27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe . . .
Thai hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world.
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that . . .
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240m.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Sir Alan Hulme, Dr Mackay, Mr Clyde Cameron, Mr Giles, Mr Hurford, Dr Jenkins and Mr Reid.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees in Parliament House Canberra respectfully sheweth:
That the inadequacy of the present parliamentary building is resulting in unpleasant, inefficient and inconvenient working conditions in the House itself.
That the fragmentation of staff al West Block and other offices in the City due to the inadequacies of space in the present building causes inefficiency in staff control and working relationships.
That although the present patchwork extension system results in better accommodation for some sections of the working population in the House it has worsened the accommodation in other areas by shutting out light and ventilation.
That tha older sections of the House, besides being cramped, are affected by extremes of heat and cold and quite out of keeping with modern office working conditions.
That the House lacks proper records storage facilities, and other facilities, especially related to staff comfort, a requirement highly desirable in view of Parliament’s extended working hours.
That the present extension, as with past extensions, have been costly to the taxpayer and economically short-sighted and will merely relieve the most pressing needs for a very limited period of time due to the inevitable growth of the business of this Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that an early decision will be taken by the Government to build the new and permanent Parliament House which will, in the long run, be a more economical way to house the Parliament and which will, at the same time, be an impressive and proud symbol of Australia’s progress and national unity.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth :
That on 10th December 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 programme 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 low rental 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. by Dr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State governments for education services and (ii) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Luchetti.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of Victoria respectfully sheweth:
That permitting kangaroos to be commercially exploited when permissible cropping rates are unknown and the means of enforcing controls or protective laws are completely ineffective in this land, is allowing this unique animal to follow the path to rarity or extinction, along which all wild animals have gone when subjected to exploitation in similar circumstances.
Estimates show that kangaroos alive in their natural habitat as tourist attractions are worth $200 million more to the Australian economy over a 9-year period than dead ones exported as pet food or toys over the same period.
We, Australians, have the right ro see kangaroos in reasonable numbers on the landscape; we find the commercial slaughter of the kangaroo to be abhorrent and unjustified.
We your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That we, the undersigned, believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its radio and television programmes, presents a coverage of public affairs which is well-balanced, of high quality, and of valuable service to the Australian community. We further believe that any attempt to alter the situation by denigrating either the quality of the programmes or the impartiality of the Australian Broadcasting Commission staff involved in such programmes, is unwarranted and inherently undemocratic.
Thus your petitioners humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will bear in mind the views expressed in our petition, and shun any attempt to restrict the already limited independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. by Mr Crean.
– I wish to inform the House that the Treasurer, Mr Snedden, left Australia on Sunday, 17th September to have discussions with officials of the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, and to attend the meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in London, and the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington. He is expected to return to Australia on 5th October. During his absence 1 will act as Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service and it concerns the proposed new legislation announced in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech relative to child care centres. I ask the Minister: Will those firms be included in the assistance which are prepared to provide child care centres within their establishments for the benefit of employees, particularly women who are responsible for the sole support of their families?
– I can understand the honourable gentleman’s interest in this matter. As the House is aware, the Government has appropriated some $5m to assist in the development and maintenance of child care centres. Of course, the emphasis in relation to that programme will be to assist those who are in particular need. As I recall the figures, at the present time some 200,000 children are required to be cared for because their mothers or fathers work. The intention of the programme is neither to encourage nor to discourage a person from entering the work force.
In particular, in answer to the honourable gentleman’s question, whilst the primary intention of the scheme will be orientated towards municipal authorities and the voluntary agencies which are competent in this field and which will be well known to the honourable gentleman, it is also true that companies as such may well qualify so long as they meet the eligibility criteria which will be laid down. That is, of course, on the basis of need and not on the basis of providing child care centres purely for the children of persons who are working in particular factories. They will need to establish some form of non-profit trust, but these children certainly will be not excluded. In relation to the final point of the honourable gentleman’s question, I anticipate bringing a Bill before the House at the earliest opportunity. Officers of my
Department and those of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department are presently working on the Bill which will be brought in as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service the latest statistics on employment levels? Will he confirm for the benefit of the House that Australia and the work force in this country are functioning in an environment more favourable than that elsewhere in comparative economies?
