27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament asembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person- languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all States, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care program to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient In general hospitals.
Ten per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for lowrental home units for pensioners.
Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That educational opportunities are provided by the Education Department and are available to children living in closer settled areas and that children living in isolated areas are being denied these educational opportunities due to the following circumstances:
The great distance these children have to travel to towns and cities where these schools are situated and the fact that the maximum travelling allowance is only 67 cents per day.
The parents of these children can no longer pay the many hundreds of dollars each year necessary to board their children in the towns and cities where the schools are situated.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will urgently consider granting the following, with no discrimination where children are schooled across State Borders.
$10 per school week for all children forced to live/board away from home to attend school. Annual review and no Means Test.
$400 per annum for supervisor of children having schooling at home.
A taxation concessional allowance of $800 p.a. for isolated children’s parents.
Finance for establishment of Government hostels/boarding schools in remote areas.
A subsidy of $1 for $2 for running costs of hostels.
Some aid for (i) Tertiary Students (ii) Cost of maintaining 2nd home to educate children.
A 7.5 cents per mile per vehicle allowance for parents of children taken to school or bus daily, weekly or monthly. Free travel warrants to school and return each term.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
Tothe Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That they have no objection to the Aboroginal Embassy being on the lawns outside Parliament House.
That they believe that the Aborigine, in common with ail other Australian citizens, have a right to assemble in any peaceful manner of their own choice.
And that they would object to any law that would make their being there illegal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government does not enact any law that would detract from or hinder the rights of the Aborigines to be there.
And further that the Government instructs its officers not to interfere with the Aborigines who are peacefully assembled outside Parliament House. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That they have no objection to the Aboriginal Embassy being on the lawns outside Parliament House.
That they believe that the Aborigine, in common with all other Australian citizens, have a right to assemble in any peaceful manner of their own choice.
And that they would object to any law that would make their being there illegal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government does not enact any law that would detract from or hinder the rights of the Aborigines to be there.
And further that the Government instructs its officers not to interfere with the Aborigines who are peacefully assembled outside Parliament House. 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 the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That they have no objection to the Aboriginal Embassy being on the lawns outside Parliament House.
That they believe that the Aborigine, in common with all other Australian citizens, have a right to assemble in any peaceful manner of their own choice.
And that they would object to any law that would make their being there illegal.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government does not enact any law that would detract from or binder the rights of the Aborigines to be there.
And further that the Government instructs its officers not to interfere with the Aborigines who are peacefully assembled outside Parliament House. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of government education services has established serious deficiencies in education, the most important areas being a severe shortage of teachers, inadequate accommodation, and, as a result, oversized classes.
That extra Federal finance is urgently required to save the government school system.
That while the needs of the government schools are being neglected, large amounts of public money is being given, in various and numerous grants, to private schools.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to make emergency Federal finance available to the States for State school education, and divert the large sums of public money being spent on private schools, to the government school system for which the government is truly responsible.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman will recall that the amendments to the industrial legislation foreshadowed by the Minister for Labour and National Service include provisions for a Commonwealth right of appeal in private agreements as well as arbitrated decisions. Will the Prime Minister insist that similar rights be preserved for the Commonwealth in arbiration with doctors? As he has often said that arbitration cannot work without sanctions, what penalties does he have in mind for breaches of decisions made by the medical arbitrator?
– Shortly my colleague, the Minister for Health, will be making a statement about this matter, and I am sure that the difficulties will be resolved then. If the honourable gentleman wishes to ask subsequent questions, he will be in a position to do so.
– I address my question to the Minister for National Development. Who is the constructing authority in relation to the Dartmouth Dam? When is construction due to be commenced? What is the assessed increased in cost since the present South Australian Government first turned down this scheme and reversed the decision of the Steele Hall Government?
– I have referred to this matter a number of times in the Parliament. We have not reached the stage of calling for tenders. The position at the present time is that all the States concerned - New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - have been given an indication by the Prime Minister in correspondence to the Premiers that the Commonwealth has agreed to the increased cost beyond the 10 per cent provided for in the escalation clause in the previous agreement. In other words the total cost has increased from a figure which I think was $57m to $64m since the original agreement was made. This was an increase of a little over II per cent. Because it was beyond the 10 per cent provided for in the escalation clause in the agreement, the matter had to be reconsidered by the governments concerned. This caused a problem in that it further delayed the commencement of the construction of this very important project on the River Murray system beyond the almost 2 years’ delay which had been caused by the refusal of the present Government of South Australia to proceed with the agreement which had been arranged by the Steele Hall Government.
Whilst I say that, we are happy to know now that the present South Australian Government has at last agreed to join the other governments concerned by legislating in the South Australian Parliament to proceed with the agreement in the terms that had been arranged by the former government. At the present time the River Murray Commission is examining the position and is doing some of the early planning. Some detail has yet to be finalised between all the governments, and we are trying to get this work done as quickly as possible. When that has been done a proclamation will be made by the 4 governments under the Acts in the various States and the Commonwealth, and at that point of time we will be able to call tenders for the work to proceed. I can give an assurance to the honourable member and the House that the Commission is endeavouring to do this as quickly as possible to prevent any further undue delay such as we have seen in the past.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Does he agree that injection of an arbitration process into the dispute between the Government and sections of the medical profession can prove meaningful only if both sides unequivocally agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision and in fact do accept it? Will the Government accept the arbitration decision? Have assurances yet been sought from the medical profession or the various sections of it to this effect?
– I can only repeat what the Prime Minister said earlier, namely, that the Minister for Health will be making a statement on this matter - I hope tonight - and that any questions that honourable members might have in relation to it should follow the making of that statement.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Having been forced by the doctors into referring to an arbitrator the questions of the fee which a doctor is entitled to receive for his work as it relates to payments by benefits funds under the national health scheme in general, will the Minister extend the same courtesy to the pharmaceutical industry?
– I shall be glad to refer the honourable gentleman’s question to the Minister for Health for a reply.
Mr JAMES KIBEL
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement by Mr James Kibel that if he told the true story regarding the negotiations with Chinese officials over the proposed visit of the former Minister for the Army to China the Government would be forced to resign? In view of these most serious charges by a respectable businessman, a member of the Liberal Party, an associate of the now Minister for External Territories and an official courier for the Government, will the Prime Minister use the forms of this House to enable the Parliament to ascertain the facts and clear the name of his Government?
– This article in the Sunday Australian’ is not the first of which one could perhaps say the kind of thing that I now have to say: Mr James Kibel has taken the trouble to telephone from New York to say that this article is incorrect. He has never used any of those words or anything like them and the article is untrue.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. The right honourable gentleman will be aware that certain people are campaigning for the changing of the design of the Australian national flag. Our flag, depicting the Union Jack and the Southern Cross, clearly illustrates that our nation was founded by British people in the southern hemisphere. The freedom enjoyed under it is undoubtedly the chief factor in attracting migrants to our shores. I ask that the Prime Minister do all in his power to maintain the present design of our flag with all its national significance.
– Naturally enough I have read of the efforts of some pople to try to get another design accepted by the Commonwealth Parliament for the Australian national flag. But those of us who have the good fortune to go to international gather ings overseas will, I am sure, come back with the opinion that the Australian flag is not only the most beautiful of all the flags that are there displayed but also it illustrates Australian history. Honourable members opposite are interjecting but the question concerns an important subject - the Australian flag and all that it stands for - and I believe that the Australian flag reflects Australian history and the spirit of this country. I am proud of it, wherever I happen to be. I believe that goes for all honourable members who sit behind me on this side of the House.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works whether the Minister for Works received a telegram last week from the Building Trades Association in Western Australia requesting that Commonwealth works be released immediately in Western Australia to relieve ‘the building trades’ unemployment situation. If so, what action does the Minister intend to take in the matter?
– I am not aware whether my colleague, the Minister for Works, has received such a telegram. 1 will have inquiries made and inform the honourable member directly.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to an announcement in today’s newspapers to the effect that the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, is proposing to the Government that it should amalgamate the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission and institute a wool acquisition scheme. I ask the Miniser Firstly, is this to be regarded as a prelude to a guaranteed price for wool for all time? Secondly has the Government yet received a report from the Randall Committee on the long term reorganisation of the wool industry? If this report has not been received, can the Minister say what are the terms of reference of the Committee, when he expects it to report and whether the Government proposes to table the report or at least to inform the Parliament fully of its contents so far as is relevant to any proposed legislation or administrative action? Would the Minister also bear in mind that some honourable members may be reluctant to give the Government a blank cheque as it were, without having full information and a report from a competent and independent tribunal, parallel to the Tariff Board, in regard to the subsidisation of wool or other primary industries?
– It is interesting to note that, in spite of a marked recession in prices paid for wool over the last few years, wool is still Australia’s principal export commodity. As our principal export commodity it has secured, not only for those engaged in its production but also for those engaged in other sectors of the Australian community, a measure of benefit which has contributed to the old saying that Australia has virtually grown up on the sheep’s back. The sheep, I am afraid, is bent and is no longer able to sustain the charges that have been levied against it for so long. It has been in recognition of this fact that the Government has been progressively over the last few years introducing a number of specific aid programmes designed to combat both the economic and social adversity which wool growers and the Australian community face as a result of the price decline. There is no need for me at question time to run over the catalogue, which includes rural reconstruction, the creation of the Australian Wool Commission and the operation of the price support scheme, but these programmes have been significant in once again getting the rural sector back into a state for some measure of optimism that there is a prospect for the future.
It is in those circumstances of adversity that the industry has been turning to ways in which it can economise on the handling and marketing of the clip. I understand that the Australian Wool Board has constituted a committee which is representative of the executives of the 2 principal national producer organisations, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, and that together the members of these executives through the committee are considering ways and means by which marketing change should and can be implemented. I understand one of the recommendations covers the continued separate existence of the Australian Wool Commission and the Australian Wool Board. There is to be a submission made to me, acting on behalf of the Government, on Friday. At that time the recommendations of that Committee will for the first time be received by the Government. In addition the Government, because of the complexities of the wool growing situation, has asked Sir Richard Randall, a distinguished civil servant and former head of the Treasury, together with other members of the civil service to pursue separate inquiries on behalf of the Government into ways and means by which we can in the long term perhaps provide help from the Government to the wool growers in their adversity. When the report to the Government from the industry and the report from Sir Richard Randall are received the Government will consider them and take whatever policy decision it considers advisable. I can assure the honourable member for Bradfield that whatever policy decision is made it will be in the presence and with the full knowledge of all honourable members in this chamber.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has studied the successful results of the South Australian Prices Commission which has been supported by his Liberal colleagues in that State? Does he agree with Mr Aubrey Jones, distinguished former chairman of the United Kingdom Prices and Incomes Board, that the mistake made in that country was to restrain incomes without having the structures to restrain prices? Does he still hold to the view that a prices justification tribunal should be established in Australia?
– I have read an immense amount of material about incomeprices policies throughout the world. Mr Aubrey Jones is not the only man who has spoken about them. I have studied those policies quite closely. I extend an invitation to the honourable member and to all honourable members to read an address I made to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia last year. I can provide a copy of it. The honourable member will see that I traversed all the problems ‘that relate to income-prices policies and I dealt in particular with 3 major issues. One is the coverage - that is, which incomes should be covered because there is a variety of incomes. Another relates to prices, because there is also a variety of commodities. Another is the duration of the application of the scheme. Is it to be a permanent feature of economic management or is it to be temporary?
The third point to be determined is the nature of the sanction. Will it lead to prosecution? Of course, I have in mind the undertaking given by the Prime Minister that a White Paper will be presented to the Parliament which will traverse the experiences of all overseas countries that have adopted income-prices policies. The purpose of that is to allow honourable members to be informed and to debate the issue. The honourable member also asked me whether I am still in favour of a prices justification scheme. I must say that I have heard this term used time and time again. I will make available to the honourable member a copy of another address that I made in which I said that there may be grounds for a prices notification scheme, which needed to be examined. There is a very big difference between notification and justification - a very big difference. The honourable gentleman would be wise in framing his questions to make sure that they are based soundly on facts.
– My question, which I address to the Prime Minister, concerns the timing of the holding of an election for the Senate in relation to the holding of an election for the House of Representatives. I ask the Prime Minister: Does the Government acknowledge that the present absence of coincidence in the holding of elections for the 2 Houses of Parliament is both vexing and expensive? If so, could the Government prepare a White Paper pointing to the difficulties and to the possibilities of resolving the position so that the objective of holding elections for the 2 Houses together would be met?
– We have a pretty good idea of the complexities and difficulties associated with arranging the elections for both Houses at the same time. Nonetheless, I will see that an in-depth study is carried out and I will discuss it with my colleagues as soon as I have seen the report.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been drawn to the inadequacy of services in Victoria for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering spinal injuries, particularly paraplegics and quadraplegics? These injuries occur largely as the result of road accidents. Does his Department play any part in the rehabilitation of sufferers from such injuries? If so, is his Department able to offer facilities which will cover these reported inadequacies?
– My Department does provide facilities - not the immediate medical facilities but the subsequent facilities, particularly for training and social integration. I am glad to tell the honourable member that the rehabilitation centre at Glen Waverley in Melbourne now is well advanced under construction and when it is opened - I will give the “honourable member the exact date of opening later today, if I may - I think we will be able to meet the present inadequacies in the services to which quite rightly he drew attention. However, the Government has made the requisite provision to amend those inadequacies.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Is it permissible for members of the public to draw up caravans and camp outside Parliament House?
– The answer to that question is no.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General about the contribution which a reduction in telephone and teleprinter charges would make to the accelerated development of cities outside the State capitals. The honourable gentleman will know that this subject has been a major element in reports by the New South Wales and Victorian committees on decentralisation, although not apparently in the report of the Commonwealth-State Officials Committee which was set up in 1964 and which does not contain a representative of bis Department. In particular, I have asked the honourable gentleman by what percentage the minimum charge for telephone calls would have to be increased if all calls within Australia were subject to the same charge, irrespective of distance, and he has answered that a study of this matter was being made by the Post Office. I ask him now when he expects this study to be completed and presented.
– I cannot provide a definite or even an approximate date when this report is likely to be made to me. This is not merely a question of adding together the charges for telephone calls, estimating what the total number of calls would be and dividing the charges by that number to get an average price of telephone calls. There must be associated with this factors which relate to increased capital expenditure. The telephone system in Australia has been developed on the basis of the variation of charge which, 1 think, everybody understands very well. Having regard to that, it means that there has not been the same necessity for channels to be provided for calls over longer distances as would have been essential if in fact these places had had a low call charge and, as a result, had a substantially increased number of calls being made. Without trying to give any precise estimate, I believe that it would cost $100m or perhaps $200m to alter the telephone system outside its present working situation to enable this function to be undertaken if it were decided that some approach to a common charge would be made throughout Australia. I do not think that this is a matter which can adequately be answered at question time because of the many factors involved in it.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. As I recall, the right honourable gentleman informed the House last August that he intended to refer to the Tariff Board the question of protection to the Australian film industry. Can he inform the House whether any terms of reference have as yet been drafted or sent to the Tariff Board on this matter?
– I believe that they have been drafted but I will check today in order not only to see what are the terms of reference but also to try to find out when the Board will submit its recommendation or its report to the Government.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to an article published at the weekend in the Brisbane Sunday Mail’ and entitled ‘Ambitious transit plan is lagging’, in which the Queensland State Transport Minister, Mr Knox, referred to the public transport needs of south east Queensland, and in particular of Brisbane, and said that no major development in urban transportation could be carried out by the State Government until the Commonwealth indicated what financial help it would give. He went on to say that the State Government was eager to get started but that so far the Commonwealth Government had not given any indication of what part it would play. I ask the Prime Minister: Has any specific request for financial assistance been received from the Queensland Government to enable it to carry out this work? If so, when was it received? If a request has been received, does the Prime Minister expect that an announcement regarding some special Federal financial assistance will be made before the Queensland State election, which is due to be held in May this year?
– I am not aware of any specific request having been received from the Queensland Government seeking financial help in respect of the specific matter raised by the honourable member. At meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council there have been discussions in general terms concerning the problem of financing railways and urban transport. The House will be aware that the Bureau of Transport Economics, which is a part of my Department, has been making a study of the problem concerning both the railways and urban transport. In this field as in any other field the making of financial grants to the States is a matter of policy and is not a proper matter to be dealt with at question time.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. I asked my question of the Prime Minister because I believed that if the Minister into whose field of interest this matter came did not know anything about it, at least the Prime Minister would be able to give me a definite answer. But now I am in the position of not knowing-
-Order! The honourable member will not continue to debate the matter. He has asked for my guidance. It has been the custom in this House over many years, if the Prime Minister has asked one of his Ministers to answer a question for him, for that procedure to be readily accepted by the House.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen newspaper reports and advertisements inserted by margarine interests in Victoria suggesting that table margarine would soon be in short supply in that State? If this is so, is it because of table margarine quotas or because vegetable oil producers can obtain higher prices for their products on the export market than margarine interests in Australia are prepared to pay?
– As I understand it, it is true that there have been advertisements circulating in Victoria which have suggested that one particular manufacturer’s margarine will be in short supply allegedly because of quota restraints. The oil seed producers have contacted me in the last few weeks. There is some concern in the industry - although it was not, to my knowledge, in the margarine sector of the industry - that because of the high prices prevailing overseas the very marked additional production of oil seed in Australia was being substantially sold for export instead of for the domestic consumers. In these circumstances the oil seed producers have asked that a ban be placed on the export of oil seed.
As I understand the position, the domestic consumers of oil manufactured from various oil seed crops have been in a position to negotiate commercial contracts with producers. I understand that in many instances the prices that they have been offering are below those prevailing on export markets, as a result of which there is a suggestion that some producers are selling on export markets rather than meeting their contractual obligations. If that should be so, it is a matter of recourse to the normal facilities available to the members of the community for the breach of any contractual arrangement. But the circumstances of supplying or not supplying any particular market is specifically the responsibility of the individual manufacturer or distributor. It is not a matter in which the Government would, could or should intervene. It is a device which in the past has been used by margarine producers to agitate to get those quotas which are imposed by State governments lifted.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the Government’s proclaimed concern for the observance of the law and in view of the fundamental importance of the Constitution in our democratic processes, will the right honourable gentleman act quickly, firstly, to have 18 to 20- year-old Western Australians enrolled for Federal elections under section 41 of the Constitution, and, secondly, to have a redistribution of House of Representatives electorates in Western Australia commenced immediately to give that State the additional seat to which it is entitled under section 24 of the Constitution?
– There is one part of this question which is within the jurisdiction of my colleagues, the Treasurer and the Minister for the Interior. To the best of my knowledge, the necessary certificate has not been given to permit the redistribution to take place. Secondly, as to the other point that is raised - that is, about the 18-year-olds - I think I can assure him that the law will not be changed in time to give 18-year-olds a vote at the next election.
– The Minister for Education and Science will be aware of pressures to increase educational expenditure, as from advocates of the Nationwide Survey of Educational Needs. Since the latest opportunity for that increase has been provided by the disbursement of funds at the February Premiers Conference, is he in a position to indicate what benefits have accrued to education?
-The honourable member will recall that legislation is now before the House concerning the special capital funds to be made available to the States for primary and secondary school building purposes. The States have all given assurances that these funds will be used specifically for school buildings. There is no legal requirement on them to do so but there is an expectation, and that virtual condition concerning those funds has been accepted by all the States. Whether it is because those particular funds were made available specifically for education I do not know, but I have found on a distribution of the funds provided to the States for works and housing programmes at the recent Premiers Conference, New South Wales, for example, has provided in addition $2m, or about 20 per cent of the total available to it, for education purposes. Victoria has provided about $2im, or 30 per cent, for education purposes. Tasmania, the honourable gentleman’s own State, has provided about $830,000, or 35 per cent.
It is interesting to note that South Australia which, as we know, has a Labor Administration has provided only $400,000 out of nearly $4im. That is about the second smallest allocation for educational purposes of any of the States. The other State, in which there has so far been a nil return, is Western Australia. It is my understanding that no funds will be provided by the Western Australian Government from the capital funds made available at the Premiers Conference for additional school buildings which allegedly is one of the important requirements, and in many areas I know it is. When I was in Western Australia 2 or 3 weeks ago I tried to find out from the State Minister-
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I realise that the Minister has gone to a lot of trouble to prepare this answer. It refers to legislation currently before the House. If I am correct, you, Mr Speaker, have always ruled that such questions cannot refer to legislation at present before the House.
– May I speak to the point of order?
– If there is legislation before the House, it does not refer to the distribution within a State of the funds made available to the State.
– That is the answer I would have probably given myself. The question is in order.
-The point of importance and significance, of course, is that in opposition the Australian Labor Party has one voice in relation to education and education performance but when it has some chance, some opportunity and some responsibility to put its affirmations into effect there is no performance.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question on the same subject as that on which the honourable member for Forrest asked a question of the Prime Minister. The honourable gentleman will remember that over 3 months ago I asked him whether the Chief Electoral Officer had yet prepared the certificates of population as required by the Representation Act before Western Australia can be given the additional electorate to which it is entitled and before any States can have electorates based on the current population. He will remember answering that the Chief Electoral Officer had not yet obtained the census figures of last June from the Commonwealth Statistician. As the Treasurer informed me by letter 5 or 6 weeks ago that the Statistician had advised the Chief Electoral Officer that the final census results are most unlikely to vary significantly from the preliminary results published last October, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the Chief Electoral Officer has yet prepared the certificates of population of the States and, if he has, when they will be tabled?
– The Acting Commonwealth Statistician’s advice to the Chief Electoral Officer on 7th December 1971 read, in part:
These figures were published on 25th October 1971 and may be subject to some revision when the final population totals become available about June 1972. Sufficient schedules have now been subjected to the preliminary check to indicate that any amendments to the total supplied therein are considered most unlikely to have any significant influence on the proportional distribution of the population between the States.
The Chief Electoral Officer, on that advice, felt that he could not issue a certificate unless he sought legal advice. We are currently seeking legal advice to ascertain whether it is possible for him to issue a certificate. I hope that that information will come to hand in the not too distant future.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to an appeal by the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Charles Cutler, which has been given wide publicity in rural New South Wales, for the Commonwealth to take part with the States in a co-ordinated national decentralisation programme? Has there been any specific request from any State Premier to the Commonwealth Government along these lines? Finally, exactly what stage has been reached in the Commonwealth-State interdepartmental inquiry into the decentralisation of industry and population?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is yes, I have seen a report of the statement made by the Deputy Premier of New South Wales. Secondly, we have received no official request from the New South Wales Government nor are we likely to do so. Thirdly, the joint Commonwealth-State report is nearing completion and I hope that it will shortly be presented to both the State and the Commonwealth governments so that we will be able to consider it. Whilst I am on my feet might I refer to the tabling yesterday by the honorable member for Reid of a letter relating to this problem. I have already spoken to the honourable member about this. There is a subsequent letter thatclears up this matter completely. I would like to table that letter but I would also wish to read out the second paragraph, which I think will be enlightening and very interesting to the House.
– Will the Prime Minister include the document in Hansard?
– Yes, I will include it in Hansard. It is closely connected with the letter that the honourable gentleman read and which was totally out of date. This letter came from the Acting Director of the Department of Decentralisation and Development in New South Wales. It reads:
In my view the revised Part A–
That is what we prepared - is a professionally written document which disposes of many of our earlier objections both as to style and substance.
– What is the latter part?
– I am about to read the latter part but I will also table the letter for the benefit of the honourable member to show how wrong he was in incorporating in Hansard the letter to which he referred yesterday. The Acting Director went on to draw a distinction between 2 parts of the statement. He. went on to say that he would like not so much a dissenting statement but a supplementary statement to be made. Having said that I table the letter for the benefit of the House..
– Will the Prime Minister have it incorporated in Hansard?
– Yes, I ask that it be incorporated.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Telephone: 27 2741, 2 0516 Mail Address: Box 4169, G.P.O., Sydney, N.S.W. 2001 Telegraphic Address: Dido Sydney 23rd February, 1972 Reference D4497
Dear Mr Munro,
The Commonwealth/State Officials’ Committees on Decentralisation
This is just a short note to let you have my initial impressions of the revised Part A of the draft Report received under cover of your letter 71/2837 of 11th February, 1972.
In my view the revised Part A is a professionally written document which disposes of many of our earlier objections both as to style and substance.
I find myself wondering, however, just how the revised Part A can be successfully married to the original Part B, to which we strongly objected, without substantially redrafting the latter?
Subject to these reservations I would like to think we could work towards a compromise in terms of which we tendered, on behalf of this State, not so much a dissenting statement but something more in the nature of a supplementary statement enlarging on certain aspects of the Report and embracing some of the more recent work we have been doing.
Yours sincerely, P. D. Day Acting Director
DrJ. F. CAIRNS- The Prime Minister would recall saying recently that Budget strategy was predicated onthe assumption that demand would grow and that assumption turned out to be incorrect. I ask him, especially in view of the claims by the Treasurer that wages rose so much, whet her he can say why the Budget assumption that demand would grow turned out to be incorrect? Can the honourable gentleman say why people, especially those workers whose wages are supposed to have increased so much, did not spend as much as the Budget assumed they would? Has any study been made of this question? Why was such a fundamental assumption of the Budget found to be wrong?
– The first 2 questions asked by the honourable gentleman are obviously inconsistent and there is no relationship between them. As to the reasons why demand did not grow in the way we expected I think that most people would probably come to one or two common views. I think that some of the reasons can be summarised by me in this way. I have no doubt at all that industrial lawlessness has been ons of the reasons why people have decided to save rather than to spend in a normal fashion. I have no doubt, too, that because of the very substantial rises that have occurred in disposable incomes the people who have moved into a new bracket have found that it takes time for them to adjust themselves to their new spending positions and consequently there is a development of new spending patterns. A third reason - and I think that this is an extraordinary fact - is that despite the fact that disposable incomes have risen very substantially and personal savings have risen substantially too, people have decided that under inflationary conditions it would be far better for them to save their money rather than to spend it. But I go back to what I said originally. There can be many reasons given by many different people as to why this should happen but 1 would place industrial lawlessness amongst the primary causes of people saving rather than spending.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer noted the response in a number of newspapers yesterday to an address he gave in Sydney on Monday night? The Press emphasised the consideration that was being given to an apparent change in the income tax laws whereby individual income earners in a family would have their incomes combined for tax purposes so that they would be taxed on a family unit basis. I ask the Treasurer whether the course of action is in fact proposed by the Government?
– I have seen the Press reports and I will provide the honourable gentleman with a copy of a statement I issued last night in which I said that I had no such proposal before me. Also in that statement I quoted the relevant parts of the address that I gave. When one reads the relevant part it will be perfectly clear that there was no basis upon which such an assumption could be made. Indeed, the way in which it arose was that I was illustrating to an expert body, the Taxpayers Association of Australia at its annual meeting, the point that when any suggestion is made about a particular tax measure it is not sufficient to look at only one consequence or one objective but that it is necessary to look at each consequence to see whether it conflicts with other consequences. The curious thing, of course, is that such opposition as I have read was based on the very points which I had myself identified as problems in that same speech. It was illustrative and illustrative only. It is very easy to be wise after the event, and I am wiser now. If I had realised that this furore would arise I would have used a different illustration, but such are the hazards of politics.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question arising out of the letter he has tabled from the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development to the Chairman of the CommonwealthState Officials’ Commitee on Decentralisation dated 23rd February. Nearly 6 months ago the right honourable gentleman told me that he believed the Government would soon be receiving a report from the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation and that he would then ensure that it was quickly considered by the Government. I ask him: Has this report been considered by the Government? If not, when does he expect that it will be considered by the Government?
