious to me that we have no foreign policy in regard to such matters. We just sit back and do no more than we have to do, or again we compare what we are doing with what is being done by other countries of comparable size, which, of course, produces very little help for the millions of refugees and displaced persons who are already dyingin their thousands each day. How much longer are we to procrastinate while millions die? When will the Government really sit up and take notice of this great catstrophe the greatest this century? I repeat that this is the greatest catastrophe of this century. This catastrophe must be tackled on a far greater scale than anything else we have done in this field. Without a doubt there will be mortality on an unprecedented scale unless economic assistance on a war footing is quickly provided. One of the reasons for the present high rate of mortality is the lack of protein and the conditions under which so many of the refugees are living in these camps. However insofar as East Pakistan is concerned, some of the best rice growing areas are still unproductive because of salinity deposits which are a direct result of the cyclone last year. When I was there recently some 90 per cent of the people were still dependent on relief supplies whereas previously this was an area which produced a surplus of rice.
Another reason for the acute shortage of food in East Pakistan is because of genocide in many towns and villages which has resulted in nearly 9 million refugees leaving their farms. Many more millions in East Pakistan have been prevented from sowing their crops because of civil war. Hundreds of thousands of these people are continually on the move within the country to avoid the liberation army and that of the government. Also when one considers’ that the whole Bengal delta is in the grip of the worst monsoon post-war the transportation of relief supplies has become a most difficult operation. The result has been that many millions of East Pakistanis already face famine conditions. The present situation is critical. Unless large scale assistance is quickly provided acute famine conditions and ultimately death face millions of these people, particularly young children. I trust that the $500,000 worth of rice provided by the Government is quickly followed by greater assistance.
In order to assist the Government to make a quick decision on this great human problem I shall refer to some statistics from other countries which have channelled funds through the United Nations for the East Pakistan refugees in India. Of course much more aid has been channelled directly through voluntary agencies and the Government of India. To the end of September, 48 countries had contributed funds through the United Nations. All but a few have given cash donations. India urgently needs these cash donations to buy food from these countries. To date the total pledges in cash and kind which have been channelled through the world food programme is $109,835,632. Of this amount $53. 3m has been a cash contribution and $56. 6m has been provided in material goods such as rice, milk powder, edible oil and other foodstuffs, shelter material, medical supplies, clothing, blankets, etc. Any of the above items are urgently needed as is cash lo buy food and material goods in India. To make matters worse, the United Nations fund is practically exhausted at the present time. It has been officially stated that only $2.7m is left. Therefore the Australian Government should immediately and without fear of political implications substantially increase its contribution through the United Nations and other voluntary agencies working in these areas. My reason for saying this is that Sweden which is ‘a country half the size of Australia has already contributed $6m. The United Kingdom $7.lm and the United States of America $70.5m.
Australia prides itself as a free, peaceloving country, ever ready to come to the assistance of others in times of need. Well, never before have so many people in the world needed succour as the 20 million refugees and displaced persons in East and West Bengal. Repeated calls for assistance have been made by the Governments of India and East Pakistan.* United Nations and other world leaders have warned of the gravity of the situation as millions of peasant farmers and small shopkeepers must inevitably die unless immediate large scale assistance is provided. Already 100.000 children have died and a further 500,000 are doomed to die before Christmas. At the present time the Australian people are looking for strong moral leadership. They expect the Government to come to the assistance of these impoverished people in a more sacrificial way. If Australia is to continue to call itself a Christian community we can no longer procrastinate while millions die.
– In the first instance I echo the sentiments which have been expressed tonight by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid). I say very sincerely that he spoke from conscience. He did not speak as a member of any particular political group. He spoke as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, from conscience. I believe that there is a responsibility on our nation to give a lead in our region of the world in regard to this refugee problem. I hope that the honourable member’s plea which was made in a responsible and genuine way will find an echo in all parts of the Parliament. Certainly I support it entirely and in a completely. non-Party spirit at this late hour tonight. After all, it is 10 minutes after midnight. Perhaps it might be said that we should all be home in bed. But let me make it quite clear that there are many people in the countryside who are in trouble. 1 do not object to standing a little bit longer or staying up a little bit later to say some of the things that I believe in. If honourable members do not want to be here and do not want to participate then let them stay home, resign and not participate.
