27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
DrKLUGMAN- 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 Australia respectfully showeth -
That a migrant who has been a member of the Australian workforce for many years, has paid taxes and acquired Australian citizenship, and seeks to live the last years of his life in his native land or, if an invalid, wishes to see his relatives, is denied pension transferability
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray -
That the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, seek to have Australia adopt the principle followed by Britain, Italy, Greece, Malta, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Turkey, Canada and the United States of America, who already transfer the social entitlement of their citizens wherever they may choose to live.
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 community of the Australian National University respectfully sheweth:
That the increase in tertiary education fees for 1972 will cause increased hardship for a significant proportion of tertiary students.
That tertiary fees and concomitant living costs are a formidable barrier preventing significant numbers of students entering tertiary education who nevertheless have the ability to do so.
That the increase in tertiary fees for 1972 is immoral, in that Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education are being further restricted to that minimal section of the Australian population who can afford to send their sons and daughters onto higher education.
That all education should be free including tertiary education.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate action to introduce in order of priority
Universal Commonwealth Scholarships
Commonwealth Scholarships on the basis of need rather than academic ability
Abolition of tertiary fees.
And your petitioners, as In duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Does the right honourable gentleman recall asserting on 23rd August last that acceptance of the idea that Taiwan is a province of China implies that force can be used to restore control by China? Has he noted President Nixon’s statement last Sunday that the United States of America acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Straits maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China? The United States Government does not challenge that position. Has he also noted Prime Minister Sato’s subsequent statement that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China? Does the Australian Government share the view expressed by its allies and partners? If not, what is now the Australian. Government’s position on the status of Taiwan?
– The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is yes and there is no inconsistency between the two. The answer to the third question also is yes. The answer to the fourth question is that it is our policy to have a dialogue with China in order to normalise bi-lateral relationships between the 2 countries. It was made clear by my colleague the Foreign Minister yesterday that to put us in a satisfactory position in order to continue the dialogue we will establish an Australian diplomatic commission under the Department of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong. We hope that by this means and by quiet and patient diplomacy we will be able to achieve our objectives.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand during a recent visit to Singapore to the effect that if his Party came into power at the forthcoming general election in New Zealand it would retain its troops in Singapore even if the Labor Party came into power in Australia and withdrew its forces. Does the Minister believe that it would be possible to maintain the ANZUK arrangements after withdrawal of Australian forces?
– Yes, I have seen the statement referred to by the honourable gentleman. I believe that Mr Kirk, the Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand, was reported as saying that New Zealand had made these arrangements and that if he became Prime Minister of New Zealand he would abide by any arrangements that had been made. I appreciate the bi-partisan approach in New Zealand politics which unfortunately we are unable to obtain in this House. However, I have some doubts as to whether Mr Kirk could carry out the arrangement because there would be considerable problems for New Zealand. For one thing, at the present moment Australia provides the logistics assistance to all the ANZUK forces stationed in Singapore and it would mean that if our troops were withdrawn the United Kingdom and New Zealand would have to provide the logistics support. In order to do this they would have to bring in something like 200 additional troops. In addition I believe it would be extremely likely that if Australian troops were withdrawn there would be a reappraisal by Britain which would naturally ask why it should send its troops 12,000 miles around the world to Singapore when Australia, the nearest Commonwealth country, was not prepared to have troops there. So it would be extremely likely that the ANZUK and Five-Power arrangements which have been worked out over a long period of time, and the freely arrived at agreement between these countries, would be upset in the event of the withdrawal of Australian troops.
-I ask the Minister for Housing whether he agrees that the building industry and associated industries are the biggest employers of labour in Australia. Is it a fact that approvals for dwellings in January were the lowest for that month for 5 years and that commencements of new dwellings in the first half of this finan cial year are 4.7 per cent down on the same period 2 years ago, and in Victoria and New South Wales nearly 10 per cent down? Has his attention been drawn to the statement by T. A. Dalton, Vice-President of the Master Builders Federation, that the action taken by the Government with the State Premiers was inadequate to stimulate the building industry? Does the Minister agree that unless interest rates are reduced-
-Order! The honourable member’s question is fairly lengthy. He is giving a lot of information. Question time is for the seeking of information. I ask the honourable member to be as brief as he can.
– I thank you for your patience, Mr Speaker. I also ask: Does the Minister agree that interest rates should be reduced across the board and that the maximum loan should be increased, particularly savings bank loans? Does he agree that young people cannot afford to meet the deposit gap and make their repayments? Will the Minister endeavour immediately to reduce interest rates on home loans and to increase the maximum loan, particularly from savings banks, in order to stimulate the building industry?
– I must thank the honourable member for Reid for asking me this question because it enables me to put into context some of the comments he has been making in recent times. But I must make this point quite clear: The alacrity with which the honourable member for Reid will embrace any interpretation of figures which are gloomy rather depresses me, as it should depress the country. He has not understood the figures he has quoted, nor does he understand the industry about which he has made some comments. So let me answer the 6 parts of the question quickly and shortly. In respect of housing activity in the country there are figures for approvals and details of completions, commencements and the amount of finance approved for housing. To grab any one piece of data and build a gloomy case upon it merely indicates a narrowness of outlook which is not appropriate to the honourable member. The answer to the other question he asked is that there is an equilibrium level of housing taking place in Australia which is appropriate to the desire of the Australian people, and the level of that housing activity in this country for a number of years has been either the highest or second highest in the world per thousand of population. It is of an order which would not be encouraged were the honourable member for Reid ever to be given any responsibility in government.
The honourable member for Reid referred also to some comments made by a Mr Dalton of New South Wales concerning finance for housing and other matters. I also saw a comment by Mr Dalton recently that as a result of the rise in the price of steel the cost of an average house constructed in New South Wales - a house to the value of $14,000 or so - would increase by $280 or $290. To attract that kind of rise a house would need to have $5,500 worth of steel in it. I can only say that builders must be building castles and not houses. The last point referred to by the honourable member concerning interest rates needs to be emphasised. There have been very substantial declines in the interest rates on housing in a number of fields over recent months. The greatest decreases in interest rates on housing have occurred with respect to welfare housing in the three fields of housing under the responsibility of State authorities, both for rental and for purchase, and housing which is financed through the home builders account of the cooperative terminating societies. Those interest rate reductions have been of the order of H per cent. They occurred before there was a decline in the long term bond rate. Were the advice of the honourable member for Reid and the Opposition to have been followed none of the declines in interest rates would have been allowable because they opposed the Bill which in fact enabled these reductions to occur.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts in his capacity as the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of the importance of the tourist industry to the Australian economy, will the Minister indicate what steps are currently being taken to encourage a greater flow of tourists from other parts of the world? Are maximum incentives being offered to assist the tourist industry and are the attractions that this country has to offer being publicised as widely as possible throughout the other continents?
– The honourable member for Ryan will know that the major task of the Australian Tourist Commission is to encourage overseas tourists to come to Australia. That is done in a number of ways in conjunction with ‘ the State tourist authorities and the airlines. As a result of the American Society of Travel Agents conference which took place in Sydney towards the end of last year there has been a tremendous wave of enthusiasm and interest in, particularly, the United States of America where many tourists wish to come here. A great deal of publicity is now being undertaken in that country through the contacts that we made during that conference. Many other markets are also being opened up and developed at this time in, particularly, Japan as well as our normal markets in New Zealand and, of course, Europe. Whether we should assist in developing special tourist attractions within Australia is a matter which has been suggested to me in recent weeks by the industry. This matter is now being examined. In due course I shall be submitting information on it to the Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Will he suggest to his colleague the AttorneyGeneral that an examination be made of the recent judgment of the High Court of Australia in the concrete pipes case with a view to determining whether the Commonwealth Parliament possesses power to pass laws in respect of prices? When the examination has been completed will he advise this House and the nation of the result of it? If it is felt that the judgment does not give the Parliament power to control prices, will be give consideration to the taking of a referendum for an amendment of the Constitution to add prices as a new placitum to section 51 of the Constitution?
– I will certainly, refer to the Attorney-General the matters which the right honourable gentleman has mentioned. But I heard some sounds from honourable members on the Opposition benches. It would be interesting to know how many members of the Australian Labor Party are prepared to follow the right honourable gentleman in giving effect to Labor policy on prices control. It is very clear that since the right honourable gentleman relinquished the leadership of the Australian Labor Party many basic principles and features of its platform have been departed from when the present leader has considered that it is expedient to do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. To explain the question, I refer to a survey of land use and soil erosion within the Lake Burley Griffin catchment area carried out by the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales in 1970 to assist in an erosion control programme to reduce the rate of siltation in Lake Burley Griffin. Did the survey point to extensive areas of gully erosion and stream bank erosion in Jerrabombera and Burra Creeks and the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers? Has the deserted mining area of Captains Flat caused very severe scouring of slag heaps and bare areas around the pits? Is there an advisory soil conservation service in the Australian Capital Territory and what action is being taken to reduce the rate of siltation of Lake Burley Griffin7
– The answer to the first part of the question is yes. A survey of the entire Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers catchment areas has been carried out by the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales. The survey revealed an extensive area of gully erosion and erosion in the stream banks of Jerrabomberra and Burra Creeks. It also indicated erosion in the Queanbeyan and Molonglo River areas. These were the areas that were tackled in the first survey. Currently, a survey is being conducted in the Burra Creek valley region. The Captains Hat area is an old mine area. The old zinc slag heaps have been bare because of the poisonous nature of the minerals in the soil. There is no vegetation in the region. We have attempted to overcome that problem by covering the areas with gravel. There is a soil conservation advisory service in the Australian Capital Territory. It works within the Department of the Interior. The siltation level in Lake
Burley Griffin is being reduced through the application of recognised soil conservation practices in the whole of the catchment area. The New South Wales section has been treated according to the agreement which we entered into with the New South Wales Government in 1965 to try to overcome this problem. This is a 10-year agreement and the Commonwealth is contributing one-third of the cost of the work up to $20,000 a year, the balance of the cost being shared between the soil conservation services and the land owners in the area. It is an area that has been of some concern to us. We are giving it our utmost attention. Much concern has been shown by certain academics about the level of pollution in Lake Burley Griffin. We are conducting many surveys. We are seeking expert advice to ensure that the level of pollution does not increase unduly.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. He will recall saying on the programme ‘Monday Conference’ on 6th December last year that defence would be the key issue at this year’s election. He will recall also directing the Minister for Defence to prepare a defence White Paper and expressing publicly his disappointment at the delay in presenting this paper. In view of the right honourable gentleman’s promise that the paper would be ready ‘somewhere about February’, I ask him: Has it been completed? If not, has defence been relegated as an election issue by the deterioration in the economy and the decline in the Government’s electoral support?
– Answering the last part of the question first, I can assure the honourable gentleman that defence will be one of the most important issues that the Government and the Opposition will face at the next election. We will show a sharp cleavage between ourselves and the Australian Labor Party and its supporters in the left-wing unions. As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I understand that the paper has already been completed. It happens to be a very long one and it will need to be edited before we will be able to present it to the House. I hope to receive the paper in the course of the next few days.
– 1 ask the Minister for Immigration: Is it a fact, as has been reported, that the Prime Minister of Fiji who, I understand, has complained that his luggage was inspected by Australian Customs officials during transit through Australia is required to obtain a visa to enter Australia whilst his European official is not?
– No, it is not correct that the Prime Minister of Fiji requires a visa to visit Australia, as has been so often mischievously written in the Press. As a British subject holding an official position, the Prime Minister of Fiji is free to visit Australia without requiring a visa. I think that this should be known and understood. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about visas. It does not appear to be generally understood that the general policy of the Government is that it is necessary to have a visa to visit Australia. That general policy applies to most people in the world. There is one exception, apart from the one 1 have just mentioned which is a comparatively minor one. The exception is in relation to British Europeans. They do not need visas, for reasons which go a long way back into our history. But apart from British Europeans, everybody else in the world requires a visa to visit this country. Therefore, there is no distinction made between a Frenchman, an American, a Fijian, an Indian or anybody else in this respect. I believe that that should be clearly understood.
– My question is directed to you, Mr Speaker. I realise that the information which I am seeking is very extensive and will not be immediately available, but I understand that it is now not possible for me to direct to you a question on notice. Would you please let me have the following details when it is possible for you to do so?
Representatives Ministers, (c) House of Representatives Ministers’ staff, (d) private members and (e) clerical officers of the House of Representatives Department?
Finally, is it possible for you to supply corresponding figures showing what the position will be when the western wing is fully occupied? I am sorry to have taken so long but, as you know, it is impossible for me to put this question on notice. That is why I have asked it now.
-I shall be glad to supply the honourable member for Prospect with all the details he has requested. We have gone into this matter very thoroughly, and I think we have most of those details on hand now. I will obtain them for him. Accommodation for members of the House of Representatives has been acute for some years. When the new additions are completed members will be considerably better off with the space and the amenities that will be provided.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the concerted campaign to have the Commonwealth intervene in the Gordon River power development in Tasmania to prevent the drowning of Lake Pedder? As the Lake Pedder conservationists now seek as a last resort to make members of this House electorally responsible for the decisions of 2 successive Tasmanian governments, will the right honourable gentleman indicate the status of the Commonwealth in this matter?
– The answer to the first question is that I have heard and have read many of the representations that have been made about Lake Pedder. The answer to the second question is that this matter is totally the responsibility of the Tasmanian Government. We have neither the power effectively to intervene nor could we take any other action which would compel the Tasmanian Government to change its mind.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. What progress has so far been made in the Minister’s announced discussions with other countries directed to obtaining reciprocal payment of social services to pensioners living abroad? Which countries have so far accepted the Australian proposals? Which, if any, have rejected them? If any country has rejected them, why has it done so? When can enabling legislation be expected?
– I have been in contact with the representatives of, I think, 13 or 14 countries so far. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Others may be added to it. As far as I know, no country has rejected the request. I have sent them all details of our services and I have asked them to let me have details of their corresponding services. I hope within the next week or 10 days to be starting a round of the representatives here to finalise these matters as soon as possible. No delay will be occasioned by this Government, but of course the conclusion of negotiations depends not only on this government but on the other governments. I understand that the relevant legislation is to be introduced during this sitting of the House, but I point out to the honourable member that no delay will be occasioned by this because the preliminary negotiations will be going on irrespective of the introduction of the legislation into this House.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Will shipping freight rates on exports to Japan and the Far East rise by 15 per cent as from 1st May? Could such a rise seriously affect our trade in this region by allowing commodi ties to be freighted in from other countries at cheaper rates? Will the Government call a conference of shippers to see whether this rise can be averted?
– It is true that the Australian Northbound Shipping Conference announced on 25th February a general increase in freight rates of up to 15 per cent to commence from 1st May. The honourable member has a right to be concerned about the effect this may have on Australian export industries. I am not so sure that Australian industries will be worse off vis-a-vis competitive countries because increased freight rates seem to be a general problem around the world. The facts are that shipping companies are faced with a problem of staying in business and meeting increased costs. They have had substantial cost increases in wages of crews, repairs and administration and in other areas. The whole problem is, of course, symptomatic of the general problem when you get rising costs without getting a matching increase in productivity. As to the last part of the honourable member’s question, I understand that the Northbound Shipping Conference is to enter into detailed discussions with the various export trades to settle the level of freight rates for various export industries with the Northbound Conference. It would therefore appear unnecessary for me to call such a conference as the honourable member suggested.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by a delegate to the Liberal Party State Council meeting in Melbourne recently in which he described Assistant Ministers as ‘. . . . eunuchs and mules - sired by panic out of expediency’ and said ‘They should go back to the shed . . .?’ If so, in view of the mystery surrounding the activities of the chosen few, is it a fact that the real reason for their appointment is, firstly, to provide immunity to certain Country Party members from opposition by the Liberal Party in the forthcoming elections and, secondly, to ensure that the Prime Minister has a majority in the Party room? If so, on what grounds does he justify public expenditure to maintain Country Party representation in the Parliament and his own precarious place of power in the political jungles of the Liberal Party?
– Very nearly every part of the statement made by the honourable gentleman is wrong and I will not take up any time of the House in replying to such an irresponsible, even stupid statement.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform me of the present situation regarding the proposed Commonwealth assistance to the States for re-afforestation purposes?
– A 5-year agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for softwood plantings has just been concluded and a new agreement to carry on for another 5 years has been negotiated, through the Australian Forestry Council. There were some points of detail to be clarified and until fairly recently all States had not agreed to the conditions of the new agreement but I am happy to say that following correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premiers all States have indicated that they will subscribe to the new agreement under which certain conditions are set down governing the plantings by the various States. In the overall picture over the 5-year period there will be a slight increase in the total planting allocations made by the Commonwealth. The conditions set out in the agreement have now been accepted by all States and will be implemented in the near future.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Have spokesmen for the Government on many occasions blamed industrial disputes on the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke? Is it not a fact that on many occasions Mr Hawke has taken initiatives designed to bring about a resolution of industrial disputes? Is it not a fact that the Minister has never once in his tenure of office taken a single initiative to resolve a dispute? Does this not contrast with the actions of the South Australian
Minister of Labour and Industry in taking important initiatives in resolving a dispute at the Uniroyal company in South Australia last year and the action of the Minister for Shipping and Transport in this Government on one occasion last year?
– I really find the question posed to me by the honourable gentleman quite pathetic both in relation to its implications and the points he seeks to make. The fact is that this Government has been very active in interventions before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Also, as the honourable gentleman should be well aware, this Government made a vigorous intervention before the Commission in relation to the recent State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria. If the honourable gentleman and other honourable members on the other side of the Chamber were at all concerned about the question of industrial disputes, they might well look at the question of the rapid escalation in wage and salary costs which is one of the problems that we are facing at this stage in the industrial area. All that the honourable gentleman seeks to do is to provide a smokescreen for the fact that at present there has been a major lift in industrial disputes in this country.
The question before the Australian people is not where this Government stands, because the attitudes of this Government have been clearly and positively stated in its industrial relations statement brought down in the Parliament during the course of the last session. If the honourable gentleman wants to make some statements about industrial relations, let him answer the question as to where he and his Party stand on the matter of sanctions in relation to the Commission because, in regard to industrial disputes and the role of the Arbitration Commission in this country, the people of Australia have the right to know that if the Australian Labor Party were in power its industrial relations policy, in terms of the cost of the various proposals which it has put forward, would bankrupt this country. Regarding the role of the Arbitration Commission, the Labor Party would effectively relegate the Commission by withdrawing the sanction processes which are now operative.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs representing the Attorney-General a question and I apologise for introducing politics. In view of the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that draft dodging is not a crime and so that the ordinary people of this country may clearly under.stant that there are different laws for “the people and for members of the Australian Labor Party, will the Attorney-General see that in future all legislation is drawn up excluding Labor Party members if they do not wish to observe those laws and stressing that, however, all ordinary citizens must conform? Does the Minister consider that democracy can be retained if members of political parties are excluded from observing the laws of the land and such action is publicly supported by the alternative Prime Minister of this country, however inadequate he may be?
– My colleague, the Attorney-General, will be able to read this question in Hansard, but perhaps I could just add that the rule of law really is fundamental to our institutions in Australia.
– And in China and in Russia.
-I have written a paper on the law of China and I will send the honourable member a copy, if he likes. It is a very interesting study. I delivered the paper in Melbourne when I was Attorney-General and the honourable member might be interested to see it. I can assure the honourable member that the position in China is quite different from that in Australia. Both the Parliament and our great legal institutions are based upon the rule that all citizens without exception are required to obey the law. The difficulty about what the Leader of the Opposition has put is that he is suggesting that someone is entitled to disobey the law on the off chance that the Labor Party will come to power and alter that law. I suppose the next thing that would apply is that if the Labor Party got the chance to pass some laws through this Parliament we could advise people to disobey those laws on the contingency that we would come back to the Parliament and repeal them. Is not this a totally irrespon sible approach? The Leader of the Opposition is a barrister of the New South Wales Supreme Court, and I suggest that it is an entirely irresponsible approach for him to suggest that citizens should disobey laws passed through this Parliament by their elected representatives.
– Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs agree that it is unreal to talk of troop de-escalation in Vietnam and at the same time of civil aid which has been necessary to sustain the advantage gained through military action? Is the Minister aware that a group led by a very high official of another Commonwealth department recently visited South Vietnam and is likely to submit certain recommendations on the future of our medical teams practising in that country? Will the Minister assure the House that this form of civil aid will not be withdrawn, recognising of course that the safety of such teams is of primary consideration?
– Our troops have been withdrawn from Vietnam as the position there has improved and is now much more secure than it was, and we have been continuing to assist the South Vietnamese by providing aid particularly to build a sound infrastructure. Presently we are reviewing our policy of providing medical aid, such as the surgical team at Bien Hoa. I think that as the position in Vietnam has improved all nations which have been giving aid have been reviewing their aid policies. We are carrying out a major review of our medical aid. What the result of that review will be I cannot say. Sir William Refshauge of the Commonwealth Department of Health led a team to Vietnam. A report has been submitted and it is presently being considered.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Yesterday afternoon the right honourable gentleman told us of information which he had received from Hong Kong on 7th September last about 2 matters - firstly, the possible visit to China by the Minister for the Army, and secondly, to use his words ‘a private trade mission which we were only too happy to arrange’. The right honourable gentleman had no more to say on the second matter. I ask him now: What progress has the Government made with the arrangements for this private trade mission to China?
– For some time we were in negotiation to try to ensure that an Australian trade mission led by a very distinguished Australian should go to the People’s Republic of China. We waited for a considerable period of time hoping that we would get final approval from the People’s Republic to go. As I have made clear to the House, immediately after the vote was taken in the United Nations we were informed - not directly from the representatives of the People’s Republic but indirectly - that the time was inopportune for a visit.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. The eastern seaboard region of Russia, because of its distance from European Russia, its proximity to Australia and its growing population is of increasing trade importance to Australia. The Minister recently stated that his Department is establishing a trade commissioner post in Moscow. Is his Department considering or will it consider the establishment of a trade commissioner post in the eastern part of Russia?
– It is true that we are establishing a trade commissioner post in Moscow. Moscow is selected because, as honourable members possibly would know-
Opposition members - Oh!
-Order! Surely the House would want to hear the Minister’s answer. I should not think that honourable members would want to impede the Minister in the manner in which they are impeding him.
– The honourable member for Murray and other honourable members would be well aware that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a highly centralised form of government administration. Honourable members opposite seem amused, but I do not know what is so funny about that. It is a fact which means that all the principal decisions relating to trade are made in Moscow. We believe that it is quite important that we have a trade representative there. The honourable member has suggested that we consider the establishment of a trade commissioner post on the eastern seaboard of USSR. There is an administrative centre there, the name of which is Nakhodka, but it deals only with local matters. Our information is that major decisions relating to imports or exports of goods are made in Moscow. We will watch the situation and as we gain more experience and learning, if it becomes necessary we will give consideration to the suggestion.
– Does the Prime Minister realise that it is now over 3 years since the Government established a committee of inquiry charged with finding a suitable site for a second major airport to serve Sydney? Why is it that a second committee of inquiry can forecast at the beginning of this year that it will not be able to make a recommendation as to the choice of site until next year, 4 years after the initial inquiry? Does the Prime Minister realise that the very many thousands of long suffering citizens living in the vicinity of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport are sick to the teeth with the Government’s continued cynical delaying tactics in getting on with the task of building a second airport for Sydney? Will he take early action to get this project off the ground?