– I have already answered this question. If the honourable gentleman looks at Hansard he will get the complete reply.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I will not delay the House. Yesterday I incorporated in Hansard a letter that was written to the Chairman of the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation, Prime Minister’s Department, Canberra, on 25th October last year. The opening paragraph stated:
On behalf of New South Wales I regret that 1 must dissociate myself from the Report of the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee.
I will not read any more of the letter, Mr Speaker. It is included in Hansard on pages 593 to 596. You will find that it is a very clear letter indicating that New South Wales dissociated itself from the official report.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of the Agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of Japan for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. This agreement was signed in Canberra on 21st February 1972. Mr Speaker, I seek the leave of the House to make a statement about the Agreement which I have just tabled.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This Agreement represents the culmination of efforts over the past 2 years to provide a basis for greater co-operation between Australia and Japan in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. I am sure it will be readily agreed that Australia and Japan have important common interests in this field. Japan has a need for uranium resources for its expanding nuclear power industry and this is matched by our wish to develop the export potential of Australia’s uranium deposits. The Agreement, which will enter into force later this year after it has been considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, will facilitate co-operation at both the governmental and the industry level. It is in the nature of an enabling or umbrella agreement and will clear the way, notably through the provisions on safeguards procedures, for private enterprise to follow up particular agreements for the export of uranium. In addition the Agreement provides a formal basis to facilitate future collaboration in specific areas of research and commercial ventures.
Finally, I should emphasise that the agreement is a reflection of matters going beyond commercial and scientific considerations. It is a further tangible sign of the increasingly intimate relations between Australia and Japan. The Government places great importance on developing close co-operation with Japan and I hope that this mutually beneficial agreement will help to promote and strengthen our existing ties. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Kevin Cairns) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) has tabled the text of an agreement for co-operation on the peaceful uses of atomic energy recently concluded with Japan. This is a governmenttogovernment agreement somewhat similar to the other government-to-government agreements with the United States of America and Canada and agreements which our Atomic Energy Commission has effected with counterpart organisations in the United Kingdom and France.
As far as Australia is concerned, an important feature of the agreement is that it opens the way to export our uranium to Japan within our policy that such exports will be used only for peaceful purposes, this to be verified by application of an international safeguards system. Further, we expect to obtain benefit from the interchange of technical information which the agreement facilitates. Nuclear power is very important to Japan, a country which not only lacks indigenous fossil fuels but is also subject to the risk of environmental pollution attendant upon a densely populated and highly industrialised State. Its plans for installation of nuclear power stations envisage installation of 60,000 MW by 1985, and 220,000 MW by the year 2000. Such a programme will require significant quantities of uranium, about 400,000 tons of U308 cumulative to the end of the century.
While a large part of the Japanese requirements for the near future are already covered by existing contracts with suppliers in other countries, the prospects are that Australian producers will be able to obtain a reasonable share of the market in later years. The agreement will facilitate their entry into this important market. The atomic energy industry in Japan is rapidly moving towards the export of nuclear power station equipment. Having started its programme with technology acquired from other countries, Japan is now starting to produce designs and technical processes based on its own research and development. It is expected that it will have much to offer us in the way of information of use for our own future nuclear power programme.
The safeguards called for in the agreement will be applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency and negotiations on the details, involving tri-lateral agreement between the Agency, Australia and Japan, are now nearing completion. As indicated by my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the agreement is a framework within which separate agreements can be made to cover a wide range of atomic energy projects and activities.It therefore creates the opportunity to develop with Japan to our mutual benefit the same close co-operation in the atomic energy field as already exists in other areas.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government’s Employment Training Schemes and the Government’s failure generally to deal with the problems of redundancy.
I call uponthose 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.)
– It is not often that we get a chanceto examine schemes of the Liberal-Country Party Government. This is because it is so unusual for it actually to do anything. The Liberal Party philosophy being what it is, to leave people and events to be over-run by blind market forces, it is rare for any proposals to be presented which intervene and try to help people. The employment training schemes have given us a rare opportunity to look at a Liberal-Country Party Government in practice and what we have seen in this case is a complete failure. I intend to speak mostly about the employment retraining scheme for workers displaced by technological change. This scheme can now be seen for what it really is, a king-sized confidence trick. As the Opposition has pointed out on a number of occasions, there is a need for a lot of attention to be given to the problems of re-education for workers made redundant, but this present so-called scheme of the Government is nothing but a hollow gesture. It is a total failure and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) knows it. For the benefit of those who are not already aware of the fact, I point out that I have received the astounding information from the Minister for Labour and National Service that a total of 2 people throughout Australia are receiving help under this employment re-training scheme and, furthermore, that a further 2 people have been approved for training assistance in the near future. Surely this must be the greatest fraud ever inflicted on the working men and women of Australia.
When the Minister for Labour and National Service introduced this scheme last year we could have been pardoned for believing that the Government was sympathetic to the problems of workers facing redundancy and that the Government would see them right with their problems. We could have been pardoned for being rather apprehensive, however, when we saw that the appropriation for the whole financial year was to be only $50,000. But I do not think that even the worst pessimist would ever have dreamed that as at a couple of weeks ago there would have been only 2 people receiving assistance under the scheme. What a fraud. What has happened, of course, is that the Government has so defined the meaning of technological change that most people requiring help are ineligible under the scheme. Certainly there are people in Australia who need help but unfortunately the Government has so restricted the definition of those who should get help that most people really requiring help are being excluded from the scheme.
I referred in this Parliament in the last Budget session to particular problems in the vehicle building industry. Apparently the car manufacturers have made a decision to reduce the frequency of vehicle design from 2-yearly inervals to 5-yearly intervals. The effect of this has been to reduce the need for certain tradesmen within the industry, tradesmen such as pattern makers and tool makers. I would have thought that these men would have benefited from re-training. I would have thought also that they would have come within the definition of those displaced by technological change; yet these men are not eligible. The car companies made a decision about new models which led to retrenchments. But the Government says that this is not technological change. If this is not technological change, what is? The important point is: Why draw such a fine distinction in framing the definition? Men have lost their jobs and they need assistance. Why not help them? It is just complete cynicism to exclude these people from the scheme. I raised this last year in the Parliament and in reply the Minister said:
What in fact happened in South Australia, as the honourable gentleman is well aware, is that the companies concerned took management decisions which were well within their prerogative to take.
We can hear him saying it; he is a master of the bon mot. He continued:
These decisions related to forward development programmes, not to current production schedules.
What a depressing response from the Minister. Here we are dealing with a very great human problem, of men with greatly reduced security of employment, and the Minister speaks of the situation in the language of the debating club. When we were debating this matter last year the- Minister also said that the matter would be studied. He said he would advise me of any action that would be taken. I am still waiting on advice. Let there be no mistake; there are great human problems here. Many tradesmen have lost their jobs and have been given jobs on the production line in the motor vehicle industry which means a reduction in pay of some $25 to $30 a week. When I made a statement on this matter a few weeks ago I mentioned the case of a Polish-born man who had gone from tradesman’s wages down to $49.50 a week. This is what men on the production line get. But his family budget was predicated on an income of tradesman’s wages. So when his pay was reduced he could not meet his commitments and he had to sell his house. There must be many such cases. Of course, in the meantime the situation in the car industry has further deteriorated. This is due to Government economic policy and not the car manufacturers, so surely the Government would feel a special responsibility to help these people. But, no, the Government’s magnanimity has extended to providing help to 2 people with the promise of help to 2 more.
This is what the Minister said in his reply. He said:
Instead ot being concerned that so few have sought re-training, instead of being deplored, it should be a source of satisfaction that technological change has not been the cause of unemployment in Australia to the extent reported in overseas countries.
What does this mean? It sounds as though I should be going to unemployed people in my electorate and saying: ‘Cheer up. You may be unemployed or you may have dropped in income but at least it is not because of technological change’. What a ridiculous position. The Minister knows full well that overseas countries have fully operative schemes. It is simply not feasible that only 4 people in Australia need retraining. The Minister gave figures in his Press statement a couple of weeks ago suggesting that fewer than ± per cent of people had been displaced by technological change. Even if it had been only i per cent, that represents 20,000 workers in Australia. It is complete humbug to say that we should be pleased that so few people are receiving help under the scheme. I know the Minister is not really pleased about it; if he were he would be boasting about it.
Honourable members should have seen how I got on trying to get the figures for the people who were being helped under the scheme. It was like trying to draw teeth. I was told that I could not get the figures in the first place because the figures were being processed. Just imagine that. There are 2 people involved and the figures are being processed. We have no cause to be pleased with the fact that there are only 2 people receiving help under this scheme. What we really need is for the whole scheme to be re-examined and expanded. The Minister no doubt will say that many of the men who have been displaced have found placement in other forms of employment. I have no doubt that to some extent that is true. He will also say that in certain cases employers have done the re-training. And I know that that is partly true. Chrysler Australia Limited, which has a plant in my electorate, has re-trained non-tradesmen who are now doing tradesmen’s work. However, this does not negate the fact that there are many instances of men who were receiving tradesman’s pay being put on the production line or out of work altogether. They are very much worse off and are excluded from this scheme because of the deliberate cynical policy of this Government. I do not want it to be said that I am being entirely destructive in my criticism and I would like to make some suggestions about what should be done to improve the scheme.
The first thing, of course, is that something has to be done about eligibility under the scheme. We have to re-define ‘technological change’ so that all these people, such as those I have mentioned in the car industry, will be eligible for help. We should be providing help to anybody who needs re-training, not just to people who have been made redundant by technogical change. What about cases of mergers? Surely people who have been displaced by mergers ought to be eligible, as should the people who are displaced by, say, an alteration in tariff. What about if there are changes in consumer taste? This will put workers out of a job. Surely workers affected should be eligible for re-training. What about when the consumer market becomes saturated - and this might happen sooner than we think - when people get sick of getting a bunch of goodies in exchange for working at an alienating, depressing job for 40 hours a week. So the first thing to be done is that eligibility under the scheme must be altered. The second thing is that the allowance that is being offered must be increased. The maximum amount offered under this scheme is $46.20 a week. Some might argue that this is enough, that it is a lot more than the dole. But it is still not very much and it is much less than most of the retrenched tradesmen were previously receiving. It is not much of an inducement, unless severance pay has been arranged, but I understand that that is still in the air. The allowance must be increased. If a person is expected to undertake a retraining scheme for several months he should not be expected to receive only $46.20 a week. It has to be increased. I am rather attracted to the scheme which obtains in the United Kingdom. A levy is placed on employers to pay for technological change. The money raised by the levy is paid to those employers who are prepared to retrain the workers.
Another point is that the period of retraining must be altered. A person eligible for retraining receives that retraining for a period of 12 months. Surely thai is not nearly long enough. My friend the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) will discuss in more detail the rural retraining scheme. Recently, I was asked by the parent of a lad who was applying for help under the scheme: ‘What on earth can he learn in 12 months?’ What indeed? No limit should be placed on the period of retraining. What is to be lost? It is not as if the community will lose money. The scheme will pay. Cost benefit analyses have established pretty well that rehabilitation and retraining schemes actually pay. They repay manyfold the community’s investment in them. President Johnson in his Budget message of January 1968 referred to vocational rehabilitation programmes.
This study indicated that the increase in lifetime incomes of participants is many times the rehabilitation cost, confirming previous judgments that this programme merits high priority. 1 am sure that those comments are equally relevant to the matter we are now discussing. Furthermore, something else needs to be done to the scheme. A better method is required of notifying people who are eligible for help. When the scheme was brought out the Department notified employers and the trade unions and left it at that. I would like to see done what 1 am sure the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) would probably do in the employment business which he runs. I understand that it is a family business. He would go out and find the people who are to be affected by redundancy and see what he could do for them. I hope that the Government will see that similar steps are taken under this scheme - that the Department will actively seek the people who will be displaced, and ask each individual: What can we do to help you?’ A big load is to be taken on by the Department soon as redundancy affects waterside workers and I hope that steps will be taken in that way.
Last week I discussed this matter in my electorate and I was told: ‘We heard about this scheme a year ago but we have not heard any more about it since’. The scheme is not being adequately advertised. The Government and the Department must go out and seek as far as possible the people who are affected. Time is catching up with me and I will not be able to cover all the aspects I wished to cover. A number of general aspects are associated with the redundancy question.
In many ways the 35-hour week is a sensitive issue because sooner or later we might get to a stage at which there are just not enough jobs; there will be too many people for the number of jobs available. The only answer will be a snorter working week. I am not saying that that is the answer to the present situation, but sooner or later we may have to face that possibility. In this regard farmers have a perfectly legitimate interest to defend. Their representatives say that a shorter working week may increase costs to farmers. This may be so, but we have to consider the opposite side of the coin. If we do not have a shorter working week we may have people out of work altogether. That possibility has to be weighed against the possibility of increased costs to another section of the community. 1 had hoped to discuss a number of aspects of redundancy, but time is running out. I say to the Minister that if he remains ossified in his conservative, traditional thinking, events will overtake the Australian workers. As far as the employment retraining scheme is concerned, events have already overtaken them. The cynicism of the Government in this matter is completely contemptible. The scheme requires radical upgrading and the Government’s approach to redundancy must be brought up to the 20th century. It is not just technology which is changing. All society is changing, and changing rapidly. We can either discard the victims of change or we can do something to help them. If the Liberal Government will not help them it should resign and give way to a government that will.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 think it is indicative of the importance that the Opposition places on this motion that in the first place it was not moved by a member of the Opposition front bench. In the second place, I think there are only 9 members of the Opposition in the chamber to hear their leading speaker on the motion. (Quorum formed). I am not surprised at the Opposition’s concern that the weaknesses of the argument of the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) will be exposed, and that they have therefore called for a quorum to give me less time to expose them. The honourable member for Kingston referred mainly to the technological change scheme. The only total failure involved here is in the honourable member’s inability to understand the scheme itself and, not surprisingly, to understand the broader context of the Australian economy and the part that retraining can play in it. The honourable member is clearly unaware of the training opportunities which have been provided by this Government and I intend to inform him of them.
The employment schemes made available by the Government are varied but the honourable member for Kingston referred to only one of them. They are: The widow pensioners training scheme; the national service vocational training scheme; the employment training scheme for women restricted from employment by domestic responsibilities; the employment training scheme for Aborigines; the employment training scheme for persons displaced by technological change; and the rural reconstruction employment training scheme to which the honourable member made passing reference. It is clear that the Government has progressively introduced a series of retraining schemes and that a totally misleading interpretation has been given today of their scope and effectiveness.
My aim therefore will be to give the facts, because the Government recognises the difficulties imposed by the need to adapt our work force to changing circumstances and has taken action to deal with them. I would like first to refer to the technological change programme, which was the main theme of the honourable member’s speech. From the remarks of the honourable member for Kingston, I formed a doubt that he has studied the bases on which the scheme was introduced. He made some passing references to it but I do not think that he has understood the bases of the scheme. A massive survey of industry was undertaken by the Department of Labour and National Service covering 2,700 firms and a work force of over 500,000. The percentage of the work force affected by retrenchment due to technological change in fact was less than i per cent or, to be exact, 0.4 per cent of the total number in this very representative sample. Over two-thirds of those who were displaced found jobs of equal or better status in the same firms and 59 per cent of the firms involved in this large survey reported that they provided training within their own organisations for workers who had been displaced by technological change.
So, let us get this problem into perspective. The training scheme was introduced with the endorsement of and after discussion with the National Labour Advisory Council which, of course, includes union and employer representatives. In turn, an advisory committee was established, again with employer and union representatives. This committee last met only a few weeks ago - I would like the honourable member for Kingston to take particular note of this - and it reported to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) that there was no need for concern because few people had taken advantage of the retraining opportunities offered. However, it is examining how and in what direction the scope of the scheme could be expanded. I suggest that these comments by a committee which includes representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are in marked contrast to the rather intemperate language used by the honourable member for Kingston. This scheme is an excellent example of foresight. Instead of waiting until a need was acute and reacting to the situation, the Government looked ahead and established the scheme on a precautionary basis. I should like here to take issue with the honourable member for Kingston who said that it should not be a matter for pride that so few people are taking advantage of this scheme. I think that this is a remarkably good sign that not only the Government but also individual firms have looked ahead. I think it is of great importance that firms are taking steps to train their own work force as new skills become required. I welcome the fact that the demand on the scheme so far has been very moderate.
I should like to turn for a moment to the rural retraining scheme because that also was given passing reference by the honourable member for Kingston. It is an extraordinary and ironical situation to hear the problems of rural reconstruction being discussed by Opposition members, none of whom have practical knowledge of the problems involved. Admittedly, the matter of public importance having been raised for discussion, this situation had to occur because there are no members opposite with first hand practical knowledge of the problems involved in rural industries. I think the Australian electors should be reminded of this: The Party which puts itself forward as the alternative government of Australia has in this House not one member with practical knowledge in this area. How on earth could such a Party know much about the current problems in rural industries except in an academic, second hand sort of way? This has been demonstrated time and time again in this House and was demonstrated today by the way the honourable member for Kingston glossed over this point.
The problems involved in the rural industries are human, every bit as much as they arc economic and this the Opposition clearly has failed to grasp. It appeared from the statement issued some time ago by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy), who I understand is to follow me in this debate, that the success or otherwise of the scheme is to be measured by the number of people taking part in it. This exhibits a lamentable lack of understanding of the attitude of the farming community. A decision to leave the business of farming is not just like a decision to choose another job because, in many cases, it is a decision which will affect the whole family and, in most cases the whole way of life to which it has been accustomed. An irrevocable decision of this kind is not a thing which we would expect to be made in a hurry.
I regret that, owing id the action of the Opposition, I have so little time to canvass these issues. I have no doubt that that will be done most capably by speakers who will follow me. However, I think it is clear that the Government has provided the opportunity for retraining. It cannot direct people to enter training, nor should it entice them to do so if they prefer to reestablish themselves in the work force without using the training facilities that have been provided by the Government or the training facilities that have been made available by private enterprise. The Government has done its part in a broad spectrum of activities and it is up to the individual himself - and it is the individual to whom the Government gives prominence - to decide how he will run his life.
– All countries with which we like to compare ourselves have now come to realise that technological developments in industry call for massive readjustments in labour needs. A country that ignores these needs is a country that will deprive itself of the higher productivity that technological development can provide. The entire workforce needs to be trained to meet the demands of modern technology and then used where individual contributions will be most valuable. For years now, senior officers of the Department of Labour and National Service have warned the Government that in the field of occupational training, Australia is lagging quite seriously behind the Europeans. In a paper on vocational training which he delivered to the Technical Teachers’ Association as recently as January last year, Mr Brian Tregillis, Assistant Secretary of the Department said:
In effect training for industry must comprehend the whole skilled workforce; it must mean equipping individuals wilh the vocational skills needed to work as operatives, as technicians, for new classes of clerical and technical sales work, as technologists, as supervisors and managers, etc., as well as craftsmen.
Mr Tregillis went on to emphasise the importance of supervision as an essential element in production and complained that a recent survey had disclosed that few of the supervisors in the industry under study had any special training for deploying the resources they were controlling. Most of them had simply been upgraded from the operative level.
On the subject of tertiary vocational education Mr Tregillis compared the small amount now spent in this area with the much larger sums being spent by the Commonwealth and State governments on general tertiary education. He drew attention to many other areas that should have caused the Government deep concern, but the only reaction from the Government was to announce a plan that has resulted in the training of 2 workers in 7 months, and to transfer Mr Tregillis, the most highly qualified training authority in the Department, from the section of the Department responsible for ascertaining and meeting the needs of the dynamic period of technological change to another section altogether.
Even more signficantly however, I have just learned that about a year ago the Department recommended to the Government that it should establish a special section on productivity and training. This would have enabled us at least to start to move towards the British example where this aspect of industry is regarded with such importance that the United Kingdom Government has renamed its department the Department of Employment and Productivity. But our Government has rejected this recommendation and continues to avoid any determined approach to the problems and opportunities of technological change and it now seeks to put the blame onto the Public Service Board. One result of this is the failure of the Government’s employment training scheme for persons displaced by technological change. Seven months after the start of the scheme only 2 people are undergoing training. When this was revealed a couple of weeks ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) dismissed it by saying that the effects of technological change on people’s employment had been minimal at this stage and that this explained the small number undergoing training.
This is sheer nonsense. Last month’s employment figures, although revealing a sharp decline in the number of unfilled jobs, nonetheless showed that there are 42,860 unfilled vacancies at a time when the total number of registered unemployed stands at 130,233. Lack of proper training is the only thing that compels 42,860 Australian men and women to remain unemployed. And yet, only 2 out of the 130,000 who are unemployed are given the opportunity they need to enter the Australian workforce. Does the Minister seriously suggest that the majority of the 130,233 who are now registered for employment prefer the miserable $17 a week unemployment sustenance to the opportunity of training for the 42,860 unfilled jobs that are still available? Does his own statement last week that only 4 out of 600 applicants for specialist training scholarships were successful not prove the falsity of his suggestion?
The Minister has also said that a survey of 2,700 establishments had shown that persons retrenched because of technological change were in fact less than a half of one per cent of their total employment. In absolute terms this probably means several thousand of the whole work force have been displaced. But do officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service have the right to encourage other registrants for employment to apply for training under the scheme? Of course not! They are not permitted to do so because of the severe restrictions on the scheme. Persons declared redundant by company mergers, changes in market conditions, rationalisation, ‘and those retrenched from organisations because of the indirect effects of technological change elsewhere in the economy’ are by definition excluded from the scheme altogether.
So far I have not mentioned the basic weakness of the Government’s training scheme. This is its failure to understand that the majority of those affected by technological change are not those who are put off, but those who are not put on. All of this makes a mockery of the Government’s constant calls for an increase in productivity before wages can rise. How can Australia ever increase its rate of productivity while modern technology is held in check through shortage of skilled labour? How will employers ever meet their needs for skilled labour while we have a Government which closes its eyes to the facts of industrial needs?
By limiting training courses to one year with one year’s extension, the Government is acting as though it is setting out delibarately to ensure that most of the unfilled vacancies will remain unfilled. We need more skilled operatives as well as more technicians and technologists. We need better trained managers and supervisors. And we need them urgently. How will we ever match the growing efficiency of our overseas competitors while we have a Government that is so indolent and incompetent as the one that now straddles the Government benches? For 22 years it has allowed events to pass it by.
Where are the pilot training projects such as are now operating in the United States? What have we done to examine the feasibility of following the growing European practice of modular training? We do not even know the areas in which special attention is needed because we have no concept of the unemployment structure of the age and status breakdown of unemployed adults. Where is our equivalent of the annual report of the President of the United States including his report on manpower requirement resources, utilisation and training? In January of every year since 1962 the President has been required by a Bill of Congress to transmit his report to the legislature so that the nation may take stock of what is called its human capital.
We have no active manpower policy such as in Sweden where sociologists, industrial psychologists and a whole range of specialists are quickly moved into regions suffering manpower problems so that steps can be taken to restore the health of ailing industries or, if need be, shift people to other areas. I wish I had time to quote extracts from the excellent publication recently produced by the Swedish Institute on the Swedish labour market. It indicates that the Swedish training scheme is now capable of enrolling 100,000 trainees or 3 per cent of the whole Swedish labour force. I repeat: This Government has no labour policy. It has used the Department of Labour and National Service for spying on trade unions and unionists instead of heeding the advice of its senior officers on the need to give greater emphasis to meeting the training needs of modern technology. Increased productivity cannot be achieved by action from below. It must come from initiative and action from above, and that initiative must begin at the level of government. I now seek the leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the sub-section entitled Technological Change and Related Issues’ in the official policy of the Australian Labor Party.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND RELATED ISSUES
A growing feature of our society is the introduction of automation and technological change and its merger of businesses. Employees must be granted a fair share in the economic and social benefits resulting from this. Real wages and salary, incomes must be raised to provide the appropriate demand for the increasing supply of goods and services resulting from automated processes.
Moreover, there may result unnecessary hardship to employees and a grave loss of skills to the community.
It is the responsibility of society to ensure that there is adequate notice of changes, that there is, where possible, absorption of employees affected so that losses to them may be minimised and that there is proper and adequate planning for and retraining of employees who become redundant.
The effect on employees will vary, but those with specialised skills and those of mature age who are made redundant are likely to be most affected.
The following principles will be adopted:
Adequate notice of changes likely to cause redundancy, and notice of retrenchment must be given, and there must be joint consultation between the parties affected.
Employees rendered redundant will be entitled to payment of pro rata long service leave and all accumulated superannuation or pension fund benefits arising from employer and employee contributions, except where alternate employment is provided in which case such benefits should be portable.
Severance pay will be given to workers dismissed because of these changes - the amount of the pay will be based on a number of weeks pay in respect to each year of service.
Employees who because of age and length of service are not able to be retrained to be retained in employment until normal retiring age unless satisfactory arrangements are made for payment of superannuation benefits as if normal retirement age had been reached and if necessary supplementary, assistance including travelling expenses to be provided by the employer and/or Government for the period until normal retiring age is reached.
Assistance to be given by the employer and a Government body to employees to obtain alternative employment.
Compensation for travelling expenses and/or loss of equity in their homes suffered by dismissed employees who have to transfer to other localities.
Schemes of training and retraining (including adult apprenticeship) within the industry or otherwise outside the industry with the assistance of the employers by agreement with all the unions concerned to equip employees whose skills or age would prevent them from obtaining other suitable employment, to occupy other positions within the industry or, in the cases of redundancy, to obtain employment outside the industry. There should be no limitation on appropriate training and retraining.
Make-up pay by the last employer where retrenched employees in career industries with an appropriate length of service or with long service fail to secure new positions at the rate of pay that they would have enjoyed if retained in their first employment.
Appropriate extension of the Technological Change Section of the Department of Labor to enable it to undertake research and studies into these and other matters of concern to the unions and workers likely, to be affected by technological change. ti) Superannuation deeds to give retrenched employees full entitlement to the amounts standing to their credit (with appropriate interest thereon).
– I thank the House for its courtesy. I conclude by commenting on the way in which the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) began his speech. He began by sniping at the Opposition for allowing a backbencher to open its case, but all he did by drawing attention to it was to highlight the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) has demonstrated his own lack of interest in this important subject by asking his apprentice to lead in the debate on behalf of the Government. The only speaker of any note on the Government side who will follow in this debate is the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes), who is indeed a speaker of note. We on this side of the chamber regard him as such, but he is not so regarded by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). So although I have the highest possible admiration for the honourable member’s ability, the fact that he is speaking in this debate must be taken by the House as meaning that it will be the speech of a member who does not enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister. So everything that he says can be dismissed as his own personal view which does not have the support of anybody but himself.
– I pass over the last remarks of my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), and I compliment him on a perfect reading of a speech that he made on a previous occasion.
– I shall make it again, but I have not made it before.