– We did not say that.
– If the honourable member wants to follow me he may do so by all means. What I have said was quite sincere. I did not know that the honourable member was going to raise this matter tonight. I recognise his sincerity and dedication and I have given up some of the reference and some of the time I was going to devote to the problems in the countryside to support him on this issue. I have said that and I mean it quite sincerely. I hope that all honourable members will join with the honourable member for Holt in seeing that something more meaningful is done. After all, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is in our region and we should not be looking to Scandinavia to give us a lead in our region of the world. I am sorry; I should have said Mr Speaker’. I will say this: Mr Speaker is always in the chair for the adjournment debate, which gives it its due recognition. 1 accept this and I applaud him for it.
In the last few days, in fact since Thursday, there has been in our country one of the finest demonstrations of national sentiment I know of - I realise that my knowledge may be limited - in 20 years. This arose out of perhaps a quite accidental development. The matter was raised by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) when he expressed concern that a considerable area of our country was to be sold, leased or given away in effect to outside people for perhaps 20c an acre. He said that this was not a very good thing to do. He did not say this in relation to just one area; he said that the whole of Australia’s resources, our country and the things that are part of our nation should be under our control. He put that forward in a very genuine way. Since that time the concept that Australians should control the destiny and the natural resources of their own nation - I will not say that it has caught fire because I believe that in the hearts of most of our countrymen there has been a feeling that we should retain some semblance of independence - has created a tremendous response across the nation, indicating the desire of ordinary Australians and their children to have a continuing stake in their own country. That is not an unreasonable request, one might say. Against the back? ground of the alienation of our own resources it is perhaps a most significant one in 1971.
– Is this the Simpson Desert?
– My honourable friend asked whether this relates to the Simpson Desert. The Simpson Desert might have been the initial query but the Simpson Desert is not the story of this particular concern. In Western Australia we have seen 12 million acres alienated to overseas control in a very short space of time. We have seen 60 per cent of the Top End of the Northern Territory alienated in a very short space of time. We have seen the same situation in Cape York. In my electorate of Riverina we have seen the alienation of basic resources. So there is a big concern among the ordinary men and women and the children of our community to see that we retain some control over our own resources. I thought that the national Parliament would be interested to know just how deep and widespread that interest is. In the very short time that this matter has come under notice in this way there has been an extraordinary response which can be testified to not only by myself but also by the honourable member for Capricornia. May I say also that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) has indicated already that he has had from 600 Australians expressions of their opinion about what should happen to the assets of our country. These are 600 ordinary people who have been in touch with the Minister for the Interior. In my own case, 1 am able to place on record expressions from nearly 400 people who have come forward with donations of cash. I have had considerable assistance in this matter because, although the facilities for members of this distinguished assembly are scarcely adequate, my good room colleague, the honourable member foi Robertson (Mr Cohen), has helped me to wade through the large amount of correspondence on the subject. I pay tribute to him for his spontaneous assistance.
Let me tell honourable members something about these letters. The first one to which I refer offered $1,000, spontaneously, for no reason of profit - mark that, Mr Speaker; no profit - but just so that we may preserve some of our heritage. In terms of overall commitments there is $10,000 in cash and pledges. There has been a tremendous response. As my friend the honourable member for Robertson says, is it not interesting to consider who has responded? I want this Parliament, the supreme forum of the nation, to know that a distinguished Anglican chaplain wrote:
From my impoverished lot, here is my humble contribution for 4 acres of the nation.
I am touched by this offer. Obviously I shall not name him, but if honourable members are interested in seeing the correspondence I shall make it available. Another letter was from a migrant who wrote: 1 pledge $1,000. I only want to be part of an effort to preserve Australia for our own people and the sons and daughters that will follow us.
Another letter is from a school youngster who wrote:
I would buy five acres and my brother four. We are only 11 and 8, but our father and mother, I am sure, would do better.