– I shall answer the question. This matter has been raised in the House on quite a number of occasions. The honourable member who has asked the question has referred to it previously and I think he knows full well the background to the position. The Government established a departmental committee at least a couple of years ago to investigate airport requirements for Sydney after the present international and domestic airports reach saturation point. This investigation was carried out and a report was submitted to my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation. The details of that report were made known in this House.
Finally 2 sites were to be considered. It was decided then because of the implications and associated difficulties that there would be a joint investigation by the Commonwealth into all the circumstances. That investigation is now being carried out.
When a report is received from the Commonwealth and State committee that has been established it will be considered by the Minister for Civil Aviation. When any announcement is made, it will certainly be conveyed to this House.
– My question, which genuinely is without any notice whatsoever, is directed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as the member who within standing order 143 has charge of a Bill before the House, namely the National Service Bill 1971. 1 ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: Does section 51 of the National Service Act provide for an offence of failing to comply with a call up notice, or draft dodging? Secondly, does the Bill of which the honourable member has charge propose to amend that section of the Act by imposing an additional penalty of one years’s imprisonment for that offence? Thirdly, if draft dodging is not an offence, as has been alleged by the Leader of the Opposition, can the honourable member explain to the House why his Bill proposes a penalty of one year’s imprisonment for it?
– I take a point of order. I submit that this question is out of order. Mr Speaker, whatever may be allowed in the Senate. I put to you with complete gravity that it is improper for insinuations to be made in this House about persons who are to come before the courts. There are references in the honourable member’s question to certain matters which have been ventilated in the Senate by no less than the Attorney-General. The case is well known. It has been well ventilated. It is quite improper that a person-
-Order! The House will come to order. It is very hard for the Chair to listen to and concentrate on the point of order which the Leader of the Opposition is putting to the Chair.
– Honourable members opposite seem to forget that one of their colleagues, a member of Parliament belonging to their Party, is at present on trial before a judge and jury. It would be completely improper-
-Order! The honourable member must come back to the point of order. He cannot debate the issue.
– It is completely improper that anything should be said in the Parliament which would prejudice that man’s trial.
– It is all right to say it outside though, is it?
– If it was said outside the courts would deal with it. It is equally objectionable if reflections are made in the House over which you preside, Mr Speaker, on a person who is being sought by the police and who, if the police apprehend him, will come before the courts. I submit that you should not allow this House to be used for the making of statements which may prejudice or appear to prejudice the trial of persons who are being sought-
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to debate the issue.
– May I speak to the point of order?
-I would prefer to give some indication of my views first.
– I would like to speak to it.
-I Will allow the Minister for Customs and Excise to speak.
– In the question asked by the honourable member for Diamond Valley no mention was made of any person who was under charge or being tried. What the honourable member did refer to was an alleged statement by the Leader of the Opposition who was reported as saying that draft dodging was not an offence. I refer to a newspaper available in the Parliamentary Library which states that the Leader of the Opposition, when questioned by an interviewer on PM’ on 28th February, stated that draft dodging is not a crime.
– I am not concerned with what the Leader of the Opposition said or did not say. The question here is whether this question is allowable.
– Standing order 143 states: Questions may be put to a Member, not being a Minister, relating to any Bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the Business of the House, of which the Member has charge.
At page 12001 of the notice paper, under Orders of the Day No. 9, there is an item National Service Bill 1971 - Mr Barnard*. In those circumstances, particularly because the honourable member for Diamond Valley has not mentioned anybody who is under any charge, I submit that the question is in order.
– I rise on another point of order, Mr Speaker. What the Minister for Customs and Excise has said on this matter is perfectly correct. I should think that the honourable member for Diamond Valley would be completely entitled to ask that question about the Bill of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in charge, but I object to the extraneous references which the honourable member for Diamond Valley made to the opponent of the Minister for Customs and Excise. I should have thought that the Minister would be the last person–
Government supporters interjecting.
– I submit, Sir, that you should not allow this House to be used, as the Senate is being used, to cast aspersions upon people who are due to come before the courts and who may be prejudiced by these aspersions being cast.
– Order! I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on both counts. I agree with him that the question is allowable under standing order 143. I also agree with him that, if the question were to have referred to a particular person or persons outside of the House and the House were to be used for the purposes he has suggested, I would have to rule in his favour. But from memory the honourable member for Diamond Valley did not at any stage mention any particular person or persons. That is my recollection of the terms of his question. In that case, 1 would say that the question is in accordance with the Standing Orders. 1 should hope that this House would never be used as a political vehicle for any person or persons outside of it. That would be the case if any person outside of the House were to be named. But no person was named at all on this occasion. Therefore, I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise on a further point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order I raise is one which has not been raised so far and which has nothing to do with those points of order which have been raised so far. Since I have been a member of this House I have never heard a clear ruling given on the question of who is in charge of a Bill. It is quite clear from the standing order referred to by the honourable member for Hotham, who is the Minister for Customs and Excise, that a question can be asked of a Minister and of a person who is not a Minister if he is a person in charge of a Bill. I have never heard a clear ruling given about who is a person in charge of a Bill, but I would submit to you, Sir, that a member of the Opposition cannot be a person who is in charge of a Bill. When I speak to a Bill dealing with trade and tariff matters I am not in any way in charge of that Bill. The only person in charge of that Bill is someone on the other side of the House.
I submit to you, Sir, that standing order 143 means that a person may be questioned if he is a Minister or if, on behalf of the Government, he is in charge of a Bill. It is obvious that a clear ruling ought to be given on this matter. I have not heard one given in the 16 years I have been a member of this Parliament. It seems to me to be contradictory to common sense to suggest that someone on this side of the House who does not have the backing of a majority and who does not have the backing of the Standing Orders can in any way be said to be in charge of a Bill. A Bill is in the charge of someone who has the procedures of the Standing Orders to back him up, who has the support of the majority of the members in this House and who speaks for the Government on it. I submit that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not in charge of the Bill to which reference has been made.
– Order! The point of order that the honourable member for Lalor has raised is not directly related to the ruling I have given, but I would assume that the person who was in charge of a Bill was the person who asked for leave to introduce that Bill, who introduced that Bill and who first spoke to the motion that that Bill be read a second time. I understand that that has always been the practice in this House and in other Houses as well.
– I rise to order. Could I ask for your ruling. Mr Speaker? Is the question affected by the last part of standing order 144 which states:
Questions cannot anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter.
Since the National Service Bill 1971 introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is order of the day No. 9, does the question not conflict with that standing order?
– No. It would be impossible to remember the exact wording of the question. But as I understand the question, it asked whether the Bill contained a certain matter. I think any honourable member is entitled to ask in anticipation of a debate - this applies also to Ministers - for information he may require in relation to that debate.
– The honourable member for Diamond Valley asked a very long and complex question. Unfortunately, as a result of the points of order that have been taken, it is rather difficult for me to follow the substance of his question. However, I say in reply to it that the Bill which was introduced by me and referred to by the honourable member has been dealt with on 2 occasions in this House. A full explanation of all the clauses referred to by the honourable member will be found in the Hansard report of the subsequent debate. As far as 1 am aware, the honourable member for Diamond Valley made no attempt on either occasion to join in the debate. The honourable member had an opportunity to question me during that debate. Of course, the continuation of the debate was not facilitated by the Government. He refused to join in the debate.
– Answer the question.
– I will answer the question. The last occasion on which this matter was debated in this House was about 6$ months ago. It was made clear by me at the time that I was introducing a Bill to amend the National Service Act because the Opposition recognised that the Government would never repeal the legislation. We agreed that it would be better to amend bad legislation if we could not have it repealed. The policy of this Party is to repeal the National Service Act. That will be undertaken when I have the responsibility as Minister for Defence in the next government. Finally, let me point out to the honourable member that we will be happy to continue this debate on the Bill which I introduced and last spoke on 6i months ago in this House if the Government will give us an opportunity to do
– I raise this matter now instead of in the usual way, which is by question without notice to you, Mr Speaker, because I did not want to take the time of question time. 1 seek an explanation of an alteration in Hansard. Yesterday’s Hansard at page 352 reports that the Prime Minister, by leave, said: 1 want to add after the words ‘carrying on his business’ the words ‘with me’. . . .
It is an accurate report. But what he said on page 336 reads this way:
As everybody understands and as the Prime Minister was made to realise clearly subsequently, the words ‘with me’ were not used when the right honourable gentleman was making his speech some time a little after 3 o’clock. I told him that we on this side would give leave to correct it as it is correctly reported on page 352 of Hansard. How is it that Hansard at page 336 has been amended to insert the words which the right honourable gentleman properly told us he had not used at that time?
– I cannot answer the honourable gentleman. It is the first time the matter has been brought to my attention. I will look into it and provide the honourable gentleman with some explanation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. I was misrepresented during question time. T want to explain 2 matters which were omitted in the questions and the answers in which I was misrepresented. As the transcript shows, I made it quite plain that if any person has broken the law he runs the risk of being apprehended and convicted. Secondly, I made it plain at the same time that I thought no person, least of all the senior law officer of the Crown, should speak of any persons in terms which assumed their guilt. It is not right for any fellow citizen or for any member of the Parliament, and least of all for the law officer of the Crown, to speak in terms which assume that people are guilty-
-Order! The Chair has been fairly lenient today. I have listened carefully to what the honourable member has said and I think he might find some other way of dealing with the matter rather than by way of a personal explanation because he is now obviously going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I was just finishing the sentence.
-If the honourable member wishes only to finish a sentence, I will allow him to proceed.
– I said that it was wrong for any citizen, and that includes a member of Parliament and particularly the first law officer of the Crown, to speak of any person in terms that assumed that that person was guilty.
– I rise to order. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that he has been misrepresented. 1 understand that I am the only honourable member, other than the honourable member for Diamond Valley, who has mentioned the Leader of the Opposition in this context today. He has not given details of the alleged misrepresentation. The inference is that I was responsible for the misrepresentation. I deny that. The honourable member has not stated how he was misrepresented and has proceeded to introduce entirely new matter.
-Order! The Minister himself is now debating the matter. Since I have been in the Chair, and for many years before, it has been the custom to allow some latitude to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the making of personal explanations and in other respects. I am extending that latitude to the Leader of the Opposition who assured me that he wished only to complete one sentence.
– by leave - Honourable members will recall the Government’s decision announced at the recent Premiers Conference meeting to restore the special investment allowance on new investment in manufacturing plant and equipment.
-Order! There is too much noise coming from both sides of the House. I request the co-operation of honourable members. In common decency, when the Prime Minister is on his feet, there should be as little noise as possible.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! If it is a frivolous point of order I will deal with the honourable member.
– I am seeking clarification of what you said, Mr Speaker. Has the Prime Minister any greater privileges than has an ordinary member of this House?
– None- other than the courtesy that I have just mentioned. There is a custom in this House.
– I said at the time that it had been put to us from many quarters that this was the single measure most likely to boost confidence and activity on the part of industry, and manufacturing industry in particular. We have now decided on another measure to assist industry. This will be the continuing of the financial incentive provided under the industrial research and development grants scheme for a further 5 year period from July of this year. The amount of incentive which the Government will provide will be significantly greater than during the first 5 year period from 1967. The incentive will be along lines broadly similar to the present industrial research and development grants scheme which is designed to encourage manufacturing and mining companies incorporated in Australia to increase their expenditures on research and development.
Basically the existing scheme operates by providing grants to companies related to increases in their salary and contract expenditure between a particular year - the grant year - and a fixed base year, 1965- 66. In addition, and subject to certain requirements, the net cost of plant and equipment purchases in the grant year is also eligible for grants. The Government’s examination of the situation has shown that the present scheme has achieved a good deal of success. Many companies have been induced to begin or to increase research and development activities and there has been a marked increase in employment of qualified research staff. It has also shown, however, that there is still room for more technologically based companies to commence industrial research and development and for others to lift the level of their research activities. It is estimated that grants under the present scheme over the 5-year period of its operation will be of the order of $60m. It will be remembered that I said earlier that there will be a substantial increase over this amount over the next 5 year period.
Grants paid under the new scheme will depend on the rate of growth of industrial research and development expenditure by Australian companies, and on the grant rate determined from time to time, in the light of current circumstances, but the Government expects that total grants paid over the 5 years of the new scheme will be significantly greater than under the present scheme. Experience with the scheme has brought to light a number of areas where improvement could be effected. Full details of all amendments proposed will be made available in legislation which it is expected will be introduced in this session of Parliament. Following is an outline of the main features of the new arrangements proposed.
Under the revised scheme, the base period will be an average of 3 consecutive years with a lag of one year between the final base year and the grant year. This has been decided upon in preference to the single base year provided under the present legislation. A single fixed base has been shown to have disadvantages between companies, particularly if a company happened to have an abnormally high expenditure in that year. In addition, with a fixed base, there is a tendency, once a company has raised the level of its effort on industrial research and development, for the incentive to become less effective as a means of stimulating firms to go on increasing their industrial research and development effort year by year.
The Government has decided to extend the range of items which will be eligible for grant purposes where the expenditure can be clearly identifiable with the industrial research and development operations of the firm. These will include such items as materials used in industrial research and development projects, technical information facilities, repairs and maintenance, and some administration costs associated with industrial research and development.
In most cases, research and development work performed by employees engaged full time on industrial research and development for part of the year will be an allowable item of expenditure. It is proposed that plant expenditure will be treated in a manner broadly similar to that of other industrial research and development expenditures with increases in plant expenditure in the grant year over the base period being included in eligible expenditure. After careful consideration the Government has decided to retain the requirements in the present Act regarding professional qualifications but proposes to introduce some minor modifications of this procedure. The Government has in mind also a number of amendments. One of these is to require applicant companies to declare that they will exploit on normal commercial terms the results of their industrial and research development for the benefit of Australia. It is the Government’s intention that companies which increase their allowable industrial research and development expenditures including salaries, plant and materials and contract expenditures between a particular year and the base period will qualify for a general grant in respect of expenditure up to $50,000 a year. For expenditure on industrial research and development in 1972-73, the rate of general grant will be set at 50 per cent. For selective grants involving expenditures over $50,000 grants will be payable to those companies which fulfil the national interest criteria of the Act. In coming to its conclusions, the Government has appreciated the helpful suggestions that had been put forward by those interested in the success of the scheme including the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board. Further details of the Government’s proposals will be made known in the near future.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave, is granted.
- Mr Speaker, industry will be pleased with the slight improvements that have been foreshadowed by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to the Australian Industrial Research and Development Act, but industry feels that the present Act does not go far enough in encouraging it to have, more industrial research and development throughout industry. The scheme can be greatly improved, I am afraid that the Government, in the foreshadowed improvements to the Act, has worked on the old Act rather than look at some new ideas in the field of industrial research and development. An interdepartmental committee has been investigating what improvements should be made to the Act. I wonder whether that interdepartmental committee was instructed to work only on the Act at present in existence or whether it was given approval to look at other Acts throughout the world.
Has a decision been taken by the Government or by the interdepartmental committee that this is the only industrial research and development scheme that should be followed in Australia? For instance, in the United States of America 65 per cent of the amount spent on industrial research and development is given by the United States Government. In Australia, according to the fourth annual report of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Board, only 863 companies in Australia have been assisted. In the year 1970-71 an amount of only $16,250,000 was paid out for industrial research and development.
Australia is a young country. It needs new ideas. It needs new products. Our companies need encouragement in order to undertake the research and development necessary for these products. I feel that the Government needs to do far more in this area than it is doing at the moment. The encouragement it is giving to industry is not sufficient. We need far greater research in selected areas. I think that the Government should Jay down the areas in which it will help and should give those selected areas greater incentive payments than it has given them in the past. I note from the speech of the Prime Minister that the amount of grant that can be made will be increased to 50 per cent with a maximum of $50,000. Previously that was the amount, but for some reason the Government a year or two ago reduced the amount payable to 35 per cent. Now it has come back to the 50 per cent. But I also note that that 50 per cent grant is not. to operate until 1972-73, 15 months from now. I cannot help being suspicious when this legislation is foreshadowed in an election year, with the Government holding out the bait to industry but not introducing the legislation to bring the grant back to 50 per cent until the financial year 1972- 73.
I want to make some comments on this section of the Prime Minister’s speech:
After careful consideration, the Government has decided to retain the requirements in the present Act regarding professional qualifications but proposes to introduce some minor modifications of this provision.
The fourth annual report of the Australian Industry Research and Development Grants Board shows that 32 applications for grants were rejected because the industrial research and development work had not been performed by or the grants would not provide direct assistance to a professionally qualified person. So 32 companies, although doing industrial research and development work, were not able to receive a grant because the person in charge of the industrial research and development did not have a professional qualification. The Prime Minister said that he is to make some minor modifications. It seems to me that the requirement regarding a professional degree will be maintained. A constituent of mine, writing to me on this topic, said:
I write regarding the Industrial Research and Development Grants Board, or, more specifically, the Act which governs its operation.
One of many conditions imposed by the Act which must be met before a grant can be made is felt by us to be unnecessarily harsh. In fact this condition bars this division of the Company from receiving assistance although we do carry out worthwhile research and development in our field. We manufacture industrial power transmission equipment - gear speed reducers, couplings, clutches, chain sprockets etc., and most of these products are designed and developed in our own plant. To remain competitive we keep our ranga of products under review and when required completely re-design. We also develop special products for customers through design, prototype and eventually production stages. We have had preliminary discussions with an officer of the Department of Trade which department acts on behalf of tha Board in this city, and it would appear that all these activities are eligible for consideration by the board.
However, we are barred from this consideration by another requirement which states that the research and development regarding which application is made must be carried out by, or under the direction of, a person qualified within the meaning of the Act, and this qualification virtually requires a University graduate in one of the Engineering disciplines. Our research and development is carried out either by myself or under roy direction, and I have no such qualifications.
I would point out that 1 have been actively involved in the Mechanical Engineering industry for over 20 years, starting as an apprentice filter, machinist and toolmaker; 1 have had formal education in my field in that I completed the first 3 years of study in a 5 year Diploma course in Mechanical Engineering with the then University of Technology (now University of N.S.W.) Since abandoning that course of study because of ill health, 1 have continued to develop my theoretical knowledge of my own particular field.
For the last 12 years I have been involved in engineering design in this field and 3 years ago the Company saw fit to place me in charge of this area of activity. 1 thus describe my record to you not as a boost to my own ego, but as backing for my claim to have made of myself something of an expert in my own field. I certainly regard myself as better qualified to direct research and development in this field than any 21 year old University graduate with no field experience, however bright lie be, and yet such a person can gain recognition by the Board while I am excluded.
WC realise of course that there must be some restriction on recognition in order to ensure that research and development is being carried out efficiently and thoroughly, we cannot expect public money to support inefficient operations. We do contend, however, that the current formula is not merely unsatisfactory, but quite unfair in its operation. It is unfair in that without this assistance our research effort is somewhat more restricted than it otherwise would be, while it could bc that a hypothetical competitor, with the aid of this grant, could be encouraged by the government to expand his research work, thus giving him a government backed advantage in the market place, even though his research ability may be no better than our own. It is this requirement that we feel is particularly harsh.
We feel further that ours cannot be the only company placed in this position. There must be many other companies perfectly capable of doing worthwhile development being thus discouraged from doing so by the very act which was originally intended to encourage them.
I repeat that the Prime. Minister said that the professional qualifications provisions of the Act would be maintained with some minor modifications. I do not suggest that the professional qualifications requirement should be taken away but people with the experience of my constituent - the 32 companies mentioned in the annual report of the Board must employ people with practical knowledge and experience in their field but without professional qualifications - are being debarred from receiving a grant under this Act.
As I said earlier this country needs research and development; it needs a lot of new products, and it needs to have them manufactured efficiently and cheaply. Until this Government faces up to the problems that industry sometimes has in paying for its own research and development 1 believe that the research and development necessary in Australia will not be continued at the rate at which it should be continued. I ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who is sitting at the table, to see that the argument advanced by my constituent for special provisions to be written into the Act to allow people with practical experience to draw a grant under this Act for industrial research and development are conveyed to the Prime Minister.
– 1 shall see that the matter is referred to the Prime Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I present a transcript of evidence taken by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory of the previous Parliament during its Australian Capital Territory freehold lands inquiry. The transcript is presented at the request of the present Committee with a view to the authorisation of its publication.
– by leave - I move:
That this House in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1908-1963 authorises the publication of the evidence taken by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory during the Australian Capital Territory freehold lands inquiry.
This evidence was taken at public hearings by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory appointed during the previous Parliament but publication of this evidence was not then authorised. The present Committee has received a request to make the evidence available but has no authority to authorise the publication of evidence taken by the previous Committee. Consequently the Committee has asked the House to authorise publication of the evidence so that it may be made available.
Mi DALY (Grayndler) (3.59)- As the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I endorse the comments of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The matter was considered by the Committee yesterday and the reason advanced for its presentation to the Parliament was that this was the only way in which it could make public and available evidence which it is well known was taken at a public inquiry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– f have received a letter from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to clarify and safeguard the future of the Australian aircraft industry.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Opposition is concerned about the future of the Australian aircraft industry in view of disturbing developments in the past few months. For many years now, the industry has stumbled along at a very low level of activity. It is to the credit of all the components of the industry that they have retained enthusiasm for aircraft design and forward planning despite the lack of Government encouragement and stimulation. In this dispiriting context the industry has come forward with Project N, a short take off and landing aircraft which is certainly competitive wilh any comparable aircraft and is probably superior. This has been achieved with only half-hearted Government encouragement. Indeed, some sections of the Government have been actively hostile to the project, notably the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman). The future of Project N and its market prospects in the context of the present state of the aircraft industry is one of the issues we will raise under the terms of this motion. But first 1 want to look at plans which have been bruited about in the past year for the rationalisation of the aircraft industry.
In effect these plans mean some sort of rationalisation of the plans and activities of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd and the Government Aircraft Factories in Melbourne. The other major component of the industry, Hawker de Havilland Aust. Ply Ltd, has plants at Lidcombe and Bankstown in Sydney. I understand that the company’s forward planning envisages the integration of these 2 plants. If this were done and an effective arrangement made between the CAC and the GAF in Melbourne, this is probably all that could be achieved in rationalising the overall structure of the Australian aircraft industry. It is the future of the CAC and the GAF that concerns the Opposition at this moment. In the Senate last December, Senator Little questioned the Government about a possible amalgamation of these 2 groups, and whether Parliament would be fully informed before any commitment was made. The answer provided by the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) indicated that rationalisation of the operations of the GAF and the CAC was under consideration. He described the objective of rationalisation as achieving a more stable and effective organisation that could develop with Australia’s needs. According to the Minister, this would be in the long-term interests of the industry and those who worked in it. I hope to demonstrate as I proceed that there is no great disagreement on this point itself.