– I see. It was a perfect reading of a speech not prepared for this occasion. The raising of this matter of public importance is a tactical exercise by 2 of the young lions of the Australian Labor Party who are trying to flex their presently puny political muscles by bringing on what they are pleased to describe as a matter of public importance. The origin of this little exercise deserves to be drawn to the notice of the House, and may I briefly refer to it. This exercise by the. honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) - the 2 young lions - started with 2 grossly intemperate Press statements issued by some curious coincidence on successive days. I should imagine, from the wording of the Press statements, that each of the honourable members, realising his complete inadequacy to draft a Press statement for himself, employed the same incompetent script writer because the phraseology in each Press statement bears a haunting resemblance to the other.
What are we talking about, or what are the honourable member for Kingston and the honourable member for Bendigo talking about? Of course, we have not heard the honourable member for Bendigo take part in the debate. He will follow me. I can only imagine that his decision to participate in this debate today stems from a desperate attempt to gather together the tattered remnants of a parliamentary reputation that he lost virtually beyond retrieval last week when, in his contribution - if one could call it such - to the censure debate concerning the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), he made one of the most pitiful and pitifully inadequate speeches that it has been my lot to sit through in 9 years in this House. We are talking about an attack by these 2 young lions, who are trying to flex their rather short claws, on the Government’s employment training scheme. So far honourable members opposite, have condescended to speak in this debate about only 2 training schemes: The rural reconstruction training scheme, to which the honourable member for Kingston - this is pardonable because he is a city member - made some passing reference, and the reconstruction training scheme for persons displaced by technological change to which he devoted passingly a little more attention.
Both the honourable members, with a fine unconcern for the facts - the facts by which they do not want to be confused - that is obvious - omitted to make any reference to the full range of employment training schemes that the Government has undertaken in the last year or so. The first was the widow pensioners training scheme run by the Department of Social Services the second was the national service vocational training scheme; the third was the employment training scheme for women restricted from employment by domestic responsibilities; the fourth was the employment training scheme for Aborigines; the fifth - this is one that was mentioned - was the employment training scheme, for persons displaced by technological change; and the sixth was the rural reconstruction employment training scheme. Not even I, and I am sure in their charity no other members of this House, would impute to either of the honourable members who have raised this matter of public importance - the honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Kingston - such monumental incompetence as to assume against them that they are ignorant of the. other 4 training schemes which seem to have engaged no part of their attention.
Perhaps I do them too much honour, but I will give them credit for being aware of the existence of these 4 other training schemes. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), who is interjecting, does not like what I am saying. He does not like what I am saying because it happens to be hurting. For the honourable member for Sturt to accuse someone of not saying anything is the height of good humour. He has spent 2i years in this place saying nothing at all. All he has done is to interject from the sidelines like a - I was going to say ‘yah°0’. but that would be unparliamentary. What I want to examine is why the honourable members who are leading this rather curious and puny attack on the Government have made no reference to the 4 other training schemes of which they must be taken to be aware. The reason, of course, is that, knowing of the existence and the operation of these training schemes, they can find no ground whatsoever on which to criticise them. Therefore they have concentrated on making a meretricious attack, which can be proved and has been proved by my friend the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Street) to be quite wrong.
Let us look at the Government’s record in relation to the widow pensioners training scheme. It was started in September 1968. Since then, as a result of the scheme, 1,700 widow pensioners have been enabled to enter gainful employment. At this time 1,500 widows are receiving training under the scheme. The 4 schemes which I just mentioned - the widow pensioners training scheme, the national service vocational training scheme, the employment training scheme for women restricted from employment by domestic responsibilities and the employment training scheme for Aborigines - stand in this way at the present time: They have been available for over 12 months and each has been effective in assisting a significant number of people. Over 17,547 people have been offered assistance under these schemes since they began. Those schemes can hardly be described as failures. As I understand it, neither my friend the honourable member for Kingston nor the honourable member for Bendigo would go so far as or would have the extreme hardihood to describe them as failures. What does this discussion come down to?
The honourable member for Kingston has seen fit to occupy - ‘waste’ may be a better word - the time of the House by seeking to criticise a scheme, namely, a scheme for persons displaced by technological change. The precise details of that scheme were endorsed and approved by the National Labour Advisory Committee and were therefore endorsed and approved by a very distinguished member of his own Party - Mr Harold Souter, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I almost forbear from saying it, but honourable members opposite are wont to suggest that from time to time there might be a little dissention in the ranks of the Government. But here again we see a sort of spastic mental disarticulation inside the Labor Party. A scheme which received the approval in all its fine details of a most senior member of the ACTU - indeed, its Secretary - is criticised today by the honourable member for Kingston on grounds that bear no relation to the evident objects and purposes of the scheme.
There is no single problem of redundancy. The scheme that was announced last year by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) for the assistance of persons displaced by technological change was widely publicised - it could not have been given wider publicity - so as to attract the notice of people who might want to avail themselves of it. As my friend the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service has said - it is a very significant truth - the fact that this scheme has not been so much availed of as the honourable member for Kingston quite illogically suggested it should have been, is a tribute to the fact that the problem of redundancy due (o technological change in this community is, happily, not as great as it was feared it might be. It should be borne in mind that although only $50,000 has been appropriated so far to this scheme, as the honourable member for Kingston said, it is a precautionary scheme, as the Minister said when introducing it and announcing its details. It is very proper that there should be a precautionary scheme. It is a matter of extreme good fortune and it is a matter of congratulation to the employers in the community that the need for it has not been as great as was feared.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As one of the young lions who has been accused of the horrible thing of doing his duty as a member of the Opposition, I can only deplore the attack made by the toothless tiger who has just resumed his seat - the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes). In particular I deplore the intemperate blast against the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) just because, I suppose, he did not happen to go to the same law school. I think that the performance was most indecorous. I would that I had my glasses that I might remove them and put them on again. The honourable member’s argument had no facts whatsoever. He said nothing. He and the previous speaker for t’:e Government, the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Street), made reference to some other retraining schemes. The Opposition did not intend to discuss these today. However, seeing that they have been raised, f would ask the honourable member for Berowra and other honourable members to look particularly at the widow pensioners training scheme, for example.
A figure was used to lie. The honourable member quoted that such and such a number of widows had been retrained. But let us look at what the reality is. I did not intend to bring this matter up. I have just put a question on notice about it. I had also put a question on notice about the training scheme for married women. But let us look at these schemes now that they have been raised. We find that in 1970-71 there were 90,000 class A and class B widows in Australia. The Government received applications for training from 3,574, or 4 per cent. The number of widows who completed their training was 869. That is to say, of all those 90,000 widows in Australia who have been forced to live on the miserable dole that this Government gives them, only one per cent completed the retraining course. And this is the scheme honourable members opposite are supposed to be so proud of. They must be joking.
There is also a rehabilitation scheme being run by the Commonwealth Depart ment of Social Services, and 1 shall ask a question about that very shortly, too. Honourable members might care to look at the figures at the back of the report of the Department of Social Services. In 1970-71, 30,625 people were referred for rehabilitation. Only 1,660 were accepted. It is incredible how appallingly bad the facilities for rehabilitation in Australia are. Five per cent of all those people referred were actually retrained. Of the 12,367 invalids who were referred for rehabilitation 457 were accepted. It is the same crude, insensitive, brutal materialism that characterises the Liberal Party in every sing’e one of its social welfare policies. I want to refer solely to the retraining scheme for farmers and farm employees. This scheme is an abortion. It has already disastrously miscarried. It is a cynical and fraudulent sop tossed to farmers. It is aimed at conveying the pretence that the Government, which is phasing farmers off the land through its rural reconstruction scheme, is concerned for their wellbeing.
Like so many Government schemes, this one was never meant to succeed. It is the classic product of the crude materialism of the Liberal Party and the apathy of the Australian Country Party, which are prepared to leave farmers and their families at the mercy of cruel economic forces. The scheme has collapsed. Only 24 of the nation’s farmers and farm workers are being given retraining. These are the figures provided by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) himself in his Press release in mid February replying to my charge that less than 30 were being retrained. On the Minister’s figures, only 153 had even made an application. I repeat that only 24 were approved.
The Minister may conjure up rhetorical flourishes and pay lip service to what he refers to as ‘the tremendous human dilemma faced by farmers’ but this will not disguise the failure of this misbegotten scheme. It is a feeble excuse to claim, as the Minister did, that the scheme has collapsed on the ground that it has been operating for only 4 to 5 months. In reality, the Government had 2 years in which the rural reconstruction scheme in toto was being mooted, debated and postponed; it had the 5 months since that scheme was passed by the Parliament in May. Whatever else it has been doing, the Government has not used this 2i year period to produce an attractive and effective retraining scheme.
The size of this failure cannot be played down. In mid-February only 24 farmers and workers had been approved for retraining. There are about 250,000 farmers and farm managers in Australia. I am not taking into account in that figure the number of farm employees. At present only one in every 10,000 farmers is being retrained; that is, 0.01 per cent. The retraining scheme is a mockery and an insult to fanners and the farming community. The Government has claimed that its reconstruction scheme as a whole is aimed at dealing with a large scale social and economic problem. Some people have estimated that up t3 100,000 farmers could be phased out under this scheme in the years to come. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has stated publicly that up to 14,000 wool growers alone are to be phased out. Few of them are likely to seek or to obtain any protection for their future livelihoods, judging by the appalling record of the retraining scheme to date. I would also point out that, since the previous census, small towns and farming areas in Australia have declined in population. They have lost a total of 132,486 people - farmers, seasonal workers and others. None of those people have been helped to prepare for a new livelihood. The reality of the situation is that those people have been dumped by the Government.
The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) has already shown how the retraining scheme for people displaced by technological change has been hamstrung by the limitations imposed on the types of persons who are eligible to participate in it. The same position applies with the rural retraining scheme. The only farmers eligible are those who have been found unviable by a State reconstruction board. They have been either rejected in applying for debt reconstruction assistance or had their properties acquired from them by another farmer who wants to build up his property. A man has virtually to be forced off his property to qualify. Thus only those who have failed within the definition of the Commonwealth Government are eligible. By December of last year only a mere 2,088 of the farmers throughout Australia were eligible. That is the number of farmers who applied unsuccessfully for debt reconstruction aid. Yet less than 1 per cent of that number has been given retraining.
Part of the failure of the scheme must be attributed to its restrictiveness. Only farmers who apply unsuccessfully for debt reconstruction are eligible. Those who do not apply successfully are still forced to go through the motions of applying in order to be rejected. Likewise a worker has to be employed by a farmer for 1 year in order to be eligible. That squeezes out council and all other country employees and seasonal workers. Indeed, the employee has to persuade his farmer-employer to apply for debt reconstruction aid and then be rejected before the employee is eligible. This is not just red tape; it is suggestive of a kind of medieval feudalism with its implications that the worker is chained to his employer.
Equally repulsive is what the scheme offers. The offer of a maximum full time course in a training institution runs into the defect that probably only about one per cent of the courses offered by technical colleges are of 1 year’s duration or less. Diversity and freedom of choice are platitudes to this Government but they are obviously not to be offered to the farmer nor has there been any significant consultation between the Government and educational or training institutions to operate the scheme effectively. That is tragic as country institutions, such as the Bendigo Institute of Technology in my electorate, with their range of courses, highly qualified staff and proximity to farming areas are ideally placed to plan and carry out courses suited to the needs of farmers in the region.
Few farmers or employees would be attracted by the offer of a minimum wage to undertake training. The offer of the payment of $46.20 a week to a man who has a wife and 2 children means that he would be receiving $4 below the poverty line of $50 in Melbourne. A man with a wife and 4 children would be $19 below the poverty line of $60 and a man with a wife and 6 children would be almost $30 below the poverty line of $75. It so happens that $46.20 a week is an income earned by only one in every 10,000 adult male employees in Australia. The total number of adult males earning that income is 3,100. One of the major obstacles preventing a desperate farmer from applying for retraining is the responsibility of educating his family. I stress that point. The income offered would only force many children out of school. The Government should instead provide allowances and scholarships to all student children of farmers who need them to enable them to complete their education to their limits. That would remove a major cause of anxiety which prevents farmers from accepting this scheme.
It is a half-baked scheme. Even the document in which the Minister announced it last year was characterised by its dullness and lack of imagination and sensitivity. Nothing better shows just how half-baked it is than the fact that it was borrowed from the retraining and rehabilitation scheme for national servicemen. The Government has claimed that the retraining scheme is an integral part of the whole reconstruction scheme, and so it is. All the other parts have failed and this part has failed also. It is surpassed in its futility only by the offer of a $1,000 loan to help farmers get off their properties. They are not taking advantage of that offer either. This scheme has betrayed those employees and others in rural communities who have been forced out of their traditional occupations and it has failed the farmers who are not unviable. While agriculture is becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated the scheme does nothing in the way of providing extension services, especially in farm management courses, to retrain farmers to cope with one of the basic challenges of modern agriculture. Australia needs a single coherent and integrated system of retraining for the community as a whole. All we have at the present time is a series of unco-ordinated, divided and disunited schemes which have been introduced to cater for individual groups. Until we have a single training scheme in the community as a whole we will continue to squander the future of thousands of people in this country, including those in the farming community.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The knowledge of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) of the problems of Australia’s rural industries is evident from the speech he has just concluded. He has no appreciation of just what is the position in country areas. It has been the deliberate policy of members of the Opposition to paint the picture as black as possible. We have had many calamity howlers and prophets of doom on the position in our rural areas. They have all painted a picture that is unfair and untrue. Our rural industries have just turned the corner and are on their way back. As one moves around the rural electorate one finds that confidence and morale is returning. There is an appreciation that the rural industries are on the way back, despite the attempts by all the prophets of doom to paint the picture as black as possible.
It is ridiculous to say that the rural training scheme is not being made use of. It is repeatedly well advertised in every newspaper in the land. The scheme provides many opportunities for retraining. It is obvious from the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo that he does not understand the position in the rural areas. Not all children of farmers want to go back onto the land. Many children of farmers are from the time they are at school training themselves for some other job. But those who remain on the land and work on it do not want to leave it. They have confidence in their occupation or profession and want to stay there. The Government has done a tremendous amount to assist those people who want to stay on the land. Over $44m has been spent on rural reconstruction and farm build-up. Many of these young men are taking advantage of this assistance. As I said earlier, not every farmer’s son wants to go back on the land. For that matter not every coalminer’s son wants to be a coalminer, not every butcher’s son wants to be a butcher and not every teacher’s son wants to be a teacher. God forbid that there would be another teacher, or for that matter, politician like the one who has just concluded his speech. That would be too much to put up with.
There has been a definite returning of confidence in our rural areas. The honourable member for Bendigo showed a complete lack of knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution under which our Federal and State, system operates. To say that this scheme should have been operating months ago shows a complete lack of appreciation of the fact that it had to be approved by the States and no machinery had been set up, except perhaps in New South Wales, to deal with it. The amount of money which is to be made available to New South Wales has been already almost wholly committed. The Government is conducting another review of the situation and will consider the position in all its aspects - retraining in rural reconstruction, debt reconstruction and farm build-up.
The plain, cold hard fact of life is that the Opposition has a vested interest in creating a depression atmosphere. I believe that there are honourable members on the other side of the House - fortunately not too many of them, but those who represent the extreme left - who throw their hats in the air every time there is another 1,000 people unemployed. Those honourable members on the other side of the House who are weeping tears over the problems of the rural community are the very ones who are creating the only real problem we have, that is, the problem of costs. The farmer has to use every device of every known development to improve his production but cost is his real problem. Yet we have people in this House advocating a 35-hour working week and an increase in wages without an increase in productivity, all of which puts up costs in primary industries which cannot pass them on. Yet these people criticise in this House a free training scheme that is available to farmers to enable those who want to be retrained to go into other fields.
I have been around my own electorate fairly frequently lately and I have talked to every shire and municipal clerk in that electorate. There is not much unemployment available - there is some - and it is a tragic thing when we have unemployed people who want to work. I get more criticism in my electorate because there are so many no-hopers getting jobs than I do because there are other people who are in need of relief. There is not a lot of unemployment around the rural areas at the present time except perhaps away out in the far west and this has been created largely by an economic situation which has been out of the control of this Government and has been aggravated by rising costs which have tended to make it impossible for the farmer who cannot pass on these costs as is done in secondary industry.
I deprecate the attempt to build an atmosphere of depression and to try to build up a story that this country is in a major recession. This is just not right. Our overseas balance of payments has never been higher. Our bank deposits have never been higher. There is a relatively small amount of unemployment. I have already said that anybody who has a heart at all would be sorry for the genuine man who is unemployed but our rate of unemployment is still the lowest in the civilised world. This country has tremendous opportunity for development to go ahead to prosperity again. But there is one lesson that Australians have to learn. They have to learn that there is no substitute for a reasonable day’s work. Nobody in this country has to work excessively hard. Anybody who does a reasonable day’s work in this country earns his money. Unfortunately a great many are not doing just that and this has put up our costs.
The Government has provided tremendous support for our rural industries so we do not have a great need for retraining in this field. There are not so many young people in the country looking for retraining. The revival of the wool industry is a story that ought to be printed on the front page of every newspaper. The Australian Wool Commission has been a tremendous success but do we ever read headlines about it? There are plenty of headlines in regard to criticism of the Wool Commission. The Commission has sold almost 30 per cent of its stocks and it has made a very substantial profit on everything it has sold. The Commission had a support price of 36c a lb but the price is now 40c. It is a story of success, tenacity, determination and guts by the people who represent the rural people who are still important in this country. The wool industry is on the way back again. The wheat industry is sound today. Quotas do not really mean anything to most growers. Despite the attack on quotas by the so-called representatives of the rural industries who sit on the other side of this House the wheat industry is sound today. Quotas were brought in by the wheat industry itself. The meat industry is sound. There is a tremendous market development for our coarse grains and oil seeds. Today our produce is being flown all over the world. Of course, young farmers are not going to leave the industry. They are not going to be frightened out of the industry by the prophets of doom on the other side of this House.
– I rise to order. I have been most tolerant and I think the House has been more than tolerant to this honourable member. Mr Deputy Speaker, why do you not tell him to speak to the matter which is before the House?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Honourable members opposite are very tender when we hit them where it hurts. The previous speaker in this debate, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy), is one of those who helped to create a situation that has been of great detriment to the rural industries. To revert to one other very important scheme, the training scheme for widow pensioners, the honourable member for Bendigo completely misconstrued this scheme. He quoted the total number of widows in this country. Many widows have independent means but of the 5,500 widow pensioners, 3,500 have not only commenced but have completed their training. There are 1,000 different jobs for which they can be trained. I have in my hand a large list of the jobs. While the women are being trained they are being paid. They are also supplied with the materials and equipment. 1 have in my hand 2 sheets of paper setting out positions, professional and skilled, for which widows are being retrained. It is a complete misconstruction of the real situation to criticise this scheme which has been eminently successful. The retraining scheme has done a tremendous job. If people do not take advantage of it then unlike the Australian Labor Party we do not dragoon them into it. The Labor Party would dragoon people into it. The late Ben Chifley said: ‘If we have not got enough workers on the Snowy we will send them up there.’ That is what the Opposition would do with a retraining scheme. They would put people into a field on which the Opposition decided. I think it has been a frivolous waste of time to criticise in this House a scheme introduced by this Government which is already showing itself to be successful.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
The estimated cost of the proposed work is Si. 3m. The proposal referred to the Committee involves the construction of a sewerage reticulation system, pumping stations and treatment lagoons. The area to be served covers the whole of the present town of Katherine and the subdivisional development planned for the future. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal as referred. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– As a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I point out that the Committee diligently examined all aspects of the proposed works as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would doubtless be aware. I feel happy that the Committee has recommended the proposed work the expenditure for which is $1.3m. The estimated cost of the Katherine sewerage system may sound a lot but when one measures it against military hardware such as Fill bombers and rocket firing destroyers it warms one’s heart to think that something is being done more directly for the Australian people. Some of the witnesses who gave evidence during the Committee hearings were concerned about the possible pollution of the Katherine River but the Committee after carefully obtaining evidence to the contrary was satisfied that there was no possibility cf the Katherine River being polluted by the proposed works.
Katherine, as we all know, is part of our great country. The terrain is flat. About 3 feet or 4 feet under the surface the soil is very clayey which makes it difficult for the ordinary septic tanks which are at present installed in the town to dispose of the effluent, particularly during the wet season. I know that people in my own home region have had problems with their septic tanks during the recent heavy rains on the east coast and this brought to my mind the problems that the people of Katherine must have during the wet season. The population of Katherine is increasing. It is expected that by 1975 the population will be in the vicinity of 4,000 people. The population of Katherine between 1954 and 1961 was 555 to 606 excluding Aborigines. So as the town grows I think the Parliament has to be more concerned with the needs of the people in this distant part of Australia. I am very happy to have been a party to investigating this matter, listening to the evidence and finding out at first hand the urgent need for this scheme to be implemented at Katherine. I wholeheartedly support the recommendation to the Parliament.
– I also rise to support this proposal. I commend the members of the Public Works Committee, including yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who put so much time and conscientious thought into the provision of these services for people in such places as Katherine. I commend the Committee on the thought that it gave to the non-pollution of the Katherine River, which in itself is an outstanding feature, and the thought that went into the planning of this scheme. During the dry season a series of ponds is to be used to evaporate the effluent. It will be only during the wet season, when the river very often is running some 70 feet above its diy season level, that the effluent will be placed in the river, and then, I gather, only after 30 days and 30 nights in the ponds.
The scheme will also prevent present pollution of the river by the hospital, which discharges treated effluent into the river, and the high school, which has an evaporative trench from which there probably could be seepage into the river. The Committee also looked at the discharge of effluent from the abattoir. The treatment works have been placed over half a mile away, and a considerable amount of the effluent from the abattoir, after being treated, will go through this scheme. I commend the Government on proceeding with this $1.3m scheme for Katherine. It has been called for for some years, but now that is to be put through I notice that work could be commenced some time this year. It is to be hoped that only one more wet season will be endured in Katherine before the effluent is being treated by this sewerage plant.
– I also would like to say how pleased I am that this recommendation has come before the Parliament. It is pleasing to see that the parliamentarians from the various parties can make common cause in regard to a matter of such importance to the people of Katherine. As my colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) said, this is a project to provide a water-borne sewerage system in Katherine at a cost of $1.3m for a population of 6,000 people by 1980. I think the population figure underlines the importance of the work in that there were 2,500 people in Katherine in 1970. There has been a very high rate of growth in the town.
What is underlined, of course, is the recognition of the special problems of that region. At the present time there is this unsatisfactory method of providing septic tanks which have a capacity of about 400 gallons, with a 40-foot trench. But the clay subsoil is such that there is a limited absorption capacity, and as a result of this very considerable expense is involved in carting the effluent away to the treatment dump area. In fact we were told that in the 2 months from March to April last year there were 883 pump-outs for that limited population at a cost of from $3.50 to $5 per service weekly. This is a very great financial burden on families. Notwithstanding all that, the present set-up still does not render an efficient service.
Some evidence was given about the incidence of hepatitis in Katherine. It is interesting to note that hepatitis is capable of affecting European children by way of the germ penetrating the sole of the foot, but Aboriginal children, their feet being tougher, are affected by the germ going up through the toes. But the incidence is incredibly high. In 1970-71 Katherine had 45 notifiable cases of hepatitis, whereas in the same period in Darwin there were 108 cases. This disparity seems considerable, but when it is realised that the population of Darwin is 15 times higher than the population of Katherine and that the incidence of hepatitis is not much more than double, it can be seen that there is a very special problem in that area. The service becomes all the more significant when we take into account the special needs of the abattoir, the school, the hospital, the motels and the theatre. Just to demonstrate the very urgent need for sewerage in Katherine, the theatre has to provide sullage trenches in front of the screen. Honourable members can imagine what kind of effect that could have on the patrons of a theatre on a hot night in the Northern Territory.
The honourable member for Hunter has mentioned the concern which witnesses before the Committee expressed about the possibility of sewerage contaminating the Katherine River. Of course the Public Works Committee, and this Parliament too, to a very considerable degree now operates on this new dimension which never used to be much of a factor - the environment factor. Whenever we go away on a Public Works Committee inquiry now we meet people who take these things into account in a very serious way. In Katherine one sees a great stretch of river, one realises that it floods from time to time, and one might think that it is of little significance; but people contend that it is a matter of very great importance to them, as custodians - that is the role they cast themselves in - to protect the heritage of Australia in this regard.
As has been mentioned, a series of lagoons has been designed to ensure that there will not be severe contaminatory effects. One thing about Katherine is that it is in an area administered by the Commonwealth Government. There are comparable areas in many other parts of Australia which have similar needs. My col leagues from the north of Queensland, say, and indeed from the north of New South Wales, particularly the hot parts, would probably envy the consideration that is being extended to the people of Katherine, a consideration which we do not begrudge at all. But I mention as a mere aside that we can probably draw from this some encouragement for the view that the Commonwealth ought to have regard to this matter on an Australia-wide basis and, ds a matter of priority, should underwrite the needs of the States in the provision of sewerage services. I commend the report to honourable members and hope that the work, which I understand is to be completed in the not too distant future, will proceed satisfactorily.
– 1 too support the motion. There is no doubt that my colleagues on the Public Works Committee have covered a great deal of ‘he ground that needed to be covered. I appreciate the provision of this very modern amenity in the Northern Territory at Katherine. As has been demonstrated, it is very sorely needed even at the present time, and with the growth of population the need would have become even greater and more important. The matter of health is concerning ‘his Government very greatly. I agree wilh the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) that the Commonwealth has given a great deal of assistance to many parts of the Northern Territory. As members of the Public Works Committee know, we have examined and reported on many of the problems in the Northern Territory. One feature of the Committee’s inquiry in the Northern Territory was that most local people seemed to think that they were the only persons with problems of this type. However during the course of taking evidence they were advised tha’ similar problems confront people in other areas of Australia and that those areas also must receive attention. The people of the Northern Territory can feel that they are being shown every reasonable consideration by the Government in its approach to their problems. The Public Works Committee gives consideration in every reference to it concerning the Northern Territory to promoting the growth and development of that area. We all want to see the Northern Territory develop and grow.
It gives me much pleasure to support the motion. My colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has always been most anxious to promote the progress and development of the Northern Territory and I noted today the pleasure with which he greeted this motion. The Government is doing as much as it can to promote the Northern Territory not only in the interests of Territorians but also in the interests of the nation. Far too often in this Parliament honourable members seem concerned only with the number of people who will benefit from a proposal and the great advantages of decentralisation are often forgotten. In the broad sense the development of the Northern Territory has resulted in transforming what was once regarded as the dead heart of Australia into something of which all Australians can be justly proud. I hope that the Government will continue to promote the growth and development of that region even though that area may seem to be benefiting more than some other parts of Australia where the need is equally great. I support the motion and wish the people of the Northern Territory continued progress and development.
– As Minister representing the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) and as the person responsible for presenting these reports I feel it is appropriate from time to time that I should place on record the appreciation of this House to all members of the Public Works Committee for the work they do. When one reads and understands a report like the one we are now considering, one realises bow dedicated are members from both sides of the House who, in the spare time they have between sittings, go to out of the way places like Katherine and devote an enormous amount of their time to this important duty. I thought I should place on record the appreciation of the House for their services.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal referred to the Committee involves the construction of stage 1 of a complex of buildings for servicing Canberra hospitals from a central source, and comprises: (i) A central linen service for 1,500 beds; (ii) a central sterilising service for 1,500 beds; (iii) the necessary supporting engineering facilities, staff amenities and transport facilities to cater for 3,000 beds. Sufficient adjacent land in the Crace industrial area has been reserved for facilities involved in stage 2 of the project which at this time have yet to be fully investigated to ascertain whether they are both feasible and economic. The estimated cost of the proposed stage 1 work is $4.865m.