I have never known a greater example of national sentiment than has been shown in the last few days. I say this not because this correspondence comes from the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party or even the Country Party; it comes from my constituents and those of other honourable members here. It is a genuine upsurge of national sentiment which impresses me and -which has convinced me of one thing that the nation is not yet dead; it still lives. I hope that we will be able to give some answer to this feeling that there should be a stake for all of us in our own country for all the years to come. Long after midnight on this night I want to place this on record in the House of Representatives.
– I listened very carefully to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who said that this was the greatest national sentimental move that he had known in his time.
– For 20 years.
– He said in his time.
– I said 20 years. What is wrong with you?
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina has spoken in this debate and was heard in comparative silence. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– It is not the greatest expression of national sentiment that I have seen in my time. In the last 10, IS or 20 years we have witnessed great feelings of sentiment about protecting Australia, displayed not only by offers of money but also by people being prepared to lay down their lives for this country.
– Twenty years.
– Yes, 20 years. I am speaking about our Regular Army in Vietnam, if the honourable member wants to know. The cheapest thing that we can spend in war is money. We know that. What has been said by the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) shows, I think, that they did not know exactly what the position was at the start. If I am wrong I would ask them to correct me. But I understand from what I heard the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) say that this land has never been for sale so the whole thing has been built up on a false basis. We are talking about the Simpson Desert and these people have been put to the trouble of sending this money, thinking that they were saving certain fertile country. It is desert and is not for sale. That ls the position, so what a fuss to make about nothing.
– You missed the point, did you not? Mr Grassby - What about-
– If I missed the point I am sorry, but I thought the point the honourable member was making was that this land must be saved for Australia.
-Order! If the honourable member for Riverina continues to interject 1 will have to deal with him:
– The point I am making is, firstly, that the land is not for sale and, secondly, I do not know how the story was spread round that it was to be sold. The land itself is part of the Simpson Desert, therefore it is not worth any money to any person who wanted it for the sake of its fertility. The main thing 1 want to say is that the honourable member for Riverina said that this is the greatest wave of sentiment that-
– I have known in 20 years.
– Yes. I just want to say that it is not the greatest wave of national sentiment that I have known for 20 years because after all we have had our Regular Army going to places like Viet nam and laying down their lives to protect this country. If the honourable member likes to compare what he has described with what men have done in the 2 world wars it is a very queer thing. I think it is a funny attitude to take on national matters.
– Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Giles) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– You are a shameful old man.
-Order! It is very late and I have already warned the honourable member for Riverina. I will not warn him again.
– I rise to order, if I may.
– There is a motion before the chair. 1 will listen to the honourable member after I have put it if he wishes to speak then.’ The question is that the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.23 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Safety Specifications: Commonwealth Vehicles (Question No. 3513)
asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice:
What safety standards, tyre qualities, etc., are specified when calling for tenders for Commonwealth vehicles.
1 have no knowledge of similar contracts being entered into by other exporters before existing contracts have been fulfilled.
I have no information on this aspect.
No, because: (1) the disputes which come to my notice have all been satisfactorily resolved; and (2) in any case, the size of the trade in abalone, although important to certain fisheries cooperatives, is not really very large and therefore would have no appreciable effect on Australia’s overall export trade relations with Asia.
Apple Products: Imports (Question No. 3046)
asked the Minister for
Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What were the (a) quantities, (b) values and (c) countries of origin of apple pulp, cider and juice apples, imported into Australia during each of the last 10 years.
– As Acting Minister for Immigration I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Imports of apple pulp, cider and juice apples are not recorded separately in official statistics. It is not possible therefore to provide the detailed information required by the honourable member. However, fresh apples have been classified separately in import statistics since 1965-66 and over the period 1965-66 to end of June 1971, no imports were recorded. Although imports of cider are not recorded separately the attached table shows statistics of import clearances for the past 6 years of cider and perry containing more then 2 per cent of proof spirit.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question, so far as my Department’s purchasing is concerned, is as follows:
Defence specifications against which tenders are invited for the DefenceGroup of Departments require that vehicles conform with the Australian Design Rules for Motor Vehicle Safety. These
Design Rules are prepared by the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design and endorsed by its parent body the Australian Transport Advisory Council. The Council is comprised of my colleagues the Minister for Shipping and Transport, as Chairman, and the Minister for the Interior, and each State Minister for Transport.