The Minister said that an in-depth study of the practicability of the merger of the 2 organisations was being made. It was not expected that any firm recommendations would be before the Government until the early months of 1972. He adroitly dodged any reference to informing Parliament about the details of a proposed merger and allowing it to be debated fully. The situation at the moment, as I understand it, is that the report on merger proposals has been received and is in the hands of the Minister. The Minister can correct me if this is not the position.
There have been disquieting rumours circulating in the CAC and the GAF that a merger of the 2 organisations is imminent. There has even been some suggestion that the announcement could be made within the next month. The disturbing thing is that a merger proposal could be accepted and put into effect without it being debated in this Parliament. It could be done by a stroke of the pen without any chance for the management and employees of the 2 organisations to assess the proposals and make objections. This is why the Opposition has raised this matter today to allow the Minister for Supply to outline to the House what the merger proposals are and what impact they will have on the relative status of the CAC and the GAF.
It is an interesting feature of the answer given by the Minister to Senator Little that the terms merger and rationalisation are interchangeable. There is no reason why rationalisation should be synonymous with merger. Rationalisation as applied to defence organisation and production usually means the integration of common functions. This is a much less drastic step than merging the 2 organisations into a new entity. I think there would be general agreement that some rationalisation of the CAC and GAF plants at Fishermen’s Bend is desirable and inevitable. It is not economic to have 2 plants in the same area servicing a common industry and having duplicated functions and equipment. This is conceded by the work forces at both plants.
I have received some material from employees at the Government Aircraft Factories which indicates their attitudes to a merger. They agree that there should be rationalisation but conceive it in terms of much closer co-operation in production, planning and marketing by the 2 organisations. Under this proposal the separate identities of the 2 organisations would be retained, but joint committees would be used for planning and implementing joint marketing of products and joint design projects. Joint committees could also be used to plan for new capital spending on equipment and expansion, and the phasing out of areas of overlap. This is one approach to the problem; to my mind it is rather closer to rationalisation than the merger terms envisaged by the Minister. Undoubtedly this scheme has many merits; it would allow more effective co-ordination of the activities of the 2 plants. But in the present climate of making defence cheaper by cutting out duplication, I feel it does not go far enough.
The time has passed when the GAF and the CAC could expect to retain separate identity in adjacent plants with many common and complementary capabilities. If the need for 1 organisation is conceded, and I believe the economic case is overwhelming, what form should the combination of the 2 existing structures take. The fear of the work force at the GAF and the suspicion of members on this side of the House is that the Government intends merging the 2 with the CAC as the dominant partner. This would mean the GAF would lose its identity and be incorporated into the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. In effect the Commonwealth would hive off its aircraft design and production capability to private industry. This raises several important matters of principle.
In making these comments I do not intend any criticism of the CAC. It has played an admirable role in very difficult circumstances. The dedication to a viable Australian aircraft of the private component, that is the CAC and Hawker de Haviland, must be acknowledged. But the issue of turning the industry over completely to the private companies is a very grave one which must be closely analysed toy this House. In the first place it would hand over to a private company very substantial publicly owned assets. One estimate is that the joint assets of the GAF and the CAC at Fishermen’s Bend are around $30m. The CAC puts the total value of its land, buildings and plant at $14m to $15m. This would leave the assets of the GAF at Fishermen’s Bend at $15m to $16m, although there are estimates of $20m. All that can be concluded from these rough figures is that the assets of the GAF are at least as great as those of the CAC. They may be even higher. On this basis it would be intolerable that the GAF be absorbed completely by a smaller partner. Yet there are strong reasons to believe that this is what the Government has in mind.
It is difficult to make a valid comparison of the cost structure of the 2 organisations. One comparison of costs that has been supplied to me by GAF source puts the charge per man hour at $7.50 for the
GAF and SI 7.50 for comparable work by the CAC. I acknowledge that these figures may be disputed by the CAC and that the source may be biased; therefore 1 do not put them up as gospel. If correct, they show that the relative cost structures of the GAF and the CAC are poles apart. Absorbing a lower cost structure into a higher cost structure is not the way to produce cheaper aircraft. Another argument against allowing a merger with CAC, with CAC being the dominant partner, is that the Government would relinquish all capacity in the crucial area of aircraft production. This would leave the industry at the mercy of market forces. All private companies have an obligation to achieve profitability. No matter how dedicated the private companies in the industries are, there could be circumstances which would dictate curtailment or even abandonment of aircraft design and production. This might not correspond with our defence requirements or the national interest. Another argument is whether it is desirable to have a monopoly of weapons production in the hands of private industry. Labor Party policy is quite explicit on this point - that the Commonwealth Government should control all weapons and munitions manufacture. Obviously this includes the aircraft and guided missiles made by the aircraft industry. There is also the issue of overseas control; 6 of the 7 shareholders in the CAC are overseas companies which control twothirds of the total shareholding. At a time when the Parliament is paying increasing attention to the extent of overseas ownership of Australian assets, do we want to hand over the aircraft industry in toto to overseas control? This raises also the question of possible conflicts of interest between overseas companies and Australia’s defences. The next point I want to emphasise is the superior design and engineering capability of the GAF. This has been the main motive force behind the design and production of Jindivik, Malkara, Ikara, Turana and Project N. Some of these have been good export earners. Project N has the potential to be a good money-spinner if the Government can formulate effective marketing policies for it. A. most important aspect of any merger is the future of the staffs of the two organis ations. The present combined workforce of the 2 plants is about 3,800 men. lt is estimated that a merger could cut this workforce to 3,000 or 3,500 men- that is, up to 800 jobs would be lost. If the GAF were merged with the CAC it would stand to lose more of its workforce by retrenchment. Many of the GAF workforce are permanent public servants who have built up leave and superannuation rights. These officers must be protected and their entitlements must be assured. This is another compelling reason why the GAF must not be absorbed into the CAC.
In the view of the Opposition, these arguments add up to an overwhelming case that the GAF should be retained and should be the dominant partner in any amalgamation of the plants at Fishermen’s Bend. It should be possible for an amalgamation to be made which would maintain the Commonwealth’s share in the aircraft industry and allow CAC to maintain a profit motive. I want to make this perfectly clear. In the circumstances where in this country we have a viable aircraft industry which should be built up and which has such a clear and close relationship to the defence of Australia - no-one should appreciate this more than the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) - the Opposition will not tolerate a situation in which the Australian Government does not retain at least 51 per cent of the shares in any industry or undertaking of this nature. In this regard it should be remembered that the Commonwealth makes a very substantial contribution to the profitability of CAC. The Opposition believes that Commonwealth control of the aircraft industry is paramount if the industry is to be competitive, if valuable skills built up in design and engineering are to be retained and if a lower cost structure is to be ensured. This is the broad nature of the Opposition’s case against the merger which the Government seems to have in mind.
Unfortunately, I have not the time to look at the plans for Project N, but I am sure this issue will be dealt with by my colleagues. This is an admirable project, f believe that the aircraft has been designed with great expertise by GAF, which has now produced an aircraft whose . performance and standard must be regarded as being amongst the best in the world. Yet, in this Parliament, the Minister for Air made a statement virtually condemning the aircraft and preventing any future expansion of production and, far more importantly, preventing possible purchasers from being able to place firm orders for Project N and, shortly afterwards, the Minister for Defence made a statement contradicting the Minister for Air. Who is right in this matter? Who does intend to give this industry the support that it now requires? One would hope that the Minister for Defence will be in a position to give some indication to the Parliament and, more particularly, to the people of Australia what the Government intends to do about the Australian aircraft industry and about Project N. Project N is an aircraft that has been designed by Australians to meet Australian needs as well as offering a fair proposition for companies overseas. It is the clear responsibility of this Government to make a firm and sensible decision in this matter.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– First I should like to say a word on what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) spent most of his time speaking about, namely, the possibility of a merger or a rationalisation between the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd. The honourable member even went as far as to say that what the Government had in mind was the swallowing of the GAF by the CAC. I can assure the honourable member that this not what the Government has in mind because up to the present time it has only just received a report on the matter. In fact, I have not seen the report but my colleague, the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland), has just received it. Obviously it is an extremely long and voluminous report and one which will need a great deal of consideration before any decisions are made.
– This is what the motion is about. We are glad to have your assurance on that.
– I am happy to give that assurance to the honourable member. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and members of the Opposition would like to know what is happening with Project N. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that there had been a disagreement between my colleague, the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), and myself. Let me read to the House some of what the Minister for Air said, just to make certain that this is not so. The Minister said:
As far as I am aware, the committee in the Department of Defence, comprising members of the Departments of the Army, Supply and Air is still meeting to see whether there is a military need for this aircraft and whether that need is in the Air Force or in the Army.
The Minister then went on to say that the Royal Australian Air Force does not at this time have a specific requirement for an aircraft of that type because he pointed out that the RAAF has helicopters, Caribou and DC3s which are able to carry out part of its job, namely, transportation of the Army. What I have said and what I say now is that obviously much broader considerations are involved than simply whether this aircraft fits into a slot in the RAAF.
I am sure that the situation at the moment is quite clear to everyone. Two prototype aircraft are flying. One first flew last winter and, by the beginning of February, had done about 70 hours flying. The second prototype had done about 30 hours flying. The Department of Civil Aviation certification is expected at about the end of this month. It was not until 7th February that the military flight evaluation was able to commence and this is proceeding extremely well. However, this is only one of quite a number of areas which must be examined in evaluating this aircraft. There seems to be an idea amongst members of the Opposition that the moment an aircraft flies, it can be assessed in a few weeks and orders can be placed for it. But many things must be taken into account. One, of course, is the military and the RAAF evaluation which, as I have said, is proceeding extremely well. There must be an assessment by the Department of Defence of the need for such an aircraft. It does not matter how good an aircraft may be. It might be the best aircraft in the world, but if there is an assessment by the Department of Defence and by the various Services that there is not a requirement for such an aircraft, we are not going to force the Services to take something just because it bs produced in Australia and just to provide some employment, if the Services do not believe that it has a high priority.
After all, Australia is a country whose resources must be husbanded. We must get our priorities right. When we have had an opportunity of assessing this fully, we will see what priority Project N should have. It could well be that the DDL, the Fill and other forms of equipment may have a higher priority. I am not saying that they have. What I am saying is that an assessment must be made. It is made initially by the Department of Defence. Eventually, as ail honourable members know, every decision to purchase any form of equipment is made finally by the Government in the light of all the information it can get from the Services and from the Department of Defence and also in the light of financial and other assessments. We have to assess what are the prospects for civil sales. The Defence (Industrial) Committee has met recently and is assessing the possibilities in these fields; in other words, it is assessing the expected cost of Project N and, of course, this depends very much on the number of orders for the aircraft. If we get large sales obviously we can sell much more competitively than if we get only small sales.
We have also to bear in mind the effect that the purchase of Project N will have on the aircraft industry generally. We, as a Government, have said we believe that there is an essential need for an aircraft industry - perhaps for a relatively small one but nonetheless a viable one. It is essential that we should have an aircraft industry because there is a lot of work to be done in the field of servicing and modifying aircraft. For example, approximately SOO modifications were made to the Mirage. Unless we have a local viable aircraft industry we will not be able to do this. The Australian aircraft industry and Australian civil firms undertake a lot of work in maintaining RAAF aircraft. So that is another matter which will have to be taken into consideration. That is the present situation. All these matters will be drawn together and discussed by the Defence Forces Development Committee, with perhaps some additions, and then a recommendation will be made to the Government. I expect that such a recommendation will be available to me by about the end of April; I hope that it will be even sooner. Allowing for delays which so often occur in these matters, I believe that I will receive an assessment of the aircraft at the end of April and we will decide whether to proceed with the production of the aircraft.
The other matter which I want to mention is that a great deal of play has been made in the Press of the so-caller fight going on between the RAAF and the Army as to who is to fly this aircraft. I can assure the House that there is no fight of any sort because no decision has been made as to whether the aircraft will go to production. It is true that in the past certain arrangements have been made. Basically, the arrangement in Australia has been that the really light, small aircraft which were manned by the Army would be of the Cessna type. Generally speaking, these aircraft were regarded as small aircraft. They had an all up weight of 4,000 lb or less. There is no hard and fast rule in these matters. There was such a rule in the United Kingdom, but it was broken and eventually it was scrapped altogether. Today this rule does not apply in the Army because it is flying the Pilatus Porter which has a greater all up weight if it is taking off at the maximum all up weight. Project N is a larger aircraft, but it really depends on what role the aircraft will fill and who will fly it. It is true that it has an all up weight of 7,800 lb. But I can assure the House that the question as to who will fly this aircraft is not the reason for any delay in this matter. If it is decided that there is a role for this aircraft in the Army, or in one of the other Services, it will be flown and the decision as to who flies it will be made after considering who is the most suitable. But, as I say, this is certainly not a reason for holding up Project N at the present time.
Let me return to the aircraft industry generally. The aircraft industry throughout the world is always subject to violent fluctuations. This is one of the greatest problems which the industry faces. It is either all go or no go. If the RAAF decides that it wants 100 Mirage aircraft, or some other number or type of aircraft, then it wants the aircraft as soon as possible. My colleague the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) has the unenviable task of building up the aircraft industry to try to get into production as quickly as he possibly can. Afterwards he is then faced with the period, which must inevitably follow because we will not buy the same number of aircraft constantly, in which there is redundancy in the industry, and this is an extremely difficult matter. This just does not occur only in Australia. Some of the really large aircraft corporations overseas have had their problems. At one stage even the Douglas corporation, which is probably the greatest aircraft builder in the world, experienced extreme financial troubles and it had to merge. The same problms were faced by the Lockheed corporation - again an enormous aircraft producer - and it had to seek assistance. Of course, we know that Rolls-Royce in England has faced the same problems. So these problems are faced throughout the whole aircraft industry.
My colleague the Minister for Supply and his officers have done their best to see whether this fluctuation can be overcome. I believe that in the future we will not again go in, to the same extent, for a very large scale programme like the Mirage or Macchi programmes. I think that what we would seek to do is to get what are known as offset orders. We would seek to make in Australia a portion of the plane that we were buying, or perhaps even of another plane for which there was demand in the world. In other words, we would make a fin or a tail that is fitted to every aircraft in that particular series which is produced throughout the world. Australia might buy a few of the aircraft. In this way we would nol get this violent fluctuation in the aircraft industry which has caused and is causing so much trouble in the aircraft industry. We are doing as much as we possibly can to get the Australian aircraft industry into a viable situation. We want to have adequate work available for what I have described as a small, viable aircraft industry. I have mentioned the work that was carried out on the Mirage and Macchi aircraft. Repairs and servicing are being carried out on those aircraft and some aircraft are still being produced.
The Jindivik is still in production. This is a remarkable plane. It first flew, I think, some 15 years ago, yet there is still a demand for it. Had it not been for the Buy American laws I am sure that we would have sold a considerable number of
Jindiviks to the United States. As it is, we have sold some to that country, but there was some obvious barrier to their sale.
– What is wrong with Buy Australian laws?
– -I should like to answer that interjection if I had time. All I can say is that we have a policy of ensuring the utmost participation of Australian industries and Australian firms in any sort of production. Obviously there are occasions on which this cannot be done. Let us look at the Fill aircraft. We could not tool up to build only 24 of those aircraft, but we can make certain parts for it, and this is what we are doing. In fact, if the honourable member for Blaxland is interested I can give him figures which indicate that the share of Australian production in defence orders has increased very markedly over the last 4 years.
– It took you a long time to get around to that policy.
– We are working hard on it and we will continue to work hard on it. But, as I say, it is not easy because certain components of a highly technical nature cannot be produced in Australia, or else Australian production is not warranted because of the increased costs. Nevertheless, I will give one example to the honourable member. We are to make a light observation helicopter. We intend making just under 200 of them in Australia. But they are costing us 41 per cent more than they would cost if we purchased them overseas. But we believe that it is worthwhile doing this in order to stimulate the Australian aircraft industry. That is another way in which we are assisting the industry. We are also assisting it by arranging offset orders, and this is particularly so in the field of American orders for aircraft. Only yesterday I received a cable from the head of the Boeing corporation concerning offset order proposals for the Boeing 727 aircraft. We hope that it may be possible to continue in this field, but even at the present moment about $5m worth of work is available to Australia under the Government’s programme of offset orders. Let me conclude by saying that we are doing our utmost to maintain a viable aircraft industry. We are also producing the Ikara. My colleague the Minister for Supply has just announced a quite remarkable sale of Ikaras for $20m to Brazil. We will continue to try to keep this industry viable and to find orders wherever we can for it.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has made some remarkable statements. In referring to an answer given by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) he held up a copy of Hansard but did not quote from it. He gave bis own version.
– I did not quote fully.
– That is correct - and not accurately. The Minister for Air said:
But as Minister for Air, perhaps I should say to the Senate that the Royal Australian Air Force does not at this time have a specific requirement for an aircraft of the type of Project N, either to help in its own operations or to help in the operations of the Army which it carries out for the Army.
That is a fairly definite statement. Later that same evening the Minister for Defence felt obliged to present a statement to the Press. I am extremely sorry that he did not feel obliged to present it to Parliament because Parliament could have been taken more into the Government’s confidence about the future of this industry. The Minister said in his Press statement:
While there was not a pressing need for the RAAF to add an aircraft of the type of Project N to its inventory at this stage the RAAF does not provide all the aviation requirements of the Army.
That seems to contradict what the Minister has said today, but I do not want to argue that point at great length. In referring today to the future of Project N, and also in his Press release to which I have referred, the Minister has said it appears that evaluation of the project will be completed at the end of April and a decision taken then as to whether the aircraft will go into production. The aircraft has been flying for at least 3 months, and possibly longer. It appears to be an undue delay to wait until the end of April to make a decision. I understand the aircraft will receive an airworthiness certificate this month. Meanwhile the whole of the development team is sitting around twiddling its thumbs, waiting for the Government make up its mind whether to proceed with production.
I appreciate that the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) has been doing his best to get some movement, but unless there is very rapid action the development and future sales of the aircraft will be seriously jeopardised through delays in delivery dates, lt is my understanding that if production started tomorrow deliveries could not be effected until towards the end of August next year. There is to be a delay of at least a further 2 months before orders are placed, before the necessary materials and so on can be ordered for a production run. It therefore seems that delivery will not be effected before October of next year. That seems to be an unwarranted delay on a project for aircraft which would be so readily saleable on the world markets. It is a project which so obviously is desirable for Australia’s defence forces.
I think we paid about $lm for the Pilatus aircraft which has no greater capacity than the aircraft known as Project N. I understand that the military version of the Project N aircraft will cost about $400,000. That contrasts seriously with the way in which an Australian developed aircraft with tremendous capacity is being treated. A further contrast is provided by the Fill, to which the Minister referred. The Government was able to purchase the Fill from a rough sketch. There was no waiting to see whether the aircraft had proved itself. It was bought from a sketch, nothing more or less, and not from a detailed plan. We simply bought an idea.
In the case of Project N, an Australian aircraft designed by an Australian Government owned industry, the Government has to wait 2 months after it has received an airworthiness certificate and wait for every test to be passed before it is prepared to invest less than $10m in a production run. The amount involved is less than the cost of one Fill, and less than the increased cost of 2 Fills from the time they were ordered. We do not know yet what the final cost of them will be. Let us not have crocodile tears shed about getting the best value for our money, in view of the amount of defence expenditure in recent years that has gone to pay for the increased cost of the flying ostrich.
The Australian aircraft industry is important to Australia’s defence and it must be retained within the control of the
Australian Government. The major share of its assets are clearly in the hands of the Australian Government. If a merger is necessary - and there is some evidence that it is- it should be on the basis of the equity of the 2 organisations involved. A 50-50 control arrangement has been generally considered. There is no doubt in the world that such an arrangement would give effective control to a private supplier. The major shareholders in such a supplier could be firms such as Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which seem to stand in favour with the present Government.
The future of the industry is not important only to defence. It is also important to the people who work in it. I do not think it would do any harm if the Government were to give a very firm undertaking to the people working in the industry that their rights and conditions would be protected in any merger arrangement, especially pension rights. I understand that this type of arrangement was made when the Government gave away Bell Bay to an American corporation. I think the Government could give a clear indication to those persons employed in the Government Aircraft Factories that they will not lose the rights and privileges which have accrued to them merely because the Government wants to get out from under in the aircraft industry.
There are a number of other important matters relating to the aircraft industry. I have not been able to find out the future proposals for the Avalon section of the Government Aircraft Factories. It is said that it is in the merger, and then it is said that it is not in the merger. My present understanding is that there is a proposal for the physical facilities to be retained by the Government but leased to the new company. I suggest that that would mean that the new company would control the assets at Avalon. That may not be correct, but this Parliament has not been let in on the secret. The Minister for Supply may not have finished reading the report. He may not know what the recommendations are.
One other important matter that should be aired is that while a private company involved is able to employ public relations people to put its point of view it has been clearly pointed out in correspondence to representatives of the Government Aircraft Factories that if they make statements about the industry in public they are liable to prosecution. This is a rather serious situation. Employees of a private company involved in a merger arrangement are allowed to protect the interests of that company but persons concerned in the government industry are threatened with prosecution under the Crimes Act if they take any part in debate on the matter. Quite obviously the public can get only a one-sided argument. Considerable costs would be involved in moving machinery and other equipment in the new industry. It seems to me there is justification at least to examine a proposal to relocate the whole of the industry at Avalon where an aerodrome facility is available. This is not available at Fisherman’s Bend. An airfield is vital to the development of an aircraft industry. The present facilities at Fisherman’s Bend would preclude the testing or the manufacture of aircraft of any size there.
It seems probable that this proposal will be unacceptable because of the employment requirements of the existing work force. The work force is entitled to serious consideration. From the figures I have been able to obtain it would appear that there will be a reduction of about 10 per cent in the present work force. This is to be added to a very substantial reduction in the work force in the last 12 months. The figures I have show that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation employed 2,550 personnel in January 1971 and 1,973 in 1972. I do not have the figures for the Government Aircraft Factories. So there has already been a drop of some 600 or nearly 25 per cent in the employment of CAC and I would imagine that GAF has suffered a very similar drop in the number of persons it employs. A further drop of 10 per cent on top of that will mean a very substantial decrease in the employment of very skilled persons in the aircraft industry. Both of these companies, and especially the Government Aircraft Factories, have proved themselves over many years to be one of the most worthwhile defence industries in Australia. It is up to the Government to show a far greater confidence in this industry, and for the expenditure of an amount of money less than that needed for the purchase of one Fill it can get Project N off the ground.
It is time someone in the Government showed sufficient foresight and courage to stand up and say to the industry: ‘You can prepare to enter production of this aircraft and commence the marketing of it’. If the Minister for Defence has not the courage to do this he should not occupy that position. The Government will buy an aircraft off the drawing board in one instance but will not buy another aircraft until months after it has proven itself.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is a discussion of a matter of public importance raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and which reads:
The failure of the Government to clarify and safeguard the future of the Australian aircraft industry.