In reporting favourably on this proposal the Committee also recommended that: (A) the Department of Works should take any steps possible which will accelerate completion of the work in this reference; and (B) the Department of Health should examine the means of maintaining a satisfactory linen and sterilising service with the existing resources in the period prior to completion.
Every effort will be made to carry out the recommendation affecting the Department of Works and this will be taken into consideration during the further detailed development of the proposal. The Department of Health has already taken steps to ensure an adequate supply of linen and sterilising supplies from existing sources. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I support the motion to proceed with this work which involves a central hospital services complex to be provided on a 20-acre site in the suburb of Crace which is some 4 miles north of the Civic Centre of Canberra, at a cost of $4. 865m. I understand that the first stage of the proposal is to be completed by the first half of 1975. This matter is worth ventilating from the standpoint of the people of the Austraiian
Capital Territory. I would not regard it as an adequate service to those people to have the formal moving of this motion without some minimal ventilation being given it because the proposal is unique if not unprecedented. It relates to developmental proposals for the hospital spectrum of the Australian Capital Territory. I understand that the Canberra Hospital has about 600 permanent beds and about 150 temporary beds. The Woden hospital, which is being built in 2 stages, will provide 380 beds in the early part of 1973 and an additional 220 beds in late 1974. There is a longer term proposal for 2 other hospitals. The first, at Belconnen, will be provided by about 1986, which is a fair way off, and will have 800 beds. Another hospital to be built at Tuggeranong will provide 300 beds by 1984 and an additional 600 beds by 1989. By 1980 a total of 1.800 hospital beds will be available in the Australian Capital Territory. This indicates the demand for services that will be generated.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has referred to the first stage of the work as comprising the provision of a central linen service for 1,500 beds, a central sterilising service for 1,500 beds and engineering facilities, staff amenities and facilities to cater for 3,000 beds. There has not been much controversy., if any, concerning the central linen service. However, all of us should have regard for the fact that the proposal represents a unique breakthrough in the manner in which it is designed for the Australian Capital Territory. However, there has been controversy about the proposal for a central sterilising service, h being contended by some witnesses - indeed, by official representatives of sections of the medical profession - that this system will not work satisfactorily. I believe we should have some regard for the points made by those representatives. The Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Australian Medical Association took the view that instrument sterilisation facilities should be provided at the Canberra Hospital. It was diametrically opposed to the suggestion of a central sterilising service and commenced its evidence by saying that at no stage had there been any discussion with or advice sought from representatives of the medical profession. As the Public Works Committee pro- ceeded with its hearing this contention was qualified but I, for one, took the view that there had not been sufficient discussion or interchange of views with the medical profession on this matter. It seemed apparent that processes could have been pursued whereby the anxieties of representatives of this organisation might have been placated or otherwise allayed. The Australian Medical Association takes the view that this proposal will be a costly process, and that when we start taking instruments away from a hospital to a central sterilisation plant we will have to purchase additional instruments. The Association mentioned that some of the instruments are extremely expensive, particularly neurosurgical, ophthalmic, orthopaedic and renal surgical instruments. The Association contended that other instruments should not be moved at all because of their delicate nature, and mentioned ophthalmic and optical instruments especially.
The concept appeals to me very considerably, and it is interesting to note that Australia may be involving itself with a first in this proposal. At a hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 2nd November 1971 I asked Mr Parker, a representative of the Department of Works, the following question:
The ultimate complex is probably unprecedented as far as Australia is concerned. Whether it is or not, could you say if you used any other example to guide you in your planning work?
Mr Parker replied:
No, Mr Johnson, not an example in which I could say you could go and see it. The development of this type of industrial services complex is being talked about throughout the world. In England (hey have advanced about as far as we have in the presentation today, inasmuch that there are a number of complexes in which the laundry and CSD are functioning. The food service, which is mentioned in Health’s document, is experimental in England. In Sweden they are serving hospitals from central food areas and in Australia there are experiments going on and the Hospitals Commission in South Australia has a functioning food centre.
Of course, we have hospitals being serviced from centralised food areas in Australia but the other matters are, I believe, relatively unprecedented. The second phase is quite exciting in that it includes the extension of the central linen service and the extension of the central sterilisation service, both to cater for 3,000 hospital beds. It also includes central stores, central purchasing, archival storage of hospital and medical records, central food, services, including preparation and distribution, computer facilities, a central workshop for hospital maintenance services, additional transport facilities and a child minding centre. Obviously this is a very great project to be undertaken in Australia and here again we cannot but help make the point that Canberra is a privileged city when one sees the inadequacy of hospital complexes in other areas. I know that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) is concerned about the western suburbs of Sydney. We would like to feel that this project in Canberra is an indication that the Commonwealth is interested to a greater extent in the hospital needs of the people generally and that these modern innovations and this enthusiasm for efficient approaches to problems might come to characterise the whole of Australia rather than just the areas for which the Commonwealth is responsible. I commend the report. I believe it is a very great project for Canberra. It is quite anticipatory. The facilities that are being supplied will not be fully required at the time when the first stage of the complex is con structed. I have no doubt that there will be a considerable problem in the recruitment of staff to man the project around the clock. But that, of course, is a longer term matter which the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works has recommended to the authorities is deserving of very special consideration. I commend the report to the House.
– 1 will be very brief. I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and support the resolution before the House. The Canberra people are very fortunate in having this central hospital services complex about to be put into operation. My only regret is that it is not located somewhere closer to the electorate of Hunter to serve the Cessnock, Maitland, Kurri and Newcastle hospitals. However, I think it is a step in the right direction. As the honourable member for Hughes said, there was some conflict between members of the medical profession and officers from the Department of Health when they testified before the Parliamentary Standing Committe on Public Works as to whether it would be satisfactory to send important and valuable medical instruments away from a hospital to be sterilised. The Committee diligently followed the evidence and cross-examined the witnesses. I satisfied myself that there was no need for the concern expressed by the members of the medical profession. Neurosurgeons show interest in their working tools just as a plumber or a carpenter does and probably fear them getting into so many hands that some minor part of an important and valuable instrument used in brain surgery might be lost. But after the Committee visited the sterilisation plant at the Canberra Hospital and saw the methods employed by the staff there I formed the opinion there was only a remote possibility of any small part of these important instruments used in brain surgery going astray.
Another aspect which the Committee probed was the location of this central hospitals complex. It is to be located centrally so that all the hospitals - the Calvary Hospital, the Woden Hospital when it comes along and the Canberra Hospital - can be equally served by travelling a similar distance to bring the laundry and surgical instruments to it for sterilisation. The Committee even looked at the possibility of roads flooding and causing some hold-up in the linen supply, but there is no possibility of that. In my view the Committee was very thorough in its probing of the evidence and its crossexamination of the witnesses in connection with this matter of the central hospital services complex now before the House. I was rather surprised when the evidence was unfolding before the Committee to hear of the difficulty experienced in getting female labour to work in the hospital laundry. One would think that with so many new-Australian women in this region the task of getting female labour for a job where they would not encounter language difficulties would be much more simple. One matter that concerned me was that expensive, ultra-modern laundry equipment could not be used on two or three shifts a day. It could even handle laundry from the Commonwealth hostels, Parliament House and other government instrumentalities. If a modern laundry for hospitals operates for only one shift a day I would like to see it eventually being used to handle laundry from all Commonwealth departments in Canberra and work 2 or 3 shifts each day. I think it would be a step closer towards the political ideology that is deep in my heart. It would be a step towards socialism. I have much pleasure in endorsing the recommendation of the Public Works Committee now before the House.
– The proposed complex for Canberra’s hospitals is intended, as the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), pointed out, to serve a number of hospitals in Canberra, some of which are in existence and some of which are about to come into existence. I refer to the Canberra Community Hospital, the Woden Valley Hospital, Calvary Hospital, Belconnen Hospital, and at a considerable time in the future, the Tuggeranong Hospital. I have examined the chart or appendix that accompanied the submission of the Commonwealth Department of Health. It deals with the number of hospitals in the region, and the number of beds and specialist beds available as related to the highest possible population increase in the Australian Capital Territory over the next 10 years. One wonders why other areas of Australia are not as fortunate.
I am not criticising what is being done for Canberra. I think it is essential. I am arguing that there is a significant difference between the health services which will be provided in the Australian Capital Territory and the health services which are being provided in other areas of Australia. Let us look at some other areas where a similar rate of population growth is taking place. For example. I would say that the total population increase in the outer western suburbs of Sydney would be greater than that which has occurred in Canberra or that which is projected in the appendix. Why is Canberra so much better off? I suggest that one reason is that the people who have the power to grant the money for this capital expenditure are living in Canberra. The Ministers in this Government are living in Canberra and can see the need for these services. They have correctly decided that appropriate action should be taken. What is happening in my area?
– Order! T point out to the honourable member for Prospect that the debate at the moment is purely on the approval of works which are the subject of a recommendation of the Public Works Committee. This is not a general debate on health services or health matters in Australia.
– Of course, Mr Deputy Speaker, but if one argues that a large amount of money collected from taxpayers all over Australia should be spent for this specific purpose, it is necessary in arguing that it should be spent in Canberra to compare what is happening in Canberra with what is happening outside this area.
– No. The subject matter is merely, as I pointed out to the honourable member, approval of works recommended by the Public Works Committee. The debate is strictly limited to that and does not extend to a general debate on health matters.
– If 1 wished to oppose the expenditure, which I am surely entitled to do, it would be reasonable for me to argue that it is unnecessary to provide these works in Canberra because they are not provided in other areas of Australia. Surely this would be relevant.
-I point out to the honourable member for Prospect that we have had many and varied debates on recommendations presented by the Public Works Committee. These debates are limited purely to the subject matter of the report presented by the Committee and have never developed into general comments. Perhaps at limes a passing reference is made to a particular matter relevant to the point, but I point out to honourable members that the debate does not exend to the general matter of health services or any other matter.
– May L support the point put by the honourable member for Prospect?
-Order! There is no point to be supported by the honourable member for Oxley. 1 have given a decision in regard to the Standing Orders of this House and the presentation of a report by the Public Works Committee. In this matter the Standing Orders of this House must be followed, as in any other debate.
– Can I put it that perhaps if one opposes the expenditure-
– One can oppose the matter of the expenditure but cannot range over a wide variety of subjects. The debate is related only to the matter of the complex.
– I put the proposition squarely that in order to justify one’s opposition one must bring forward certain evidence. I think a fundamental issue in national administration is the identification of priorities. The honourable member for Prospect is trying to do this to justify why he is opposing this expenditure. He does not want to be misunderstood. He does not want people in Canberra to think-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. I point out to him that the honourable member for Prospect has not opposed this expenditure.
– I am opposing it because the Ministers of this Government who make the decisions in this Parliament live in Canberra and are impressed by the necessity for the money to be spent in this area. It may well be argued that there are Ministers who represent people in my general area. In the western suburbs of Sydney we have the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), who represents one of the western suburbs. Why do they not support the same sort of expenditure in those areas? The answer is obvious to the people who live there. The honourable gentlemen do not live in those areas. They live in Wahroonga and Bellevue Hill respectively. That is the reason why they do not see the necessity for the expenditure of Commonwealth money to provide there hospital and specialist facilities such as those which are being provided here. These gentlemen can see the need for those services here but cannot see the need for them in other areas. I am sure that what applies to the western suburbs of Sydney applies elsewhere.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Prospect again that a general discussion on health matters is not relevant to this debate on the presentation of a report of the Public Works Committee.
– 1 bow to your ruling, of course, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not speak on that specific area any longer, lt has been impossible to build the necessary complex for hospitals in the outer western suburbs of Sydney and it will not be possible before 1980, if the present Liberal Government is elected again towards the end of this year.
– That is not very likely.
– No, but it could happen, and people might well find that no children’s hospital services or specialist services are available in these areas. I am sure that this applies not only to Sydney but also to most other metropolitan areas which are growing at about the same rate.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Prospect to resume his seat .
– I hope you will tolerate me for a moment. Mr Deputy Speaker, while I indicate what was the general approach of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). I have some sympathy with the general approach of the honourable member for Prospect and 1 suggest that it has some relevance to the matter before the Chair. 1 believe that it is fair enough for us to commence developing centralised features in these sorts of facilities we are talking about today to try lo achieve greater economies of operation and somehow to curb the rather amazing and frightening cost spiral that has taken place in public hospital services. This, is only a very small section of the total approach we must make to try to contain costs. To give an indication of this, in the period 1957-58 to 1967-68 the consumer price index increased by only 25.5 per cent but the cost per occupied bed in public hospitals in Australia increased by 92.5 per cent. There were variations between States. This is a fairly common trend in the advanced countries of the world. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the high labour content - about 60 per cent of total cost - of hospital services. Accordingly. I feel considerable satisfaction to see that centralised features are being developed here.
However. I think that the kernel of what the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) was putting to the House was this: How did the responsible authorities - I exempt the Committee, which was asked merely to make a considered judgment on a Commonwealth works undertaking and that alone: it was not given a broader brief - sitting in Cabinet and in the Department of Health make the decision that this centralised feature will provide not only greater economic but also greater social advantage to the community?
– Order! 1 point out to the honourable member for Oxley that that is not within the scope of the debate. The subject matter is the presentation of the report. The matters prior to the presentation of the report are not the responsibility of the House at the moment. The only matter now under discussion is the report which has been presented by the Public Works Committee for the approval of the House.
– It is a very difficult issue because how can one make known, one’s opposition or, to use a better word, criticism of the spending of S4.9m of the taxpayers money on a public facility unless there is some relationship? I want to mention just one final point in this area which is important and 1 hope that you will bear with me Mr Deputy Speaker, because it brings out the subject matter that the honourable member for Prospect wanted to link to–
-Order! I have already asked the honourable member not to cover the subject matter. The honourable member will recall that I asked the honourable member for Prospect to resume his seat and I, therefore, suggest that the honourable member for Oxley does not continue to refer to the subject matter which was discussed by the honourable member for Prospect.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Would you be good enough to indicate whether my interpretation of the situation is correct? 1 understand that the House of Representatives is at present considering a motion that this Parliament approve a public work involving millions of dollars. Do I understand your ruling to have the effect that the Parliament is unable to debate the pros and cons of such an issue?
-Order! I would hope that the honourable member for Hughes has been a member of this House, and of the Public Works Committee, for long enough to have an appreciation of a debate on a report presented by the Public Works Committee. This does not allow the House, in the. discussion of approval of works, to range widely over matters in relation to general health services, as is happening at present in regard to the works at the Canberra Hospital. Nor does it allow the House to range over the subject matters of economic factors in consideration of the general situation in health services. These are not matters now under debate in the House, and I would have hoped that the honourable member for Hughes, as a member of the Committee which has presented to this House a number of reports, would have had appreciation of that fact.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you 2 things. Firstly, can you guide me to the sections in h; Standing Orders which support this interpretation you have given and. secondly, when you have done that successfully, would you indicate to me how, in view of the fact that we have a proposal in relation to which the Minister is to move for approval of the work, and if honourable members want to move an objection to or express dissent from or make some criticism of the approval on the basis of national priorities which are relevant to a national parliament, they can express these sorts of attitudes? If they do adhere to your interpretation, they expose themselves to the very real risk of being misunderstood as being antiCanberraphobes or having some such phobia, when this is not the purpose at all. Would you be kind enough to do that?
-Order! I would remind the honourable member for Oxley that, under the Standing Orders, the debate on the report before the House must cover the matters referred to in that report. In this instance a report, has been presented by the Public Works Committee for approval of certain works at the Canberra Hospital. That at the moment is the subject matter under debate.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Would I be in order hypothetically to move that this proposed complex be built at Westmead rather than at Canberra? The Westmead hospital complex has been promised by the Liberal State Government in New South Wales in 1968, 1969, 1972 and 1973 and, just last week, Mr Jago, the State Minister for Health, put the proposition that it will not be built until 1980.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The subject matter before the House is:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a central hospital services complex - Stage 1 - Canberra.
That is the subject matter under discussion in the House at this moment.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, we will defer to your ruling not because of its wisdom but because of the numbers it can marshall to support it in the final pinch. I shall now address myself to the report. I indicated in some preliminary remarks a little earlier that I am attracted to the proposal :o develop these centralised services, having had the good fortune to have seen how hospital services can improve their efficiency and contain costs through the development of these sorts of services. 1 was interested in ‘he outline which a committee member, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), gave to the House indicating that the central complex will expand into the preparation and distribution of food. There are clear economies to be derived here. When I was overseas, 1 saw Sweden as an excellent example of how this can be done from a centralised feature. Another good example is the Kaiser permananter system in California. I ask the Minister whether he can advise me now or later how the bookkeeping arrangements will work here. The sort of approach to which I am attracted is where the centralised system becomes a sort of an authoriy of its own and provides not only the services of sterilisation, laundering and so on but also supplies the goods, in the case of linen, on a rental basis, which would cover the charge or the cost involved in cleaning the linen. It seems to me that if we can develop these sorts of services there is a more effective system of accountability, because the people in the hospital wards are made more acutely aware that these things belong to someone, that there is a cost involved and, if they are not accounted for and looked after, all sorts of costs are involved which must be met. Accordingly, I am attracted to that sort of general approach.
I turn to page 3 of the report and, Mr Deputy Speaker, I address myself precisely to the report. I refer to the table which deals with beds available. Really this has some relevance to what the honourable member for Prospect was talking about. What are we doing in developing this concept of hospital services with their backup of ancillary services in Canberra? Are we pouring more and more money at great expense to the taxpayer into a system which is gravely deficient? I have here an excellent statement, which is relevant to this matter, by the Harvard economist John T. Dunlop who, in talking about health services, said:
The real function of the cost increases of the past decade, and those in process, should be to compel vast structural changes in the organization Of medical care. Nothing could be worse in our society today than to say we need another three to five billion for medical care, and then simply duplicate or multiply the arrangements that we now have. This would get us nowhere, lt is the fundamental transformation in a variety of our arrangements that 1 think is signalled by these cost changes. The permanent problem is the need for more productivity . . . brought about by structural changes in the practice and organization of medicine.
In addressing myself to this table, I find that in 1971 the ratio of beds per thousand population was 5.21. The forward projections increase that figure to 6.06 beds per thousand population in 1980. There is a rising though admittedly not an evenly rising, trend in this respect.
What is being done overseas? This is completely contrary to the sorts of approaches being developed successfully overseas. It is a further indication of a perpetuation of the weaknesses and defects in the health delivery system which have blighted this country’s health services in the past. I think these are the sorts of questions to which the honourable member for Prospect wanted to address himself. Here we have these abnormally high bed ratios per thousand of the population which, in turn, are directly related to the matter about which we are speaking. Nearly $5m of the taxpayers’ money is going into these services. If we can make some sort of adjustment in these bed rates effectively through a re-structuring of the health services, it may well be that significant savings could be made in this area. I quote the case of Barrow in the United Kingdom which plans on a ratio of 2.9 beds per 1000 of the population and Reading which plans on a ratio of 2.6 beds per 1000 of the population. When we come to the Kaiser permananter we find that it plans on the ratio of 1.5 to 2 beds per 1000 new members; and when we remember that new members also bring in dependants with them, the ratio is even lower. Here we have an amazingly high ratio in comparison with international trends, which rises considerably on the graph over this time span which is before us. These are the sorts of questions which need airing and full discussion in this House on an occasion such as this.
I believe that 1 cannot go much further because of the restrictions which you, Mr
Deputy Speaker, have placed on us. Five million dollars of the taxpayers’ money going into this system, but we do not really know whether it is the wisest decision in terms of national priorities. It is all very well for the Federal Government to pour money into the national capital, but there are parts of Australia besides the national capital, many of which are gravely neglected. It is of no good giving gold plating to our health services in Canberra and allowing an inferior standard to apply to the rest of the Australian population. This is what happens in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock*Order! I point out to the honourable member for Oxley again that I have not placed any restrictions in him.
– How many restrictions are you going to put on him?
-The honourable member for Sturt will keep quiet. The honourable member for Oxley is restricted by the Standing Orders.
– What standing order?
-The honourable member for Prospect has been in this House long enough to know the Standing Orders.
– I appreciate the fact that in Canberra, as in many other places, what we seek to achieve is a standard of excellence in various services - health services, educational services and so on - to indicate to the rest of the Commonwealth the sort of standard which should be the norm. But when State governments are gravely deprived of finances, it is clear that they cannot duplicate this.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Oxley knows that the subject matter which he is mentioning now is irrelevant. If he continues to speak on that subject 1 shall ask him to resume his seat.
– You are incredible; you are just unbelievable.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to’.
– I move:
– I rise to a point of order. If you are going to rule the honourable member for Oxley out of order you should say under which standing order you are acting.
-The honourable member for Bendigo should read the Standing Orders and know something about them.
– You should say what the standing order is; you are not doing that.
– Standing order 81 states:
No member may digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion. . . .
Standing order 85 states:
The Speaker, or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House, or of the committee, to the conduct of a Member, who persists in irrelevance, or tedious repetition either of his own arguments, or of the arguments used by other Members in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech. . . .
The motion has been moved ‘That the honourable member for Oxley be heard’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Are you going to allow me to discuss this further?
– All right. 1 want to make one point-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) agreed to:
That an extension of time be granted to the honourable member for Oxley.
- Mr Acting Speaker-
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– On what ground?
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
Hs has had the Standing Orders pointed out to him, and the Chair’s task is to enforce the Standing Orders. I point out to the honourable member for Oxley and to some other members in this House that the Standing Orders also protect the rights of other members. 1 suggest that the honourable member for Oxley should consider some of those factors and some of the other members of this House.
– 1 thank you for your homily, Mr Acting Speaker. You may rest assured that 1 always pay full respect to those in this House who earn it and deserve it. Mr Acting Speaker, the point which 1 am trying to relate to the fact that we are being asked to spend S5m of the taxpayers’ money revolves around whether this is the best way, given the sort of competing priorities we have, in which to spend this sort of money. I do not believe that this is irrelevant. I am a taxpayer and I feel some concern about the way in which my money is being used.
– On a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I cannot hear a single word which the honourable member is saying. There is a little bit of interference going on here and I wonder whether, if you have not heard it, you, could take it into account.
– You heard it. Why don’t you dob him in?
– You loghead. Get out of the place before you are kicked out.
– Mr Acting Speaker, on a point of order-
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes is out of order, to start with.
– I am asking: ls it in order for one honourable member to say Shut your mouth’ and for another honourable member to refer to a member of the Opposition as a ‘loghead’ without your calling the offending members to order?
– Mr Acting Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member for Banks will resume his seat. I did not hear the expressions used by honourable members. I was trying to decide matters with the honourable member for Oxley. I suggest that the House might come to order.
– Mr Acting Speaker, now I want to raise a point of order, seeing that the matter has been raised. My point of order is this: Is it good enough that one has to sit in this place and be damn well insulted by nitwits because of the fact that their remarks are not heard by yourself?
-Order! The Chair cannot comment on a remark it has not heard. The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– Mr Acting Speaker, 1 raise a point of order. I value the traditions of this Parliament. I think that this Parliament is one of the most important institutions that we can cherish. My point of order is this: I heard the remarks, and I think that Hansard will have those remarks in it. I think that you should draw the attention of both sides of the House to the fact that remarks like that are not only unparliamentary, but they lower the standard of this House.
-Order! In reply to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Banks, I point out that I have already drawn the attention of the House to this. I have suggested that the House come to order and that interjections from both sides of the House should cease.
– On the point of order, 1 believe that one remark wished to be withdrawn came from me. I am sorry that my voice is not loud enough for you to hear. If the remark has been heard by Hansard I categorically withdraw it.
– In a point of order, could we make sure that Hansard records this speech by the honourable member for Cook? It is his first speech in the last 6 months and it should be recorded in the index of speeches.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will resume his seat.
– If I can keep within the boundaries of the rather unique interpretation that you give to the Standing Orders-
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Oxley that he has been in this House long enough to know that any discussion about the subject matter of a report of the Public Works Committee has been kept within the bounds of the Standing Orders.
– 1 was talking in the qualitative sense. May I sum up in a few words what I have to say, because my colleague the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has a rather moving speech to make and he wants to make it before the sitting is suspended for dinner. Making these ad hoc decisions is scarcely the way to run national affairs. The national capital fits in with the totality of the Australian nation and it must fit in with the priorities of the needs of the Australian people. I believe that the centralised complex in Canberra ought to be developed. The honourable member for Prospect believes this alco. So that we have some sort of co-ordination, this complex ought to fit into the sort of national planning for which we as a Parliament ought lo he responsible, in supporting people in the bureaucracy and in the Ministry for the time being who do these sorts of things.
In my opinion, it is not good enough in a wealthy country such as ours to have a gold-plated standard of services, whether they be in health, education, welfare or any other field - urban environment is probably the outstanding example - in a national capital such as Canberra and then to find in the capital cities far greater aggregations of the nation’s population living in slums or resorting to slum standards of facilities such as our public health services. I believe that a national hospitals and public health services commission must be established. The Federal Government must work in conjunction with the State health authorities and the State governments. It is a matter of planning and projecting the needs of the community into the future, not only for hospitals but also for public health services.
Another criticism I make of the Government’s approach is of the instutionalised concept. That is why we have the high bed ratios per 1,000 people shown on page 3 of the report. If one looks at what is being done overseas one finds ratios of about one-third of that level. We need back-up paramedical services which, in some cases, could save 50 per cent of hospital costs. Of course, we do not have them because we have this nonsenical approach of tying
Commonwealth commitments to domiciliary nursing services, for example, to State allocations, with the result that last year alone $250,000 of what the Commonwealth could have made available was not spent. Since the scheme has been in operation $1,250,000 has been underspent and the domiciliary services in Queensland have been deprived of$1m of that. In essence, those are the main points we should be talking about. We are going to be asked to spend $5m of the taxpayers’ money. It is not a matter of being opposed to the rights of the people of Canberra; it is a matter of saying: ‘We agree with this but we believe that other people in Australia have equal rights’.
– I am sorry to see this debate degenerate in the way that it has.
– Do not feel embarrassed about entering into it.