Besides specifying that vehicles meet Australian Design Rules, tender schedules also include detailed requirements for safety features’ appropriate to the particular type of vehicle. Defence tyre specifications have until recently called for normal commercial standards. The latest specification defines ‘normal commercial standards’ more precisely and calls for more than the minimal standards.
My Department also procures limited numbers of vehicles for other Departments from time to time. Tenders for such vehicles specify normal commercial standards or other standards, as requested by the Purchasing Authority.
Naturalisation (Question No. 3732)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
How many certificates of naturalisation were conferred in 1970-71 in each local government area in which more than100 certificates were conferred.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table shows the Local Government areas in each State in which 100. or more certificates of Australian citizenship were conferred during the twelve months ended 30th June 1971.
Trade: Promotional Advertising (Question No. 3795)
asked the Minister for
Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What action has his Department taken on the finding of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts of 17th September 1969 concerning the irregular appointment of 2 agencies for its promotional advertising activities overseas.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been no irregularity in the appointment of the Department’s advertising agencies.
The recommendation of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts was that the basis of engagement of 2 of the Department’s advertising agencies in Australia should be reviewed. The review has confirmed that the appointment procedures followed by the Department’ comply with Treasury Regulation 52.
It is understood that the Treasury is considering a possible amendment to Treasury Regulation 52. My Department will ensure that its practices conform to the requirements of any amendment of the Regulation and that the Department continues to obtain the best available advertising services for the. expenditure incurred.
Industrial Research and Development Grants Act (Question No. 4028)
asked the Minister for
Trade and Industry,’ upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What percentage of imports have entered Australia each year under the system of limited preference given to underdeveloped nations since the introduction of the scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian import clearances from developing countries at the preferential rates provided for under the legislation introduced in 1965 comprised the following percentages of total import clearances:
It should be noted that these percentages do not include those relating to imports cleared free of duty in the normal course. Such normal duty-free clearances comprised 66 per cent of imports from developing countries in 1970-71.
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
In relation to total expenditure in Australia on purchases by the Department of Supply for each of the last 3 years, what has been the percentage expended in each State.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
South African Sporting Teams (Question No. 4088)
asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Will he approach the South African Government suggesting that Australians would unanimously welcome sporting teams from South Africa which are selected without regard to race.
– As Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I have no doubt that the South African Government is well aware that the great majority of Australians would welcome sporting teams from South Africa selected on the basis of sporting prowess without regard to race.
Transport Conventions (Question No. 4054)
asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Why is Australia so much more prompt in ratifying multilateral treaties which concern the Department of Civil Aviation than in ratifying those which concern the Department of Shipping and Transport.
– As Acting Minister 1 supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Departments concerned closely examine multilateral treaties with a view to giving effect to them within Australia as soon as appropriate. If Australia is more prompt in ratifying civil aviation treaties than in ratifying those relating to other forms of transport, it is largely because of the nature of the treaties themselves and their general applicability to Australia.
Many of the maritime conventions which have not been ratified by Australia have not yet gained sufficient support from other countries to bring them into force, whereas virtually all civil aviation conventions are of such a nature that they have received sufficiently wide support to bring them into force. Of the 14 Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation conventions and amendments drawn up since 1960, 6 have entered into force: Australia has become a party to 5 of these and is actively working towards becoming a party to the other. The remaining 8 have not yet come into force but are under consideration in Australia.
Some transport conventions, other than those drawn up byIMCO, particularly those relating to road and rail transport, have little application to an island continent like Australia which does not have road or rail systems connected to similar systems of other countries. It is not proposed at this stage that Australia should become a party to them.
Others arc under close consideration and, where appropriate, action is being taken which will permit Australia to become a party to them.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– As Acting Minister I supply the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
United Nations: Expenditure in Australia and Territories (Question No. 3731)
asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Will he seek information from the United Nations Representative in Australia about the amounts which the United Nations spends in Australia and her territories as a former Minister did (Hansard, 20th October 1964, page 2130) so that he can answer question 2345 which his predecessor could not answer (Hansard, 7th April 1971 page 1649).