The honourable gentleman said by way of interjection to my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), a moment ago that the debate was about the future of rationalisation and he wanted to know what was going on. I put it to the honourable gentleman that they are not the terms of this matter of public importance. He has pre-judged the position; he said there has been a failure. That is of importance too because if one cares to look at the debates in the Senate and in this House in the course of the last year or so it will be seen that a great deal has been said about the aircraft industry by Government spokesmen. Major statements were made by my predecessor on 9th April 1970 and on 4th November 1970. He answered questions on the subject, as the. responsible Minister and I did too - on 6th October 1971, page 1990 and 9th November 1971, page 3158. I refer to these occasions not only to reply to the point that the honourable member mentioned but also to record now that that information is there and to anyone seriously interested in this subject I suggest that they read some of those remarks which are complementary to what will be said in this debate because I do not propose to go over a lot of that ground again. I have only 10 minutes available to me.
The Government has given a good deal of support to the aircraft industry in spite of what we have heard this afternoon in the 2 speeches from the Opposition side. Might I very briefly go over the ground. All aircraft which have been required by the Services in Australia in sufficient numbers since the end of the Second World War have been made here in the Government Aircraft Factories, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd or by Hawker de Havilland Australia Pty Ltd. These aircraft include Canberras, Sabres, Winjeels. Vampires, Mirages and Macchis - all sophisticated aircraft. Some 550 have been manufactured here to a large extent, including jet engines. This shows the remarkable capacity of the Australian aircraft industry. In addition Australia has designed guided weapons. It has manufactured some 900 Malkaras some 435 Jindiviks - and there are prospects of a further sale to another country - and something over 1,000 highly sophisticated Ikara missiles together with ships’ gear and launchers.
As we well know, the present problem is that the defence aircraft industry, which includes the 3 establishments I have referred to, employs some 7,000 men and the industry includes maintenance as well as the capacity of the commercial airlines. It is an industry which, unfortunately, as the Minister for Defence has said, has its peaks and troughs. This is so all over the world. At the moment all over the world it is in a trough. We are in a stage of lowered capacity and work load brought about by the fact that the need for aircraft which have been assembled or manufactured here - the Macchi and Mirage; the big jobs of the past - is no longer there and until replacement aircraft come along to increase the work load there must be a period of diminished activity. The reason for this clearly is that the life of these aircraft is longer than the time it takes to manufacture them. So we are in a trough and have these production programmes finishing. The work load now is mainly in respect of the Jindivik and Ikara, offset co-productive work, overhaul modifications, spares manufacture and the Turana, which is our high-speed low-level target drone.
The Government is trying to develop more projects which can be handled by the aircraft industry. We are promoting sales. I was able recently to announce sales to Brazil amounting to some $20m. The manufacture of the Ikara for the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Navy is proceeding. We are promoting more Jindivik sales. Admittedly it is a target aircraft at the end of its life but there are prospects for further sales. We are continuing with the Turana development and an initial production order for 12 were received recently from the Royal Navy. Very soon there will be the selection of an aircraft which will replace the Winjeel and one can say that there will be some Australian participation in its production. In addition there is the Bell light observation helicopter project involving some 191 helicopters, most of which are to be built in Australia; however, I will not go into the details of that now. It is a contract which the Government initiated and concluded in such a way that there would be a significant work load to the industry. There is on the horizon the collaborative production and development of the replacement of the Macchi jet trainer. When overseas recently I had an opportunity to discuss some production possibilities for our aircraft industry, including the Government Aircraft Factories. The Hawker Siddeley 1182 and the Alpha-jet are 2 that the Government is looking at, and others are making representations to the defence group. In addition there is the production of Project N. A good deal has been said about that. On this I am urgently seeking a decision. The Minister for Defence has mentioned the circumstances in relation to it. It was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the industry brought this project forward. That is simply not so. The Government authorised this aircraft and put towards it $4.5m. The project is now at the next stage.
The major question now, and one which is some way off, is what Australia can do to participate in the production of the replacement for the Mirage. Let me say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honourable members interested that the Government is very interested in .lis industry and is making great efforts to obtain offset work for it. But such work has to be practical, economic and really beneficial to our defence capacity. We have contracts valued at some $5m in hand and there are very great prospects of further opportunities before very long. Let me make another point which is frequently overlooked. When there are suggestions of purchases by other countries of project N and Turana we should remember that officially those offers and contacts are being made in the context of selling Australia other aircraft or weapons. What we are offered is a package deal, not just an isolated sale. We have to consider, together with the Services and the defence group, whether a particular aircraft offered is one which will fit into our programme and is part of our requirement. It cannot just be a question of blindly buying something we do not need in order to sell our own product.
In the couple of minutes I have left to me in which to speak I want to say something about rationalisation. A working party to the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation has investigated this matter. Its report was given to me last Friday. I read that report on Sunday and discussed it in Melbourne on Monday morning. That is another example of the action which is being taken by the Government - coming back to the subject of this debate - to clarify and safeguard the future of the Australian aircraft industry. I think that this matter is something which has to be considered in its proper context. I would point out in regard to the question of rationalisation that there are 2 adjacent establishments in Fishermen’s Bend which employ some 3.700 people, that those establishments have considerable assets between them and that they are of a substantial size. Therefore they are of basic interest to not only the Australian economy but also the aircraft industry. I have mentioned certain work which is being done in the aircraft industry. A great deal of that work is done in that area. (Extension of time granted) I thank honourable members. In the consideration of any rationalisation proposal very serious thought would have to be given to the effect of rationalisation on the work force. I do not think that it would be possible, as a matter of practical negotiation and organisation, to get a quick result. One has to remember that in the sorting out of equipment and plant which would necessarily precede rationalisation - I will return to that aspect in a moment - there would be, of course, a great deal of work which is other than normal work. So I do not believe that, as a result of rationalisation, there would be any immediate difficulty insofar as the work force is concerned.
I do think that I should refer briefly to some of the things that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said. Let me assert at the beginning that I think that the report on rationalisation establishes a case for greater efficiency and capacity. What we now have to look at are the structures of management, the financial arrangements, the terms and conditions and the objectives that would be involved if these 2 organisations were to come together. Of course, it would be very much a question from now on of negotiations between the 2 parties. One of the problems which will arise is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to as the relative status. Obviously that would be fundamental. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to talk about whether rationalisation meant closer co-operation or a merger. That is one of the reasons why the report was prepared. It was to examine what could be done. I think it is becoming fairly clear, and I was pleased to hear him say, the economic case appears to honourable members on the other side of the chamber to be overwhelming. I think that that is exactly what the report discloses.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also went on to say that it was the view of honourable members on his side of the House that the CAC would dominate any joint enterprise. I do not know what is the source for that statement, but I would suggest that it is not correct. I would also suggest that all the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said after making that assertion is invalid. I query whether the saying of such things helps in the present situation with the degree of uncertainty which exists in these establishments. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to refer to the position of the Hawker De Havilland organisation. I do not want to say very much on that subject. All I want to say is that the position of that company, which is largely its business as it is a private company, is something to which some urgent consideration is being given by the Government.
Substantial aspects are involved about which the Government is concerned. I have been in personal contact with the company - as, of course, have officers of my Department - on a number of occasions. In fact, I spoke with the Chairman of the parent company and with others in London recently. I would emphasise that important considerations are involved in the industry as a whole which will not be resolved very quickly.
I believe that there are a few members of the Opposition who are very interested in this subject, but I think I should point out that only the required number of 8 members, or just a few more, were present to enable this matter to be brought forward when it was called on. It is perhaps a pity that this matter was raised by the Opposition at a time when the proceedings of this chamber are not being broadcast. I think it is fair to say that no tremendous interest is being shown in this matter by a great number of members of the Opposition. But I think it is my duty as a Minister involved in this area to say that I have found in the ranks of the alternative government a dilemma on this matter. I believe that the left wing members of the Opposition are opposed to defence expenditure but that they realise that to cut it off would result in men losing their jobs and that they do try to have a bit each way. There are many debates in this chamber on foreign affairs and, according to the official spokesmen for the Australian Labor Party, there is no threat or likely threat to Australia. I suppose the Opposition wants to appear to be sympathetic, hoping to please those who are employed in defence industries.
– I make no apologies for having a vested interest in this matter, which involves an industry that employs nearly 4,000 people who live in the electorate which I represent. Fishermen’s Bend is wholly within the electorate of Melbourne Ports. I suppose it is some assurance to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) say that he believes in the necessity for a viable aircraft industry and the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) indicate that the Government is apparently hastening slowly insofar as the working out of terms of any new arrangement is concerned. I hope that both
Ministers will keep the House informed from time to time as to the progress of any changes that may be upon us and that any merger proposition will come before the Parliament for its consideration.
The Minister for Defence claimed that we need a viable aircraft industry. With due respect to him, I do not think that he spelt out very clearly what are the terms of that viability. I am not too sure that the word ‘viable’ is necessarily the correct one to use in the sense in which that word is usually economically. The word ‘viable’ usually means being able to pay for itself. I think it must be acknowledged that the aircraft industry in Australia as well as anywhere else must depend basically on government orders for its existence. I think that is true even in the United States of America, but the magnitude of the expenditure in that country is so great that ordinary economic criteria cannot always be applied. 1 do not mean by that that one should be reckless in one’s expenditure. But one has to bear in mind that Australia is a country which is remote from most other countries and that even if it could not - and I do not believe it could - build all the aircraft that would ever be required in Australia it could certainly specialise in the makng of some types of aircraft and it should also be able to maintain its own aircraft, both civil and military. To that extent there is always a need to have some kind of aircraft complex behind the scenes. I think that the Government has itself from time to time said that there are really 4 arms of the defence activity. Three of those arms are the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The fourth arm is the defence capacity of Australian industry. Here, at least, is part of that defence capacity of Australian industry which is not very certain about its future.
From time to time, generally in these periods of crisis when the employees are worried about the future, I visit the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. The employees have every right to be worried. When I visit the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation it is generally when there is some difficulty about future orders. Much has been said today about Project N. I read some months ago, as I suppose most people concerned with this matter did, the article by Mr John Stackhouse in. the Australian ‘Financial Review’ of 4th October 1971. The heading stated:
Aircraft export prospects help bargaining stance.
The article involved this question of offset orders. I think both Ministers who have spoken in the debate referred to the fact that a little give and take is involved in this matter. If we are to buy aircraft from someone else and we have an industry of a kind, we use the fact that we want to buy in an attempt to obtain offset orders. But I also found out from the management of CAC that one of the difficulties involved in export prospects, particularly for the Project N aircraft and more latterly because the Corporation has an interest in the selling of Cessna aircraft, is that many of the developing countries which could be customers for these kinds of aircraft have had difficulties obtaining long term credit. I think that this is a point that well could be pursued by the Ministers involved in association with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). After all, Australia must be concerned in the future to increase its exports of capital goods.
Here is a chance for the aircraft industry. As with any other industry, costs would be lowered by reason of the volume of sales. It seems to me that many potential customers for the project N or Cessna type of aircraft would buy if payment could be made over a long term. It is time we used the agencies of such bodies as the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to try to encourage further sales overseas. What is overlooked sometimes in these considerations is the pride that the people who work in this industry have in the work they are doing. One of the sad things I notice sometimes when I visit the factories, is that skilled tradesmen nave very little work to do because of the difficulty in obtaining continuity of orders. This is frustrating to their sense of craft as well as not being very sensible anyway. This is why it is time the Government was a little more definite as to what it really thinks are the criteria for viability in this industry. I think that the matters I have suggested have to be taken into account. We have to be able to service both civil and military aircraft.
For instance, I find that employees at the Government Aircraft Factories like to think of themselves as separate in the course of production. Even if a merger were to take place, they have suggested that they would still like to have a separate identity within the terms of the merger. These are matters that have to be considered. I do not know how much the ordinary employees are considered when mergers take place. When I go to talk to them, I discover their feelings of unease. Many of them think that the Government will sell out to what is called the private company. I am not too sure sometimes whether some of these private interests in the company might not be prepared to do the reverse. They might like to unload their capital, put it somewhere else and leave the Government to handle the merger. I do not think anybody imagines that vast fortunes will be made in the merged industry. The experience in America and more recenly the aviation section of RollsRoyce in Great Britain indicates how vulnerable these kinds of industries can become in the face of technological change. Sums of the order of $30m to $40m have been mentioned in regard to capitalisation. I suppose that the wages bill for the 2 factories which employ approximately 4,000 employees would aggregate $15m to SI 6m. So this is a significant industry.
The Opposition has raised this issue today mainly because it feels that there is an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty as to the future of this industry. At least we have received some assurances from both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Supply that they believe an industry is necessary and that they will not transact any mergers without some consideration being given to the public interest. I hope also that they will have concern for those people who are employed in the industry.
– If it does not embarrass the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) I would like to compliment him on his reasoned approach to this problem. To a major extent he expressed concern for the employees of the factories and pointed out that many of them worked in his electorate. I assure him that the Government shares this con cern with the people who work in the electorate of the honourable member. I am sure that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) and the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) would fully support those comments. In fact, they have indicated their concern in the manner in which they have spoken. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports expressed pleasure that an assurance had been given that a viable aircraft industry is the objective of the Government and also that it is hastening slowly. I felt that he appreciated that this was what must be done in the aircraft industry today, from both the civil and the military aspects. I consider that this is the only way in which the Government can proceed in the development of the aircraft industry in Australia - with due caution and with what is hoped will be wise and considered judgment.
I want to speak mainly of the Royal Australian Air Force and the support it has given the Australian aircraft industry and which it is giving it at the present time, representing as I do in this chamber the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman). I am sure that the facts I put on record in the House will illustrate that the Government has maintained a continual policy of supporting the Australian aircraft industry over the past 30 years and that it intends to keep doing this in every way it possibly can. The RAAF has been the principal supporter of the aircraft industry in Australia for the past 30 years Both the Government and the RAAF have supported the industry because they have recognised that aircraft production and, indeed, all Australian industry must in times of emergency provide many of the weapons, ammunition, equipment and supplies needed to sustain the defence of this country.
The benefits which flow from RAAF support of a rapidly growing and highly skilled industrial complex within this country are twofold. Without an efficient local industry there would be no capacity to develop sophisticated weapons and equipment or the highly skilled experts to assist in the making of this equipment. The decision to build the twicethespeedofsound Mirage jet fighter in this country instead of buying from the factory in
France has not only kept the native industry in being, but also has helped to modernise it and to introduce new techniques which will spread beyond the aircraft industry into other engineering fields. Thus the placement of orders within Australia accelerates developments which might otherwise take many years to emerge, and it also encourages the growth of native skills. A few brief statistics will indicate further the support by the RAAF for the Australian aircraft industry.
Aircraft purchases now total about 1,300, with about 1,000 being made locally. The decision to build the RAAF’s new Macchi all-through jet trainer in Australia was another important boost to the Australian aviation industry. More recently, an Australian manufacturer was awarded a contract, against overseas competition, for 100 automatic direction finding systems for the Macchi trainer. Local manufacture of aircraft might mean some delay and possibly, as has been stressed by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Supply, some increase in costs, but the Government and the RAAF believe that the many benefits to be derived from keeping a great Australian industry in being more than compensate for these disadvantages of delay and an increase in cost. In recent years considerable importance has been placed on the negotiation of reciprocal purchasing when aircraft are bought overseas. Reciprocal purchasing can take the form of partproduction, co-production or offset procurement, as was mentioned by the Minister for Supply, and it requires that Australian industry become involved to some degree in the production of the aircraft in question or at least in work of a similar technology.
It would be interesting for the House and the people of Australia to know that in the last financial year the RAAF spent in Australia S224m out of a total budget of S300m. Much of this was spent within the Australian aircraft industry. Here in Australia major contractors and suppliers to the RAAF total almost 200, whilst suppliers on a small scale run into hundreds more. These contractors include the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, the Government Aircraft Factories, Hawker De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd, Dunlop Rubber
Australia Ltd and other large companies. To ensure that the maximum number of orders is placed locally, the procurement of products from overseas is constantly reviewed. If the RAAF is forced to order a product from overseas because of unavailability in Australia, the next time it is to be purchased reference is again made to the local industry. If the product has since been developed and manufactured locally, the local industry is given every consideration.
I have already mentioned the price differential. A further matter that is taken into consideration is that any tariff protection that is given to Australian industry is added on to the price of the overseas product when the purchase is being considered. In addition to the things I have mentioned, the RAAF plays a very important part in assisting the Australian aircraft industry in the maintenance and engineering fields. In the time that I have available it is not possible for me to detail completely the areas in which the RAAF makes use of the Australian aircraft industry in the maintenance and engineering fields, but let me give one statistic that will illustrate the amount of support that it gives. On maintenance, service and engineering support the RAAF has spent SI lim in the aircraft industry this year. Also, all aircraft engines are allotted to the industry for major repair and overhaul. The few facts J have given will illustrate the vital part that the RAAF plays in safeguarding the Australian aircraft industry. Those facts are also indicative of the Government’s firm policy of maintaining an aircraft industry in Australia.
In conclusion let me reiterate a couple of major points that really underlie the whole difficult situation in maintaining a satisfactorily developing aircraft industry to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and Government speakers have referred. Honourable members will have seen instances around the world of huge companies being in great financial difficulty. The Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas and Rolls Royce companies are 4 huge enterprises which have found it extremely difficult financially to undertake successfully an aircraft industry or part of an aircraft industry. The whole history of this industry around the world shouts caution to the Australian
Government, as representatives of the Australian taxpayers, in trying to invest the taxpayers’ money in the wisest and most judicious way possible. Let me reassure the House and the Australian people that the Government is concerned about the future of the employees of the aircraft industry and the production of the aircraft industry, and will continue to show its interest and concern in the most practical way possible.
– The Opposition has raised today the question of the future of the Australian aircraft industry by way of this discussion of a matter of public importance because the Opposition is concerned about the future of this important industry. It is providing employment for approximately 6,600 men and women, very highly skilled people, who cannot be replaced overnight. The industry has been built up over the years to an efficient industry. All that it requires is a continuity of employment and a continuity of orders. Therefore, if it receives them from the Government - it is the Government that can provide this work - the industry can continue to expand and prosper and provide this country with a very important defence industry.
Let me make a few points before I deal with the subject as a whole. The statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), when he said that the Services must consider the performance of Project N before they can make a decision on whether to recommend to the Government that it be purchased and proceeded with, astounds me. Surely, before the prototypes were designed and developed to their present stage, the Department of Defence, the Department of Air and the Department of the Army discussed with the Government Aircraft Factories what they would like to have incorporated in the aircraft and what they would want it to do. Such things would be of major importance. We all know that most aircraft in the world today basically depend upon a military version first of all being expanded and developed. The Minister’s statement surprises me. I cannot understand what he meant. He also made reference to the fact that the light helicopters which are being purchased by the Services are costing about 32 per cent more because of the Australian cost component. This situation comes back once again to the failure of the Government to ensure a continuity of work and a continuity of experience by the Australian aircraft industry.
As with the Ikara missile and the other important defence components that have been built by the Government Aircraft Factories over the years, one of the things that has hindered the manufacturers year after year has been the fact that they have received orders in tens and twelves. They have never had a real run of continuity of production. They have had small orders. Every time they get an order they have a small runthrough on it. They are tooled up for the $20m Brazilian order for the Ikara, but there is a break in the continuity of work on the various component parts as some design work has to be done. This all costs money. This is why the costs of the Australian aircraft industry are up. There is a requirement for continuity of work, design experience and everything else that goes to keep an industry up to date with what is happening throughout the world.
I believe that this debate today has revolved around 2 points. At the moment the industry, particularly the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories, is greatly concerned about what will happen if these 2 organisations merge. The Opposition supports the proposition that they should merge because, first and foremost, we believe that by a merger of these 2 organisations we can achieve a viable economic organisation which can ensure continuity of employment and development in the aircraft industry. It should eliminate, or we hope it will eliminate, some of the overlapping which so seriously affects the industry at the moment. But we support the merger of GAF and CAG with these reservations: We believe that the merger should be based on the value of the assets of the 2 organisations which are to be moulded into one and that the merger should include all the operations - I emphasise the words ‘all the operations’ - of both organisations. Never mind picking out and retaining for one section that portion which is financially attractive and out of which a profit can be made. It should be a matter of one in all in or one out ail out.
In my opinion it is most important that the conditions of the employees of the merging organisations should be guaranteed. I think one of the first things that the Minister for Supply, who stated that he had received and read a report on the proposed merger, should do is to tell the employees of these 2 organisations that their superannuation rights and existing conditions of employment will be protected. Other industries that have taken place in mergers have had to contend with this question of superannuation. The Government should make an early decision on this matter and should put the minds of people in the industry at rest.
Ministers have stated that the Government is assisting the aircraft industry. I am not satisfied that it is assisting the aircraft industry to its maximum capacity. None of the Ministers who have spoken already in this debate has produced any evidence that the government is doing something positive. In the past 10 years our airline operators - Qantas Airways Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia - have purchased from overseas aircraft to a total value of $540m. Qantas has purchased in that period $365m worth of aircraft. TAA and Ansett have purchased $175m worth, and only in recent weeks the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) announced that approval had been granted to TAA and Ansett each to purchase four Boeing 727 200 series aircraft at a total cost of $67. 5m. Also in the past 10 years commuter aircraft - they are the little aircraft that carry 6, 7 and up to about 10 passengers - to the value of $6,528,000 have been purchased for use in Australia. I have not taken into consideration the huge amount that has been spent on the Fill. I have referred only to purchases of the domestic aircraft.
What has the Australian aircraft industry really got out of these purchases. None of the Ministers has given us the facts. The real position is that the industry has received offset payments to a value of a little over $5m. What a very small amount of money that is in the form of offset payments against the huge amount that has been spent overseas. Just imagine what could bc done to stabilise the Australian aircraft industry if much better deals had been made. Other countries have been able to negotiate through their commercial airline operators much more favourable offset payment arrangements than we have been able to negotiate. In this field the Government has failed badly in maintaining a continuity of employment for its own industry. Certainly it has had the Mirage, the Macchi and aircraft of this type built in Australia. But in my opinion all that the Government did in relation to those aircraft is what it should have done; it has really done nothing to force the commercial operators to negotiate decent offset payments. Even at the present time in the replacement of the Macchi trainer there is an excellent opportunity for the Australian aircraft industry to break into the field of design and development and to have a decent throughput of work on the aircraft which was mentioned by the Minister - the HS1182, which is an English aircraft being designed by the British Government. The Government should be moving on this aircraft and doing something positive about it so that the Australian industry can develop.
Finance is most important. Until such time as the Government is prepared to establish an institution on the lines of the American Export-Import Bank or the British Export Credits Guarantee Department to assist the sale of Project N, we will not get anywhere in Australia. I do not want to waste my time talking about the virtues of Project N, but the Government could really provide some assistance to the Australian aircraft industry in the sale of an aircraft such as Project N, and the sale of the HS1182 and other aircraft. We know that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation missed out on the sale of Macchi trainer jets to the Royal New Zealand Air Force because of one thing only - the Corporation was not in a position to compete, not in relation to the price of the aircraft, but in relation to the financial arrangements that the British Government was able to make. Therefore we lost the sale of that aircraft.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– After hearing the 3 speeches by the speakers on the Government side in this debate there is really very little else that remains to be explained. I would have thought that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) had given an ample and satisfactory explanation to the House on the few points that had been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who led for the Opposition in this debate. In reply to the first point, that is the rationalisation for the merger of the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, I thought the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Supply made the position very clear. They said that this proposed merger has been under consideration and close examination and that a report had been prepared on the feasibility of the proposal. That report, of course, was received by the Minister for Supply only last Friday. This Government is extremely competent, but it is not within the realms of possibility for the Government to absorb such a detailed and involved report on such an important matter and to reach a decision in a couple of days.