-I am just expressing my opinion. I was not asking for yours. I am sorry to see the debate degenerate ill this way. The Public Works Committee prides itself on not playing party politics in its consideration of any matter. The report has been presented in this House and we have a simple motion that it is expedient to carry out this work. Either it is expedient or it is not. If people think it is not they should vote against the motion. If they think it is a good work to do they should vote for it. The Committee has given the matter a very careful examination. The Commonwealth has the responsibility for the health services of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and only those health services. For that reason the Public Works Committee, which represents the Commonwealth Parliament, has had to assess whether this work should be done. The Committee did this.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) ran his expert eye over this very interesting development in a way that I could not fault. Some very interesting developments will be in the pipeline in the future. The most interesting one will be the use of similar complexes for the food services. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) asked about the bookkeeping arrangements and how these services would be paid for. My understanding is that there would be a bookkeeping entry for the hospitals that use them. The only hospitals that would be using them would be the Woden Hospital, the Canberra Hospital and the Calvary Hospital which is a Commonwealth subsidised hospital. These hospitals would be charged for the use of the instruments and the laundry but I understand that the laundry and the instruments would be the property of the complex. The members of the committee that controls them would be drawn from the hospitals that use them. For the information of the honourable member for Oxley, that is as I understand the way the system will work. It is a very interesting development. I think it will work well. It is a new system. None of us are really certain that it will work, but all the information that the Public Works Committee could get pointed quite clearly to the fact that it was a considerable breakthrough. I hope it will be successful.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Chipp, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes minor amendments to 2 sections of the Customs Tariff, section 8, relating to the free on board price of goods and section 31 relatingto overseas freight and insurance in connection with the landed cost of goods. Honourable members will be well aware that the determination of the correct amount of duty on goods, and hence the effectiveness of tariff protection, depends in most cases, on the correct rate of duty being applied to the correct value of the goods. Since values can be manipulated by arrangement between exporter and importer and since attempts at tariff avoidance will always appeal to some types of people, Parliament, in 1965, gave the Minister power to determine the free on board price of goods in certain circumstances - in the main, whenever he was satisfied that an importer and exporter had fixed the free on board price with the view of paying no duty or less duty on those goods.
As 1 said earlier, some types of people will engage in tariff avoidance. Recent investigations have disclosed new arrangements for manipulating free on board prices and these fall outside the scope of the present legislation. For example, if an importer and exporter adopt, as a subterfuge, a system of buying and selling which includes the appointment of a wholly-owned subsidiary of the importer to act as the selling agent of the exporter the present provisions of the law can be circumvented. 0:her variations of tariff avoidance of this nature have also been identified. The purposes of this Bill are, therefore, to ensure that the intentions of the existing legislation are not defeated and that the tariff protection authorised by this Parliament is not negated by arrangements between interested parties - whether two or more principals and/or agents or other intermediaries are involved” or whether the duty avoided is ordinary duty or support duty. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 February (vide page 162), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I know that this is a very tightly drawn Bill. The long title of the Bill will prevent any debate on it, except to oppose the proposition, which the Opposition does not do. It supports it. It will allow the Bill to go through all stages without division. I know that I am out of order in referring to anything outside the scope of the Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I hope you will allow me to make a brief reference to the fact that I am sorry that it is tightly drawn because I would have liked the Bill to include a provision to alter the Public Service Act to provide for a minimum of 4 weeks annual leave with 5 weeks pay, which 1 have advocated for so long, equal pay for the sexes, long service leave as. a non-forfeitable right, and maternity leave on full pay for all female employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. Sir, I thank you for the latitude you have shown in allowing me to depart from the terms of the Bill. The Opposition in fact supports the Bil! and will allow it to pass through its remaining stages without further debate.
– As the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said in his second reading speech, the purpose of this Bill is to amend section 50 of the Public Service Act 1922-1968-
– I could have talked for about half an hour, too.
– There was no mention of any arrangement to me.
– We want to get the Bill through by 6 o’clock.
– I was completely unaware of that.
– There is no need for the Assistant Minister to read his speech. The Opposition will allow him to incorporate it in Hansard.
– Was there some arrangement?
– Yes. The arrangement was to put this Bill through the House by 6 o’clock. In order to do that I was to cut my speech down to 2 minutes and the Assistant Minister was not supposed to speak at all.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I have called the Assistant Minister.
– The purpose of this Bill was described by the Minister for National Development in his second reading speech, but I would like to make a couple of remarks by way of explanation of the measure. The Joint Council, which made the recommendation to the Government in this regard, felt that the tribunal arrangements under which staff associations participate in intrastate appeals should be extended to the final determinations of interstate appeals. I believe the Government is to be congratulated on bringing forward this legislation. I am quite certain that it will meet with widespread approval among the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. I believe that the essence of this amending legislation is that it will enable a central promotions appeal committee to deal with interstate appeals in the same way as the State promotions appeal committee currently handle intrastate appeals. As honourable members are aware, the State committees can make final determinations on those officers in up to and including Class 8 of the Third Division.
Under the new system all interstate appeals will be made to a central promotions appeal committee which, by and large, will deal with cases on the basis of written reports forwarded from the appropriate State committees, but that in certain cases where necessary the central promotions appeal committee will call the parties involved for further interview. At present the Public Service Board makes this decision. So it can be said the appeal system as such is being extended to allow greater staff participation in appeals by officers in up to the level of Class 8 while above that level the final determinations will be still made by the Pubic Service Board. 1 believe that something like 95 per cent of the officers in the Commonwealth Public Service are on or below the level of Class 8 and are therefore affected by this legislation, which J believe has the support of not only the Opposition but also the Public Service unions and associations involved. 1 think it is important to the efficiency of the Public Service, which provides a nationwide service, that the officers who work for it should feel free to move interstate in pursuance of their personal careers. As far as the appeals system is concerned, I believe that this amending Bill should facilitate such interstate transfers.
– Round off on that note.
– The honourable member ibr Hindmarsh, who has indicated his support of the Bill, has now commended me for my speech and suggested that I round it off, which I will now do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That Order of the Day No. 2, Government Business, be postponed till a later hour this day.
Debate resumed from 1 March (vide page 437), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is a machinery provision for the repayment by the Commonwealth, which is in fact the guarantor under the parent legislation, of moneys loaned by the Reserve Bank of Australia to the Australian Wheat Board in respect of advance payments. Although the Bill itself is only an amending piece of legislation it is nevertheless very important because it concerns the whole principle of the production and sale of Australian wheat and the very relevant factor of the determination of the quantity of wheat production, such as the quotas to be applied to the various States. All of those matters are of relevance to the central theme of this Bill.
Section 57 of the Reserve Bank Act requires loans of this type to be repaid within 12 months. As these loans cannot be repaid within that time period the Government has a responsibility to make provision for the Australian Wheat Board to repay them, lt does so by making a sum of money available to the Wheat Board at 5i per cent interest. The industry’s ability to repay this money depends principally on its ability to sell its wheat overseas. It does, of course, sell some of its wheat in Australia, but the economic or financial viability of the Australian wheat industry is dependent directly on the volume of Australian wheat exports in relation to the level of demand overseas. That, of course, is the fundamental principle of demand and supply.
The ability to repay this loan is relevant to the outlook for wheat in Australia, which in turn depends on the level of stocks and the selling performance of the wheat industry in relation to the 1971-72 deliveries. What is the current position? The Australian Wheat Board sold a record quantity of 390 million bushels last season. Fortuitously or otherwise, the replacement of the market in the People’s Republic of China by the market in the United Arab Republic has resulted in the latter country taking approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s wheat export. The United Kingdom and Japan together account for about 28 per cent of this figure. The final result after a season of record sales was a carry over of approximately 125 million bushels into this crop year. That figure is decidedly below the position in the last 3 years in terms of carry over stocks. This was due to many factors. First, we did not have a very good season in Australia in terras of total wheat production. I think our total production was in the vicinity of 280 million bushels. Droughts in the Middle East had a significant influence on the demand for Australian wheat. There was a shipping strike on the coast of the United States of America. There were higher sales of f.a.q. wheat, particularly in the early months of 1971. All of those factors together with record sales left the relatively small Darn over of 125 million bushels. By ‘relatively small’ I mean in comparison to the position in the last 3 years. What will be the position this crop year in terms of production and in terms of the possible performance of the Wheat Board in selling its product overseas? Good sales should be made to the United Arab Republic, Japan, South America and Saudi Arabia.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the possible sale of wheat this year on the export market and I had mentioned the fact that there arc good sales to be achieved in the United Arab Republic, South America, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Russia and there could possibly be further sales of our wheat in Middle East countries such as Iran and Iraq. In the United Arab Republic in 1970-71 we sold 1,250,000 tons of wheat and in 1971-72 we sold 1,750,000 tons of wheat. At present one might say that we have a 3-year contract starting from July 1972 for the supply of 1,000.000 tons of wheat per annum, so at least we have that assured sale.
I think it is fairly clear from the indicators that this year we will not achieve the same level of sales that were achieved last year because of a number of factors such as greater supply from America and Canada and also because we will not have the same variables that operated in our favour last year such as the shipping strike off the west coast of the United States. Let us have a look at this because export sales are of vital importance to the ability of the Wheat Board to repay this loan which is the subject of this Bill. At the start of this season we have carryover stocks amounting to 125 million bushels. Wheat production for 1971-72 will be approximately 310 million bushels of which 35 million will stay on the farms for seeding and other uses which gives an estimated 275 million bushels to the Wheat Board for disposal. Of that 275 million bushels approximately 60 million bushels will stay in the domestic market for home consumption, leaving 215 million bushels plus the 125 million bushels of carryover stocks. We will have about 340 million bushels to sell on the export market. Nobody knows, of course, what will be the total sales in terms of money or in volume of wheat but the best estimates suggest that we will finish up with a carryover of less than 100 million bushels at the end of the year. This means that if our sales are even better than the estimated 260 million bushels we could finish up with well under 100 million bushels, lt could be 80 million bushels or it may be less. Who knows? One thing is certain and that is that we will have relatively low stocks of wheat at the end of the year.
We have seen an increase in quotas this year to a total of 407 million bushels although it must be stressed that the Federal authorities have no direct say in the establishment of quotas in Australia. Indirectly, of course, they have this power through (he 2 variables of the first advance of $1.10 and the total liability approved by the Government - or by this Parliament. If the industry wants the $1.10 it in effect sets the upper quota ceiling. This is in fact what is happening. I personally believe that the quota could with safety be substantially increased above the 407 million bushels. I appreciate the conservativeness of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) but in view of the possibility of our having very low stocks at the end of the year, estimated at perhaps 80 million bushels, I see no reason why there could not be a significant increase above the 407 million bushels that has already been agreed to.
One of the problems facing the wheat industry and the Wheat Board is the quality of wheat. I think that tonight we will hear more from other honourable members about the situation with regard to the quality of the varieties of wheat that we produce. There is no doubt that there is an increasing emphasis on the need to produce those varieties of wheat which are required for the milling and bakery industries. This is governed by the actual price to be received by each individual producer. In other words, it is simply the relationship of demand and supply.
One question about which we are hearing more and more is whether the criticism of the f.a.q. system is valid or not. I think the answer is yes and no. It is valid in some instances and in other instances it can be defended. I believe that it is widely accepted that the term ‘f.a.q.’ is fairly meaningless. We have heard the term ‘f.a.q.’ bandied around Australia for many years. It is meaningless because in actual fact there are approximately 12 grades of export wheat within 4 basic classifications and these are the grades which we sell overseas.
A further question to be determined is whether we should increase our production of the hard varieties of wheat. This question has a lot of relevance to growers in Queensland, northern New South Wales, in some parts of Western Australia and also to growers who are interested in maintaining the proportion of soft wheats to the higher protein wheats. When one looks at this we must consider 2 facts. On the one hand, most of the world stocks of wheat are hard wheats but on the other hand our best customers want to buy the medium and soft varieties of wheat. These countries include China, Egypt, Russia and Japan. So we have to be very careful in generalising whether we should increase our production of the hard wheats relative to our production of soft wheats. It is quite obvious that if we did swing over more to the production of high protein wheat we could get a lower average return for wheat in Australia at this time. The basic factor with respect to quality is that high protein wheat can be grown only in certain areas of Australia. The production of high protein wheat is limited by the soil type, the climate and the genetic make-up of the various species which grow in our environment. We have to be very careful in determining whether we should increase our production of hard wheats.
A matter which is of great importance in a debate like this is the quota system itself. We have heard all sorts of criticism of wheat quotas. I have already made one myself. I believe that when we look at alt the facts the aggregate quota should have been significantly greater than the 407 million bushels already agreed upon because of the relatively low stocks which it is estimated we will have at the end of this year. Although it can be argued that federally the Commonwealth has no direct interest in farm quotas nevertheless indirectly farm quotas have raised some important national problems because the economic problems of the family farm enterprise in Australian agriculture can be expected to be given greater political priority now that farm quotas have spread to the wheat industry on virtually a permanent basis. As Australia’s 2 main export agricultural industries, sugar and wheat, have accepted the need to regulate production by farm peaks or quotas, the Government must pay full heed to the financial hardship being experienced by the traditional small farm as a result of ever increasing costs. The family-owned farm has been the backbone of Australian agriculture throughout its development, and it is. as honourable members know, the nucleus of continued viability in the country towns, the sugar and wheat towns, of Australia.
Unless constructive policies are implemented by the Government to counter the forces of inflation, the traditional small family farm, that is the farm that is governed by a fixed quota on wheat, sugar or whatever is produced, will eventually disappear. This is particularly so under the system of farm peaks. What I am saying is common sense. If a farmer has a rigid quota and he cannot increase production above that quota, he is at the mercy of the cost-price squeeze unless he can get higher prices for his commodities.
The need to control sugar production has been proven beyond any doubt. There can be no criticism of the need for sugar quotas. They are the most effective counter to fluctuating levels of world production and the consequential effect on world prices. But when we speak of quotas we must recognise that despite the recognised efficiency of the small farm there is a limit to the ability of the small traditional farmer to reduce average costs. He cannot increase production because he has a quota. Therefore he either has to get higher prices for his commodities or has to reduce costs. I repeat that there is a limit to his ability to reduce costs. If a small farmer, irrespective of how efficient he might be is caught up in the grip of this problem of increasing costs relative to stable production, the only variable on his side would be to receive increasing prices for his commodity. So, put bluntly, the only real counter against continually increasing costs is higher prices on either world or domestic markets. With wheat there is a home market of 60 million bushels, and the guaranteed home consumption and export prices under the stabilisation scheme can at least be controlled as a counter to increasing costs by giving producers higher prices as costs of production or the movement of cash costs increase. I believe that this provision must be written into any quota system.
If government policy is to put a rigid peak or a rigid quota on a farmer, particularly a smaller farmer, he must always be protected against rising costs. If the farmer is not protected he has to sell out or go bankrupt because, irrespective of how efficient he is, his net income must be reduced progressively over a period of time unless prices are increased. This protection is essential for all farmers. T believe that unless the forces of inflation are controlled the wheat industry, in which we might say that the quota plan is now accepted as a permanent structure, will always have to press the government of the day to protect the small traditional farmers in particular.
Although the Federal Government has no direct power in relation to farm quotas I believe that at all times it should make the States completely aware of the traditional small farm problem, because this is developing into one of the great problems of Australian agriculture. As far as honourable members on this side of the House and 1 are concerned, the traditional family farmer who is efficient in the use of his resources is entitled to full protection against the forces of inflation.
-Order! This is a Bill to authorise borrowings of money by the Commonwealth and the lending of those moneys to the Australian Wheat Board. The honourable member is getting away from the subject matter at times.
– I accept that.
-I have allowed a fair amount of latitude, but I do not think that the matter the honourable member is discussing now should be the main subject of his speech.
– The argument 1 am puling is with respect to wheat sales and the ability of the producers of Australia to produce efficiently the wheat required and to sell it on the domestic and overseas markets to earn money to repay these loans. If they cannot earn money effectively to repay these loans, the Commonwealth Government has to cover the guarantee to the Wheat Board. That was the main point I was making. I have made the point about the grave problem which will develop in Australian agriculture under quota systems unless protection is given to the traditional family farmer, particularly the small one, against rising costs. I think I have made that clear enough.
I make one further point: If there is to be any expansion of wheat production, and say sugar production, priority should be given to the small farmer as opposed to a pro rata basis increase of say 10 per cent in quotas across the board. Surely the priority is to give the small traditional farmer an extra percentage increase to bring him up to a stage of financial viability. I think all honourable members would agree with that. I believe that the bona fide large producers also would agree with that even if it meant a smaller percentage increase. It is far better to have 100 viable farmers than, say, 70 viable farmers and 30 poverty-stricken farmers. This is something to which I hope State governments will give due consideration when revising quotas because it is important. It is clear that if we are to continue to develop the wheat industry, if we are to support the wheat industry, by offering a guaranteed price under the stabilisation scheme we also have to take into account fully trends in production on overseas markets in relation to aggregate quotas. I could speak at great length about the injustices of these quotas within and between States and the non-transferability of them, Mr Speaker, but I know that you will soon pull me up because that does not come within the provisions of the Bill. But this problem has to be solved if we are to use our resources efficiently in the wheat industry. The ability to repay loans made to the wheat industry must depend on the ability of the industry to use its resources efficiently.
Debate (on motion by Mr Corbett) adjourned.
– by leave - Last week I received from the Superannuation Board the report by the Commonwealth Actuary, who was appointed by the Board under section 17 of the Superannuation Act to make the ninth quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund covering the period of 5 years ending 30th June 1967. A further report expressing the Board’s views accompanied the Actuary’s report. Having in mind the time that has passed since the end of the quinquennial period and the great interest that has been shown by honourable members, staff associations and individual contributors and pensioners in the outcome of this investigation, I am tabling the reports now in advance of their being considered by the Government.
While the completion of this investigation has taken longer than is customary, this does not reflect on the Commonwealth Actuary or the Board. I think honourable members already know that the main reason for the delay was the need to introduce an extensive computer system and to transfer to it the detailed records of contributors and pensioners retrospectively to the date of their entries into the scheme, in some cases as far back as 1922. But, while the reorganisation of the Board’s records delayed completion of the ninth investigation, it will facilitate greatly future investigations. The Board has stated in its report that all the statistical and valuation data for the next investigation covering the 5 years ending 30th June 1972 should be available to the Actuary by November of this year and that the Actuary’s investigation should be completed during 1973.
I first very briefly sum up the conclusions reached by the Actuary and the Board. The Actuary has advised that, in his view, there was a gross surplus of assets over liabilities of $14,779,000 in the Fund as at 30th June 1967 and has recommended a conversion from the present unit purchase pension scheme to a new superannuation arrangement based on percentage of salary rates of contribution. He considers that the surplus should be applied to facilitate the transfer of existing pensioners and contributors to the new scheme he has proposed and to assist in meeting the cost of new benefits under that scheme. The Board also does not favour a cash distribution of the surplus but has concluded that the balance of advantage to members would lie in applying the surplus assets at 30th June 1967 to the payment of selected additional benefits under the proposed percentage of salary contribution scheme or the present scheme.
The Board considers that, if a percentage of salary contribution scheme were introduced, it would be appropriate for any remaining surplus assets to be applied for the benefit of eligible contributors and pensioners with an equity in the Fund as at 30th June 1967 who transfer to the new scheme. Alternatively, if the existing unit of pension scheme were to be retained, the Board suggests that any remaining surplus assets should be applied to a further extension of pension benefits with particular reference to those provided for widows and children.
As I have already said, the Actuary’s investigation led him to the view that there was a surplus of assets over liabilities of $14,779,000 as at 30th June 1967. The surplus is largely due to the adoption of an increased interest valuation rate of 5 per cent compared with the previous rate of 3 J per cent as at 30th June 1962 and the interest rate adopted for the distribution of surplus assets at 30th June 1962 in accordance with the Superannuation Act. No. 97 of 1965, namely 51 per cent for the period 1962 to 1972 and 4i per cent thereafter, lt is not an accounting surplus. What it represents is the excess of the amount of the fund at 30th June 1967 and the present value at that date of future contributions by contributors then in the scheme, a total of 5471.398,000 over the present value at 30th June 1967 of future benefits payable to pensioners and contributors in the scheme at that date, an amount of$456,619,000.
Thus, in carrying out his valuation, it has been necessary for the Actuary to make judgments about the course of things over a long period into the future. For instance, at present rates of longevity some persons contributing to the fund at 30th June 1967. or their widows, could be drawing pension as late as 2050. But a scheme that commenced 50 years ago is not likely to be without its problems and attention has been directed to these by both the Actuary and the Board in their reports. Undoubtedly the most important problem is the burden that escalating contributions may represent in the final stages of a member’s career.
As explained by the Actuary, this flows from the unit purchase basis of the scheme, the underlying principle of which is that the contribution for each unit of pension, when combined with other similar contributions, has to be sufficient to enable the fund to pay its share of the benefits attached to units, whenever those benefits may become payable. Thus a unit taken out at a young age will be paid for over a long period and the fortnightly rate of contribution will be correspondingly low. Conversely, a unit taken out in the last few years before the selected age for retirement must be paid for over a much shorter period and the fortnightly rate of contribution will be relatively higher.
The present scheme has been modified in two respects so that members have an alternative to forgoing additional entitlements for which they cannot afford to pay. The first modification afforded members the opportunity of taking up a maximum of 12 reserve units that can be converted to active units at some later time. The second modification was to provide for noncontributory units, which are available to members who have reached age 40 and are able to meet certain conditions regarding the level of their contributions and active units held. But a consequence of electing to take non-contributory units is a reduction in the member’s ultimate pension entitlement.
The scheme that the Actuary has proposed and which the Board has concluded should be adopted as the model for early development of revised superannuation arrangements for Commonwealth employees, expresses contributions as a constant percentage of salary throughout a member’s service, the actual percentage rate being determined by the member’s age when entering the scheme. Under such a scheme it can be expected that a member would pay more in his early years than he does at present but less in the years approaching retirement. The post-1959 defence forces retirement benefits scheme incorporated this contribution principle.
On the benefits side the Actuary sees the primary objective of the scheme to be the provision of a pension benefit and proposes significant changes in the way benefits are determined. Some of the important features of the scheme he has put forward are as follows:
There would not be any provision for the tapering of the benefit when salary exceeds a particular level.
Pension at retirement would be a proportion of the average salary received in the 3 years before retirement, the proportion reflecting years of membership of the scheme.
Invalid pension would be calculated by reference to average salary and prospective years of membership had the member continued to serve until his normal retiring age.
Widow’s benefit would be five-eighths of either the member’s age or the invalid benefit.
Children’s and orphans’ pensions would be 10 per cent and 20 per cent respectively of the invalid benefit.
Persons who could not meet the prescribed medical standards would contribute for pension benefits on a limited basis.
There would be provision for pensions to be adjusted annually on the basis of changes in the consumer price index.
In its comments on the proposed scheme the Board has indicated that it favours the inclusion of a commutation provision. It also observes that the scheme removes the right to purchase full pension at age 60 and that, as the pension benefit available would vary according to years of service, it follows that the scheme would, in some cases provide lower benefits than are available under the present arrangements.
The Government is. of course, aware of problems with the present scheme and honourable members will recall that the introduction of non-contributory units in 1969 was designed specifically to ease the burden on older contributors to the scheme. More recently, my Department commenced a full investigation of the scheme. As part of this investigation it will look closely at the Actuary’s and the Board’s proposals. I expect it to complete its task later this year.
We also know that the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, with which many of the staff associations covering Commonwealth employees are affiliated, is developing proposals for a new superannuation scheme. We will, of course, give full consideration to any proposals that the Council puts forward as well as to representations regarding the present scheme and suggestions for change from other bodies and individuals.
In its report the Board has listed some of the proposals that have already come forward and has included estimates of the extent to which the liabilities of the fund would be increased as at 30th June 1967 if selected additional benefits were available to pensioners and contributors from 30th June 1967. For instance:
Increasing a child’s pension from $4 to $8 a week and the minimum pension for an orphan from $10 to $15 a week would increase the liabilities by $2. 3m.
Increasing the widows benefit from five-eighth pension to two-thirds would increase the liabilities by $llm.
Providing pension for the widow of a marriage after retirement would increase the liabilities by $16m.
Providing interest on refunds of contributions would increase the liabilities by $21m.
Automatically increasing pensions after retirement in accordance with changes in the cost of living would increase the liabilities by $180m.
Thus the estimated total increase in the liabilities of the fund as at 30th June 1967 that would result from granting these additional benefits is $230,300,000 and may be compared with the disclosed surplus of $14,779,000. The increase in the liabilities of the Commonwealth flowing from the increases in pension benefits would, of course, be very much higher.
When existing superannuation pensions were increased last year orphans whose pensions are calculated by reference to the widows pension were the only children who benefited directly from the increases. Those in receipt of the fixed rates of pension specified in the Act that apply to future pensioner children and orphans as well did not receive an increase. When introducing the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill, the Government said that the position of orphans and children would be given special consideration when the results of the quinquennial investigations of the Superannuation and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Funds become available. Later, after considering representations from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, I told the Council that I would look at the situation of children and orphans again as soon as I received the Actuary’s report on the Superannuation Fund. The matter is already being examined by my Department and I hope to be in a position shortly to put proposals to the Government.
The Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, with well over 190,000 contributors and 30,000 pensioners, is the largest superannuation scheme in the country. As an employer the Government places great importance on the provision of sound and beneficial superannuation arrangements for its employees and the many improvements in the present scheme that have been effected over the years are evidence of this. But the reports of the Actuary and the Board give emphasis to 2 questions that are already in our minds. Can the present scheme be modified further so that it can continue to meet the needs of contributors and pensioners in the future or must it be replaced by a new scheme involving different contribution and benefit principles? These questions are of great importance and warrant careful and thoughtful consideration.
I present the following paper:
Superannuation Act: Superannuation Fund - 9th Quinquennial Review - Ministerial Statement, 8 March 1972
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– What the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has said raises some pretty fundamental questions and I appreciate that he hopes there will be discussion on the matter in the months ahead. But with all respect I doubt whether the mechanisms exist by which these discussions can satisfactorily take place, lt seems to me that the substance of the changes that are proposed reside in the following passage from his speech:
The scheme that the Actuary has proposed and which the Board has concluded should be adopted as the model for early development of revised superannuation arrangements for Commonwealth employees, expresses contributions as a constant percentage of salary throughout a member’s service, the actual percentage rate being determined by the member’s age when entering the scheme.
Of course, this is quite a departure, from the present scheme, which the Treasurer outlined, where the entitlement to units becomes larger the older the member becomes. In as far as the units are actuarily based the cost becomes higher per unit by reason of the age component.
When the Treasurer indicated this evening that he intended to raise this matter - I thank him for having given me at least a brief summary of what he proposed - I obtained a copy of the 1969-70 report of the Superannuation Board, which is the latest available.. The figures which the Treasurer gave are a year later than those in the report but have been updated in relation to numbers. In the introduction the report says:
The total membership of the scheme at 30th June 1970 was 206,788, or nearly 30 per cent of the contributors and pensioners in selfadministered Government schemes in Australia.
Applying the factor of 30 per cent, that would presume that there were, something like 690,000 people in what are described as self-administered Government schemes in Australia. I assume that that means the Commonwealth scheme, State schemes and local government schemes. In addition to that there are a welter of what are called private superannuation and pension schemes and as well there are. the vast numbers of the public who are not covered by a scheme at all. To change the scheme as fundamentally as is proposed here with out at this stage looking at the broader question of the community as a whole would be. quite an unfortunate step to take because at least we are getting the community to come around to the point where it believes that something in the nature of national superannuation should be introduced. 1 do not want this evening to go into the degree to which in essence Government and private schemes are subsidised by revenue by reason of the fact that the contributions that the individual makes to these funds are tax exempt and by reason of the fact - it varies according to the fund - that what is called the employer’s part of the fund comes out of public funds directly, as is the case with the Commonwealth fund or the State, fund, or that part of any private fund, insofar as it is paid, also is a tax deduction.