– The honourable gentleman’s question relates to Australia’s record compared with that of other countries. The simple fact at the present time is that Australia’s record in relation to its employment level is incomparably superior to that of most of the major industrialised countries of the world. I think, first of all, of Canada, where the rate is presently running at 6.3 per cent; the United States of America where the rate is running at 5.5 per cent and, using the same basis of definition and measurement I think of the rate in the United Kingdom which is running at 5.3 per cent. It is clear that our record is still remarkably good when compared with the record of other countries. The level is also low as a percentage of the work force of 5.6 million, being some 0.5 per cent above the figure of approximately 1.5 per cent which has obtained during the last 15 years of Australia’s history. At the present time the level is unacceptably high for the Government. The House is well aware of the diverse measures which have been taken. In relation to the present level, I think it should be stressed again that the number of unemployed certainly has not increased as some newspapers would have the general public believe. In fact the number has declined - not a decline of the type we would have wished - by 2.4 per cent. The number of registered unemployed in the country has fallen at the present time to 96,805.
– Has the Prime Minister noted that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Don Dunstan, has called for a special Premiers Conference to discuss urgently the tragic unemployment situation highlighted by the bad figures that have just been read to us and which were released last night? What is the Prime Minister’s attitude to this call? Has he also noted that the South Australian Labor Government has appropriated $2m from scarce State funds in order to stimulate employment in the Adelaide metropolitan area? Will the Commonwealth Government reimburse this amount and indeed add to it? If not, why is this Commonwealth Government prepared directly to stimulate rural employment and to ignore the sorry plight of the metropolitan unemployed?
– I want to confirm what the Minister for Labour and National Service has just said. The simple fact is that the unemployment figures have fallen. They fell by 2,375 last month. Statements that appear in newspapers, such as one metropolitan paper in Victoria, that the number of jobless rose by 7 per cent are in fact wrong. I think it is high time something was said about these seasonal figures. They are calculated so that the Commonwealth Statistician can try to help technical experts, Treasury officials and others to forecast trends. Our Budget was deliberately designed to have an impact upon unemployment, and its effect will be increasingly felt as the days go by.
The honourable member for Adelaide might like to know the unemployment rates in the 3 Liberal States. The unemployment rate is 1.61 per cent in New South Wales, about 1.63 per cent in Victoria and 1.15 per cent in Queensland; and in South Australia it is 2.49 per cent. Only yesterday I received a letter or a telegram from Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia. I will be giving this close attention today. It is probably in the hands of the Treasury by now. But what I want to say to the honourable gentleman is this: I have said before that I regard unemployment as a cardinal principle for the Liberal and Country parties. We do not play politics with this issue. We regard it as more humanitarian than economic or political. We will do all in our power lo ensure that people get jobs and we will keep the unemployment rate to the lowest possible level.
– When I answered a previous question I inadvertently used the word ‘unemployment’. I should have said that full employment is a cardinal principle of Liberal and Country Party policy.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the statement in which some sections of the community are claiming that unemployment in real terms is as bad as at any time since World War II?
– 1 have seen that statement. It is typical of the statements which have been emanating from the Opposition in relation to the present level of unemployment. On the best information that is available to me, that statement, which has been Press reported as coming from the Leader of the Opposition, is quite untrue. Whether one looks at the absolute level of unemployment, at the proportion of the labour force unemployed, at the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit or at the gap between unemployment and job vacancies, the present situation is far less severe than that which existed in 1961-62. This, I believe, gives the lie to the statement which was made in the Press last evening.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. What action has the Government taken to implement the proposal to have migrant information officers based at selected municipalities throughout the Commonwealth? ls it a fact that all States have agreed to the procedure which was enunciated by the right honourable member for Higgins in his policy speech in 1969? Does the Government intend to carry out these proposals? If not, why?
– I have not the latest information on this matter, but my understanding is that after the right honourable member for Higgins raised this question the States themselves felt that it would be more desirable if information services were of a more general nature and not specifically confined to migrants. As a result, my Department has continued with the process of expanding information services to migrants undertaken through my Department, migrant organisations, the Good Neighbour Council and other bodies. During that time there has been a vast improvement in the services available. In respect of the specific question asked by the honourable gentleman, I will find out what the latest progress is on this matter and inform him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. 1 refer to the recent derestriction of certain parts of the Woomera prohibited area and the fact that the Port Augusta-Coober Pedy part of the Stuart Highway passes through both the old and the new prohibited areas. Will the Minister again give consideration to allowing travellers to proceed through the area by way of the road through Woomera to meet the Stuart Highway at the Mount Eba woolshed, thus cutting many miles off a very hard road?