As I listened to the argument on this part of the issue I was reminded of the last matter of public importance that I debated in this House following the concrete pipes decision in the High Court of Australia. That decision was handed down by the High Court on a Friday and lo and behold on the following Tuesday we were landed with a matter of public importance berating the Government for not having legislated to the full extent of its powers which had been elucidated by the High Court only 3 or 4 days before. These things take time. My saying that is not an evasive tactic by any means. These things are important; they are involved and they take time to investigate. I have no doubt that the Government will be looking at the report on the proposed merger with all the attention and care that it deserves and that in due course a reasonable decision will be made. It is under consideration and no doubt a decision will be made fairly scon as to what the Government believes is in the best interests of the aircraft industry in Australia so far as this proposed amalgamation or merger is concerned.
As to the terms of the matter of public importance itself the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) indicated that what he was basically concerned about was the proposed amalgamation or merger. I do not want to misquote the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this occasion or on any other occasion, but it did seem to me that he did not say unequivocally whether or not the Opposition supported the amalgamation or merger. There were a number of conditions or a number of qualifications. I for one would like to know specifically what the view of the Opposition is on this proposal. I understand that there is yet to be one more speaker from the Opposition side in this debate and no doubt he will, in view of the fact that I have invited the Opposition lo do it, state clearly whether or not it supports the amalgamation. I would like to know.
The other matter that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quite rightly drew attention to was Project N. This is a project that deserves having attention focused on it. But here again the Minister for Supply gave what I would consider, looking at it objectively, a reasonable response, namely that this also is something which involves millions and millions of dollars. It is something of very great importance to the whole aircraft industry in Australia. This is under consideration, and as the Minister said, an announcement will be made in due course. But there were overtones in some of the comments made by some members of the Opposition that the Government perhaps had been less than frank or less than detailed in giving information to the country about the aircraft industry. However, the material is available in such publications as the ‘Defence Report 1971’ and Supply 1971’. If you look at the report of the Department of Supply for 1971, as well as a lot of very interesting pictures, you will see a very detailed account of the various ramifications in the aircraft industry in Australia, at least on the military side. You will see details of the programme for the construction of helicopters, details of the Jindivik programme, details of the work that has been done on the construction of the Macchi aircraft - which is virtually completed as I understand it - and you will also see details about the Mirage.
The Minister for Supply recently made an announcement on the sale to Brazil of $20m worth of Ikara missiles. I do not think enough credit has been given to the
Minister for Supply and the officers in his Department on arranging this contract. I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating him and his Department on the work that has gone into this particular project, the negotiations and indeed the result. It is good for the industry because it must give confidence to the industry. It is good purely and simply in economic terms. The Minister for Supply also indicated the work with respect to the Turana and he said that fairly soon there would be a replacement for the Winjeel. Of course, more work would be involved in this so far as the aircraft industry is concerned. If you look at the raw material the information is there and it has been made available by the Government, so I would reject the charge that the Government has not given sufficient details and information about the aircraft industry.
Finally, may I make reference to one point that arose in a running exchange during the debate, namely the amount of money expended on defence equipment contracts in Australia compared with what has been spent overseas. If you look at the figures it is very clear that in recent years the percentage of the defence contract vote spent within Australia has been increasing. If I may just refer briefly to some of the statistics, you will see that, for instance, in the year 1968-69 expenditure in Australia on defence equipment contracts was $193m whereas considerably more was spent overseas, namely $245m. However, the trend was reversed in the following year and also last year. In 1969-70 there was in fact more money spent within Australia than there was overseas, a clear reversal of that trend. An amount of Si 84m was spent on defence equipment contracts within Australia in that year and only $150m was spent outside Australia. Last year, 1970-71, $171m was expended within Australia and much less than that, namely $115m, was expended overseas. This is a definite trend that is borne out on the figures. I think it is fair to say that it is a very commendable trend, that the percentage of expenditure within Australia is increasing compared with expenditure overseas. That is a trend which I for one would like to see continued. With those few remarks may I say that this matter of public importance raised by the Opposition has in my view been amply replied to by Government speakers and it seems to me quite clearly that the argument fails.
– I would like to say a few words on this matter of public importance. I do not think that the Government has answered the Opposition’s case at all. The basic factor that emerges from the debate is that there has been no planning for the Australian aircraft industry. This stems from a lack of a consistent defence policy. It has been difficult for the Service departments to set down requirements for equipment when the Government has not been able to provide them with a consistent defence policy. For years we have seen the industry in a state of peaks and troughs. At the moment it is in one of its most serious troughs. The Hawker de Havilland establishment at Bankstown, which is in my electorate, is facing a serious problem with its work load. If it does not improve in the next few months there may be retrenchments. This is the case throughout the whole industry.
Not only is there a problem with actual retrenchments of men and reduced work load but also there is a real problem that Australia has to face on top of those matters and that is the loss of technology, the loss of design staff and inadequate tooling in these factories. The specialist technology on plastics and metallurgy is going right past the Australian aircraft industry because there is not a work load to sustain development in these things. With tooling there should have been a switch across to digital computer machine operated tooling equipment. I think that there have been only 2 additions of this type of plant to the major elements of the industry in Melbourne and the rest of it has just been turret lathes and this type of equipment. With this equipment we can never be competitive and we find that with offsets we will become less attractive to overseas industries because we will not have the capacity to take on the work they may offer.
I find myself in complete agreement with the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who said that the Government has done nothing whatsoever to try to stimulate offsets, considering that there were massive orders placed with overseas aircraft industries for civil and military projects. There has been no insistence by the Government that there should be a fixed percentage of this. The Government has not even insisted that the industry in Australia should manufacture all high rate usage spares. There has never been a policy in line with that. At the moment the only bright star on the horizon for the aircraft industry looks like being Project N. As we have become aware, Project N is now bogged down in a dispute between 2 Service departments, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force. Even if everything were moving smoothly in the defence group of departments for Project N, to become a viable proposition the aircraft must be able to be sold on a commercial basis, lt has already been mentioned during this debate that this is impossible unless finance is offered at rates of interest better than normal overdraft rates, rates resembling those offered by the Export-Import Bank. Unless the Government is prepared to offer finance at better than commercial terms on high value transactions for military produce or otherwise, we will never be able to sell Project N or any other aircraft like it.
There is now a possibility that the Australian aircraft industry can get in on the replacement for the Macchi aircraft. But it is well to remember that the Australian aircraft industry designed an aircraft that would have been able to do the job that the Macchi is doing but because of the fact that the Service departments were not kicked into line and told they had to bring down their requirement in time, the Australian aircraft industry was unable to get into the design and manufacture of the aircraft that was selected, which, as honourable members know, was the Macchi. Admittedly it was made here under licence, but Australia lost the design staff who wanted to take part in the designing of the aircraft and it is such staff that we need. There is a continuous brain drain from Australia, particularly in the aircraft industry design section and we need to retain people in that section of the industry. People are talking about the HS1182 as a replacement for the Macchi. The Australian Labor Party is interested in a replacement for the Macchi that is designed in Australia. If it is not totally designed in Aus tralia it should be designed in part here and we should be able to take part in a coproduction order in which the Australian aircraft industry is receiving the benefit of high volume production over a sustained period of time and where the industry can keep a work load without constant fluctuations such as a sinusoidal curve up and down every 3 years.
I do not have a great deal of time remaining, but I should like to discuss a number of other matters. The Labor Party wants similar provisions in regard to the Mirage replacement. We want to get in on co-production and co-design. We do not want to pick up someone else’s design and manufacture it here like a lot of dummies. We want to be able to help design the aircraft, help improve our design staff and get a long production order. The Government is blowing its bags about the Ikara missile. If the Government had done the right thing with the Ikara and tried to develop it as a ship-to-ship weapon as well as an antisubmarine weapon it would be able to sell a lot more of them. Now the Government has the audacity to be considering the standard missile from the United States of America as a replacement for the Tartar missile that we are using on the DDG destroyers, and there may be a selection for the DDL destroyers. I do not know the range of the Ikara; it is classified information. However, I know that the Asdic equipment on most of our destroyers has a range of about only 25 miles under good conditions but I am led to believe that the Ikara has a range of about 150 miles or 200 miles. If it has that range, with the launching equipment and the magazine equipment that is designed for it, it can easily be switched across to a surface-to-surface weapon. When I questioned the former Minister for Defence, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), he told me that the total research development and production costs up to the prototype stage for the Ikara was $15m. If it cost us only $15m to bring the Ikara from a drawing to a prototype, we should be able to switch it across into a surface-to-surface design for less than that. Yet there has been no encouragement by the Government for the aircraft industry to move into that line of research. At the moment, the Government also is considering the Rapier missile from
Great Britain as a defensive weapon against low flying aircraft. This is another field where the Australian aircraft industry well has the capability of being able to develop this type of weapon. The Government says that there are only so many orders over so many years and when the production run falls the industry must go into a state of decline. It is obvious that no-one will be attracted to work in an industry which is continually subjected to peaks and troughs in its production and in its work load. The work load should be supplemented by a work load from commercial enterprises for which the Government should plan.
There are plenty of other examples of aircraft industries throughout the world which have survived. The Government chooses to pick on Lockheed and the rest of them. The reason why Lockheed and the American companies are in trouble is because of the terrific control that the military and defence machine has in the United States. The United States has embarked on the design of military projects that it cannot possibly finance in the long term and it has had to let many of the projects drop. Aircraft industries such as the Swedish aircraft industry, which is tailored to fit the defence requirements of Sweden, do not have these peaks and troughs and if we took the lesson from those industries and moved into the manufacture of equipment that we perhaps could use for our own Services and sell to Services in other countries in the South East Asian region, we would find that we would not have an aircraft industry bedevilled by this problem of work load. It is not a matter of why; it is a matter of will and this Government has no will. It always criticises the Australian Labor Party for its lack of credibility on defence and it confuses the issue of defence and foreign policy. This Government has no defence policy. It never has had since the day of Robert Menzies and it has none today. The Govvernment cannot say to the Australian people: ‘We are credible on defence when a key industry is falling apart.
Another lesson is the DDL. There is no naval design staff capability in Australia at all. The Government must go to other countries toget a preliminary design and a detailed design drawn up. This is a serious situation. How can the Government purport to have a defence policy when the aircraft industry is losing its design staff and its technology is falling off? It has no naval design capability and its shipyards are deficient in the area of naval construction. So, I put it to the House that there is validity in the points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who raised this matter of public importance. The Parliament should be concerned about the declining state of the aircraft industry and the Government should be condemned for its lack of initiative and support for the industry. I certainly hope that this debate will do something to stir the Government from the lethargic approach it has to one of Australia’s most important industries.
– Order! The time for the discussion has expired.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligation under a guarantee of repayment of certain borrowings by the Australian Wheat Board from the Reserve Bank of Australia, in respect of wheat from the 1970-71 pool. Similar loans were made last year and the year before in respect of the 1969-70 and 1968-69 pools. To assist in the marketing of 1970-71 pool wheat, arrangements were made for the Board to borrow up to $364m from the rural credits department of the Reserve Bank. The date for final repayment is 31st March 1972, approximately 12 months after the drawings were made, in order to comply with section 57 of the Reserve Bank Act which requires that loans of this type shall not be made for more than one year. Receipts by the Board from sales of wheat will be insufficient to enable it to repay the borrowings in full by the due date. This will mean that the Commonwealth will be liable under its guarantee for an amount currently expected to be in the vicinity of $95m, recoupment of which is estimated to take approximately 11 months.
It is proposed that the Commonwealth lend to the Board sufficient funds to enable it to discharge its debt to the Bank. It is also proposed that the Board be required to use for repayment of the loan all net proceeds from export sales of wheat of the 1970-71 pool, after the date of the loan, as well as the Commonwealth’s stabilisation payment. The Bill provides that the loan to the Board be at an interest rate of 5) per cent per annum on the daily balances outstanding, with the actual timing of capital repayments and interest to be specified by the Treasurer. The interest rate is the same as that charged on last year’s loan.
The Bill authorises the Commonwealth to borrow up to$150m to make theloan to the Board. This exceeds the Board’s current estimate of the amount required under the guarantee but, as such estimates are subject to substantial variation, the amount specified in the Bill provides a margin in case estimate proves too low. The Australian Loan Council has agreed to a special borrowing programme for this purpose for the Commonwealth in 1971-72. The terms of the borrowing will be subject to Loan Council approval.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Clause 10. (4.) The Treasurer may, on application bya person, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, fix, for the purposes of this section in its application to that person, a percentage not less than ten. (5.) The Treasurer may, from time to time, of his own motion or on application by the person concerned, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, vary an instrument referred to in the last preceding sub-section but so that the percentage fixed by the instrument as varied shall not be less than ten. (6.) An application under either of the last two preceding sub-sections shall be in writing and shall give particulars of the interest of the applicant in voting shares of the bank concerned. (7.) The Treasurer may, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, revoke an instrument under sub-section (4.) or (3.) of this section as from a date specified in the instrument, not being a date earlier than three months after the date on which the first-mentioned instrument is published in the Gazette. (8.) An instrument varying an instrument under sub-section (5.) of this section so that the percentage fixed by the instrument as varied is less than the percentage so fixed before the variation has effect as from a date specified in the firstmentioned instrument, not being a date earlier than three months after the date on which that instrument is published in the Gazette. (9.) A person shall not furnish to the Treasurer, in connexion with an application referred to in this section, information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Penalty: One thousand dollars.
Clause 11. (8.) A person shall not furnish to the Treasurer, for the purposes of sub-section (3.) of this section or in connexion with an application referred to in this section, information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Penalty: One thousand dollars.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
In clause 10 (4), leave out - “(4.) The Treasurer may, on application by a person,”, insert - “(4.) The Governor-General may, after application made to the Treasurer by a person,”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
In clause 10 (5.) leave out - “(5.) The Treasurer may, from lime to time, of his own motion or on application by the person concerned,”, insert - “(5.) The Governor-General may, from lime to time, of his own motion or after application made to the Treasurer by the person concerned,”
Senate’s amendment No. 3 -
In clause 10(7.) leave out “Treasurer”, insert “Governor-General”.
Senate’s amendment No.4 -
In clause 10(9.) after “that” insert “, to the knowledge of the person,”.
Senate’s amendment No. 5 -
In clause 1 1 (8.) after “that” insert “, to the knowledge of the person,”.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 23 February (vide page 1 64), on motion by Sir Alan Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Bill and the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition has grave doubts about the motives behind this Bill. Its main aims are to increase the period of currency of television and broadcasting station licences from one year to a maximum of 3 years and to amend the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act to protect the interests of persons and companies which since 17th December 1964 have had special privileges in being allowed to retain more than a prescribed interest in the ownership and control of television and broadcasting station licences. It is the timing of the introduction of this legislation which gives rise to the Opposition’s suspicions. Now only a few months before an election legislation is introduced to extend the period for which television and broadcasting licences can be renewed. The period of extension will take those licences to within a few months of the following Federal election when a Labor government will be in office.
I am not suggesting that a Labor government has any intention of taking drastic action against the present holders of television and broadcasting station licences, but we, together with a substantial body of public opinion, are not satisfied with the television services provided by some of the stations or of the standard of some of the programmes. If this legislation is passed the present conditions imposed on licence holders will still prevail and the improvements which we envisage will be much more difficult to introduce when a Labor government is in office. Our suspicions of the motives of the Government are increased when it is noted that the ownership and control provisions of the Act are again to be amended to give protection to certain privileged persons and companies in the community which have more than a prescribed interest in television and broadcasting stations and are likely to lose that protection by an alteration in their shareholding. Both amendments are designed to safeguard the interests of persons and companies which are known and acknowledged supporters of the Government.
The Opposition takes a great deal of heart, however, from the clear acknowledgment that the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) at least believes that the Government of which he is a Minister will be defeated at the forthcoming election, and he is trying to protect the interests of his friends. Let me make the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the media quite clear. Our policy is as follows:
As well as being a medium of entertainment, television and radio profoundly affect the educational, cultural and artistic standards of Australians.
Because of the limited number of frequencies available for radio and television, it is necessary for government to regulate these areas in order to ensure that the public interest is protected, but, as far as possible, the traditional freedom of the Press should apply to radio and television.
The dual system of national and commercial radio and television is to continue. The tendency to monopoly is especially dangerous and must be resisted by appropriate legislation.
A fairness principle will be included in the legislation regulating radio and television so that opposing viewpoints will have a fair opportunity of expression.
The political independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be secured by amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act and by proper administrative arrangements, including finances provided on a long term basis.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission should be able to determine its own programmes and, subject to the fairness applicable to commercial stations, to exercise its functions free of improper pressure from any source.
The general principles of the Senate Select Committee on Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television will be implemented.
Legislative and administrative steps will be taken to increase Australian content and to preserve a reasonable balance between material of Australian and overseas origin. (Minimum quotas with appropriate weighting according to the nature of the programme for Australian dramatic, professional variety, and educational programmes will be established and enforced for both national and commercial stations. Taking into account the different nature of radio programmes, endeavours will also be made to encourage Australian content on radio in neglected fields.
To ensure that the programme standards ot television and radio are maintained at the highest level, Labor will undertake a complete review of the conditions upon which licences are granted and renewed. All applications for issue and renewal of licences will be heard in public.
The Board or any interested person or body will be enabled, in case of an dispute or difference, to apply to an appropriate tribunal for an interpretation of the Act, standards, licence conditions or quota provision and obtain a decision as to whether the same have been or are being observed.
The Opposition intends to oppose the increase in the period for which television and broadcasting licences are issued. We believe that the Government has given little consideration to this matter, and the timing of the introduction of this legislation suggests that. We have no objection to the period being increased once it has been established that television and broadcasting licence holders are prepared to abide by the conditions of their licences and the conditions of the Act.
No review has been made of the conditions under which licences are granted and renewed since television was introduced in 1956. Many of the promises of the successful applicants for television licences, in particular about Australian content in programmes, the encouragement of local talent and the standards of their programmes have not been kept, or have been kept only reluctantly. The Opposition believes that a full review of the conditions upon which licences for television and broadcasting stations are renewed and granted is absolutely necessary at this stage. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
We are reinforced in our request for the establishment of this select committee by the attitude of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. The 10th annual report of that organisation for 1970-71 given by the general manager, Mr Arthur Cowan, makes critical or strong comments or raises doubts about such matters as the Australian content in television programmes, the future of musical and variety shows, the difficulty of children’s programmes, the veracity of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s research, the credit loading on good class documentaries and current affairs programmes, the restrictions on election telecasts, the criticism of television stations over cigarette advertising and the restrictions on Sunday morning programmes.
It can be seen from that that commercial television station owners are not satisfied with many of the conditions imposed on them by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the Broadcasting and Television Act. I feel that the Federation should support the amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition to have a select committee appointed to hear and to evaluate its complaints. But not only is the Federation of Commercial Television Stations critical of the conditions of its licences and the conditions applied to its members; the Australian Broadcasting Control Board time after time, year after year in its annual reports is also critical of broadcasting stations and television stations.
The Board continually has representations made to it by the commercial broadcasting and television stations for amendments to be made to certain portions of the Act. I have to admit that the criticisms in the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are very mild, but behind the words used one can often detect discontent in the Board with the actions of certain of the commercial television and broadcasting stations. A really good example of the differences between the Board and the commercial stations can be found on page 40 of the Board’s Twenty-third Annual Report for the year ended 30th June 1971 under the heading Challenge to the Powers of the Board’. The criticism concerns Sunday morning broadcasts and is mild, as I have already said. On page 76 of the report under the heading ‘Advertising’ the Board refers to advertising on broadcasting stations. Paragraph 325 states:
Observations by the Board’s monitoring staff indicated a fairly satisfactory level of compliance with the advertising time standards by stations, although it was necessary to discuss with the managements of 30 stations isolated instances of non-compliance.
Another example of the Board’s mild criticism is to be found on page 84 of the report, under the heading of ‘Renewal of Licences for Commercial Television Stations’. Paragraph 359 states:
The general performance of stations in regard to the very great range of the requirements of the Act and the Board covering administrative, technical and programme matters of various types was generally satisfactory. On the other hand there were some deficiences particularly _ in the fields of some excesses in advertising and in compliance with requirements for Australian content in programmes. In no instance was the matter of sufficient gravity as to suggest that the renewal of a licence should be affected.
In that paragraph the Board used the words generally satisfactory’; in the previous paragraph I quoted the words used were fairly satisfactory’. Infringements had occurred of the conditions laid down for television and broadcasting station licences. One of the strange things about the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is that there are never any examples of the breaking of the conditions. It can be seen from what I have said that the administrators of the Act and those who are being administered have faults to find with each other over the provisions of the Act and the conditions of the licences. I suggest that that is good evidence that a review is necessary.
I have referred so far to the general complaints of the Federation of Commercial Television Stations and some of the comments of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its last annual report. The general public also have a number of complaints to make about radio and television stations. The general complaint about television stations in particular concerns excessive advertising - the breaking up of programmes by 2 or 3 advertisements at a time. On a number of occasions when I have been watching television programmes the standards relating to the number of advertisements to be shown consecutively have been broken. The public complain about that and also about the monopoly control of television stations. People complain about the lack of Australian content in programmes and the failure to encourage Australian artists, producers, directors and writers. They complain also about canned overseas programmes, particularly their standards.
It appears, Mr Speaker, that no section concerned with television, whether the station owners, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the general public is satisfied with the standard of television and broadcasting in Australia. The Opposition takes the stand that before increasing the period for the currency of a television or radio licence to a maximum of 3 years a review of the condtiions under which those licences are granted should be made. The amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition deserves the support of this House.
I pass now to the provisions in the Bill to amend conditions relating to ownership and control of television and radio stations. The Opposition intends also to oppose that amendment and in this matter our attitude is utterly consistent. In all instances that this section of the Act has been amended we have tried to obtain legislation which would break the monopoly control of Australian television and radio stations. We have had plenty of opportunities because this section of the Act has been amended by this Government in 1960, 1965, 1969, 1971 and is again proposed for amendment. All our attempts to do something about the monopoly control of television and radio stations in Australia have been frustrated by the Government.
We do not expect success on this occasion, but we will try again because we believe that it is dangerous to have control of the mass media in too few hands. On each of the previous occasions that the provisions relating to ownership and control of television and radio stations have been amended the incumbent Postmaster-General has assured the House in terms similar to those used by the present PostmasterGeneral in his second reading speech. He said:
This rather complex matter has been most carefully examined by officers of the Attorney-General’s Department and by parliamentary counsel in consultation with the Board, and I am satisfied that the proposed amendment will not lead to any loopholes in the Act.
The last time that was said was in March 1971 when this legislation was last before the House. Now another amendment is proposed, less than 12 months after the last amendment which attempted to prevent an anomaly or loophole in the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Our reason for opposing the proposed amendment is that certain individuals and companies were granted a major privilege by this Government in 1964 in being allowed to retain more than a prescribed interest in television and radio licences. They have retained that privilege since. They have had a very fair go.