– As Acting MinisterI supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The United Nations Office in Sydney does not control expenditure in Australia by all United Nations bodies, including the specialised agencies and does not have the details of what their expenditure has been. However, messages have been forwarded to the headquarters of the various bodies seeking the desired information.
The United Nations Office has informed me that total expenditure by all United Nations bodies in PapuaNew Guinea in 1970 was $US672,459. This figure includes expenditure by the Specialised agencies. In the same year expenditure by the United Nations Development Programme in Australia was $US2,332,963. 1 shall reply further when the.relevant information is received from the various bodies concerned, but it is not readily available and may take some time to obtain.
asked the- Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Can the Minister provide figures on the noise level in areas adjacent to the (a) North East, South West runway at West Beach Airport in each of the last ten years and (b) art estimateof the noise level in those areas in each of the next ten years.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Noise level measurements for each of the last ten years in areas adjacent to the North East South West runway at Adelaide Airport are not available.
A Noise Exposure Forecast which is a measure of the subjective effect of aircraft noise on the average person has been prepared for Adelaide Airport to cover the years 1975-1980. This forecast, and associated explanatory material, is available from the Regional Director, South AustraliaNorthern Territory Region, and it takes account of such factors as:
Although aircraft movements over the next ten years are likely to increase at Adelaide airport, and indeed at all other major airports, the availability of quieter aircraft in the future is expected to contain the aircraft noise problem and to make a real contribution to the noise alleviation programme.
asked the Postmaster General, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The position as at 30th June 1971. was as follows:
In addition to the line plant necessary for new applicants, a considerable amount of line construction is necessary to replace existing part privately erected subscribers’ lines. There are some 34,000 of these lines serving 57,000 subscribers throughout the Commonwealth, and Departmental line plant has been provided already for 1,546 of them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
RPT jet services only commenced early this year but they are expected to take over the bulk of ‘heavy civil’ movements fairly soon.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
and (2) It is possible that in the combination of military and civil movements, including both general aviation and airline movements on the civil side, Canberra Airport could become saturated during peak hours towards the end of the 1970’s. The most practical way of relieving that short term operation saturation, on an hourto hour basis, would be to create a satellite training field for elementary civil light aircraft training during the peak traffic hours. That would be in accordance with a well established practice both in Australia and overseas.
The Environment: Ministerial Conference (Question No. 4047)
asked the Minister for the
Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth and State Ministers, with responsibility for environmental matters, met for the first time today in Canberra.
Those present were -
Commonwealth - The Honourable Peter Howson, M.P., Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts,
New South Wales- The Honourable J. G. Beale, M.L.A., Minister for Environmental Control,
Victoria - The Honourable V.O. Dickie, M.L.C., Minister for State Development,
Queensland - The Honourable J. BjelkePetersen, M.L.A., Premier and Minister for State Development,
South Australia - The Honourable G. R. Broomhill, M.H.A., Minister for Conservation,
Western Australia - The Honourable J. T. Tonkin, M.L.A., Premier and Minister for Environmental Protection,
Tasmania - The Honourable K. O. Lyons, M.H.A., Deputy Premier and Chief Secretary.
At today’s meeting, Ministers exchanged information on existing legislation and gave their views on the problems of the environment in their areas and the steps that they are formulating to protect it. It was recognised that the State Governments have already been active in a wide range of fields, including national parks, wildlife, water, soil and forest conservation; and control of water and sewerage systems and air, water, oil and noise pollution.
However, it was agreed that there was a continuing need to combat pollution and to improve the quality of the environment. Ministers discussed the means of continuing Federal and State consultation and the degree to which uniformity of approach was desirable.
The Ministers decided to meet again as soon as possible and, they hope, before the end of the year. Tentatively, they have arranged to meet on 26th November in Perth at the invitation of the Premier of Western Australia. In preparation for that meeting, Commonwealth and State officers will draw up an agenda for their consideration and, in the meantime, details of legislation and administrative practice will be exchanged.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
By what percentage would the charge for telephone calls have to. be increased if the whole cost of extending and maintaining telephone services was found from telephone revenue.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The level of charges which would be needed in order to finance all expenditureon the telephone service from internal Post Office resources would vary from year to year. The number of services and movements in the wage rates of staff would influence financial needs.