– This matter has been looked at on a number of occasions. As the honourable member suggests - I know it is a matter in which he is particularly interested - the road was originally constructed for the Woomera range and is therefore not capable of taking continuous heavy traffic. There are, of course, by the nature of activities at Woomera, considerations of safety and security involved. However, in view of the amendments to which the honourable member referred I will certainly have the matter looked at again more closely.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Treasurer, whether it is a fact that the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Supply in Western Australia wrote to the Treasurer seeking Federal finance to assist in the sewerage of the metropolitan area of Perth. Did the Chairman state that this was necessary due to the possible health hazard of seepage from septic tanks into the underground water supply, some of which is used for domestic purposes? Is it a fact that less than 50 pei cent of the Perth metropolitan area is sewered? Would the Prime Minister agree that the financing of such a scheme would not only prevent a health hazard but also provide urgent employment for Perth’s unemployed? What action is proposed?
– I have not seen the letter to which the honourable member refers, but I remind him that normally a letter of this kind would come through the Premier of Western Australia and not direct from a semi-government or local government authority.
– A copy was sent to us.
– Well, I have not seen it. The honourable member has asked a question and he is getting the answer. 1 will see that the letter is sent to me today and I will ask for the Treasury report to be sent at the same time.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the recent bomb outrages and threats of bombing in Sydney, what action is the Government taking not only to bring the perpetrators of these outrages to justice but also to clarify the origins and basis of such terrorist activities?
– Through the courtesy of the New South Wales police 1 have been in constant contact with them since Saturday when they sent a representative of their detective branch to my home in order to inform me of the facts. On the same day I inspected the sites where the outrages took place and visited the hospitals where the 2 men who were severely injured had operations performed. I also went to St Vincent’s Hospital. Since then 1 have been kept in frequent contact - more than daily - with members of the police force who have let me know the course of their investigations. A high powered group of police who are expert in these matters has been appointed in order to investigate the crimes and to attempt to bring to trial those responsible for them. What is uppermost in my mind al the moment is that we must do nothing whatsoever that would in any way impede the action of the New South Wales Police Force or prevent it in any way from carrying out its investigations in the most effective and satisfactory way. Only yesterday the Premier of New South Wales said that he hoped for early favourable developments of the inquiries taking place. So the matter is under investigation by the members of the New South Wales Police Force and they are receiving the closest support and cooperation from the Commonwealth Police. I cannot express a hope or expectation, but as this matter will probably involve criminal prosecution and possibly therefore criminal sentences I do not want to go any further at this time.
I can say to the House that for some time now my colleague the AttorneyGeneral has had under very close consideration the problem of political violence and terrorism in Australia. I have instructed him to prepare a paper on this and to bring it to the Cabinet as soon as he can. I can express to the House the opinion that I certainly am not opposed to a royal commission to consider these 2 types of offences.
– In directing my question to the Prime Minister I refer to an election promise made by the Australian Country Party in 1969 to provide Commonwealth assistance to local authorities for amenities such as swimming pools. I ask: Does the Prime Minister recall telling me recently that that promise was merely a Country Party proposal which the Government had not adopted? Does this mean that the Country Party deliberately made a promise which it knew would have appeal to country people but which it also knew would be rejected by the Liberal Party, or is it correct that it was actually made with Liberal Party approval which was subsequently withdrawn? Or does it simply mean that promises made by either Party are subject to subsequent approval by the coalitition and therefore must always be treated as suspect? Finally, is this the reason why we so frequently hear members of one Government party blaming the other for the non-implementation of election promises?
– This is hardly a question relating to administration but a blatant political exercise.
Opposition members - Oh!