Because certain individuals or companies have realised or are to realise on their holdings, or change the format of their companies, and this was to lead to contravention of the Act, special provisions are being included in the Act for them. The monopoly control of television and radio is already too great, and to do anything to preserve that monopoly control is against the interests of Australia and its people. The machinations of private enterprise have caused and could in future cause troubles, and as ardent believers in the private enterprise system, those individuals or companies who now find that they could be or have been affected by the present legislation should take the good with the bad. One never hears of them handing back some of the dividends from their investments. But now, because the Government on 5 or 6 occasions has tried to tie up these provisions and individuals and companies are getting a little bit of a backlash, the Government comes to their protection again.
What I object to is the fact that since 1964 and even before some individuals and companies were in control of more than the prescribed interest in television and radio licences. They have had a fair go at the wicket and now if by some machinations of private enterprise it happens that their interests contravene the Act, they should sell out what is over the prescribed interest: and if this takes them below the limit they should have no right to buy back above the prescribed interest. It is not correct to give certain people in the community who had these interests before 1964 advantages that are not now offered to any other television licensee or to any other person who now buys into television or radio stations. The multiple interests of newspapers are given in Appendix J of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s Report for 1970-71. I have quoted these figures on previous occasions. It is almost frightening to see what control newspaper owners have over newspapers and radio and television stations. I do not intend to quote these figures again tonight but I would commend them not only to honourable members in this House but also to the general public in order that they might see how closely preserved the ownership and control of radio and television stations and newspapers are in this great land of ours.
A Labor government will not protect any monopoly; in particular, it will not protect a monopoly that controls the mass media, a monopoly that can form the minds of people. If these interests turned against this Government in the next 6 months Government supporters would hardly have a seat amongst them and I do not believe that any person who is not answerable to the community and the people at the ballot box should have that power in his hands.
– That is why we are here, is it not?
– Certainly it is why the Government is here. These interests have been on its side all the time.
– The people have.
– The mass media has been part of the reason why the ALP has been in opposition since 1949. Honourable members opposite should remember, Mr Speaker, that your Government has had the mass media on side, and if the mass media turned against it your Government would lose. The mass media does not give the Opposition a fair go but the Opposition still goes very close to the Government in elections. It gets more votes in Australia at any federal election than the Libera” Party and the Country Party combined but it is still not the Government. To the Opposition it is absolutely necessary to have a free Press and mass media. The Labor Party regards it as part of democracy, but if the mass media is controlled by too few people democracy can be in jeopardy. To the members of the Labor Party democracy is too precious for that. I commend to the House the amendment I have moved.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I concur with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and support the point of view that he so adequately put to the House. In essence I find myself in somewhat the same state of uncertainty and harbouring the same sort of suspicion as my colleague and I ask myself: Why has this legislation to be dealt with so swiftly? One might well ask the reason for the alacrity with which this measure is currently being debated. It does arouse a certain suspicion in my mind because when I recapitulate on the past performance of this Government in the introduction of legislation it has always exhibited the speed we associate with a tortoise. But now we have amendments to the Act being dealt with in the utmost haste. One might well pose the question: Why? Let us look at the broad proposition contained in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I deal firstly with the clause which seeks to amend section 84 of the Broadcasting and Television Act to provide that a licence may be renewed for a period of not less than 6 months or more than 3 years on the basis that the normal licence period will be 3 years instead of 1 year after the initial introductory period for the new provisions has passed. I cannot find myself in any broad disagreement with this proposition except the suspicion that it is being deliberately brought forward at this stage for a purely political purpose. Further in his second reading speech the PostmasterGeneral said:
Under the Act, as it now stands, the Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board ls required to make a report and recommendation to the Minister in respect of each application for the renewal of a licence.
Later on the Postmaster-General said:
Honourable members will, of course, be aware that the Act provides for the suspension and revocation of licences in specified circumstances.
I might return to this comment more specifically later because it is intriguing to me to have information given to me on how often in fact this provision has been invoked. The honourable member for Lang touched upon this, and I think it is incumbent upon the Government through its instrument, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to reveal just how many transgressions there have been and what penalties have been invoked for those transgressions. The Postmaster-General in his second reading speech also said:
In relation to the broadcasting and televising of addresses or statements of a political and current affairs nature, section 1 17 (4.) provides that where the address or statement is in excess of a hundred words, the name of the speaker and the author of an address or statement, where appropriate, shall be announced both before and after the address or statement. It has been represented that this provision has taken up a considerable amount of time-
I think that this provision is eminently sensible and I concur fully with it. I have had persona] experience of it both out of the political sphere and in the political sphere. It is eminently good thinking based on good common sense and is long overdue. I would not argue against this particular amendment.
The final part of the Postmaster-General’s second reading speech deals with the provision regarding the keeping of a record of the name and address of the author of such statements so that they shall be fully effective. An amendment to this provision which the honourable member for Lang proposes to move is again, I think, eminently sensible and timely. It states, and I quote briefly, that a person who claims to have been defamed in a broadcasting or television programme shall be entitled, on request to the Commission or the licensee, as the case may be, and upon the payment of an adequate fee, to receive a record of such a programme. I think that all fair minded people will agree that that is an eminently sensible proposal. The one doubt I do have about this proposal, having been engaged in the industry myself for many years, is that it may well encourage the very substantial - if I can use the phrase without any disrespect - crackpot sector of the community to wish to have access to every utterance that is made both on radio and in television. I do not know how that is going to be contained, but I do know that it is a very real and distinct possibility.
In broad terms the responsibility of licensees is in the field of programming. Over the years I have received a very great number of complaints from people inside and outside of my electorate who have had enough of the predictable Christmas-New Year fare of repeats ad nauseum on television. I think some responsible direction should be given now to station managers with regard to this critical and irritating area of continual repeats of programmes. I do not exclude the Australian Broadcasting Commission from my criticism in this respect. Over the years both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial licensees have been constantly and consistently guilty of showing repeats ad nauseum. Time will not allow me to go into the reason why this practice is perpetrated. I know perfectly well that basically it is for economic reasons. There is a great cry from station managers that their revenues drop off during the Christmas and New Year period. I do not argue with that, but I do think that they should display a greater sense of responsibility and maturity in their programming over the Christmas and New Year period. The arguments always advanced for repeating programmes at that time of the year are paradoxical to me. The common argument is that the television stations do not have an audience. That argument will not stand up to any scrutiny at all. 1 wish to deal now with the question of the quotas for Australian content in television generally. I have spoken on this matter on many occasions in this chamber. Events have proved that the existing legislation is not being strictly enforced. I offer no criticism of the Postmaster-General in saying that. Indeed, 1 have a great regard for him. That does not necessarily extend to his ministerial colleagues, but I do have a regard for the Minister in his position as Postmaster-General and I do not lay any personal blame on him in this respect. But the simple fact of the matter is that during the concentrated campaign last year for a greater Australian content in television some quite extraordinary statements were made by so-called responsible people. The honourable member for Lang has already quoted some of the comments made by the Manager of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, Mr Arthur
Cowan. I wish to repeat for the House’s digestion a remark that he made during the period of time when there was strong advocacy for a greater Australian content. In the ‘Australian’ of 6th May last year he is reported as having said that television programmes which fail to attract reasonably sized audiences were contrary to the public interest. What an extraordinary observation that is. Precisely what does that gentleman mean? It was a totally irresponsible remark - even being generous to him. Was he in fact saying that ballet, opera, music and the diverse activities of the Australian Boradcasting Commission
– Roll out the barrel.
– And, indeed, as the honourable member for Mitchell has said-
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Franklin is getting a little wide of the terms of the legislation before the House. The purpose of this Bill, if I may quote from the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General, is to make certain changes to the Broadcasting and Television Act in relation to commercial broadcasting and television station licences. I do not know whether this legislation goes so far as to touch on programming and that sort of thing. The provisions of the Bill are fairly limited.
– I respect your ruling, Mr Speaker, but what I am attempting to establish is that, when he is granted a licence, a licensee has a responsibility to the viewing public and I think that that is relevant to the point I am making.
– Yes, I think there is some relevancy, but at the same time I do not think the honourable member should make that the main subject of his address.
– I will accede to your ruling, sir. May I refer in passing on this question of programming to the enormous amount of moneys transmitted overseas for the buying of programmes from the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Again I will relate this matter to the argument I am advancing for a greater local content. In the year 1966-67 it was $12.5m; in 1967-68 it was $12.9m; and in 1970-71 it was $11. lm. That is an incredible amount of money which is going overseas and which, of course, necessarily results in a dropping off in employment for our own people. No other country in the world has been more prepared to tolerate such a massive assault on its own culture. This certainly does not occur in the United States of America, the United Kingdom or Canada. All of those countries have ensured that their television programmes, and the licensees through them, reflect and comment on and advance their own identities. I think that that is a perfectly legitimate aim and aspiration. I think the mass media has an obligation and a duty and the licensees have a duty to reflect the identity of this country, f am quite certain that nobody on the other side of the House would dispute that statement. Very few foreign programmes appear on American television. Britain in practice limits the imported shows to 12* per cent of its total content. Canada has specified that 60 per cent of the programmes seen in prime time shall be of Canadian or indigenous content.
In the time I have at my disposal, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a special plea to the licensee of Channel 6 in Tasmania, which came into operation under stage 2 of the development of television programmes on 4th June 1960. I have discussed this matter with the PostmasterGeneral. It is incredible to me that 12 years after its introduction a great area in the southern part of my own electorate is still unable to receive an adequate and satisfactory television picture. It is now 1st March 1972. Twelve years after its introduction there are still people in my own electorate who cannot receive on their screen, even with the great expertise and the advanced technology at our disposal, a picture which could reasonably and logically be called a decent image.
I want to comment on another matter before I finish. 1 have received many complaints about licensees and the great amount of American news film shown in Australia. I have discussed this matter with the Postmaster-General. For the life of me, I cannot understand why we in this country are subjected to a very high percentage of American interpretation films of great events overseas. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is established in most areas of the world. As I understand, we have a tacit gentleman’s agreement between the ABC and the British Broadcasting
Corporation. I refuse to see the logic of Australians always being subjected to the American interpretation of great world events.
Management has a great responsibility. A licence is not a document for profit alone. It is incumbent upon the licensee to provide a diligent and intelligent service to the community. Mistakes have been made. We are all fallible. I worked in this industry for many years. I believe in the power and the persuasiveness of television. It is a broad forum for the dissemination of ideas. It is a wonderfully evocative visual medium. It is a wonderful medium for truth and the revelation of political and governmental inadequacy and humbug. It is the forum about which my distinguished British colleague, Robin Day, has so correctly said that truth and falsehood can grapple in the critical public gaze. 1 appeal to the Government quite earnestly and sincerely to see that the legislation which has been outlined, the legislation which has been amended, is adhered to by the licencees with a general regard for the wellbeing of the viewing public of this country. It is essential that controls bc tightened. In my view, it is essential that the licensees display a much greater sense of community and public responsibility. In moving these amendments, I think that the honourable member for Lang has really put his finger right on the problem area. In conclusion, I reiterate that I support the amendment which he has proposed.
– I want to speak briefly on this Bill. I have had little time in which to prepare my submissions. A certain amount of truth has been spoken by both the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). But as usual, they appear to have become confused as to the exercising of control over television licences. If we take notice of what they say, there would be so many committees, subcommittees and organisations that the matter would get out of hand. In the first instance, they ask that the Bill be referred to a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the conditions under which television and broadcasting station licences are granted and renewed. I have served on many committees and I have chaired committees. If we do not have confidence in those who are controlling broadcasting and television, we alone should make alterations. A committee would be a long drawn out exercise. Sincere and genuine people would be on the committees. But possibly they would have no special training. I do not think very much would be achieved by appointing this costly joint committee. The Opposition seeks to insert proposed new sub-sections (2b.) and (2c.) to read: (2b.) The Minister shall refer an application made under this section to the Board for its recommendation as to the renewal of a licence. (2c.) Before making a recommendation, the Board shall hold an inquiry in accordance with this Act into the application.
The amendment then continues to outline the sub-sections in the existing legislation which the Opposition seeks to have omitted. This next amendment has some merit. It seeks to have the following proposed new section inserted in the Act: 124aa. A person who claims to have been defamed in a broadcasting or television programme shall be entitled, on request to the Commission or the licensee, as the case may be, and upon payment of an adequate fee, to receive a record of such programme.
As I have said, much merit is contained in this last amendment which is proposed because if a man is defamed it is very difficult for him to obtain sufficient evidence to assist him to protect his good name. After all. a man’s good name is his most valued possession. I had an experience when I rang a radio station-
– Order! I think it would be appropriate for the honourable member to discuss this matter in the Committee stage. The amendment to which the honourable member has referred will be moved in Committee. It has not yet been moved. The honourable member will be able to discuss it then.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I shall defer my remarks until the Committee stage. Turning to the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) I can see no good reason in the interests of better management, control and economy why, after the granting of the initial licence for a period of 5 years, the renewal of the licence should be restricted to one year. I cannot see any good reason why a licence could not be issued for a further period of 5 years.
It is also proposed - I do not know for what reason - that a licence may be renewed for a period of not less than 6 months. That may be just a temporary rearrangement in regard to the shareholding and the ownership of companies. I feel that in this legislation the Government is bending over backwards to protect the ownership and shareholding in the various companies that are associated with the mass media - the newspapers and the broadcasting and television stations. I think the time has arrived when the owners of newspapers and the shareholders in broadcasting and television companies should realise that they hold this power in very safe trusteeship. We do not want to do anything to restrict the management of these concerns. But it is most necessary that they observe the greatest integrity and honour in the trust they hold. It appears to me that the Government is being very fair in regard to this matter.
As the Anglican community of Sydney pointed out about a fortnight or 3 weeks ago, the proprietors of mass media must realise the great debt that they owe to the community and they must realise that statements made in the newspapers and by the other mass media have to be truthful and factual in every detail. I feel that there has been a lessening of standards and a lessening of propriety. There needs to be a sincere and genuine effort by the proprietors of the mass media to uphold the standards of this great trust. It is up to them to carry out their duties in a very thorough, correct and factual manner. We on this side of the House have no great objections to the proprietorship of these companies, but if they misplace this trust and if they do not honour the great confidence that the Government has shown in them, only one thing can happen to them: Very strict disciplinary action will have to be taken.
I regret that some provision has not been made in the Bills for increasing the Australian content in both broadcasting and television. It cannot be denied that Australia has produced some of the greatest musicians, actors, actresses, singers and playwrights in the world. With this background, surely it is possible to bring to our screens a more wonderful and more sophisticated viewing than can be provided by overseas people. I know that the cost of production of programmes is very high, but we have a great amount of latent talent in Australia. If I could not recall quickly the name of some Australian at the peak of any facet of entertainment I would be very surprised. I remember the great Oscar Asche. a great playwright and the author of the wonderful ‘Chu Chin Chow’.
– That is going back a bit.
– It may be going back, but over the period there have been other Oscar Asches although they did not have the opportunity or the determination of Oscar Asche, Lily Brayton and the other great Shakespearian actors of those days. I feel that before these licences are issued there should be complete understanding and some arrangement whereby the Australian content should be improved progressively both in quality and in quantity.
Let me refer to the second amendment which deals with a person being defamed. I think that if the person’s name is mentioned in a programme he should be able to get that extract just by ringing up the station. I understand that at the present time he has to go through the costly procedure of getting it through a solicitor. That is not right. If a man’s name is mentioned, he should be able to get only that portion in which his name is mentioned within 7 days of application. I congratulate the Postmaster-General, whose portfolio covers many realms of great activity and expansion. How he has been able to’ cope with this over the years is beyond my comprehension. I congratulate him in regard to this matter. He has been very partial to the broadcasting stations. I hope and trust that they revere and respect the trust that the Postmaster-General has placed in them.
– -I support the amendment. This debate relates to the adjustments that are to be made to the broadcasting and televising of political and current affairs material. I am disappointed that in the past - and it would appear that this will happen in the future- little attention has been given in the issuing of station licences to the provision of equal free time to local government candidates who stand as independents in many areas. In particular in Western Australia, where political tickets are not run, the candidates even for shire president or town mayor are virtually unknown figures who, because they are fully involved in their own positions earning a living or running a business, are unable to expend the time or money to present themselves and their viewpoints to the public. The exceptions are those people who have very large incomes, and thus the field of radio and television is restricted to them.
This aspect should be looked at by commercial and Australian Broadcasting Commission stations to ensure that it becomes a general practice to present to the public these very important candidates for honorary positions. Local government is the third arm of government. It is the least remunerative, the most thankless, but one of the most important arms of government. The media have an obligation to see that these candidates are presented to the public - the Government has this obligation, also - in such a way that a proper choice is made by those who elect them. It is regrettable that the legislation does not encompass this aspect. The Government does not seem to accept the responsibility for legislating in this area. The resistance on the part of a national station to spending time on this type of broadcast can be understood, but there are now sufficient diversified stations - regional stations - to ensure that mainly local audiences are involved. We can all realise from the escalating costs of our own electioneering broadcasts the utter impossibility of the ordinary worker or small businessman wanting to serve the community in this field, meeting the costs of a properly presented, full representation of himself and his policies.
It is time that a firm decision was made and ensuing legislation brought down for the provision of equal free time for local government candidates, State parliamentary candidates, Federal parliamentary candidates or, for that matter, any person standing for an elected position of important community function where most of the community population has the right to vote or will be affected by an election. I hope that in the future when granting station licences serious consideration will be given to this matter. The legislation before the House, which is aimed in one instance at a final saving of bookkeeping, will permit all licences held by one group of interests to be considered together in a total operation. This must effect some major savings not only for the stations concerned but for the Postmaster-General’s Department. It appears to be in line with the Postal Department’s general policy of centralisation in this field but the savings are not being passed on to the public licence holder, in particular the pensioner or the widow who has the misfortune to have to care for a growing family who are reaching their teens and who go out to work and who, because of the miserable income these children bring in, is charged a full radio and television fee. It is regrettable that the same attention to savings is not being given to those people as is being given to the stations and the Postmaster-General’s Department in this legislation.
Amidst all these administrative savings and the monopoly licences and extensions which have been granted what sort of service is the public receiving in return? It was only last year that what appeared to be collusion between the private and government stations in Western Australia resulted in the screening of video tape recordings of Perth football matches on the evenings of the match days being discontinued after a dispute over the payment for the television rights with the football authorities. This was a further blow to the public, the under-privileged and incapacitated who for various reasons were unable to attend the matches. It was a blatant disregard of service to the public. The televising of these matches by ABC country stations took place only after I had raised the matter in this House, and I thank the Postmaster-General for his indulgence on that occasion. Why not pay a little extra to give service? Even if something extra had to be paid to the football authorities, a television coverage of the football matches should have been provided for the public, which pays far too much for too little service. Not only the government stations but the private stations should be prepared to make some effort to give service.
Let us not try to deceive anyone by saying that stations are not overall profitable enterprises. This is proven by the need for such legislation as this which rationalises the period of licence renewals, makes provisions affecting ownership of commercial broadcasting and television stations and makes provision for more usable time for the broadcasting and televising of political and current affairs programmes. I believe this legislation will lead to higher charges for broadcasting and television time and will protect the existing stations’ length of tenure as licence holders. Anyone who considers what has happened to live drama in radio and television in Western Australia cannot deny that Western Australia has acting talent that should be developed in radio drama as well as in theatre. However young actors or actresses in Western Australia will never gain experience or employment in radio drama or television unless a wider use is made of this field.
The Government is pursuing a policy of centralising radio and television production which precludes top line Western Australian actors and actresses from working in those media in their home State. There is room in today’s radio media for sound art forms for radio drama to allow our young writers, producers and acting and creative talent to be fully employed. This was proven by the independent McNair Anderson radio programme surveys, which showed that in some cases ABC radio drama had an audience in excess of that of other features and that an increase in locally produced output was warranted. In the field of light entertainment in radio and television in Western Australia productions are almost nil. No television light entertainment production of any note was produced in Western Australia during the 3-year period from July 1968 to July 1971. This is an appalling record of lack of service not only to the public but to the Western Australian acting fraternity organisations. This situation comes out of the system of monopoly that this legislation is substantiating. As I recently heard stated, he is indeed a superior being who does not abuse a monopoly.
Let us look at the result of this monopoly in Western Australia. From 1963 to 1968 actors were used in local light entertainment productions by the ABC. Light entertainment, in conjunction with artists and musicians, on ABC radio and television used to provide employment for actors. According to actors’ representatives a total expenditure on light entertainment production has been reduced from a figure of $26,570 in the peak production year of 1965-66 to about $8,000, inclusive of increased wage rates. From 1963 to 1965 radio output of light entertainment in Western Australia averaged about 70 national half hours, 60 State half hours, 30 quarter hours, 250 record programmes, 26 magazine items, 22 half hour television programmes per annum. In 1968 the figures for ABC radio in Western Australia had fallen to 13 live national half hours, 13 recorded half hours, 6 quarter hours, 7 magazine items, and 35 State half hours. In television, the figures were thirteen 10- minute interludes and 13 Billy Borker 5- minute programmes. The 1970-71 figures are not known but calculations among performers indicate that the number of television programmes was nil for 3 years up to July 1971 and almost negligible in radio. If we are to have licensing conditions, these provisions should be outlined as a condition of station licensing. A greater local Australian content should be a licensing condition.
– It seems to me that we have a peculiar amendment before us. The latter part of the amendment deals with only one matter, that is, a committee which it is suggested should inquire into and report upon the conditions under which television and broadcasting station licences are granted and renewed. It seems to me perhaps appropriate that one should first of all remind the House of what is contained in the Bill itself. The first thing that is contained in the Bill is a provision for licences to be renewed not for one year as provided in the Act at the present time but for a period of not less than 6 months nor more than 3 years. It has been obvious to me from that which has been said in the debate this evening that not a great deal of concentration has been given to the provisions of the Bill.
I indicated In my second reading speech why it was believed that the provision relating to the period of renewal was necessary. Firstly, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which has the responsibility of making inquiries and recommending to the Minister renewals of licences and which also makes recommendations in relation to initial licences, has a fairly substantial job on. its plate. Honourable members perhaps do not appreciate that no fewer than approximately 160 television and broadcasting licences come up for consideration of renewal each year on a yearly basis. So the suggestion of a 3-year licence fee was to distribute this work more evenly and to enable the Board to concentrate on other important matters which it has before it constantly. One may say: That is all right as to the 3 years. What about the 6 months?’ Of course there has to be an interregnum. We have to do some work to try to bring the renewal of licences for groups of stations together at the one time. As there are groups which control 6 or 8 broadcasting stations or a number of television stations surely it is desirable that those groups be looked at by the Board at one time instead of having one station in the group considered in March, another in September and this process being followed through the 3-year period. It seems to me that to bring consideration or these groups together and to make the work of the Board satisfactory - I emphasise the word - for the benefit of the community and the Parliament, first of all, it is desirable that there be a spread of work and, secondly, it is necessary to have this 6 months to 3 years provision to enable the groupings to be made and dealt with in the future satisfactorily. The amendment really says that the Bill should go to a select committee. The amendment has nothing to do with the 3-year aspect. It is interesting to note that there is already in existence an appropriate Senate committee. The mover for the establishment of this Committee was the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). While that committee deals with a number of matters its terms of reference specifically mention that it is to inquire into all aspects of television and broadcasting, including the Australian content of television programmes. Is it suggested - apparently it is
– A joint select committee.