The proportions, as I understand them, at the moment are broadly that of every $7 paid out of the Commonwealth fund something like $2 is the result of the contribution of the member and something like $5 is the subvention from the Government. That roughly is the proportion. At least the Commonwealth and the States, as employers, have set models that have not been followed elsewhere. Nevertheless those who are fortunate enough to be members of funds, whether they are Government or private funds, get the advantage at the end by reason of reduction directly from taxation in some cases or an appropriation directly from the Government in other cases. When one takes the community as a whole, there are something like 690,000 people in Government funds, which represents only about oneseventh of what is described as the work force; the number in private funds is very difficult to ascertain. The unfortunate aspect still is that the survey which was conducted in Victoria recently when Mr Coward came out from Canada - I think this can be applied across the board in Australia - showed that something like two-thirds of the Australian population was not covered at all. This is the serious kind of position that the Government has to face up to. It is proposing here quite a significant change. It is shifting from a unit scheme to a flat rate proportion scheme.
I might say, without divulging anything, I am a member of a committee, as the
Treasurer knows, which is investigating another such scheme under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Act. The Committee intends at this stage to come down also on the side of a scheme that was related to some percentage of benefits payable as the basis of contribution to superannuation. I hope that the Government will seriously consider what I am about to say. I hope the day is not far distant when we have something that is described as a ‘national superannuation scheme’. If such a scheme is to be introduced, in my view it has to take into account a number of factors.
Firstly, it does not do anything at all for those people who have already retired. Their benefits are fixed in relation to past contributions, or in the case of about 800,000 people, in relation to what are called ‘social service payments’. It does not do very much at all for those people who are on the point of retirement either. If a national scheme were introduced today a person could not expect to contribute $1, at the age of 64 years and 364 days, and get a benefit tomorrow. There has to be a provisional period. A much more significant problem concerns about twothirds of the population who at present are not covered by any benefit at all and who must look forward, if one can properly use that term, to the social service scheme.
This is really, in the finish, what national superannuation is about. It is guaranteeing those who have wrought in the years of their strength decent sustenance in the years of their retirement. 1 suppose that these schemes are not viable ultimately in an actuarial sense. They are viable only in the social contractual sense, and that is that those who are contributing today are prepared to allow those who have retired to purchase goods and services produced by the rest of the community. I think it was well described by somebody in a graphic way that while individuals grow old and proceed from the cradle to the grave, the community does not grow old. It is the community as a whole that pays one way or another for those who are in retirement.
At least Commonwealth, State and private superannuation schemes are regarded or were regarded as systematic enough, but I think the kinds of qualification that the
Treasurer has indicated in his speech this evening show some of the difficulties we face. He suggests that it is necessary to try to keep the value of pensions constant by adjusting them to cost of living figures. At least this makes rather a jest of what were called ‘actuarial computations’ in the past; but I think this jest becomes unjust if those who happen to have been unfortunate enough to have contributed to those funds in essence are compensated for these things by the rest of the community. I suggest that this ultimately is what the community as a whole has to decide.
One of the interesting things about the surplus of $14,779,000 - near enough to $15m - is that it has arisen because interest rates in terms of the fund have risen from 3) per cent to 5 per cent. At least the contributors to the fund are beneficiaries of the higher interest rate, but the rest of the community are debtors in that kind of situation. I hope that the Government will go further than merely to reconsider the assumptions of the fund. I hope that it will acknowledge not only that there is a community obligation to the Commonwealth and the States as more model employers than some others but also that something has to be done about the vast majority of the community who live as employees of what is described as ‘private enterprise’. Insofar as they belong to the manual group rather than to the white collar group they tend to be neglected in respect of retirement provisions. On my side of the House, at least, we believe that we have an obligation to those sorts of people to guarantee them in retirement something of the same kind of benefits related to their last year’s earnings, as is the case with government employees.
Members of the generation between 55 years and 65 years who are not covered at present by any of these schemes probably will not be quite as tolerant about the provision of old age pensions, as they are called, as were past generations, f think the present provision is inadequate. It depends upon political largesse, usually conditioned by how close it is to an election. There is no guarantee that the payments will retain their purchasing power. I do not think that that kind of situation will be tolerated very much longer. When the considerations which the Treasurer has outlined this evening are being contemplated. I hope that some consideration will be given to those people who ate not covered at present by any systematic scheme.
– I have only a short time to look atthe statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). It seems to me to be a gilded bait handed out in pre-election times. The Treasurer said in his speech:
As part of this investigation it will look closely at the Actuary’sand the Board’s proposals. I expect it to complete its task later this year.
As a representative in this House of the Commonwealth Public Service organisations I have something to say on behalf of the members of those organisations whom I represent. In my view this is a bait which is being dangled before their eyes as an election issue. I hope that the Treasurer will do something positive in this field before the next election. There is a great deal of discontent within the Commonwealth Public Service because of the attitude of this Government to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. Throughout the Treasurer’s speech appear the wordsin the view of the Actuary’. It is about time that this Government took account of the people who contribute to this superannuation scheme. I refer to Commonwealth public servants. It is about time that their interests were considered.
The surplus disclosed by the Actuary for the year ended 30th June 1967 is $14,779,000. It is now 1972. The Treasurer states that it was no fault of the Actuary that the surplus is only now disclosed. The computer is blamed. We are Jiving in a computerised age. If this is the best that the Government can do in a computerised age, if it cannot get a positive result between 1967 and 1972, God help the people of Australia and God help the people in the Commonwealth Public Service. I am most dissatisfied with this statement and I speak,I think, on behalf of the Commonwealth Public Service organisations. I wish that I had had prior notice of the statement so that 1 could have given it more thought and consideration.
– You are here to talk for your constituents.
-I am not here talking for my constituents alone.
– You should be.
– The former Minister for Health would be well advised to stay quiet in view of the ineffectual way in which he handled matters affecting health and is now handling immigration matters. He is attempting to distract me but he will not succeed. I just wish to register a protest on behalf of the members of the Commonwealth Public Service and the unions in the Commonwealth Public Service at the manner in which this Government has treated them. I know the feeling in the Service. This Government has treated the members of the Commonwealth Public Service in cavalier fashion. 1 register a protest at this stage and, at a later stage when this matter is debated. I hope that other members on this side of the House also will register their protests at the cavalier fashion with which the members of the Service have been treated. I will not say that the Government has been contemptuous of them because it would be unparliamentary if I said that but I will say that it is tantamount to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants Act (No. 2) 1971 to authorise the payment to the Slates in 1971-72 of further special revenue assistance totalling$1 5m. At the Premiers Conference and Australian Loan Council meetingon 14th February the Commonwealth and the States agreed to a series of measures under which the States and their authorities would receive additional funds totalling some $85. 8m in 1971-72. The measures comprise increases in the States’ works and housing programmes, increases in the States’ semi-government borrowing programmes, additional grants for the relief of non-metropolitan unemployment, the additional revenue grants provided by this Bill and a special loan o New South Wales to assist that State with its budgetary difficulties.
The increased Loan Council programmes are covered in some detail in my second reading speech on the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1972. The Commonwealth is providing the increased unemployment relief grants with the specific purpose of increasing employment in nonmetropolitan areas and it supported the increases in the borrowing programmes also with the object of stimulating employment as well as enabling the States and their authorities to carry out additional public works, particularly in urban areas. The grants authorised by this Bill are for the purpose of assisting the States’ revenue budgets, and the States may use them either to increase expenditures or to improve their budget results as they individually decide.
This assistance will be additional to the special assistance of $40m which the Commonwealth agreed to provide in 1971-72 at the June 1971 Premiers Conference. That increase is authorised in section 10 of the States Grants Act (No. 2) 1971. As with that assistance, the present additional grants are not included in the base grants for the purpose of calculating the formula grants for 1972-73 and subsequent years. As with the earlier $40m, the present $l5m is to be distributed between the States in the same proportions as the financial assistance grants payable to them in 1971-72 under the States Grants Act (No. 2) 1971, but before making the adjustments to those grants which are accompanying the transfer of pay-roll tax to the States.
Since the amounts of these grants will not be finally determined by the Commonwealth Statistician until towards the end of the financial year, each State’s share of the $1 5m is not known precisely at this stage. However, the approximate amounts payable to the States are as follows: New South Wales, $5m; Victoria, $3.7m; Queensland, $2.3m; South Australia. $1.6m; Western Australia, $1.7m; and, Tasmania, $0.7m. Total, $15m.
It became clear during the discussions at the Premiers Conference that New South Wales had in prospect a much greater budgetary problem in 1971-72 than any of the other States. The Commonwealth therefore agreed to provide a special loan of $ 1 7.5m to the State this financial year in order to enable it to avoid taking extreme measures to improve its budgetary position. The terms and conditions of the advance will be similar to those attached to the advance of $10m made to Victoria in 1969-70. With the concurrence of the House I shall have these terms and conditions incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
TEW MS AND CONDITIONS OF THE SPECIAL ADVANCE OF $17.5m TO BE MADE TO NEW SOUTH WALES IN 1971-72
The terms and conditions of this advance, to be made to New South Wales on 30 June 1972, are as follows:
The amount is repayable over five years by annual instalments of S3. 5m on 30 June each year with the proviso that New South Wales undertakes to repay more than S3. 5m in any year if its budgetary position permits The Commonwealth has indicated that it would agree to- postpone an annual instalment if it is satisfied that the New South Wales budgetary position in the year concerned does not permit repayment to he made without deficit financing. This, of course, would not affect the requirement that the whole of the loan be repaid by 30 June 1977.
The loan carries interest at the short-term Commonwealth Bond rate of 5.3 per cent offered in the February 1972 cash loan.
No interest is payable in the first year. After this, interest is payable semi-annually on 31st December and 30th June each year on the reducing balance of the loan.
– This loan will be authorised in the Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1971-72- that is, the Additional Estimates - to be introduced later in these sittings. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) informed the States at the Premiers Conference that, because of revisions in the estimates of increases in average wages and State populations used in calculating the financial assistance grants for 1971-72, these grants would probably be some $20m greater than the estimates included in the budgets of the Commonwealth and the States.
Including the special assistance of $15m, but not including the special advance of $17.5m to New South Wales, it is estimated that in 1971-72 the States will receive nearly $290m in Commonwealth general revenue assistance over and above the amount they would have received had the arrangements which existed before 1970-71 continued unaltered. Thus the Commonwealth has made a very significant contribution indeed towards ensuring that the States have adequate funds available for recurrent purposes in this financial year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase by $9.3m the capital grants payable to the States in 1971-72 as part of the works and housing programmes for the year. This measure arises from the decisions agreed upon at the Premiers Conference on 14th February which, taken together, will increase the funds available to the States in 1971-72 by $85.8m. In his opening statement at the Premiers Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said that, in the light of the Government’s overall objective, including maintaining the momentum of economic growth and hence of employment, we believe there was a case for an increase in both the works and housing and the semi-government programmes of the States.
Within the overall picture of rather stronger growth in public sector expenditure this year than last year, total public authority capital expenditures were growing more slowly than were current expenditures. Moreover, despite considerable special assistance from the Commonwealth, rapidly escalating wage costs had meant that in 1970-71 a number of important State works had had to be deferred. Similarly, the works activities of certain of the State semi-government and local authorities had also had to be curtailed. It was also notable that the loan raising programmes of public authorities had been very successful so far this financial year.
The conference subsequently agreed that, firstly, the works and housing pro grammes of the States should be increased by S32m, bringing the total for 1971-72 to S892m and secondly, the semi-government borrowing programmes of the States should be increased by $10ni, bringing the total for 1971-72 to S436. m. These increases were formally approved by the Australian Loan Council. It was agreed that S30m of the increase in the works and housing programmes would be on the same basis as the existing programmes - that is, approximately one-quarter would be interest-free capital grant and the remainder loan money - with the remaining S2m being entirely by way of interestfree capital grant. This additional S2m interest-free capital grant was to be provided by the Commonwealth having regard to the continuing costs in which the States would be involved in administering the conversion to the metric system. The States agreed that, with this assistance, which will be reflected in and will escalate with the interest-free capital grant component of works and housing programmes in future years, they would meet these costs from their own resources.
The increased loan funds and capital grants will be distributed between the States in the same proportions as the existing programmes. They will have a direct impact in increasing employment and will permit the carrying out of additional worthwhile public works, particularly in urban areas, such as hospitals, schools, water and sewerage projects and the like. The Commonwealth also gave an undertaking to the States that the level of the works and housing and the semi-government borrowing programmes it will be prepared to support for 1972-73 will not be less than the total programmes in 1971-72 as decided at the February meeting.
In agreeing to the Commonwealth proposal to increase the borrowing programmes, the Premiers gave their assurance that the additional funds will, so far as is practicable without loss of efficiency and effectiveness, be utilised quickly, having in mind the desirability of producing an early impact on employment.
I now turn to the specific provisions of this Bill. Clause 3 increases the authority to borrow by $9.3m so that, if it were judged practicable and desirable, the Commonwealth could borrow sufficient funds to cover the total amounts of the capital grants to the States. Clause 4 repeals the Schedule to the principal Act and inserts a new Schedule. Only the second and fourth columns of the former schedule have been changed. The second column lists the amount of the grant payable to each State in 1971-72. The amounts in the Schedule to the principal Act have been increased as follows:
The fourth column in the new Schedule, as in the Schedule to the principal Act, shows amounts equal to half the corresponding amount in the second column. The amounts in the fourth column represent the maximum advances which may be made in the first half of 1972-73 pending the passage of legislation to authorise the capital grants in 1972-73. The provisions of this Bill form part of a series of measures that were designed to produce an early impact on employment, and will permit the carrying out of additional worthwhile works projects. They have been warmly welcomed by all the Premiers. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 722).
– The purpose of the Loan (Australian Wheat Board) Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligations 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. Of course, it is necessary that this provision be made. Over recent years this commitment has had to be met within 12 months of the drawings being made or prior to 31st March of the following year. So the position is that we have been finding this money to enable the industry to carry on. Before I deal specifically with the Bill I should like to make a few points about the comments made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who spoke earlier on this Bill. One of the things that interested me was his comment about the wheat quota being lifted. The cold hard facts are that this is the quota which was recommended by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I I believe that the Federation has acted very responsibly in its approach to wheat quotas.
When the stocks of wheat held by the Australian Wheat Board were such as to cause concern the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, with commendable courage, recommended the introduction of a quota system. This system is regulated by the States. 1 believe that the decision to lift the quota to 407 million bushels this year demonstrates a responsible appreciation of the fact that we still have to keep the amount of wheat which is being grown within the limits which it is reasonable to expect we will be able to handle. It is of no advantage to the wheat growers of quotas are lifted to such an extent that there is a large carry over of stocks to handle, because the cost of carrying more wheat than is required to obtain a reasonable reserve is heavy and that cost must be borne by the wheat grower himself. So in advocating an increased quota one has to consider what is in the best interests of the growers, and I am sure that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation had this very much in mind when it made its recommendation to increase the wheat quota. I have the very highest regard for the Federation’s judgment in this matter. With all due deference to the honourable member for Dawson, I would say that the Federation has the capacity, the facilities and the experience necessary to deal with this matterin the best interests of the Australian wheat grower.
In my own State the Queensland Grain Growers Association has a quota committee. People can put their case before this committee, and I believe that the system has worked reasonably satisfactorily. Perhaps in dealing with this matter I should draw attention to the attitude of the Opposition 2 years ago when conditions in the wheat industry were difficult. On page 207 of Hansard of 10th March 1970 the honourable member for Dawson is reported to have said:
The Government has now been warned about what can happen by being a guarantor for large proportions of wheat that cannot be sold at this point of time. This is an important point. 1 made it very clear why the Opposition supports the guarantee under the provisions of the Wheat Stabilisation Act. This Parliament has no alternative but to support it because the Reserve Bank has to make this loan within the province of section 57. That does not mean that this commits the Government and the people of Australia to guaranteeing loans all the time, depending on government or industry decisions. This is the crux of the problem. In the cold business world, would the Reserve Bank give a blank cheque for advances up to $634m, then when $250m of this was still outstanding give another (440m and, without knowing what could happen, another $407m at the end of the vear? That is the very dangerous situation :n which we could find ourselves. Very large .amounts of money are involved.
– Who said that?
– That was said by the honourable member for Dawson in 1970, when sneaking on behalf of the Opposition. The wheat industry needed the courage and determination of the Government to see it through that particular period of difficulty. In the light of that experience I would say that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation now has looked at these difficulties, and I hope that the honourable member for Dawson will agree that it was very good policy on the part of the Government to carry the wheat industry through that particular period of difficulty even if it involved guaranteeing the amount of money mentioned. It certainly saved the Australian wheat industry. 1 have been a member of this House for a number of years and 1 have, found that it is very difficult to forecast what will happen in world markets. We can only do our best, and I am sure that if this matter of wheat quotas is left in the capable hands of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation we will have the best chance of getting the best results for the Australian wheat grower, about whom I am mostly concerned.
Turning to the question of our having to guarantee this amount of money, one of the reasons why the Australian Wheat Board is not able to meet the payments in the required time is that credit sales of wheat have become a very important part of the Australian Wheat Board’s operations, particularly over recent years. For some years there have been debit balances at the end of March each year, and while there has been some increase in the balances, according to the latest figures available to me. the balances have been kept within reasonable limits. I know that, with the extension of credit, the stocks of wheat have been reduced quite considerably. This point was made earlier in the debate. I think it is worthy of note that the Australian Wheat Board has looked for new markets in this field and has successfully fo ind them, despite the lack of sales to Mainland China - if that is the latest term that should be used. The People’s Republic of China might be the popular name today.
– What did you use previously?
– ‘Mainland China’ I used previously, and it is not a bad name. It is a fairly descriptive name. If the honourable member is not happy with it, I cannot be worried. I am just talking about the country. I do not want to become involved in any controversy about which name should be used. If the honourable member has any affectionate name for it he is at liberty to use it, as far as I am concerned. It is necessary to maintain adequate stocks of wheat in this country, and those stocks are available now. The stocks have to be kept. Appendix 14 of the Austraiian Wheat Board’s annual report for the 1969-70 season gives the provisional figures for 1969-70. Taking the figures for the 5 major wheat exporting countries, the stocks for domestic use were then 2,381.8 million bushels of wheat and the closing stocks were 2.381.8 million bushels. They just balanced. The closing stocks were equivalent to what would be required.
The position is fairly sound, but I still feci that we need to look at this industry in a way which will enable us to predict as accurately as we can the position in the years ahead. That is a very difficult situation. I believe that the action taken by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and by the Government on the advice of that body is the correct action and I go along with it completely. I do not think we need to be unduly worried if there is some debit owing under the present conditions of sales of wheat on our world markets. We have to match the offers that are made by countries that are competing with us for the various world markets. This has meant that we have had to go into credit sales and it may be that in the future we will have to require a guarantee such as that we are debating now. I want to draw attention to the fact that, despite the credit sales that have been made, these commitments have been honoured. If we are in a position in which we have to make sales because of competition under these conditions, then it is far better to make them than not to compete. We have to face up to this as an ordinary business proposition. 1 do not want to detain the House for an unduly long time on this matter but I want to draw attention to the matter of the first advance for wheat. There has been some controversy about this. The first advance for wheat does make a difference in the amount of money that has to be met because the greater the amount that is paid out, naturally, the greater will be the amount that will be owing at the end of March. I support at least $1.10 a bushel as the first advance.
– I should hope so.
– The honourable member says that he hopes so. I want to say to you. Mr Deputy Speaker, and to the House that arguments have been put forward that this should be reduced in the interests of trying to cut production.
– Who said that?
– J do not know off hand who said it and I am not going to quote those people who have said it. But 1 know that it has been said and it has been quoted that there should be some reduction. I am not blaming the honourable member for it, so we will let it rest at that. 1 believe that at least $1.10 should be paid. Costs are rising all the time, and it is necessary that we receive this amount. Perhaps some consideration will have to be given to increasing it.
– It was SI. 10 a couple of years ago.
– It. was. 1 want to stress the point that I do not want to see any reduction in it. If there is to be a movement in that first payment, I want to see that movement upwards. I believe that the introduction of quotas was an important factor in the stabilisation of the wheat industry. It was resisted to some extent. The handling of the whole situation from that dim dark period of a couple of years ago reflects credit on the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and on this Government for the policy it has adopted in making the position what it is today. When we look at the world situation we have to remember that we cannot guarantee markets. We can work only on an assumption that certain markets will be available to us. We must face up to the sometimes intense competition, lt is against that background that I reject the suggestion made by the honourable member for Dawson that there should be an increase in quotas. It might sound all right. lt might be good politics to say that. But we have to look at what are the best interests of the Australian wheat growers in the light of the circumstances which are prevailing and in the light of the prospects for sales.
In the matter of guaranteed prices I heard it said that a means test should be put on the wool deficiency payment. This was suggested by the Opposition. I wonder why this should not apply to every industry, if it is good enough to be applied to the wool industry. I have not heard any suggestion that it should be applied to the sugar industry or that it should be applied to the wheat industry. I believe it is desirable that there should be no means test applied to the support of primary industries. The mistake that has been made in the past has been in trying to draw some line of demarkation between the people who need it or deserve it and those who do not. I want to impress upon the Opposition that, in trying to do this, the producer who is an efficient, effective producer is often penalised. Someone may produce figures which show that he might need some support and these may be compared with figures for another person who may not be in quite the same position. We need to prevent the Opposition’s suggestion of a means test for the wool deficiency payment from spreading any further than that. I hope that it will not even be adopted in the wool industry. 1 do not know why that industry should be singled out.
As far as the wheat industry is concerned, I want to be sure that when we do give the guaranteed price we give it across the board and that we stabilise the industry on that basis. That is the soundest basis on which it can be done. I conclude by supporting the Bill and by again commending the Government on the manner in which it has brought stabilisation into this industry. I couple with that the very sound recommendations that have consistently been made to the Government by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation.
– This Bill comes before the House at this time because of a peculiarity in the Reserve Bank Act which makes it mandatory that advances for such purposes as wheat sales must be repaid within 12 months. This is an outdated provision, lt is unreal and should be altered. The only purpose it serves is to provide the Government with an opportunity for grandstanding to the countryside. By doing this the Government does a disservice to the rural half of the nation, because the Government’s Ministers and many of its supporters give an impression that this is some kind of handout to the wheat industry and that the sums of money involved are somehow a subsidy to another struggling rural industry. This is just not true. The Australian wheat industry pays its way. The one big production year which frightened the Federal Government into imposing quotas - through the back door of these advances - was 1968-69. The Parliament should realise, and the nation should know, that the wheat growers in that pool faced an interest bill of $25m or 5c a bushel. It should also be remembered that since it took office the Government has nearly doubled the rate of interest from 3i per cent to the 5i per cent announced in the Bill before the Parliament at the present time. That is despite the fact that the money in the rural credits development fund is simply the profits from the Commonwealth Bank that are earmarked for rural development. So it should be clear that the Commonwealth is, as usual, extracting its pound of flesh.
The Government has bowed to some common sense this year and agreed to lift the national quotas. But I think it is about time we reviewed the operation of quotas - the quotas which flow from the predecessor to this legislation or the quotas which are set nationally by this Government by its control of advances to the Australian Wheat Board. It is not so long ago that the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr Jack Cass, warned about the dangers of facing a shortage of wheat. He estimated last year - that is, a year ago - that if the Board made its sales to China we could end last season with a carry over of 1 19 million bushels. He was blunt about saying that 119 million bushels was far too low. He did not know how low it was going to be. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture went further and described the carry over as dangerously low. The Chairman of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales, Mr Rod Black, has also expressed concern about dangerously low carry overs. So it is about time that we had a look at what the policies of the Government have done to the Australian wheat growers as individuals. in the first instance it introduced a system of wheat rationing in the middle of the year - a panic measure which was unjust and unworkable. The Government’s original intention was to take the quota and nothing more. The wheat was supposed to bang around the farm until somebody called for it. That was opposed. The Government backed down and agreed to accept all the wheat, but it said that it would pay only for the quota wheat and that there would be a storage charge imposed on the remainder. That was opposed. Again the Government backed down and abandoned its intention to burden the wheat growers with an additional storage charge. It became obvious then that the Government had panicked prematurely, that the great crop it was worrying about of 500 million bushels would not in fact eventuate and that the national quota would not be reached. There was then pressure by the growers, naturally, and by all concerned to take in and pay for all the wheat that had been produced in that year. That was opposed. So we fought on. The Government again refused to heed the warnings that all it was doing was hurting the wheat growers’ credit and damaging orderly marketing. It held out as long as it could. Finally the Government capitulated on this matter. That was a third victory foi common sense over the damaging policies that have been adopted by the Government. But the quota system groaned on. We have the situation now where (he traditional wheat growers have in some cases quotas so absurdly small that they would hardly sustain the family hens. We have the situation in other cases where share farmers have been driven out - bankrupted. Some of them ure refugees in the cities with their families. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture agreed with a submission made to him at the wheat centre of West Wyalong that the quota system was ‘rotten to the core’ but that to change it was beyond his ability.
What has been the result of the Government’s first steps to impose quotas in 1969 and the way in which they have been established? They have caused widespread hardship, a loss of confidence and credit restrictions and, for the most part, have penalised the honest men. Those who disregarded the Government have fared the best. The big wheat growing interests have suffered not at all. The corporations with huge quotas - the big men - have had no real worries. Others have ignored the Government and made long term arrangements to trade outside of the Wheat Board. The very way in which the quotas operated last year gave the greatest fillip to the black market - or is it the grey market or the free market? - since the Government launched its wheat rationing.
Let us examine what occurred. Despite grave doubts by those closest to the grass roots it was decided to curb quotas. It became obvious very quickly that we would not reach the national quota. That was obvious many months before the harvest, lt was obvious to the State administrations, if not to the Ministers and the governments, that the national quota would not be reached. It was obvious in New South Wales that the State quota would not be reached. Yet the fiction was maintained right up to the harvest that there would be an over-production of wheat. That fiction was maintained by the Government telling farmers of surpluses, by the Government telling farmers that they had to hold down production and by the Government telling farmers right up to the end of the harvest that if anyone had the unique experience of having over-quota wheat in a bad season he would still not be paid for that wheat. That fiction was maintained over the months. All it did was to give the black market its greatest boost since the introduction of quotas in 1969. Everyone in the countryside was well aware that wheat was in demand in the season just past and everyone in the countryside knew that if the Government maintained the fiction of over-supply the only people to benefit would be the black, grey or free market operators. Yet all the governments maintained an intense silence. The Canberra administration had set the style and performance. The fiction of over-supply was to be maintained at all costs and the States bowed to the inevitable.
What was the result of all this? The result was that the farmers were in the grips of a great dilemma. They knew that there would be a shortage of wheat, that the free trade operators were knocking on their doors and that in some areas $1 a bushel was being offered for wheat at the farm gate. They also knew that the Government was maintaining quotas and maintaining the fiction. They had to gamble as to whether to stick with the Government and run the risk of not being paid for socalled over-quota wheat or sign up with the free operators and be assured of not only their first advance but also more than they would get through the Board system. Let us be clear about that. There must be people listening to this debate who wonder why the farmers bothered at all and why they were in any dilemma at all. But, as everyone in the industry knows, the wheat growers had to fight for the orderly marketing system. They wanted it and they needed it. They worked for a whole generation to have it implemented. Now this Government has tampered with it. When the survival of the family - I say this very sincerely - and the survival of the farm are at stake and the bank manager is saying: ‘You had better sell or sign up’ the wheatgrower has to look at his home first, particularly when he knows that the Government is wrong and will not admit it.