– Perhaps I put it a little mildly. I should have said it was blatant and politically crude. As to the substance of the honourable gentleman’s statement as it is, I will obtain for him figures relating to increases in grants that have been made for public works and housing for semi-government and local government authorities. I will also obtain for him figures showing the extent to which we decided at the last Premiers Conference to increase the amount up to which local government authorities could borrow without recourse to the Commonwealth itself. I think that when the honourable gentleman sees those figures he will realise that there have been very substantial increases in every kind of government, semigovernment and local government expenditure, or at least approvals for them, and that in each case loans have at least mct the standard of approval set at meetings of the Prime Minister and Premiers. As I said, this is a political question but nevertheless it will be a pleasure for me to show how wrong the honourable gentleman is in what he said in his question and how much the Liberal Party and the Country Party live up to their promises.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that the projected new railway to the Northern Territory will by-pass both Oodnadatta and William Creek? Is the Minister aware that the road north of Hawker through Leigh Creek to Oodnadatta is a very rough road indeed? If there is to be a new road to the Northern Territory from South Australia, using Commonwealth money as in the case of the road across the Nullarbor, will the Minister assure me that he will use his influence to ensure that the new road does not run parallel with the new railway but instead will go through Hawker, Beltana, Copley, Leigh Creek, William Creek and Oodnadatta?
– The honourable member’s concern in this matter is properly understood by me. I recognise that this is a very important matter in his electorate. It is a fact that the new railway line will bypass Oodnadatta. This was found to be necessary in the survey, so that when the new railway is built it will be in a flood free area. The road from Marree to Oodnadatta is, of course, a road within the jurisdiction and administration of the State. I will make sure that the honourable gentleman’s concern in this respect is drawn to the attention of ray colleague the Minister for Transport in South Australia. The last part of the honourable member’s question related to a possible new highway from South Australia to Alice Springs. He will recall that the Treasurer, in mentioning in his Budget Speech the fact that S2.3m had been allocated to the Eyre Highway, announced also that the Commonwealth was introducing a national highways policy. I will make sure that the honourable member’s concern in that area is directed to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads so that in any work it does in this regard it will have in mind the hon.ourable’s member’s concern.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. The question concerns the opinion which 3 States obtained and sent on to the Commonwealth, from Professor D. P. O’Connell, the Chichele Professor of International Law at the University of Oxford, on action which Australia can take before the International Court of Justice to enjoin France from continuing nuclear testing in the Pacific. Has the Minister initiated any of the courses of action advised by Professor O’Connell? Has he got in touch with any of the other nations of the region which have all protested against these French tests which commenced in the South Pacific 6 years ago?
– In dealing with the first part of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, 1 may say that I have not had an opportunity to see any of the advice of Professor O’Connell which has been obtained by State governments and forwarded to the Attorney-General. However, I will refer this matter to my colleague Senator Greenwood.
– Forwarded to the Prime Minister.
– This advice certainly has not yet been put under scrutiny by me. I will see whether my colleague the Attorney-General has received a copy of the opinion and had it under scrutiny. I do not know whether he has. It certainly would be a very novel proceeding in international law, as the honourable gentleman will be aware, and I certainly would study any such proposition with very considerable interest. The second part of the honourable gentleman’s question related to contact with countries in the Pacific. Of course, from time to time we have been in consultation with other countries in the Pacific. I have just been in consultation with the 5 island governments which form the South Pacific Forum, and also with New Zealand. We have confirmed our attitude towards these tests. Very warm support was given by the South Pacific countries to the initiative of Australia and of New Zealand involving the calling of a meeting in New York next week - I think the tentative date fixed is Tuesday of next week - when Pacific countries interested in this matter under the lead of Australia and New Zealand will be discussing initiatives in the United Nations.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware that a delegation from the Austraiian Apple and Pear Board is to go overseas to negotiate freight rates for the shipment of apples and pears to the United Kingdom and Europe in 1973. Is he aware of the present anomaly in container freight rates between the 2 fruits whereby it costs $244 more to ship a container of pears than it does to ship a container of apples? Will the Minister exercise his influence with the Board to ensure that the Victorian industry’s case to the Board seeking and justifying equal rates for both fruits is given full cognisance in the negotiations with the ship owners?