– It is suggested that we have a joint committee representing both Houses to deal with the provisions of the Bill on the terms of renewal or granting of licences, lt seems to me to be a strange suggestion which the Opposition has put before us. Why should not this become part of the inquiry of the present Senate committee? In fact, this is in the terms of reference of that committee. One would expect us to avoid duplication in the taking of evidence. The present Senate committee has already been to the head offices of the Broadcasting Control Board in Melbourne to investgate the basis on which the Board makes investigations concerning the renewal of licences or the granting of them. Should we have a committee representative of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to do almost the same thing? I do not understand this sort of approach from the Opposition. It seems to me that the Opposition is only trying a delaying tactic. This could be inferred from the remarks of the honourable member for Lang when he first spoke some highfalutin nonsense: ‘In a few months we will be the Government and therefore wc will take charge of this Bill. We will take charge of this Act and everything in the. garden will be lovely’.
I pass on to the second section of this Bill which relates to the situation which has developed concerning those whose interests were frozen by the 1965 legislation in terms of television, and I think the 1969 legislation in terms of broadcasting. When I introduced the 1965 legislation I assured the House then - and I say it again now - that I had endeavoured to make that legislation so tight that those who were benefiting from the freezing provisions could not find an easy way to increase their holdings. This point has been proven. We have often seen legislation brought into this House only to find that it is inadequate to do the things which we had hoped would be done, but that legislation was the exact reverse. It was made so tight in 1965 that in fact hindrance has been created
Television Bill 449
One company has control of the maximum number of braodcasting stations. For certain reasons the Broadcasting and Television Act required the company to amend its articles of association. It is a very old established company, lt did not want to alter its articles of association and so it went to the Board with a suggestion that it might form a holding company and that the shares which it held in the broadcasting stations might be transferred to the holding company. There was no addition to the company’s shareholding; no reduction in its shareholding and no alteration or variation whatever. For some reason the company did not want to alter its articles of association. It merely wanted to create a holding company to look after these particular interests. The legislation of 1969 was so tight - and it was similar to the 1965 legislation in relation to television - that it could not be done.
– Good idea.
– The honourable member for Capricornia may say that it is a good idea but I notice that his name is not on the list to speak in this debate to justify the stupid remark which he has made by way of interjection. That is one situation which we find. The second one I want to mention may be difficult to understand. Let me put it on this basis: Company A has a small shareholding interest in company B. I am speaking about television. Company A also has a large shareholding interest in company C. Company B purchases some shares also in company C. It so happens that company C holds a large number of shares in company O. Company A holds shares in company D, and it did hold them in December 1964, which gave it a protection interest. The purchase by company B of some shares in company C meant (he carrying through of that additional interest and this meant that it had lost the right to freezing. Do you know what difference it made in terms of the shareholding? There was no control 1 March 1972 because it was only a small interest in the company. It meant a difference of .0002 per cent.
Surely honourable members opposite are not going to suggest to me that the .0002 per cent is going to make a substantial difference in terms of the interest that company holds in company C. It would in fact mean that the company would have to sell one share in company D. But it could not sell one share in company D because it was protected. That was an area of protection in 1965. The Act says that there cannot be any change in circumstances. To sell one share would be a change in circumstances. In this situation to correct the position the company must sell 417,000 shares. Surely honourable members opposite are not going to suggest to me that the 1965 legislation applied to that situation is reasonable. This is what the Bill proposes to correct, at least from the point of view of those companies which had a protected interest.
I had no hesitation in bringing this Bill before the Parliament not to protect people but to adjust an anomaly. If it is believed by the honourable member for Lang - he mentioned this - that our only concern through our legislation is protection, let me remind him that 3 of the companies that were protected by the 1965 legislation have of their own free will lost by selling shares the protection which they had gained. He suggests, of course, that these are great monopoly interests which have no interest on behalf of the community. This is the sort of problem with which one is faced. One could give illustrations of portfolio investment. Many people have portfolio investments. They exist among members of the Australian Labor Party as well as among other people in the community. If a company which is protected in terms of the legislation were to buy shares in a company on the stockmarket, not knowing whether in fact that particular company had interests in television, it could be caught under the legislation, even to the minimum degree to which I have referred in these 2 particular cases. So, I suggest that there is no justification whatever for members of the Opposition telling us that they want the whole of this Bill, including the 3-year renewal period and this particular matter, referred to a special select committee of both Houses to deal with it.
The third matter which is dealt with in the Bill relates to election telecasting or broadcasting and there is no objection to that. For the benefit of honourable members who were not present when the second reading speech was made, I remind the House that, in the case of announcements of 100 words or less, it is necessary to identify the author and the speaker at the end of the announcement. If the announcement is in excess of 100 words, it is necessary to have the identification at the beginning as well as at the end and the adjustment in this Bill is merely to require identification at the end in all cases where the announcement exceeds 100 words. I had the experience of a telecast of 5 minutes which, because of the announcement at the beginning and the end, left me with only 4 minutes 20 seconds. So, to all honourable members who will be involved in the next election, I can say that they will be able to have an extra 20 seconds in a 5-minute telecast as a result of this amendment.
Other matters have been referred to in this debate. I suggest that there is no justification for the amendment which has been put before the House tonight in relation to the second reading of the Bill. There are other matters to which I will refer later. They concern amendments which will be moved at the Committee stage, but I have no desire to speak of them at the moment because of the time factor. Perhaps in the 2 or 3 minutes remaining to me I can deal with one or two matters which were referred to by the honourable member for Lang. I think it is fair to say that he made substantial criticism in terms of the Board’s reporting to Parliament in its annual report. How many times has the honourable member for Lang spoken to the chairman of the Board? How many times has he spoken to a Board member? How many times has he rung the Board or written to the Board for information? How many times has he had any discussion with an officer of the Board?
– The honourable member says quite honestly that he has not had any communication with the Board, yet he is prepared to come into the House and criticise the Board for giving insufficient information. It seems to me that if one is to criticise the Board at least one should put oneself in the position of setting down some criteria which should guide the Board so that it can help whoever is a critic in the future. I think that those who might be listening or who might read Hansard will-
– They are not listening tonight.
– They are not listening over the air, but people are listening nevertheless. I think that they would come to a conclusion. The person who never has sought to make inquiry other than to read the Board’s report is hardly in a position to criticise the Board for inadequacy if he believes that there are inadequacies. I will leave other matters to the Committee stage when I hope to have a good deal to say.
– I support the amendment to the second reading of the Broadcasting and Television Bill. The amendment states: the Bill be referred to a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the conditions under which television and broadcasting station licences are granted and renewed’
I was astonished to hear the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) asking why the Opposition wanted to set up a committee of this kind when a committee of the Senate is already in existence. My response is that if there is a committee of the Senate in existence, why are we considering legislation before the senators have completed their deliberations? Surely this is the relevance of the matter. The only reasons I suggest that we should have a committee of this House is that it is my belief that there are too many Senate committees and not enough committees of the House of Representatives. Where better to have a committee to inquire into this matter than in the House of which the Minister is a member? However, I shall let that matter pass.
The Bill before this House at the moment is in suspense because certain people are making representations about it. lt is a Bill about dividend stripping and about chains of companies. In his explana tions the Minister talked about companies A, B, C and D. I refer to the Ministers second reading speech where he said: . . it is possible for a person having protected interests to be inadvertently placed in contravention of the Act through no fault of bis own and no action on his part.
All I point out to the Minister is that a person mostly means a company. The shrewdest kind of legal advice in the world is available to television companies and to suggest that the ‘person’ referred to is Joe Smith rather than HSV7 or GTV9 is sheer humbug. The Minister’s example of a .0002 per cent error in the matter to my mind is sheer nonsense in the circumstances. 1 ask honourable members to look at the position commercial television and broadcasting stations hold in the community and I use figures from the 23rd annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In 1969-70 there were 114 commercial broadcasting stations of which 101 made a profit and 13 made a loss. Those companies had a total revenue of $37m, total expenditure of $27m and their net profit before taxation was $9m. To make $9m clear profit on a turnover of $37m is not bad business. In the same year there were 45 television stations in operation, of which 41 made a profit and 4 showed a loss. They had a total revenue of S91m and a total expenditure of $74m. The net result before taxation was $16,670,000. Again, that is not a bad return. Surely to goodness this is what we are talking about in this amendment.
A television licence or a broadcasting licence is a state monopoly; the state has the determination of the issue of the licence. Surely to goodness the state is entitled to put some limits upon the application of the licence. If the Government believes that there should be automatic renewal of licences, fair enough, but that .it not what we on this side of the House believe. I think it has been said - it was said more about a television licence than about a broadcasting licence - that once you grant a television licence you grant a licence to print money, and that is obvious when one looks at the return on television. I repeat that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report shows a clear profit by commercial television stations of nearly $17m on a turnover of $91 m.
– That is terrible.
– It is all right to say it is terrible. I think that it is terrible and ominous when one looks at the statistics that are given in this report and sees what programmes are watched and who watches them. It is all right to say that the members of the public choose for themselves. They choose between a lot of programmes which it would be better not to show at all. They make a choice merely of the programmes that are on.
– Labor hates private enterprise; it hates profit making.
– It hates excessive profit making and it hates profit being made behind restrictive conditions. Why not throw every licence open to auction every year if the Minister believes in competition. While a committee in the other place is deliberating, the Government is extending the period in which these highly profitable licences can be exercised. It is all right being cynical and saying that this is being done in an election year.
– I announced it in September 1970.
– Why did the Minister want to announce it at all? What was wrong with the annual renewal? Has anybody been refused a licence? Why decide at this time, when the Government is tottering to extinction, to alter the period?
– We have been here for 22 years. We might as well expect to be here for the next 22 years.
– I listened to the Minister in silence, and I hope that he will pay me the same courtesy. In this House in recent times we have had a lot of discussion about excesses and one of the greatest exponents of the dangers of excess has been the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) in his references to drugs. What can be more significant in the community than the influence of television, particularly at a time when the Government is to introduce colour television? I am one of those - I have said this in the House previously - who believe that if it were not for the Australian Broadcasting Commission television would be a total abomination. I admire the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Minister is its administrator.
This talk about the ABC costing us a lot of money and commercial television costing us nothing is nonsense, and I think that the Minister would agree with me.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report to which I have referred shows that the total revenue of commercial broadcasting stations and commercial television stations in 1969-70 was $128m. In my view there is no difference between systematically paying for a broadcasting and television licence, as everybody in Australia does, and paying a fee that is charged for advertising. After all, all the revenue of the commercial television stations and commercial radio stations comes from advertisers, and the cost of advertising is added to the prices of the goods and services which the people in the community pay. On television there are advertisements for tobacco and advertisements for petrol although if you took somebody into a dark corner and asked him: ‘Is this super grade petrol?’ he could not tell you. On television there are advertisements of a rather shyster kind which indicate that one second hand car is better than another. This is the kind of rape of the community that is going on at the present time, particularly in the name of commercial television.
In my view television is one of the most magnificent media ever placed in the hands of a community to use, but we have allowed it to be taken over by these commercial operators. I am sorry that tonight I have not time to look at the details of the programmes that are shown to the majority of people between 7.30 p.m. and 10 p.m., which are called the prime viewing hours. We are spending money on education, and it is suggested that we should spend more money on education. But what is being done on television is acting against what education is supposed to be doing. I suggest that the time was ripe for the Senate to conduct an inquiry into this matter. An inquiry by this House also would be significant. But while that Senate inquiry is proceeding the Minister chose to introduce a Bill which will enable those stations which already have licences to print money to continue to do so unabated for the next 3 years. This is simply another example of the lack of social responsibility on the part of this Government.
Lately we have been talking about the economy, investment allowances and other kinds of things. Here we find that approximately one-half per cent of the gross national product is being spent on advertisements on commercial radio stations and commercial television stations. As I have said previously, T have an inbuilt resistance to commercial television. Rarely do I watch commercial television. On most occasions when advertisements appear on television I take the opportunity to do something else, and I am sure that is what a lot of people do today.
I hope that some day advertisements for tobacco will go off the television screen, and I hope that an intelligent population will know that there is not much difference between Shell petrol or BP petrol or some other brand of petrol. At a time when the road toll is being emphasised there are on television advertisements showing that one can get better speed on a hill with a certain car. It is hoped that people will be more discriminating when buying a car. I think that the people of Australia who ought to go to school at the present time are those who call themselves advertising agents. They fail in any intelligent appreciation of the facts of life. This is why we ask that a select committee of this House be established to inquire into this question of granting television and broadcasting station licences. After all, a broadcasting licence or television licence is a state monopoly, and nobody can deny it. Why should not some tests be placed upon its issue and some evaluation made of its uses? That is what our amendment is about. The Postmaster-General said in his reply: ‘You have a Senate committee already. Why have a committee of this House?’ I would say that if you have a Senate committee, why have this legislation at all? Why should the Bill not be withdrawn? If you have a Senate committee of inquiry why bring in the Bill at all? Surely this House is entitled as much as the other House to make sensible inquiries into this matter. Television is one of the most significant media we have at our disposal.
Sometimes 1 tremble about the consequences of television, after reading many reports about it and considering the number of hours that children are subject to its influence as against the number of hours that they go to school. How much of what is shown is educational? Appallingly, how much is anti-educational? I saw a report the other day that we see about one hundred thousand deaths on television programmes in 10 years. Surely everybody knows that. I have referred before to the quality of the so-called films shown on television. There is a programme called Playhouse of the Week’. I saw those shows when I was courting and I have been married for 26 years, but these shows still come forward as the play of the week or the film of the week. There is virtually no criticism whatever of what is shown on television. Another difficulty is that many good shows on television can never be repeated. Why should not the same programme be shown on several nights a week? How many people are there who have to watch television night after night? Nobody can watch 4 programmes at once, anyway.
– You should see my mother-in-law.
– .Seeing the honourable member, I might have some doubts. But that is beside the point. We of the Opposition have moved our amendment in sincerity. When I hear the Postmaster-General talking about chains of organised companies and saying that somebody will inadvertently be penalised, I hope that some of them are penalised, because they are run by the kinds of people who have driven coaches and horses through every attempt to regulate the control of television stations. I hope that some day in Australia we will say that people who own a newspaper will have no entitlement to own a share in a television station. In a community that is supposed to be a democracy an undue influence is being exerted by the media. As long as you can mobilise a few million dollars you can take over these state monopolies and use them for your own advantage. The figures I have cited show how successful is that advantage. If I had anything to do with monopoly and excessive profits I would reckon that a profit of $17m made on a turnover of $90 m was excessive and that it required some kind of social regulation.
– Before I commence the few words I have to say on this matter I would like to comment on the speech by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I am quite certain that he spoke with a great deal of sincerity in many of the comments he has made tonight
– He always does.
– I said tonight. Nobody would for one minute question the fact that there will be an attempt, as there have been attempts over the years, to make quite sure that this country has the best form of distribution of television programmes that it is possible to have. I think that probably the main difference between people on this side of the chamber and people on the opposite side is involved in what is considered a reasonable method of doing things. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports tonight has suggested that vast profits are being made, I imagine he means by some television hook-ups. I do not think that is in question. Undoubtedly in some instances this is so, but we on this side of the House, contrary to honourable members opposite, would prefer that a television station such as that on Channel 10 in South Australia, which has marginal operation and has had for some time, would remain operative. We do not think that there should be special conditions for one company and not for another. This thesis cropped up twice this week. We do not believe in discriminating. It has become increasingly obvious that the Labor Party would discriminate between companies in the same field, whether by tariff - a suggestion which occurred earlier this week - or by the method advocated tonight.
One cannot go into the market place and say that one grocer should be taxed so much and another grocer should be taxed differently. In the opinion of the Australian people that is not on. If that is the sort of thing that the Labor Party is trying to propound tonight, it is not on again and it will not be on in the minds of the people of Australia who want to listen to more than one channel and, might I say, preferably more than just a government channel. They want options. This is really the salient point that has developed in this debate tonight. 1 do not think honourable members on this side would say that a successful company should be penalised. If it is success ful, so much the better. Presumably if it is successful it will have better quality of recording and production. It could be that some honourable members opposite would be shareholders in that sort of company. Let us face it. Whether the Opposition likes it or not Australia is developing that sort of company. We have heard a lot in the last week about Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. The fact is that the shareholding list of that company-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to return to the Bill.
– In case you think I am wavering from the subject, Sir, I point out that the list of shareholders in commercial broadcasting companies is very diverse indeed. At one stage I heard someone suggest that a company, whether BHP or a television company, should have roughly one-third wages bill, one-third profit and one-third overhead. That was said by Labor’s spokesman on industrial matters. It is arrant nonsense. I can think of one company which has an annual wages bill in the region of $220m, on last year’s figures, and a profit of about $60m. It is right out of balance. I regret to say, Sir, that those figures relate to BHP. I cite them only because there is undue suspicion in the minds of the Opposition as soon as someone is successful in the field of commerce. On this side of the House we believe that the nation can profit from successful people. We do not believe that our future is involved entirely with people who should not be successful. We believe that an impetus should be provided for people to get on in life, and I include small companies and television stations.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has tried to justify the Opposition’s amendment seeking the formation of a committee of inquiry. That may not be a precise description, but I think it is roughly accurate. He has tried to justify it by saying that this is the House of the people whereas the Senate is not, but the Senate has got in first, and that if the Senate is mounting such a committee with reasonable terms of reference the Government should have waited and not produced this legislation now. I think that is a fair description of what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said. Some of this legislation should not wait until the
Senate Committee’s report comes down whether or not it comes from a House that is not the people’s House. I will touch on this later on.
I view one or two of the provisions of these 3 Bills as being of fairly great importance to the nation and I think that the Bills should be passed without regard to a Senate committee. I would take up the point of logic of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and say that if I believed, as he does, that the Senate is not the people’s House, my attitude would be that the Senate is quite entitled to produce its own committee of inquiry to advise it. This seems to me to be horse sense. The Senate could well look after its own cart. Whether it be a matter of private politics or not, in this House we have to get action on matters we consider important. I will not touch on the very fine matters of fact that were dealt with by the PostmasterGeneral when talking about the Senate Committee, but because I think it is important I will touch on the problems and responsibilities of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
There is no doubt that the Board has the job of dealing with complicated and very far reaching matters and provisions to do with the Act that it supervises. It is very easy to overlook the complexity and sophistication of the matters with which it has to deal. It has to act within a framework laid down by the government of this country. It has extensive records of shareholdings, of loan interests and of directorships, and, as I understand its position, it constantly surveys the ownership and control of commercial broadcasting and television stations. This is its job, which extends far beyond the pure matter of ownership of broadcasting stations. The Board’s record in this field of its endeavour is of very great consequence and importance to the nation in terms of the job it does under the legislation which set it up. In the Postmaster-General’s second reading speech on the Bill to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942- 1971 he points out that there are 117 broadcasting and 48 television stations now established. It has become clear that the retention of a yearly renewal basis of licensing is becoming increasingly burdensome, as the Minister said, and that it is a matter of some concern to the Board. Integral in these Bills is the fact that we now look for a method similar to that adopted in the United States of America, where, I believe, the licensing authority can renew licences for a period of up to 3 years. Honourable members will realise that this is fairly close to the provisions of this Bill which sets a minimum period of 6 months and a maximum period of 3 years for the renewing of licences. I would remind the House that Canada extends the period to 5 years.
Why has this been done? Not only has it been done to reduce the costs integral in the operation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board but also quite obviously - and the Opposition can poohpooh this if it wishes - to help reduce the costs incurred by the television stations. I thought the Opposition would say that it is to increase their profits but it did not; I am sorry that it did not. The fact is that it will increase profits. It has been amply demonstrated already that the Opposition is highly suspicious of anybody who is making a profit or who is efficient. The point is that if we can lower these everrising costs to organisations, whether they be television stations or manufacturing firms, no matter what they are, the community is surely better off because of it. The one thing that irritates me is the constant harping about the danger of someone making a profit. The whole viability of the community in recent days, so far as I am aware, has been the capacity of the people to do research, to invent new methods and to become efficient, and this is reflected in the benefits to the community. In this debate so far, and I hope I am not being unjust, Opposition speakers have not acknowledged this.
I return once again because I think it is important to the problems facing the small broadcasting stations and those marginal television stations such as Channel 10 in some States which are not making a profit but which are providing a service to the community, which televise programmes with an Australian content on matters that some of us think are important and that some of us think are worth watching. I would like to move on in the brief time at my disposal to the matter of the Australian component. Section 114 of the Act provides, firstly, that the Australian stations shall employ, as far as possible, Australian workmen and Australian technicians. All of us will go along with this requirement. I am quite sure that the Opposition is just as keen as we are on this side of the House to make sure that this is so and continues to be so. But I hope that this provision never prohibits commerical television stations in this country from bringing out worthwhile people, whether they be in the field of television or radio or production generally. I hope that we never reach the stage where stations do not feel that they can import top talent where necessary.
The second provision of section 114 of the Act deals with production and it attracts the same type of argument I have put forward in relation to Australian content. This second provision sets various standards which I will discuss in a minute. The third facet of section 114 affects the presentation of these programmes. Since 1960 increasing demands have been made on commercial television stations in regard to Australian content. Firstly, we looked at the Australian origin of programmes. Secondly, we looked at the Australian content of programmes shown within specified hours, particularly between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The Australian Brodcasting Control Board, if I might hark back to the great job it does, has been responsible for the supervision of these factors. It was in November 1970, for instance, that the Government introduced new Australian content requirements. These provisions became effective from 20th September last year. If I may I shall deal with them only briefly as time is short. These new provisions seek to make life, shall we say, much harder for the commercial stations but more pleasant and acceptable and of a better quality for the viewers in Australia. Firstly, 50 per cent of the total programme time must be of Australian content. Secondly, 45 per cent of the televised time between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. must be of Australian content. Thirdly, 6 hours of first run indigenous drama must be televised between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Fourthly, for 4 hours a month programmes must be provided for school age children. That is in complete distinction from preschool age children.
If I were to criticise the programme, frankly I would criticise it in that last respect. It seems to me that as time goes by the outback children who are unable to attend school but who will be serviced by television stations at Alice Springs, Darwin, Port Augusta and other outlandish places - if I may use that phrase - will need much greater provision than the rather paltry 4 hours monthly which is required to be made available for educational purposes. I do not have the time at my disposal to develop tonight the philosophy of what should or should not be viewed or, indeed, what is or is not available. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to do so on another occasion. But in the meantime, I make the small point in passing that I think that this is something the Government should look at in view of the changing circumstances I have tried to describe which may affect the future of children in the outback areas away beyond the limits of the electorate of, for instance, Angas. I sum up by saying that as from June 1972 the total Australian content of programmes shown on television between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. will be increased, I gather, in all fields to at least 50 per cent.