Let us examine the incredible anomalies the Government’s nihilistic policy has created. The New South Wales Government decided to abandon quotas publicly after the harvest was under way. All the wheat that was left went in and it was to be paid for. So that was the end of that as far as New South Wales was concerned. But Victoria lagged behind. It was maintaining the fiction, with Canberra, that there could be too much wheat. So in an area which is in New South Wales but which is administered by Victoria for the purpose of wheat deliveries there was about 200,000 bushels of wheat without a home. New South Wales had no quotas and Victoria had quotas and in the middle was 200.000 bushels of homeless wheat. So I gently mentioned this situation to the State authorities in Victoria and warned them about it. Their response was lofty and negative. So I told them in a little stronger terms that either they did something straight away or there would be no wheat for them to take in. They acted eventually and got about half of what I suppose would have been available had they in fact recognised the situation and made an announcement at the right time.
Let us have a look now at what has happened as a result of the Government’s policy. We have now institutionalised the black market or the free market, whatever one likes to call it. We have big growers who have contracted 5 years ahead. We have a criss-cross - I was about to say a crisis - of wheat trade outside the Board and outside the Government. One branch of the Victorian Farmers Union has advised me that a transport operator from a small area had contracts for 4 months to cart across the border. I intend to read to the House a report which was carried by a border newspaper in this regard. I intend to suppress the names of the towns mentioned because I have no wish to issue an invitation to the Government again to send the Commonwealth Police into my electorate. The report is headed ‘Inter-State Wheat Trading’. It reads:
In recent weeks, many Inter-State trucks have been bringing in wheat to the silos of-
The report gives the name of the town - dealers, end at present many of the silos are full to over-flowing.
The words ‘Inter-State wheat trading’ have now replaced the old phase ‘Black Market Wheat’, and the farmers seem to he quite happy with their dealing in NSW.
It has certainly helped to keep–
Again the name of the town and the next town - busy.
The report mentions 6 towns in Victoria - have been seen deliveringwheat to the local silos. That is the report. The black or free market is quite openly and freely being institutionalised. Microscopic quotas have created this situation. Unreal attitudes in marketing have created this threat to orderly marketing. Now we are faced with a possible carry-over of only 60 to 80 million bushels of wheat - a dangerously low level. If Australia has a bad harvest next year we will face the prospect of importing wheat for the fourth time in living memory. This would mean hardship for the farmer and hardship for the city housewife. She should understand that when wheat went up 4c a bushel the cost to the consumer was 90c a bag. There are about 3 bushels of wheat in a bag of flour and there are about 90 loaves of bread in a bag of flour. So Mrs Housewife should be clear on this: She may pay too much for her bread but the producer receives too little for his product.
Let me look to the next season. If governments - Federal and State - maintain the conspiracies of silence that they have in the past throughout the season and the harvest is down and demand is constant then there will be an even greater boost for the black or the free market. One-third of all home wheat sales will be outside the Government system next season unless there is greater flexibility by all concerned in the administration of quotas. As my friend and colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said, there is a need in fact for a far higher national quota. He was blunt and definite on this point. The onus is on the Government. The Government decided to hold the quota at the present level despite a dangerously low carry-over. The Government had to be prodded in an election year to accept even the present quota because it was no: going to accept it. The quota was going to be even lower, so the Government hadto be pushed into it. I serve the warning that–
MrO’Keefe - How many bushels are involved in this black market?
– lt is estimated that for this year there would be 10 million bushels and if the Government keeps up its performance this year, 20 million bushels will be involved next year. The honourable member for Paterson is the honourable member who rose in this House and complained about thousands of bushels of wheat being stolen from silos and asked for an investigation. I do not blame him for doing that. Why did people steal from silos? Why was there this activity? I will tell the House why: Because there is a demand.
– Who pays for it?
– A former Minister asks who is buying wheat outside the system. If he does not know then I suggest that he should have found out. It is not my duty to act as a police informer in these matters. I am pointing out the consequences of the Government’s policy. 1 repeat that if the Government maintains this policy with the S ates in the same way as has been done in the last 3 seasons then this will be the consequence of that policy: It will destroy the orderly marketing system.
– ‘You have got them bi ing.
– Yes, it is also unfortunately too true. Government supporters have called upon growers fo put their neighbours in before now. This was the appeal that was made in this House: ‘Report them. Tell the Government who is delivering across the border and who is selling outside the border.’ In fact the demands were so insistent that I thought I had better address a question to the then Minister for Primary Industry who is now the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). I asked the Minister how many members of the House of Representatives had reported this activity; how many names of farmers had been given so that police could descend and prosecute them? How many members have done this? In fact, how many reports has the Government received? It is very interesting but very specifically a matter for the record that not one member of the House of Representatives - and f am glad about this - has submitted the names of any wheat growers for illicit trading.
– Who claimed they were?
– 1 do not want to be uncharitable because the honourable member is not in the chamber but if the hon ourable member really wants me to give the name of the honourable member I would be quite happy to do so because it is in Hansard. The supporters of the Government at this time should be clear and definite about the position. There is a warning here. The action which is to be taken next season is also quite clear. The national quota has been set. There will be a vote of the money to cover it and the Government, of course, has already decided on that amount. The wheat growers will pay the interest on it and the Government will be amply repaid. But if the season goes wrong it will be of no use maintaining the fiction right up to harvest time that there is a quota that is going to operate. 1 suggest that both in Canberra and the other capitals there is a little bit of intestinal fortitute to support the opinion that we should say: ‘Look, we set a quota. It was a genuine effort, lt is not going to apply this year because in fact there is a failure, so we are telling you, the growers, that quotas will not operate.’ That is fair and just. If this is not done the system the growers have fought for will be destroyed and the thing that the Government has said it is against will be created. What is more, it will be a guilty government that destroys an orderly marketing scheme and brings growers into greater difficulties than they have ever been in.
In the minutes remaining to me in this debate 1 think it is just as well to mention for the benefit of those members of the House of Representatives who have not realised it that Australia is not really a very potent or great force in the world in terms of grain production. It is about time that members of the House of Representatives realised that our wheat crop does not decide the great balance of hunger or plenty in the world. In fact the islands of Great Britain which are not very great produce twice as much grain in an average year as we do and the French - and of course Government supporters very rarely refer to them except for certain specific reasons - produce 5 times as much as we do. So let us not have honourable members going into their electorates with the great alibi that we are dominating the wheat scene in the world because it is just not true and it never has been. I might say that the Government alibi in this regard just will not stand up. I would hope that
Government supporters would have learned heir lesson and 1 would hope that there would be a more realistic approach in the next season and in the next 12 months. If there is not there will surely be created a permanent institutionalised black, grey or free market in our country which the growers themselves do not want to see and which would be to the detriment of the industry.
– 1 call the honourable member for Wakefield. Order! The honourable member for Riverina will restrain himself and cease talking.
– 1 will and the honourable member for Wimmera will do the same.
-Order! If the honourable member for Wimmera and the honourable member for Riverina wish to have an argument they had better go outside the chamber.
– I rise to order. I make this point in the light of your remarks, Mr Deputy Speaker, which are justified under the circumstances. I have sat here in silence while the honourable member for Riverina made his speech. I will make my point when the chatter on my immediate left dies down.’
– You must be sick.
– There would be no benefit from your lousy health scheme, would there? I will make my point if I am permitted to do so by the Government supporters. In silence 1 sat here whilst the honourable member for Riverina delivered his speech during which there was continual chattering from cockies’ corner and they ought to be shut up.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. I warn the honourable member as 1 have warned him on previous occasions from the chair that fraudulent points of order are out of order and amount to an obstruction of the business of the House.
– I did not obstruct the business of the House; the members of the Country Party did.
-I warn the honourable member not to obstruct the business of the House.
– When this debate was scheduled I put my name down with some diffidence because I thought it was a fairly simple Bill whereby we were to lend the Australian Wheat Board, at slightly concessional rates of interest, money which was to be repa.il in the course of trading by the Board. This is a procedure that has been followed for some time. I have been rather startled by the eloquence that a simple Bill of this kind has aroused. I was wondering how one could make a speech about such a simple Bill until I listened to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The main burden of his speech was that we ought to protect the small farmer against inflation. He pointed out quite properly that a small farmer could not increase his production because of the quota limitations and that therefore he ought to be protected against the impact of inflation.
I was interested in this aspect because I guessed that this meant protecting him against the impact of money wages rising faster than productivity, that it must mean that we should protect him against the effect of strikes and the effect of the 35- hour week, which it is estimated would add between $ 1,200m and $2,000m to the inflationary pressure that would bear down on the small farmer. I thought, if you will excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it meant we should protect him against the effect of unwise tariff policy, which really means that some of our resources we engaged in activities that reduce productivity. I was rather interested in the attitude of the honourable member for Dawson when he said that we should protect the small farmer against inflation. To me this seemed to be a pretty sensible approach. Why only the small farmer?’ I asked myself. If we protect only the small farmer, do we not automatically encourage him to be small?
– No. You have a quota.
– Yes, but if we protect only the small farmer against the impact of inflation - this was the burden of the honourable member’s complaint - do we not encourage him to be small? That is a fairly simple question. The honourable member for Dawson said: ‘Let us protect the small farmer against the impact of inflation’. So he must want us to protect the small farmer and not protect the otherthansmall farmer. As soon as we do (hat, do we not encourage him to be small?If the proposition is that we should protect every farmer against the impact of inflation, I would go along with it; but the honourable member for Dawson said that we must protect the small farmer against the impact of inflation. If we protect the small farmer and not the big farmer, we must automatically encourage the small farmer to continue to be a small farmer.
– I am not arguing with you: I am arguing with the honourable member for Dawson. That was the burden of his complaint.
– I did not say that. I said the small farmer had a quota.
-I repeat that the burden of the complaint of the honourable member for Dawson quite clearly was that the duty of this House and the Government was to protect the small farmer against the impact of inflation. Those were his words. If we protect the small farmer, as against the large farmer or the medium sized farmer, we automatically encourage him to be small.
– I did not say that.
– This is the implication, surely.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, are we not sick and tired of hearing the same words over and over again, and is not tedious repetition against the Standing Orders? In 4 minutes the honourable member for Wakefield has used the same words 10 times.
– The Chair will decide on that. There are too many interjections. If the honourable member for Wakefield were allowed to continue bis speech uninterrupted he would be able to manage better.
– Thank you indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker. One of the things I think we have to face in this chamber is whether we ought to have a system of government intervention which would automatically protect the small farmer as against the other-than-small farmer, because if we do we automatically encourage farmers to keep their farms at an uneconomic size. One of the clear things about Australian agricultural development is that farms have tended to increase in size and have always tended to increase in size as the power unit has changed. We find that farms, unless they are interfered with by government action that protects small farmers for any particular reason, tend to become of a size that fits the economic power unit. The farms around me in my own area were developed to a size that fitted around what a 10 horse team could handle, and as the power unit changed they changed in size until they have become of a size that an economic sized power unit tractor can handle. I ask the honourable member for Dawson: Do you want to stop this process?
– By way of interjection the honourable member has said that he does not want to stop this process but wants farms to become of an economic size.
– I am glad to hear his intervention because I thought that he wanted only farms of small size to be helped against inflation. Now we are to have farms of an economic size safeguarded against inflation. If we are to protect farms of an economic size surely we must admit - if honourable members do not know this they ought to - that an economic family farm in today’s conditions will always beat the corporate farm because it has a great many advantages. Those of us who work in the industry and know the industry know that a farm of an economic size which is well run economically will always do like a dinner the large corporate farm. That is definite,If this is so - I do not think anybody who knows the farming industry will deny it - we end up where we came in. The honourable member for Dawson should have said that we ought to protect all farmers against inflation. That is a proposition that 1 can support with enthusiasm.
– That is what I am saying.
– The honourable member did not say that; he said that he would protect the small farmer against inflation. We have arrived at where we ought to have come in; we should protect the farmers against inflation. This means, I take it, that we should protect them against the impact of silly demarcation strikes, against the impact of silly dargs that dog all our industrial operations, against the 35-hour week nonsense which would add between S 12,000m and S20,000m a year to our inflationary problem, and against unwise protective policies that will prevent our using our resources in the best possible way. If we are agreed on this, I would join the honourable member for Dawson in any exercise that protects farmers against inflation. But to pick out small farmers is to seek a cheap political advantage which is not worthy of him.
– I am surprised that noone else from the Opposition side has risen to speak. I believe that a couple of other members of the Opposition were to speak, but evidently they have lost their interest or knowledge. Perhaps I can persuade them to do something. I was rather interested to listen to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) answering some pf the comments of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who spoke in this debate earlier this evening. I thought that, the honourable member for Dawson spent his dme talking not so much about this Bill as about a stabilised industry as such. All of his comments were based on a future stabilisation plan that should be introduced, no doubt, some 12 months or so from now. To a certain degree these comments apply to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). I was amazed to listen to the honourable member for Riverina talk on and on and all around the subject. He put forward suggestions that have been ruled out time and time again by the industry. However as these suggestions came from the bright honourable member for Riverina, in his mind they must be right.
I do, however, agree with some of the comments of the honourable member for Dawson when he referred to the increased cost of producing a bushel of wheat resulting from a form of restriction such as a quota scheme. It is easy to understand that costs are spread over production in various ways. Undoubtedly there is little one can do about reducing the capital cost of producing wheat. As quotas are reduced on a particular harvest naturally this increases costs. When we reach the stage of renewing the wheat stabilisation plan next year this is an aspect we must consider. 1 am sure that the present Government again will be negotiating successfully with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and no doubt wheat growers will benefit as a result.
Actually this Bill guarantees to the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank an amount up to SI 50m. This is necessary because of the application of section 57 of the Reserve Bank Act which prescribes that money borrowed from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank must be repaid within a period of 12 months. This measure has been introduced to cover the wheat industry for a period of time. The interest rate will be 5i per cent. It is to be hoped that the moneys will be repaid when the wheat is eventually sold and paid for. I say ‘paid for’ because at present the wheat industry is experiencing difficulty with respect to international sales. Some of our competing countries have become somewhat hard sellers and as a result, the Australian Wheat Board, representing Australian wheat growers, also has had to be firm and hard in its negotiations. Unfortunately, in order to be able to meet some of its commitments, the Board has had to dispose of some wheat on credit.
For the benefit of some honourable members opposite who do not seem to appreciate how the system works and payments are made I remind them that the Wheat Board borrows from the Reserve Bank an amount to cover the first advance to growers plus a certain sum for management purposes. Naturally the Board’s first responsibility is to make sure that the amount borrowed is repaid. After that is done, the Board continues to sell wheat and, as it receives payment, second and subsequent payments are made to growers until that particular wheat pool is wound up. The whole reason for the introduction of this Bill is related to what may be classified as surplus stocks. After all, the industry has moved through a position of over-production with extremely high stocks to a stage now of satisfactory stocks. Some people will say that stocks are dangerously low but I do not think they have quite reached that stage. Restraints on production were introduced in 1969 because of the huge amount of wheat that was in store in Australia. It was the industry’s decision that there should be introduced some form of curfew, restriction, quota - call it what we may - and the Commonwealth and State governments co-operated with the industry.
It is interesting, too, to note the success that the Australian Wheat Board has had in the last 12 months. Last year we started with a carryover of some 265 million bushels and despite the fact that some States had bad seasons deliveries to the Board were in the vicinity of 254 million bushels. This gave the Board an availability of 519 million bushels. Last year it disposed of a record quantity of wheat - 394 million bushels - which meant that at the end of the wheat season, which was 30th November, the Board had a carryover of only 125 million bushels. I believe that this is a satisfactory carryover. The Wheat Board managed to dispose of wheat despite some hard competition from our neighbouring countries. However I would suggest caution. We cannot lift the lid off the industry at this stage, despite the fact that we are reducing our surplus stocks. I am mindful of the problems that other countries experienced last year: For example, corn blight in the United States of America and the waterfront strike on the west coast of the United States. I believe this certainly played into the hands of the Australian Wheat Board. It enabled Australia to get into some markets that otherwise may have gone to the American industry. Today, of course, the signs are different. There has been a record crop in the United States and the barley crop in Canada is at an almost record high. In America increased plantings are being made. The devaluation of the United States dollar gives the United States an added advantage in respect of prices. All in all this will not help our selling programme. Activity in the European Economic Community also will not assist us.
I believe that the introduction of a proposal put forward by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation a few months ago to increase the overall Australian quota to 407 million bushels, which has been accepted by the Commonwealth Government, is a sound and responsible decision. The honourable member for Riverina, whom I cannot see in the chamber at present, was somewhat critical of this proposal. He has the idea that we should lift the lid right off. Of course, he must fully realise that if the lid were lifted there would be chaos in the industry. We would find large tracts of country where we are perhaps grazing a few sheep at unprofitable prices today turned overnight to the production of wheat and coarse grains. For the life of me I can never understand the attitude of the honourable member for Riverina but I suppose one should really understand and appreciate that his practical knowledge of the industry is such that he does not really know what is happening in it.
The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation over the years has taken many responsible decisions and there has been a certain amount of criticism that the Commonwealth was not prepared to go along with the Board’s first recommendations. All I want to say to the House on this matter is that it was unfortunate that there was a great deal of publicity given to this before there was any real finalisation of the price. The situation can be likened to that of a person seeking to buy a new home. He does not decide that his first bid will be his maximum bid. He naturally tries to get the house as cheaply as he possibly can. Following this he goes into negotiation. The same applies to the Government and the wheat industry who negotiate wheat sales. It is unfortunate that there was so much publicity given to the fact that this was to be the price before any finalisation on it was reached.
This is a very simple Bill. I agree with the honourable member for Wakefield that there is not a great deal in it on which one can expand other than to say that it is absolutely necessary for the wheat industry. Without it, of course, we would not be able to make available to the growers that amount of money which is required as a reasonable first advance. In addition, after the funds had to be returned there would be so little money available that the growers would have to wait many years before they could get their second and subsequent payments. I can see nothing wrong with this legislation. I am surprised that some Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have tried to make some political capital out of such matters as interest rates and the other issues involved with it. Of course we would all like to see lower interest rates; this is only natural. Any person who borrows money wants to see lower interest rates. One of the problems within most rural industries of today is not so much the rate of interest but the term of the loan and this is dealt with in this Bill.
The question of who is entitled to the lower interest rates is where there is a difference of opinion. I represent many nural dwellers and naturally would support the principle of low interest rates for rural dwellers. Honourable members representing people in newer housing areas would want to see lower interest rates for housing. And so I could go on through every industry in the Commonwealth; they would all want lower interest rates. The question then would be: Who will pay the high interest rates? This is what many of those people who seek lower interest rates overlook. I thank the Government for introducing this measure. I am sure it will be appreciated by the wheat industry as a whole and I would certainly recommend to the House that it be passed without delay.
– I will speak very briefly. In spite of all that has been said by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), the Opposition thoroughly supports this Bill as it has always supported every worthwhile Bill for the wheat industry. The Australian Labor Party was the first to introduce the wheat stabilisation plan which has been continued by successive Liberal-Country Party Governments, the last of which is in office now. Therefore, the Opposition rejects the type of criticism that has been levelled at it by one or two speakers on the other side of the House. The wheat industry covers several Australian States and has 60,000 to 70,000 wheat growers in it. Its problems have been aggravated not so much by over production by what we call the established wheat farmer but by the new men who went into the industry in recent years because of the stabilised price, the guaranteed returns and the security that they gave. I know of one case of what is called a Collins Street farmer turning to wheat production and sowing 15,000 acres. He was not a registered wheat grower; he was not a bona fide wheat grower. He was a businessman going out to grow wheat.
– He was a member of the Liberal Party.
– Of course he would be. Many of these growers especially in the west and in parts of Victoria are new chums at wheat growing and they aggravated the position considerably by producing wheat on their new farms. The quota system was introduced because of over-production and these fellows were one of the reasons for over-production. But what will we do about these people who jump into rural industries in times of plenty and good prices and desert them in times of bad prices? They are a problem to governments, whatever Party is in office. I just make that point In respect to the reasons for over-production.
At this stage I want to pay a tribute to the Australian Wheat Board. It has shown what good salesmanship really is and its magnificent salesmanship over recent years is an example to all other Boards trying to export Australiangrown cereals. With the dairying industry, which has revolutionised our exports to China and other Asian countries, the Wheat Board stands as our most experienced and expert seller of our products. The Wheat Board has had its hands tied behind its back for many years because of the attitude of this Government to the People’s Republic of China and the Board has had my gratitude throughout these years because it was out fighting for markets in a country that was not recognised by this Government, the Government that at this moment is backing the Wheat Board. Although the Board is an independent and autonomous body, it is sheltered, supported and sustained by the Government. The Government has been deliberately insulting to the People’s Republic of China over the last 20 years. During those long years the Wheat Board has tried to sell wheat to that country at a time when the Government was condemning the People’s Republic of China left, right and centre. This is why the Wheat Board deserves our complete gratitude for its long battle to maintain its markets and its exports.
Finally last year the Wheat Board found the doors closed in China. Canada then moved in and sold 98 million bushels to China. The Government’s attitude had to catch up with ;he Wheat Board eventually and the sooner this Government really gets into conversation at the top diplomatic level with China, as President Nixon has done over the last lew weeks, the sooner our market in that country will bc restored. Considering that the type of market was so drastically reduced it staggers me that the Wheat Board sold 364 million bushels last year. The Board is to bc congratulated for finding new markets. It is a splendid and a magnificent Board. The wheat industry should be proud of it. Although the Board has had to have introduced unpopular legislation and regulations in the last 12 months or so because of over production, it is still a magnificent manager of the great Australian wheat industry in which between 60.000 and 70,000 growers earn their living. 1 wish to criticise the interest rates that are to be charged on the sum of $150m that the Commonwealth will be permitted to borrow once this legislation is passed. I temper my criticism by saying that the Commonwealth is authorised only to borrow $150m. It just does not pick up this money from the Commonwealth Bank and pay it to the Board, which in turn will pay the Reserve Bank the money it owes to that bank. It has to go to the country and borrow $l50m, but we do not know from where at this stage. Conceivably the Commonwealth will have to pay interest of more than 5) per cent for some of that money. The Commonwealth will charge an overall interest rate of 5i per cent for the $150m that it lends to the Wheat Board. Having regard to interest rates the Commonwealth could be in debt in the final wash up. I want also to criticise the principle of high interest rates for loan money. For instance, the Development Bank charges interest at 6 per cent on loans to farmers who are opening up new land. That sort of interest rate is outrageous. It is usurious and makes Shylock appear like a Sunday School teacher by comparison.
High interest rates will always kill, restrict and restrain development and security amongst those people who must pay them, irrespective of whether they are home builders, developers or farmers. I am very critical of the generally high levels of interest that are charged by governments, particularly this Government. In this instance the Board will pay about an extra S3. 5m and eventually that money will have to be found by the growers. The Board will pay approximately $3. 5m for the money the Commonwealth will lend to it to pay back to the Rural Credits Section of the Reserve Bank.
The redeeming feature of the loan is that the interest of 5i per cent per annum will be paid on the daily outstanding balance, and not as a flat rate. If fiat rate interest were charged, interest of about $7.5m would be paid in one year on the loan of $150m. The Board would have to pay that amount. As interest is to be paid on a sliding scale of repayments it will amount to about $3. 5m, which is still a high figure to pay for this money which is to be borrowed for only a year or a little longer. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has indicated, the Opposition supports this Bill because it is absolutely necessary to tide the Board over a very difficult period. 1 think all sensible people in Australia, whether consumers of wheat products or growers of wheat, should support a measure such as this in a critical time.
– I support this Bill. the purpose of which is to authorise the borrowing of moneys by the Commonwealth to lend to the Australian Wheat Board. The legislation is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to met its obligations under a guarantee of repayment of borrowings by the Australian Wheat Board from the Reserve Bank in respect of wheat from the 1970-71 pool. Similar loans have been made in the previous 2 wheat seasons. The sum of $364m was borrowed from the Reserve Bank ;o help in marketing the 1970-71 crop. This amount has to be paid back to the Reserve Bank by 31st March of this year; that is the end of this month. This payment has to be made 1 year after borrowing, under the Reserve Bank Act.
The Australian Wheat Board makes sales of wheat on credit and receipts will not be sufficient to enable it to met its borrowings in full. This proposal is for the Commonwealth to lend to the Board enough money to discharge its debt to the Reserve
Bank. The Board is required to use the net proceeds from export sales of wheat from the 1970-71 pool, after the date of loan, in addition to the Commonwealth’s stabilisation payment. The interest rate on the money borrowed by the Board, as mentioned by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), is 5i per cent. I believe that this is a very reasonable rate of interest. Many people in this chamber and outside it would be glad to borrow money at that rate and I therefore cannot agree with the criticism of the honourable member for Wilmot. 1 think it is a very reasonable rate.
The Bill authorises the Commonwealth to borrow up to $150m to lend to the Board. In Australia during the 1970-71 season record sales of wheat were made by the Australian Wheat Board. Total earnings from wheat sales were about $433m. Sales totalled 332 million bushels or 18 million bushels more than the record wheat year of 1966-67. Honourable members may be interested to hear details of those sales. Tonight the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) mentioned that the United Kingdom is a big wheat grower, but the figures I have show that the United Kingdom was the biggest purchaser of Australian wheat in 1970-71. The United Kingdom purchased 1,716,598 tons for $81,522,000. The People’s Republic of China was the next biggest purchaser, taking 1,287,881 tons for $57,402,000. The United Arab Republic, which of course has taken over the position held by the People’s Republic of China, bought 1,249,777 tons for $56,252,000. Japan bought 807,967 tons for $40,156,000. Sales to Iraq have rapidly increased. In 1970-71 Iraq purchased 427,998 tons for $22,998,000. Malaysia was a very big market for Australian flour in past years. Along with Singapore, Malaysia is now a whole grain buyer. In 1970-71 it purchased 306,087 tons of Australian wheat for $15,385,000. Sales were also made to Singapore and Iran.
A study of recent sales shows that in this period many new markets have been opened up, particularly in South America to countries such as Chile. I read the other day that the present Wheat Board had sold 200,000 tons of our wheat to Chile. There were fortuitous circumstances in this year, such as the world-wide lift in- demand for wheat for stock feeding, accompanying the buoyant market for feed grains which followed the blight damage to the United State corn crop. When there is a damage to the United States corn crop, it affects grain sales and grain market conditions throughout the world. The drought in the Middle East and the United States waterfront strike also were contributing factors.
Even taking these factors into consideration, the most successful year was in no small measure due to the energies and the enterprise of the Australian Wheat Board in its marketing efforts in a very competitive world situation. It redoubled its efforts to maintain existing markets and to develop new ones and, like the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), I pay a great tribute to the Australian Wheat Board for its wonderful efforts on behalf of the wheat growers of this country in bringing this commodity up to be the second biggest export earner in Australia’s total exports for the year. The United Arab Republic, particularly Egypt, comes to mind as a new market which has been developed and it has helped to fill the gap left by the cessation of buying by the People’s Republic of China, which I have already mentioned. Most of Australia’s competitors in grain marketing this year are enjoying very favourable seasons. It may be difficult for us and our marketing authority, the Australian Wheat Board, to maintain world grain prices. This fact and the progressive extension of terms for payment are factors which must be taken into account when considering prospects for the future. It is of great concern to ensure that growers receive the highest possible return for all grain as well as other primary products sold for export. For this reason, wheat quotas based on stocks and sales prospects will continue to be important means of stabilising producers’ returns.