– The negotiations to which the honourable gentleman’s question refers are of tremendous importance to the industry. Unfortunately, freight rates have moved very adversely in relation to past levels, and to this point costs are eroding progressively the returns that exporters are receiving on their fruit. It is not just with respect to the differential rates to which the honourable gentleman’s question refers but also to the whole negotiations that the industry and the Government are concerned there should be a favourable result. The difference between the rates for the 2 fruits is one which I find hard to comprehend. Apparently it dates back to a procedure introduced many years ago when there was some difference in handling. As far as I know this difference no longer exists and consequently I find myself, and I feel the Government would be, in complete support of the representations made by the industry. Of course, it is essentially a commercial negotiation but the Government believes that there is no basis on which there should be a different rate applying to pears than to apples. But it is a matter which needs to be resolved on a commercial basis. Certainly the Government would lend every support to the case submitted by the Australian Apple and Pear Board in its deliberations with the shipping companies.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Do the current unemployment figures and the recent projections by W. D. Scott and Co. for the next financial year give any support to the gloomy predictions of several honourable members opposite for the months ahead?
– A party which seeks to feed off projections of gloom and despondency, as the Opposition has sought to do in recent months, certainly in the view of the Government is not a party to lead this country in the 1970s. Various Opposition spokesmen on the front bench have made projections about the unemployment levels in this country but they have been consistently wrong. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh looks across the chamber, 1 recall his projection of an unemployment level during the course of this year of 200,000.
– No, February of next year.
– ‘February of next year; 1 take the honourable member’s point. This figure has been supported and endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition and by the shadow Minister for Trade and Industry. On the other hand their colleague, the shadow Treasurer, has pointed to a figure of 150,000. This is divisive. It is undermining confidence in the general community. The figures which have been used by these gentlemen have been shown by the record to be wrong. In October 1971 the honourable member for Melbourne Ports suggested that by the following January 150,000 persons would be out of work. He was wrong by 20,000. The Leader of the Opposition followed a similar pattern in
February when he forecast a rise of 50,000 in 3 months. He in turn happened to be wrong by 30,000. The simple fact is that no-one at this stage is in a position to make any precise forecast of the level of unemployment during the last months of this year or the early months of next year and suggestions that unemployment will rise to the levels forecast by the Opposition are speculative, misleading and do nothing at this stage other than undermine confidence in the economy.
– Does the Prime Minister agree that a sentence of 18 months hard labour with release after 10 or 12 months for offenders convicted of political bombings of foreign buildings in Australia when people are resident in those buildings is appropriate or that it lacks the deterrent effect on others that court penalties for serious crimes are mainly intended to have? If he disagrees with light penalties, will be confer with his colleague, the Attorney-General, with a view to amending the law so that a more appropriate penalty will be fixed by the courts in an effort to eradicate this un-Australian and heinous type of crime? I suggest the fixing of a minimum lagging of 5 years.
– I agree that this type of outrage is heinous and that the police in Australia, assisted by government agencies, should do all in their power to see that those who perpetrate the crimes are brought into the criminal courts. But as to making a general statement about every single case without knowing the individual facts, I think that is a somewhat foolish approach to take. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I will discuss the matter with the Attorney-General and if I think it is necessary, I will let the honourable gentleman have a reply.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that one of the causes of the current level of unemployment is the excessive cost of labour in some areas of employment?
– The simple fact is that the present stubborn nature of the return
In the employment market is a derivative of the lack of confidence which has existed in the community, particularly the lack of business confidence but also the lack of confidence on the part of consumers in their spending patterns. This lack of confidence can be attributable partly, as the honourable gentleman suggests, to what can be described as the 2 major running sores in the Australian economy - industrial unrest and, secondly and more particularly, the high cost of labour. During the calendar year 1971 average weekly earnings increased by 12.5 per cent as against a price increase, measured by the consumer price index, of 6 per cent and a productivity long-term growth of 2.6 per cent. It is self-evident that in circumstances of this type many businessmen will seek to prune their labour budget simply because of the high cost of labour. There is no doubt that one of the influences on the level of unemployment at present is the fact that labour is tending to price itself out of the labour market.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: What precautions is the Army taking to prevent arms and explosives from falling into the possession of terrorist groups? Is there any evidence that such materials have been obtained for terrorist activities by thefts from Army property?