Members of the Opposition have described tonight - I think with some sincerity - what they wish, what they require and what they think should be the provisions that dictate the quality of the programmes that the nation will view in the years to come. I acknowledge their capacity and wish to do so. Perhaps they will acknowledge my sincerity in saying that I do believe, having had the opportunity to travel fairly extensively, that television in Australia is probably vastly better than it is in Thailand and India, although I do not really know whether I have seen it in those 2 countries. It is certainly vastly better than the programmes which are shown in the United States of America today, and in this respect I am serious. Furthermore, colour television in the United States of America has been in years gone by particularly putrid in my judgment. I trust that the wisdom of the Government in putting off the day of decision in term of colour television will be amply repaid by the rewards to the people of Australia of increased quality. The United Kingdom and the European colour television is infinitely better than any I have seen anywhere else in the world. I say in conclusion that this country has no reason to be ashamed of any facet of its television production. lt is a credit to the Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Many people advocate the banning of the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco on television and radio as well as through the post. I know that lots of people are convinced that smoking causes cancer, but I am not. 1 have seen many articles and many films on this matter. At the present time plenty of films and lectures by experts are available, on this subject. It is interesting to note that, no matter how good these experts are, they cannot reach a common agreement that the statement that smoking causes cancer is correct. 1 do nol mind cigarette packages being branded with the slogan that smoking is injurious to health or that one smokes at one’s own risk. In my opinion advertising does not prevent people from smoking. Advertising may cause a person to change from one brand of cigarettes to another, but a person who wants to smoke will do so and there is no way in the world to stop him. If cigarette and tobacco packages are branded with the slogan that smoking ls injurious to health it would be up to the smoker to decide whether he will continue to smoke. But why deprive a smoker of the right to smoke if he wants to do so? Do honourable members think that the banning of the publication of nude photographs in magazines and so forth will stop sexual intercourse? Of course it will not. In the same way the banning of cigarette advertising will not stop people from smoking. It has not stopped them from smoking in the United States of America or anywhere else in which this form of advertising has been banned.
One has to take into consideration the value of the industry to the Government and to the nation. I would prefer to see more Australian tobacco used in the cigarettes sold in this country. Years ago America was in the same position as Australia is now in. Now only about 5 per cent or 6 per cent of the imported product is used in American cigarettes and tobacco. We should do the same thing because we do not have an export market for our tobacco and it is unlikely that we will ever have one. The value of the tobacco industry to Australia should be appreciated by everybody. The value of the. cigarettes and tobacco sold in Australia annually is $560m. The revenue derived by the Government in the form of excise from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco in Australia is S300m. Any reduction in the revenue derived from this quarter would have to be made up by revenue derived from another quarter.
In my area alone there are 1,800 tobacco growers and 2,000 share farmers. I admit that that is the reason why I have raised this matter. These people rely on the tobacco industry for their livelihood. There is always talk about decentralisation but nothing is ever done to achieve it. If this industry is affected in any way as a result of the banning of certain forms of advertising it could force some of the people to whom I have referred to move away from the tobacco growing areas. It must be remembered also that millions of dollars have been spent in storing the water which the tobacco growers require in order to grow their tobacco. This industry is not only of immense value to the Australian Government in monetary terms but it also provides a livelihood for up to 4,000 or 5,000 people in the Mareeba, Dimbulah, Mary Farms and Bilwon areas. What will happen to these areas if the tobacco industry is affected in any way by the banning of tobacco advertising?
– Does the honourable member himself smoke?
– Yes, I myself smoke and I will continue to smoke until I die. I might die from lung cancer; I might die of something else. We all will die some day because of something. It might not be because of smoking. I have never been convinced as to the cause of lung cancer. I will say this: Smoking may aggravate an existing cancer condition. How many people have died of lung cancer who never smoked in their lives? There are many. It might also be said that people who wear white shirts are more susceptible to cancer than those who wear coloured shirts because more people wear white shirts. At least, that was the case. Now, people are wearing coloured shirts. The situation might be reversed. It might be said that those who wear coloured shirts are more susceptible to cancer. Not everybody is convinced. At the present time, an American lecturer is in Australia-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the subject matter of the Bill.
– But this is on the licences and deals with the Broadcasting and Television Bill.
– The honourable member should deal with licences.
– I ask honourable members to realise what is happening. If the advertising of cigarettes on television is banned, it will affect the commercial stations greatly. Where will they obtain their income to show programmes for the people? The advertising of cigarettes provides the greatest contribution for the purchasing of programmes to be screened on the commercial stations. Therefore, I ask the Government to consider all these problems and to find a solution to them. I think the solution could lie in taking steps to encourage manufacturers to reduce the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes rather than in banning all advertising of cigarettes and tobacco. A complete ban would affect commercial stations to a great degree. They depend on advertising to keep their stations going and to screen programmes. If cigarette advertising is curtailed, they will have to increase their advertising of other products or get out of the business altogether.
Already, we are talking about the introduction of colour television. It will cost a lot more money. The television stations will have to obtain money from somewhere to screen programmes in colour. Therefore, the matter has to be considered deeply before we ban anything. Is it considered that we should ban the advertising of beer? Beer is injurious to health just as cigarettes are. Yet, nothing is said about banning the advertising of beer.
– Order! I ask the honourable member to stick to the subject matter of the Bill.
– Advertising affects the programmes of commercial stations. All the commercial stations depend on advertisements only to supply programmes suitable for the public. If their revenue is cut in this way they will lose their audiences to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This might be a good thing. I do not know whether some of the ABC’s programmes are that good. But the commercial stations will not be able to put on the programmes that they want to screen because they will not receive the money which they presently receive from advertising.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr J. Corbett)
Majority . . . . 5 -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The matter that I wish to raise tonight stems from a most unusual circumstance. Last Saturday morning I called in at the local hotel and was immediately confronted with an irate constituent who said that he was disgusted with the methods used by this Government in bestowing knighthoods on various citizens in the community, claiming that it was most unfair, unjust and discriminatory. This chap’s name is Oscar - I shall not mention his surname - but we all call him Ocker’. He told me that he had called at the local post office and asked for an application form for a knighthood. He was told that no such forms were available. But the postal clerk told him that if he seriously desired to become a knight then he should first join the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party.
Ocker went on to say that he is a man of great civic pride. His main endeavours have been devoted to the perpetual fight against pollution. He has done everything possible in keeping the city clean. He works on the local council garbage truck, and in this vocation he has also collected and buried many dead cats and dogs. Ocker told me that he is not married but he is living with a sheila, and he asked me would this debar him from getting a knighthood. 1 said: ‘No, definitely not, because if Sir Frank Packer can get one then anyone Can’. It has been said by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), and quite rightly so, that shortly we will have more knights than days. It is interesting to note that since the election of the Menzies-Fadden Government up until the present time no fewer than 23 LiberalCountry Party members of the House of Representatives and 8 senators have received knighthoods. In addition, 3 lady senators have been made dames. I shall read the list in alphabetical order to show that I am not prejudiced one way or another and, Heaven forgive me, I will not use the titles.
The list reads: Charles Adermann, William Aston, Howard Beale, John Cramer, Charles Davidson, Alex Downer, Arthur Fadden, Allan Fairhall, Josiah Francis, Paul Hasluck - no man is more overworked than His Excellency the Governor-General who has sworn in and sworn at more Ministers than any other Governor-General in the history of Australia - Eric Harrison, Alan Hulme, Wilfrid Kent Hughes, Phillip McBride, John McEwen, Robert Menzies, Hubert Opperman, Earle Page, Percy Spender, Winton Turnbull, Thomas White, Keith Wilson, and from the Senate, Kenneth Anderson, Walter Cooper, Magnus Cormack, Denham Henty. Alister McMullin, Neil O’Sullivan, Shane Paltridge, William Spooner, John Spicer and Dames Nancy Buttfield, Annabelle Rankin and Ivy Wedgwood. Richard Casey was made baron - spelt b-a-r-o-n - in 1960. Are you aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this Parliament contains 5 knights in the House of Representatives - Charles Adermann, William Aston, John Cramer, Alan Hulme and Winton Turnbull - and 2 knights - Kenneth Anderson and Magnus Cormack - and Dame Nancy Buttfield in the Senate? This is a record number of semi-blueblooded members and senators since Federation - 8 altogether in the Parliament.
That brings me back to my opening remarks. I fully support the view of Ocker. The allocation of knighthoods is indeed discriminatory and in many instances is used as a political expedient. It is often used to gain support for the Liberal Party and Country Party from newspaper proprietors such as Sir Frank Packer who first sold his services to the Liberal-Country Party Government for a knighthood and has now emerged as the most powerful man in the Liberal Party. His power is so immense that he was responsible for the sacking of the previous Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). Finally, let me put this to you, Mr Deputy Speaker: The practice of bestowing knighthoods is a method of creating class distinction and it should be abolished. We should grow up and adopt the modern trends in society. The United States of America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, seems to have thrived over the years by using Mr and Mrs.
– I want to raise a matter tonight which was raised in some way during question time today. I do not think that the Standing Orders of the House preclude me from raising this matter in the adjournment debate. It deals with a number of dedicated civilians who have been engaged for some considerable time in Vietnam for the Save the Children’s Fund. This organisation involves a number of people from South Australia who, over the years, have been collecting a great deal of aid. I hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) will pay some attention - if he will get off the air and stop talking to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) - because this matter involves his Department. Since the withdrawal of our forces from Vietnam it has been found that a number of articles that have been collected by organisations for the purpose of relieving suffering in Vietnam cannot be transported there. Once again I suggest that the Minister for Foreign Affairs should listen and not show his absolute ignorance. These goods can no longer be transported to Vietnam because the Royal Australian Air Force has withdrawn from that area. I understand that representations have been made to the Minister and his Department, yet no assurance has been given that these goods that are donated are likely to be transported to Vietnam where these people-
-Order! There is far too much conversation on my right.
– At last the Minister has woken up. I would suggest that the Minister for Foreign Affairs should pay some attention to the correspondence he is likely to receive if he has not already received it.
-Order! There is far too much conversation on my right. I have asked for it to cease. Whether the Minister or any other honourable member wishes to listen to the honourable member for Sturt is his prerogative.
– Well, I am going to start to get a hit hot under the collar. There sit the people who are responsible for many of the crippled children and the limbless in Vietnam, yet the Minister has not the decency to sit in this chamber and listen when I stand here tonight and ask with all due courtesy that he pay some attention to the correspondence he is likely to receive or has already received about assisting with the transport to Vietnam of goods that have been donated by industry - medical supplies, baby foods and what have you - for the kids who are lying up there as a result of the stinking, lousy conflict the Government has forced on people in this country. So I say to the Minister in all consciousness that if we have withdrawn our troops, including RAAF personnel, from Vietnam we still have stationed in Malaysia certain Air Force units which I believe would be running some form of transport service between this country and that. These personnel should be made available to transport, as the last leg of their journey, these goods to Vietnam in the interests of humanity in this war torn and forlorn country which has been brought to that state by this Government.
In the last few minutes available to me I want to deal with some of the matters that appear in the Parliamentary Handbook. One that has always narked me a bit is the one that deals with our Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). 1 want to deal with what the Parliamentary Handbook says in regard to his service with the Army. Ft says that he joined up in 1940. He joined up with a New South Wales regiment. T am quite sure that members of. the First Brigade, which went overseas, would be interested to know that the unit was originally formed in 1940. and that one William McMahon was an original member of it, when in fact it was serving in the Middle East. 1 want to know why, if it is unparliamentary in this place to say that lies are told or to claim some form of misrepresentation, how anybody whose particulars appear in the Parliamentary Handbook can mislead the Parliament and the public or anybody else for that matter by presenting details of his service and enlistment which are not true. If I am wrong in what 1 say 1 would be only too glad to sit and listen and be corrected by the Prime Minister.
Perhaps I could refer to another publication which to anybody on the opposite side would be a very good book - ‘The Liars Memory Book’. This is a publication which allows people to brush up if their memory of convenience should fail. The fact is that there are inaccuracies in the Parliamentary Handbook dealing with the Prime Minister, and 1 think they should be corrected. I say to the House that they should be corrected. Why should people be misled? It is one thing to put this sort of material out in a pamphlet at the time of an electioneering campaign because you can hoodwink some of the people all of the time, but to put it into the official handbook of this Parliament is to my way of thinking quite wrong. There ought to be some procedure of the House whereby material appearing in the Parliamentary Handbook should be examined as to its authenticity or otherwise before it is printed and is used in this manner.
– It is supposed to be examined.
– I do not know who is the authority in the House to examine it or whether the word of those who are interviewed in regard to this handbook is accepted. One of the worst things a person can do is to mislead people about his service to his country.
– What was the mistake?
– He said that he originally joined a unit that was overseas at the time he joined the Army. I understand that all he did in the Army was a dockwalloping job somewhere, and he finished up as a glorified provost because he was a legal officer somewhere along the line. I might be incorrect in that but I will be the first to withdraw it if it should be drawn to my attention by anybody other than the Prime Minister that it is wrong.
– I do not necessarily want to buy into the argument put forward by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), but frankly I think it is possibly one of the lowest that I have heard. I think he was perhaps unaware of what he was saying. I do not necessarily carry a torch for the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or anybody else in this House, but what the honourable member has read out of his Parliamentary Handbook says nothing dishonourable about the Prime Minister. It seems to be the coming thing of the Australian Labor Party, today to cast scorn on every matter it can. Everybody knows that the Prime Minister before a certain operation suffered from considerable deafness and perhaps there were reasons for serving as he did.
I admit that the honourable member for Sturt has a very gallant war record. Fair enough. 1 do not think anybody takes that away from him. We know that he and some hundreds of thousands of others were in the Middle East. But if he wants to play this game as hard as he appears to want to play it, let us have a look at some other records in the Handbook in close detail to find out exactly who was where, at what time, and why. I think he may find a little less than unanimous support on his side of the House. Perhaps matters listed in the Parliamentary Handbook should be checked. An honourable member is asked what his war service was, and he may say that he was in the Citizen Military Force or the Australian Imperial Force. Many people were in certain fields because of health or for other reasons. Because the honourable member for Sturt was one of those who went overseas and served and rose to the rank of corporal, this does not mean that other people who tried to get away, who did everything possible to get away but were unable to get away because of some disability, are not equally as courageous as he.
If there is anything 1 am fed up with it is a braying ass that comes into this House and on every possible occasion suggests that he is the only one who made any sacrifice during the war and has the temerity to pour scorn on other people who perhaps tried equally as hard, did not succeed, but still served their country honourably. I think it is despicable for the honourable member to take this point. As I said, if he wants to proceed with it I am quite happy to go through the Parliamentary Handbook and list a few other records of honourable members on his side of the House who talk about war and about people on this side of the House who are younger than the honourable member for Sturt and I, and ask them why they did not do certain things. I can assure the honourable member that there would be members on his side who would not be happy if this sort of conduct was continued.
– I should like to deal tonight with the position around Alice Springs from the point of view of the voting in the last Legislative Council election and to draw some conclusions and make some suggestions about how the next Federal election ought to be run if it is to be run more fairly. Last Thursday an article by the Reverend Grierson, Associate Director of the Methodist Department of Christian Education in Victoria and Tasmania appeared in the ‘Age’. That article dealt with alleged shortcomings in the conduct of the 1971 ballot in the Stuart electorate during the Legislative Council elections. I was in that electorate, I was associated with the ballot and 1 would like to give some further points on it. One of the points made by the Reverend Grierson is that Aborigines and others in outlying districts, which are defined as any places more than 5 miles from the nearest polling booth, are automatically supplied with a ballot paper in elections in the Northern Territory. This is different from the position in ordinary electorates as we all know, where a person has to make special application for a ballot paper. The correspondence is, of course, in English and the form is extremely complex. As the Reverend Grierson puts it, it would make the heart of an educated Australian sink; for the uneducated Aborigine it is incomprehensible. Reverend Grierson said:
If the Aboriginal voter is on a station the postal votes may not be sent direct to him, but to the station owner, whose task it is to distribute the ballot paper to any Aborigine on his station registered to vote. Station owners in this case control the distribution of postal votes.
I think this is wrong. We have available statutory declarations from a number of Aborigines but an insufficient number to put in a protest on the particular poll in the Stuart electorate showing that the Aborigines who were registered did not receive ballot papers or that they were held up somewhere on the way. Whilst I am not necessarily saying that a station owner did not distribute ballot papers it certainly makes it possible for station owners to do so, whichever Party they may belong to. It is not compulsory for Aborigines to register and there is no systematic registration campaign carried out by electoral officers although funds are allocated for this express purpose. Last night the
Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) assured me privately that they would do so. I hope they will do so urgently and will not again give in to the Country Party who hope that people will not register. It is an offence at the present time for anyone else to canvass Aborigines to enrol as voters. I think this is wrong. What I personally object to is that there are alternative procedures.
It would not be difficult for the methods successfully employed with indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea to be adapted to Australian conditions. It is so easy to do this, to arrange for mobile polling booths to go around the stations and collect the votes from the people concerned. I do not know why the present complicated system of postal votes is used in the Stuart electorate, unless it is for the purpose of preventing Aborigines from voting. I think this is completely wrong. Pressure is also exerted on Aborigines on the stations. I have some evidence on this but I have not enough time tonight to disclose it because I want to mention another matter in regard to Alice Springs. But anybody who looks at the figures for places where there were polling booths and where there were official returning officers will see the facts. 1 do not wish to make any reflection on the returning officers. The facts will be clear from what I am saying. Where returning officers were present and the vast majority of people were Aboriginal voters we had the following results: at Hermannsburg we had 152 to 39 in favour of the Labor Party; at Papunya we had 82 to 22; at Santa Teresa we had 159 to 21. The votes were between 4 to 1 and nearly 8 to 1 in favour of the Labour Party in areas where the votes were collected by official returning officers appointed by this Government.
What happened when the postal votes were sent out and given to Country Party station owners to distribute? We got a complete reversal in the votes. We got votes of 221 to 83 in favour of the Country Party representative. This by itself is not proof that the ballot has been tampered with, but I certainly suggest it could be taken to be so. The editorial in the ‘Age’ of 25th February states:
If the practical disenfranchisement of many Territory Aborigines is a consequence of neglect and indifference, it is a disgrace. If it stems even to some degree from deliberate discrimination, it is a major political scandal. Whatever the reason, it is no longer tolerable.
I completely agree with that. Why do Aborigines when they get the chance vote for the Labor Party candidate?
– In a minute I will show you why they do. Let us have a look at Alice Springs. The Aboriginal infant mortality rate is over 200 per thousand children or about 10 times as high as the infant mortality rate for white children. The Legislative Council in the Northern Territory - not one of the most progressive organisations in this country - moved for a medical inquiry to be set up over a year ago but that board of inquiry has still not been appointed. The new Mount Gillen Hostel was opened on 5th February by the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), allegedly to help Aboriginal mothers to learn about hygiene and also to assist with adequate accommodation for Aboriginal children who are convalescing. I will ignore the fact that this was a donation to Sir Reginald Ansett by this Government’s taking over an old hostel which it was not possible any longer to use. When Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson opened the hostel on 5th February no Aboriginal leaders had been invited to attend although the whole point of this was to get the Aboriginal community involved. Not only the Aborigines in Alice Springs suffer from this. The Alice Springs hospital board has resigned because of complete frustration. I have discussed this matter with members of the hospital board, with medical superintendents, medical and other members of the hospital staff.
What is happening there? There is an establishment of 11 medical officers which is much too low. There are some 225 beds. Nobody on the establishment is a physician. There is even nobody who has any medical expertise. It is taken that the person who is a junior or senior resident medical officer - in other words a person who has only been out of university training for one or two years - can deal with any medical disease, no matter how difficult it is, in Alice Springs. There is no pathologist at the present time, only a technician. There is no radiologist. There is no surgeon. The
Alice Springs hospital depends on a surgeon supplied by the United States Pine Gap base, because when the Americans moved into Alice Springs they decided they could not put up with the sort of medical attention that was available to the other thousands of citizens in Alice Springs so they insisted on bringing out a surgeon. At the present time the surgeon for personal reasons has left Alice Springs for 2 or 3 months and there is now no surgeon in Alice Springs. Not only is there no physician but also there is no surgeon. There is no routine surgery performed. There is no anaesthetist in Alice Springs. The hospital has 225 beds. This is a shocking position. There are numerous cases of children who are extremely ill but there is only one paediatrician on the staff.
As the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has just entered the House may I mention one matter in passing although I may not have sufficient time to finish it in this debate. On Monday I appeared in a federal court for a person charged with failing to register. Whilst I was waiting, another case came on in regard to an Italian who has a wife and 4 children and who has been in this country for 51/2 years. This man was employed at a Tooheys brewery. When he was leaving the brewery he was found to have 4 cans of beer in his case. He was charged by departmental officers with evading excise. His home was searched and 4 bottles of liqueur which he had made to celebrate the birth of his last child were found. He lost his job and was penalised with a fine of $124, even though the magistrate did not want to impose the fine; however, it was pointed out that that was the minimum fine which could be imposed. May I suggest to the Minister that there may be better ways of employing members of the Department’s crime squad, or whatever you like to call it, than chasing some bloke who has pinched 4 cans of beer from Tooheys. The Minister repeatedly tells us that only about 10 per cent of the heroin, morphine, etc., that comes into this country is picked up.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (.1) and (2)-
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
It is assumed that the honourable member’s question relates to the number of families on low incomes who have enrolled in health insurance organisations and thereby received the support available under the Subsidised Health Benefits Plan. The following information relates to those persons who have registered specifically as low income families during the year ended 30th June 1971.
It should also be noted that a significant proportion of those enrolled in health insurance organisations under the Subsidised Health BenefitsPlan, by virtue of being in receipt of unemployment, sickness or special benefit from the Department of Social Services, could also be regarded as families on low incomes. It is not necessary for these persons to pay any health insurance contributions to obtain the assistance available under the Plan. For the year ended 30th June 1971, 82,593 such persons were registered with health insurance organisations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Council considered recent reports of teratogenic abnormalities in mice and rats following administration of large oral doses of the weedicide 2,4,5-T. This substance is included in Section III of the Recommended Tolerances for residues of Pesticides and Agricultural Chemicals in Foods as published at Appendix VI to the Report of the Sixty-eighth Session of Council. No residues have been detected and none is permitted in or upon food. Council considered that the scientific evidence available required verification because the work done did not specifically incriminate 2,4,5-T as a toxicological hazard to humans. Until this information is available Council recommended:
The relevant State authorities have been notified of this statement and I am informed that, arising out of the application of State legislation to chemicals used for agricultural, pastoral and horticultural purposes, 2,4,5-T on retail sale in Australia is labelled with safely directions.
In so far as the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory are concerned, the authorities responsible for control of catchment areas in respect of public water supplies have been informed of the National Health and Medical Research Council statement, with particular reference to that section of the statement relating to water contamination.
I am informed that, in the near future, the question of listing 2,4,5-T in the Uniform Poisons Schedules will be considered by the Poisons Schedules Sub-Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. If, arising out of consideration of this question, the Council recommends such listing, that recommendation will provide a basis for the imposition of controls over the sale of 2,4,5-T under State and Territory legislation.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The total payments made to or on behaf of their members by hospital benefits organisations during 1970-71 were:
The average amounts of hospital benefits paid in respect of the above claims were:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720301_reps_27_hor76/>.