The matter of quotas has been one of great concern to everybody in the wheat industry, particularly the primary producers, and it was brought about because of a world over-supply of wheat. The Australian wheat industry encountered serious problems in storing and marketing the unprecedented intake of wheat from the 1968-69 harvest. Realising that another large crop in 1969-70 would compound these problems, the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation formulated a plan in March 1969 aimed at bringing production to manageable levels. The essentia] features of the proposals put forward by this body at that time were, firstly, that quotas would be imposed on deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board in each State in 1969-70. The basic State quotas at this time totalled 344 million bushels. It is interesting to note that they were allocated to the various States as follows: New South Wales, 123 million bushels; Victoria, 65 million bushels, Queensland, 25 million bushels; South Australia, 45 million bushels; Western Australia, 86 million bushels. The second proposal - this is a most important point and it has been followed by the present legislation - is that a first advance payment of $1.10 would be made on all wheat from the 1969-70 crop delivered to the Australian Wheat Board within the limits of the quota system.
The scheme was supported by the wheat industry in all States. In general, it is based on the average deliveries by growers over a certain period. AH States, of course, have fallen into line and have enacted the necessary legislation. In 1970-71, the Australian quota was 295 million bushels; in 1971-72 it was 314 million’ bushels and this year we know that the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation asked for a quota of 407 million bushels to which the Australian Government and the various States have agreed. In addition there will be a $1.10 payment per bushel, less freight, on deliveries of quota wheat to the Australian Wheat Board. New South Wales has been allocated 157 million bushels, Victoria 67 million bushels, South Australia 50 million bushels, Western Australia 95 million bushels, and Queensland 38 million bushels.
The season through which we are now going has been disappointing, particularly in New South Wales. I do not have the accurate figures but that State has a quota of some 123 million bushels and has produced something like only 80 million bushels. The supply position has shown a dramatic change from 12 months ago, to the extent of a reduction of about 120 million bushels. However, overseas prospects are not nearly so bright and a repetition of last year’s performance is most unlikely. There is a greater pressure of supplies meeting reduced demand and world trade is expected to be of a lower volume. Nevertheless, with the low level of the 1971-72 intake, the carry-over at the end of the season could well show a substantial decline. So, in fact, there is a shortage of wheat in this country. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) spoke about hard wheats and quality wheats. This country must get down to marketing quality wheats - hard wheats - which come mainly from the black soil plains of our farming areas. I come from the biggest wheat producing centre in Australia which produces the hard quality wheats which are in great demand. However, in wet seasons we have wheat that is shot and sprung and other markets are found which are prepared to pay less for this type of wheat because it suits their own requirements. However, I think we certainly should stress quality if we are to maintain and increase our overseas markets.
The honourable member for Riverina mentioned the black market that exists in wheat and he estimated that something like 10 million bushels have gone across the border. I should like to see some ways and means of obtaining a really authoritative figure on this type of activity because it is no good to the industry or to the primary producers who produce the wheat and it is a practice that certainly should be stopped if possible. In northern New South Wales there certainly has been a little trading over the border, but nothing to the order of 10 million bushels. I have mentioned in this House that there have been numerous instances where wheat has been stolen out of the silo system and my remarks received great publicity in the newspapers throughout Australia. Some of the authorities poohpoohed the idea but it is a fact because many people have been prosecuted throughout New South Wales for this practice. After all, it is the wheat grower who must foot the bill for this activity. I support the Bill and commend it to honourable members.
– It is not my purpose to delay this legislation. It is a very necessary piece of legislation and one which I think we can confidently forecast will be necessary for some years to come. However there are 4 points that have been raised during the course of this debate on which I feel some comment should be made before we finally leave the subject altogether. These 4 points are the size of the Australian delivery quota, the application or the introduction of a means test into the quota system, the interest rate, and finally the vexed question of wheat quality. It is a matter of some surprise to me to find that during the debate on this Bill it should have been suggested that the Australian quota should be higher than what it is.
The simple truth of the matter is that it is the size of the Australian quota at this point of time, and in the context of the present opportunities for marketing Australian wheat, which renders necessary this Bill. Quite obviously, the higher you raise the quota on which the Government undertakes to pay a first advance of $1.10 a bushel the greater is the amount of money which the Australian Wheat Board has to borrow from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the greater is the deficiency at the end of the term pf that loan. Conversely, if the Australian quota were reduced to approximately one-half or considerably less than its present volume we would not need this sort of legislation at all. So I think it is quite irrational in the course of debate on this Bill to try to advance the proposition that the Australian wheat delivery quota should be higher than it is.
Reference has been made to the desirability of introducing a means test into the quota system. In some States a form of means test is already applied. In some States the quota is allocated amongst the individual growers in accordance with a delivery formula arrived at from the history of deliveries by particular properties over a period of years. This allocation becomes the properties’ base quota, and any variation of the original national quota of 357 million bushels is arrived at by taking a percentage cut on the base quotas. In one instance the State does not apply a percentage cut below 10,000 bushels and in another instance below 12,000 bushels. I have no complaint whatsoever about the application of this principle. I believe that it is very necessary and is completely justified in the context of the present economic climate in the wheat industry.
I think that it is quite irrational to say that a farming property with a delivery his tory of only 12,000 bushels should be subject to the same cut straight across the board as is applied to a big company property with a delivery quota of between 500,000 and one million bushels. To me this is quite illogical and quite unfair. I make this point because reference has been made to a means test and it has been suggested that no means test is being applied. In another quarter it has been suggested that a means test should never be applied. The simple truth of the matter is that in some instances it is already being applied, and rightly so.
Reference has also been made to the interest rate of 5i per cent. A speaker on my right recently referred to the great volume of wheat which the Australian Wheat Board had sold during the year. If the Australian Wheat Board had actually sold and received payment for this record quantity of wheat, we would not be dealing with this legislation tonight. The Board, in its efforts to dispose of the quantity of wheat placed in its hand under the quota system, has had to resort to all sorts of various devices to get the stocks of wheat out of the storages to make room for the incoming crop. This year the Board would be expected to have stocks of the order of 500 million bushels to dispose of if it were to empty the storages altogether which, of course, it will not do. But in its effort to achieve this sales performance the Board has had to resort to some rather doubtful commercial transactions. It has sold wheat to various countries on very extended and in some aspects rather questionable credit terms. This has enabled the Board to achieve the sales performance which it has achieved. But the Board has not received payment for a vast quantity of this wheat.
The wheat has been sold in many instances on what might be described as Kathleen Mavourneen terms, and quite a sizeable amount of money is outstanding in the form of payments for this wheat. Normally payment would have been received for this wheat; the Board would have been able to liquidate the debt with the Reserve Bank had it been able to sell this wheat for cash and not on credit terms. By the same token it should be understood that although this wheat has been sold on credit it is nevertheless attracting an interest rate. ] do not know what the interest rate is. The Board has not disclosed it, and I do not think that the Board should be asked to disclose it because it is not the sort of commercial practice that one adopts when one is dealing with customers in the way in which the Board is engaged. It is reasonable to assume that the interest rate of 5i per cent which the Board will pay for the accommodation provided in this Bill is offset by the interest which it is receiving from the credit transactions it has made in respect of the wheat it has sold. So I think we can forget all about the criticism that has been levelled about the interest rate. Knowing this as I do. I believe that it would be quite wrong to allow this debate to be concluded without laying this particular ghost to rest.
I want to make one other point very briefly. I apologise again for delaying the House at this late hour; it is something of which I do not approve. Reference was made to the quality in wheat. This is a subject on which I have never heard more nonsense talked. Quality in wheat means different things to different people. Quality in wheat to be used for one purpose is not desired in that wheat if it is to be used for another purpose. I believe that we in Australia have to produce good wheat, no matter whether it is hard wheat or soft wheat. Let <t be of good colour. Let it be a well filled, round grain wheat of good colour, with a high flour yield, a low moisture content and free from any admixture of foreign seeds. I believe that Australian grain of that type will always command its position on any market within Australia or overseas. I support the legislation and again apologise for delaying the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Mackay) read a third time.
McMahon Government - Transport of Relief Material to Bangla Desh - Commonwealth Scholarships: Means Test.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not wish to detain the House for long, but we are nearing the end of a very important year in Australian political history. It is the end of the first year of government of the McMahon Ministry. The Prime Minister’s 64th birthday was forgotten by his own colleagues and now this other historic event, the first year of office - 366 days - appears as though it might pass unnoticed. 1 say that it should be recorded and tonight, whilst the Government supporters are evidently silent and desire to forget it, it is again left to me to do the decent thing and say a few words about the first year of office, because when all is said and done it is going to be the first and the last. Who am I to let an occasion like that pass? These events occur infrequently in our political lives. I almost forgot the birthday of the Prime Minister and it was only in the fleeting moments of the day that I was able to rise and let that event be recorded in this Parliament.
In view of the need to be specific on these matters and in deference to the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) let me say that 1 am not reading my speech but quoting from copious notes. Unlike him, on this issue I desire to be meticulously correct in my language. That leads me to this point: 10th March 1971 was an historic day, an unforgettable day in the history of Australia, a day indelibly recorded by subsequent events on the minds of all Australians. It was a day destined to leave its mark, unfortunately, on future generations. It was the day on which the right honourable member for Lowe was elected Prime Minister. Paris has its Bastille Day; London has the Trooping the Colour; America has the Fourth of July; and the Soviet has its May Day. What is wrong with Canberra having its day, its celebration, to commemorate the Night of the Long Knives in the Liberal and Country Parties, on 10th March 1971, and the first momentous, turbulent and disastrous 366 days of the McMahon Government.
The Prime Minister himself has commented on the pervading gloom. In the year of China, a year when we seek a dialogue with China and to sell wheat, wool and eggs, as the honourable member for Mallee knows - in this the Year of the Rat - what a splendid opportunity to impress Chairman Mao and set a precedent for future generations. At 8.15 on Friday morning next, 10th March, when all good public servants are on their way to work - if there is any for them to do under this troubled Government - could not the Prime Minister and his supporters, if they are both willing and able, assemble at Commonwealth Bridge and, emulating Chairman Mao, in a more polluted stream swim the lake? A fleet of Commonwealth cars could follow the swimmers, simultaneously releasing hundreds of peacocks to preen and prance on the lake shores. Naturally, a ceremonial officer could arrange for our diplomatic friends, including those from the newest embassy just opposite the House, to assemble at the starting point, and after the swim, if there are any survivors, all could be invited to the Great Wall of the Lodge to toast the success of the occasion.
Canberra lacks the aura of the Forbidden City - or even Queanbeyan - although no doubt many Government supporters will say that the Ming Dynasty gives Australia a great link with our future Chinese allies. At the end of the day a refreshed Prime Minister could challenge all comers to a game of ping-pong - undoubtedly the ‘in’ Chinese game at the moment and much safer for him at this stage in view of his present erratic squash form. I might say that squash is certainly not the Prime Minister’s racket. As this great day almost coincides with the Ides of March a banquet should be held. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) discovered too late the truth of Shakespeare’s words in ‘Julius Caesar’ as follows:
Let me have men about me that are fat. Sleek headed men and such as sleep o’ night. Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look: He thinks too much: Such men are dangerous.
The only difference 1 would have with Shakespeare is that the present Ministry, fat or thin, does not think at all. Caesar realised the wisdom of having men around him who were fat or corpulent. He disliked the lean and hungry look as exemplified by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) and the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes). The Prime Minister has heeded the words of Shakespeare, as instanced by his Minister foi the Navy (Dr Mackay), the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch), to mention just a few who, whilst not being unduly obese, incline that way.
Naturally, in keeping with the thoughts of Chairman Mao on his ‘eternally happy workers’, all speeches on the anniversary would be made by members of the Country Party, or as they might be more aptly described in the words of Chairman Mao the happy burrowing brigade’. At the close of the day as the weary and the fortified brigades wend their way through the silent and deserted avenues of the capital, to the strains of the carillon, they could chant the words of that lovely melody made famous by another emaciated hero Don Quixote, To Dream the Impossible Dream’: This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far*.
– I wish to follow the same thoughts as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who has just resumed his seat. It is only a couple of weeks since the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) celebrated his 64th birthday. This week he celebrates with his Ministers, Assistant Ministers, Government in exile and other members opposite another anniversary. It is only one year since the usurpation of the Prime Ministerial office by the right honourable gentleman from Lowe. His part, with Sir Frank Packer - the faceless man, I presume - the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Mr Eric Robinson in lh.it usurpation earned him the title of ‘Tiberius with a Telephone’. The telephone seems to be his medium, because he certainly has trouble with his mail and he does not do well on television. This Government has been inflicted upon the people and it is the government of a usurper. It has completed one year in office and should therefore go to the people on its record to obtain a mandate.
In a democracy it is usually said that the people receive the government they deserve. Nobody deserves this Government. The people certainly have not chosen it. I say that in spite of the Prime Minister’s words to the contrary in his first speech after usurping office. He said:
A mandate is merely the return of one or two parties to the government benches. They come back to carry out the policy speech that has been delivered by the leader of the 2 parties which have won the election.
This Government, similar to the Gorton Government, is to be tested by the policy speech. In that policy speech many promises were made. Two-thirds of them have in fact been honoured and the balance will, without any reservations, be honoured during the lifetime of this Parliament.
I ask honourable members to note those words. The Prime Minister chose his words carefully, though he delivered them badly. He spoke of 2 parties winning a majority of seats as being the party with a mandate. The Opposition, with a 222,000 vote surplus, certainly won a majority of votes over the combined Liberal-Country Party vote. It was not votes that gave them their mandate, and the Prime Minister was careful not to say that it was. However, he did say that the mandate he had was that assumed from his predecessor- the policy laid down in the policy speech. He has carefully stated that as the situation.
In fact he went further. He went on to say that there was only one-third of it left to implement. Therefore it will be comparatively easy for us to test him in relation to his mandate and his performance, in relation to the policy speeches of 1969 and 1970. Taking the policy speech for the 1969 House of Representatives election first, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), who was Prime Minister at that time, said that in 1968-69 our economic growth, at 8.7 per cent at constant prices, had been greater than at any previous period in our history. In 1970-71 that figure had fallen from 8.7 per cent by more than half, to 3.9 per cent. Adjusted to a per capita relationship, the figure for 1968-69 was 6.3 per cent. Under the McMahon Government it has fallen to 1.9 per cent. The right honourable member for Higgins was proud of the tapered means test. The Prime Minister has not given increases to people benefiting from that taper and it is being eroded.
The former Prime Minister promised taxation relief to the low and middle income earners. He honoured his promise in one year. In one year the present Prime Minister repudiated his mandate at this point, withdrew the concession and increased the levy on income tax. The former Prime Minister promised $100m over 5 years for water resources development. So far only $35m has been provided. The former Prime Minister said that the Government was engaged in a co-operative study with the States into the needs of education. He indicated that the study would lead to cooperative action. The present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has scrapped the report without any resultant co-operative action. The former Prime Minister professed to support an Australian film industry and promised to establish a national film and television school. That proposal has been shelved. The Prime Minister himself said that two-thirds of the policy had been implemented before he took office and that he would implement the rest in the life of this Parliament. Far from implementing policies, he has repudiated his avowed mandate and implemented little of what was left for him to implement.
Let me in the time that remains for me to speak turn to the Senate campaign speech of the former Prime Minister. Mr Gorton said:
But we have brought in a vastly improved health scheme.
I think that that can be told to the marines. He also said:
We have reduced the burden of direct taxation in one year by the amount we promised to do in 3 years.
I have already pointed out what happened to that. He also said:
We have continued to protect and advance greater Australian ownership of our developing resources.
Under the present Government the situation is at its worst in our history. The former Prime Minister, during the Senate campaign, promised votes to persons of from 18 to 20 years of age at future Federal elections. Today the Prime Minister said that this would not be done before the next election. The former Prime Minister promised long-term loans to rural producers. That promise has not been honoured. The former Prime Minister promised to pay special attention to the needs of low income families with young children. Not only has this Prime Minister failed to assist such people but also he has put an unprecedented number of them out of work. The former Prime Minister announced a new objective to which the Government would give very high priority, that is. the establishment of child care centres for children of a pre-school age. The fate of that priority proposal is only too well known
I think I should quote the closing words of Mr Gorton’s speech. He said:
We believe that in this decade Australia can make great advances towards freedom from fear of being old, unwanted and uncared for-
I hope that Mr McMahon takes comfort from those words - freedom from fear of unemployment; freedom from fear of being unable to meet the cost of illness.
Not for 30 years have those fears been greater than they are today. For example, in the month before Mr McMahon became Prime Minister 89,000 people were unemployed. Now, one year later, the figure has increased to 130,000. Prices are rising faster now than at any other time in the post war years Sir, on the Prime Minister’s own criterion, he has no justification for remaining in office. He has repudiated the mandate that his Government received, albeit on a minority of votes. His performance and the disunity, dismay, division and decay it has brought should combine to force him to the people. Any honourable member opposite who has even a spark of decency and the merest shadow of a conscience should counsel the Prime Minister to seek a mandate in place of the one that he has repeatedly repudiated since he usurped the office 12 months ago.
– I was hoping that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) would be in the chamber tonight. Recently a number of questions have been asked in the House relating to the aid that is being shipped to Bangla Desh by Australia being carried on other than an Australian flag ship. Among the various replies given to those questions one by a so-called responsible Minister that he was not going to arrange a plush cruise for Australian seamen. I deplore such a statement from a Minister in this House. Now available to honourable members is the latest report of the Australian National Line. 1 think it would be well for the Ministers who have made certain remarks in an attempt to justify the fact that this cargo is not being taken to Bangla Desh by an Australian flagship to examine this report. I draw the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to the fact that, among other things, the report deals with the cost-wage structure, as the Minister might like to term it, in the shipping industry. It indicates that there is in fact no great parity between ships that operate between the United Kingdom and Australia and those that operate in many other areas in which the Australian National Line operates. In addition to that, I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the truth of what I and other honourable members on this side of the House have said so often, that is, that the Australian National Line, operating as it does as a prisoner, as it were, of the various conferences to Europe, the United Kingdom, Japan and the Pacific route across to the United States of America, is not competitive. The report makes that point quite clear. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport, in dealing with this report in the House at some later stage, will make greater reference to this fact than he has done in the past, instead of continually seeing fit to abuse those within the industry.
I also want to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that if he has a rundown of the number of employees as set out in the report of the Australian National Line, excluding shore based personnel, he will in fact find that the greater number of people employed by the Line who affect wage structure levels, are the masters, mates, engineers, apprentice engineers and so forth. That information is contained in this report for his information. In addition, I hope that the Minister will this year, instead of taking the attitude that he adopted last year, give closer attention to the costs inflicted on this Line by certain charges that are not reflected in a wages spiral, which is the excuse often given.
It was said in this House that a vessel was chartered for about $70,000 to ship this aid to Bangla Desh. Coupled with the statement of the Minister about the wage cost structure and the so-called differentia! between the rates of Australian seamen and others - I include, as I imagine the Minister would have included, the rates applicable to masters and officers generally - is the fact that this report does not spell it out at all. But the House ought to know circumstances in which this ship found itself in Australia. It could well be that she was here on a charter voyage and had no subsequent voyage to go on. lt could be that she was destined to go to an Indian port anyway and for that reason could pick up the cargo in Australia at an extremely cheap rate. If that is so, why the criticism in the last few days of the activities of some shippers in Australia? Indeed, some primary producer organisations have seen fit to say. ‘To hell with the conference lines. We have had enough of them; we are going to charter our own ships’.
Honourable members will recall that on many occasions I have dealt in this House with the question of the shipment of wool. I wish to point out that the reports which are now being made available indicate that the method I have suggested ought to apply to the shipment of wool and that that method is now being instituted on the water front. I remind honourable members that there was no great argument with the unions on this aspect. In fact, there has been an absence of any real demarcation disputes insofar as the Australian waterfront and the maritime industries generally are concerned in comparison with what has happened at Tilbury and United Kingdom containerisation ports generally. The attitude of honourable members opposite, particularly supporters of the Australian Country Party, towards the amalgamation of trade unions is one which is not really understood by clear thinking people who have some knowledge of the trade union movement. Anybody with any skerrick of sense would know that an amalgamation would cut out many of the fringe areas of argument. It will be recognised by some that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is in itself a complete and utter barrier to this. One could almost say that the Act has been, since it was first introduced, with its so-called constitutional rights to certain union organisations, responsible for the type of situation with which Australia has been confronted for many years and which is still in existence. I also thought that there were some rather disparaging remarks made in regard to the Seamens’ Union of Australia because of the fact that they had made some offer to take aid to Pakistan prior to the war without a request for wages but the same offer was not made later by the Union. I think it should be explained that it was not made because it was recognised by the Union - I think this ought to be put forward - that there was a complete change of circumstances insofar as that at the the fact that they had made some offer the country was without government but such was not the case later when they were protesting against the use of a Japanese vessel.
In view of the attitude of the Government and the Minister to this very vital means of communication I hope that, the Minister will make a statement to the House so that the matter can properly be debated. I noticed also in the report to which I have referred that interstate transport costs from one container terminal to another have accounted for a great percentage of the cost as it affects the Australian National Line. I suggest to the Minister that before be makes a statement on this matter he should examine the original proposal going back as far as 1963 relative to containerisation to establish whether shippers would be required to carry an additional burden in certain States where there was no .container or terminal port such as South Australia. Between Adelaide and Melbourne there is an enormous carriage of cargo by rail and by road. I think the whole matter should be examined on that basis.
The report also deals with the question of whether or not the decision for Australia to enter a container shipping agreement has been a wise one in view of the advent of PAD ships and so on. I think the Minister will agree with what I have said before - 1 am still sitting here patiently waiting for him to make some reference to it in this House - to the effect that containerisation has been a failure in Australia. The Minister will readily see where containerisation has failed if he goes to his office and gets a copy of aerial photographs of the port of Sydney and the port of Melbourne which are container ports, and also by telephoning his Department and requesting his officers to dash over a few photographs of
Rotterdam and some of the container ports in the United Kingdom. By looking at those photographs he will see a complete answer. He will see that there are no bottlenecks in many areas overseas. He will certainly see this in regard to Rotterdam. He will also see that in Sydney and Melbourne there has been, at great expense to the State governments concerned, acquisition in both those cities of land which is entirely inadequate for the carriage of goods in transit as we have seen it in the proper containerisation concept.
The problem does not end there because of the facts I have referred to such as the acquisition of land for outlets to proper railheads, marshalling yards or whatever you like to call them. The present provisions are totally inadequate and acquisition will be extremely costly. What I would like the Minister to do is to explore the possibilities and make a report on his findings to this House. We have a number of modern containerised and bulk vessels. The Minister should make a report to this House setting out whether we could go it alone on at least one of the great trade routes for the benefit of the people he represents, particularly in the rural areas. Let us put an end to this business of spiralling costs, freight rates and so on that we have experienced over the years.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise a matter concerning the system of living allowances paid by this Government to the holders of Commonwealth scholarships. I would like to quote from a letter I received from one of my constituents. It. reads: 1 am writing to you to express my concern and disgust at the means test generally and in particular, as it applies at the moment to so called Jiving allowances to holders of the Commonwealth Scholarships.
My eldest son . . .is the holder of such a scholarship and at the time of writing is about to commence Economics III at Sydney University. 1 am aware that the means testis assessed on ones gross income but I would ask you to consider the following facts.
This is a letter to me and I am presenting the case to the Government. The letter continues:
My normal gross income = $4,109 per year with O.Time included = $6,931 per year
When one considers the following facts however, I venture to suggest that a very different situation appears.
My wife has no separate income and is wholly maintained by me. My second eldest boy . . . is about to start a University Course and will receive a small living allowance from the Education Department. I have a young daughter at Primary school and an older daughter who, after working as a shorthand/typist for two years, has decided she wants to matriculate and is going to full-time technical college at our own expense.
As an example, my taxable income for the last financial year was $4,815 and-
He names his son - has been told he will receive as a LIVING allowance, $40.70 per annum. I realize that asthe party you represent is in opposition, there is not a great deal you can do but 1 personally trust that state of affairs will change at the coming elections.
May I say ‘Hear, hear’ to those comments? The letter continues:
When one reads of Mr Wentworth’s concern about the means test (this after 23 years in office) and hears daily comments on the penalties for thrift foisted on our aged pensioners and speaks to friends returning from such war losing countries as Western Germany where social services are so superior, one does not know whether to laugh or cry.
I will appreciate it greatly if, as busy as you are– and I am - you express one citizen’s views on the iniquity of the means test to the Government in Parliament.’
The writer of the letter concludes on this note:
In conclusion let me point out also, that there is not much incentive to the Australian worker to pay extra taxes from long hours of overtime in order to exclude himself and family from benefits for which they have toiled.
I agree 100 per cent with his sentiments. I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will look into this matter and do something about it. That letter is an expression of opinion held by a person in my electorate and it is symptomatic of the general feeling throughout the whole of the Australian electorate. This Government has failed.
Let me point out another aspect of the living allowance, and it is an important one. At Sydney University it is a fact that the bulk of the students doing medicine are the sons of doctors. There is a percentage who are not. It is ludicrous to see the position where the sons or daughters of ordinary working people, due to a situation similar to this, do not receive a living allowance when a high percentage of the sons of doctors do receive the allowance. There is a reason for it. The reason is the formula which is worked out to establish the living allowance payable to holders of Commonwealth scholarships. Not only doctor’s sons and daughters but those of other professional people are receiving a living allowance because their parents are in a position to doctor their income tax returns, if I may use that pun. They doctor their returns by allegedly legal means - by devising schemes such as the setting up of a bogus company so that their income is sufficiently low to enable their sons and daughters to receive a living allowance under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Yet the people who deserve to be in receipt of the living allowance are not getting a fair crack of the whip. They are not receiving the justice to which they are entitled. We have a ludicrous situation. I feel this matter should be highlighted not only in this House but throughout the Press of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Servicemen: Legal Assistance (Question No. 4740)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Members of the Forces, as with employees of the Commonwealth, who are faced with civilian litigation arising out of incidents occurring during the course of duty, are provided with legal assistance at Commonwealth expense in accordance with directions laid down by the Treasury.
In addition, the Commonwealth Legal Service Bureaux do give free legal advice and other assistance, short of litigation, to certain members of the Forces and Service legal officers are available to give free legal advice to members of their respective Services.
Immigration: Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications (Question No. 5074)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of children who attended Seymour Primary School is not known, but it is believed to be quite small. It is estimated that of the total number who attended Seymour East Primary School in 1971, about150 were dependants of military members.
The pre-school at Puckapunyal was attended by 135 children, who were dependants of military members and civilians resident in Puckapunyal and military members resident in Seymour. None attended pre-school at Seymour.
Morning attendance $10.00 per term.
Afternoon attendance $6.00 per term.
(a) The capital costs of establishing preschool facilities at Puckapunyal are not known. It is estimated, however, that the costs of rebuilding in permanent materials would be in the vicinity of $25,000.
Income for 1970 totalling $18,322, with percentages of total is set out below:
Television: Station TEN (Question No. 3745)
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The principal provisions of the Bill as passed by the United States Senate, other than those of a purely domestic character, are:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720308_reps_27_hor76/>.