At the levels of earnings and costs estimated for 1971-72 telephone call charges would have to be increased by about 60 per cent over the charges proposed in the Budget to meet the cost of extending and maintaining the telephone service in that year.
Locust Plague (Question No. 4107)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the New South Wales Department of Agriculture has the plague locust situation in the south-west of the State under close observation. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture has announced that action taken includes:
The New South Wales Department of Agriculture has also been conducting seminars throughout the area concerned to advise landholders of means of dealing with the pests.
Grant. The programme of investigations is currently approved for a 3 year period to 1972-73. In the previous triennium and the current one, Commonwealth assistance through the Special Research Grant and CSIRO funds will total approximately $337,000.
In the event that the locust plague should develop to a major extent that threatens substantial damage to rural production, and the State Government should seek help from the Commonwealth in measures to overcome the insect attack, such request would be considered speedily in the light of the actual circumstances at the time. If, despite all efforts to control these pests, substantial damage results, the Commonwealth would be prepared within the context of the present arrangements for natural disaster relief, to consider any reasonable request from the New South Wales Government for assistance with relief expenditures.
Butter (Question No. 4108)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Details of consumption of butter are not collated on a State basis by the Commonwealth Statistician. Butter consumption in Australia in 1969-70 was 113,910 tons.
the Commonwealth Statistician. The approximate butterfat contents of the various products are shown in brackets. The butterfat content of butter is approximately 82 per cent.
Exports of manufactured full cream dairy products in 1969-70 on a State basis are as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will he take steps to introduce a stabilisation scheme for the egg industry despite the refusal of the Victorian Government to participate in such a scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The scheme for the stabilisation of the Australian egg industry to which the honourable member refers is a scheme for controlling egg production which has been considered by the Australian Agricultural Council (A.A.C). At its meeting in July 1971 the A.A.C. examined model legislation to effect such controls. The Ministers from New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia supported plans to control egg production. I have since received advice from the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries that the Queensland Cabinet has approved the principle of production controls subject to like action in other States. The Tasmanian Minister has advised me that the Tasmanian Cabinet will consider the position of its State if mainland States agree to introduce controls. To be effective any scheme of production control would need to be implemented by at least all mainland States. I have therefore written to the Victorian Minister of Agriculture seeking advice on his Government’s attitude to the proposed legislation. To date I have not received a reply on this matter. Production control is of course a function of the States. However the Commonwealth has given an assurance that it will support any constitutional scheme acceptable to a majority of egg producers to control production.
TRESS Telegraph System (Question No. 4166)
asked the Postmaster
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Manufacturers of the telegraph machine equipment employed in the system are:
Creed and Company, Ltd.
Manufacturers, to APO drawings, of the switching equipment are:
Telephone Equipment Industries Ltd.
Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd.
Siemens Industries Pty Ltd.
Standard Telephones and Cables.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What was the (a) total and (b) per capita consumption of (i) butter, (ii) margarine and (iii) milk in each State in each of the years 1960, 1965 and 1970.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of consumption of butter, margarine and milk are not collated on a State basis by the Commonwealth Statistician. The figures for Australia are as follows:
Non-official Post Offices (Question No. 4069)
asked the Postmaster
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3).
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1969, the policy governing the provision of telecommunication facilities in remote Com pany towns established by industrial undertakings was revised and is now as follows:
In May this year, preliminary discussions were held with Western Mining Corporation Ltd on the application of this revised policy at Kambalda. On 28th September, further discussions were held with the Company as a result of which the Post Office is preparing a proposal for the establishment of public exchange facilities at Kambalda for consideration by the Company.
Aged Persons Homes (Question No. 4130)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Approximately 38 per cent of the accommodation subsidised under the Act during the past 3 years relied on residents’ donations for the organisation’s share of the capital cost of that accommodation. Some of the amount donated is used for furniture, furnishings, moveable equipment or other items not eligible for Commonwealth subsidy.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19711006_reps_27_hor74/>.