– This is a matter which would be more directly within the knowledge of my colleague the Minister for the Army. But I can assure the honourable gentleman that the defence Services do their utmost to ensure that in no circumstances does any defence equipment fall into the hands of civilians. However, I will obtain a fuller answer as to whether there have been any actual thefts. I know that on occasions these do occur, but the Services are extremely anxious and keen to see that their establishments are always under the highest security and are well guarded.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Attorney-General been drawn to the series of suspected murders, shootings, bombings and bashings in which members of the Victorian Painters and Dockers Union have been involved recently? Will the investigation of these crimes be pursued with the same zest as that now being devoted to the investigation of terrorists as such?
– These matters have come to my attention and that of my colleague. The growing use of terror and even murder for the bringing of political or even industrial pressure is a matter of concern in Australia. It not only affects interests in other countries. Other countries, of course, are experiencing similar kinds of problems. I believe that any full inquiry into the matter would need, if it were practicable, to take account of the whole spectrum of violence for the purpose of bringing industrial and political blackmail.
– I address a question to the Foreign Minister, also in his capacity as representing the Attorney-Genera!. Has his attention been drawn to allegations that persons have gone to Yugoslavia and have not been heard of, that one Australian citizen has died there in circumstances not explained and that persons have been unable to reach the Australian Embassy in Belgrade? Have any such allegations been taken up with the Yugoslav Embassy in Canberra or by the Australian Embassy in Belgrade?
– My attention has been drawn to these allegations, and as recently as this morning I have had discussions with the Yugoslav Ambassador, Mr Vidovic. relating to the incidents in Australia and also to the assertions in relation to Australians in Yugoslavia. I would put to the House that the canvassing of bald assertion or the canvassing of someone’s deeply held belief without the support of proof or evidence is only likely to create difficulty. The bombings that have occurred in Australia and any allegations in relation to activities in Yugoslavia are matters affecting Australia’s national position with Yugoslavia. They are matters affecting the Australian people as a whole. They are not matters that should become the occasion of seeking any party political advantage. The Australian Government will treat quite seriously the allegations that have been put to it by the Yugoslav
Government, supported by an aidememoire in relation to what that Government says is taking place in Australia. We are carefully investigating that matter. We are presently considering the suggestions that have been put to us quite recently in regard to allegations relating to Australians in Yugoslavia. No note or protest has been made at this stage to the Yugoslav Government. The matter is still at the stage of the Australian Government considering what has been asserted in that regard.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Do the activities and policies of the States have a vital effect on employment opportunities? Is it a significant fact that the Labor controlled States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania have the highest percentage of unemployment in Australia?
– One of the ironies of question time today is that, a day after the employment figures were released, there has been almost an absence of questions from the Opposition in relation to employment. One wonders why. I would not know the answer. But it is an interesting basis upon which to examine why a party which calls itself a Labor party should apparently be so disinterested in the state of the labour market at present. Therefore I welcome the interest that my colleagues on this side of the House show in regard to the employment market and the present level of unemployment, because it is the members on the Government benches who are concerned with the situation that now obtains and it is this Government that has taken action to ensure that, in the months ahead, the present levels of unemployment will fall. Of course, what the honourable member for Bennelong observed is no matter of irrelevance to this House or to the Australian people. What he posed in his question is whether the activities, the policies and the programmes of the various State governments of this country can have a marked impact on the level of unemployment. The answer to that question is categorically yes. As the honourable member rightly observed, if one looks at those States in which the incidence of unemployment is the most heavy and the most severe, they are found to be the 3 Labor governed States of Australia. I think of Western Australia and South Australia and I also think of Tasmania. Without-
– Due to Commonwealth discrimination.
– I can understand the honourable gentleman’s sense of concern.
– Due to Commonwealth discrimination.
-Order! the honourable member for Adelaide will cease interjecting.
– I can understand the concern felt by the honourable gentleman. But it is an interesting fact of life that that concern has not been voiced at question time today by members of the Opposition, with the exception of one or two questions. Without labouring the point, I simply want to say by way of inference - as a passing point - in response to the honourable member’s question that it is a useful observation that the 3 States that have the biggest labour problem in terms of unemployment are in fact those controlled by Labor governments.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is he gratified at the rise in the price of wool? If he is gratified at the rise in the return to wool growers, why does he permit his Ministers to denounce continually the reasonable aspirations of working people to get an increased return for their labour too?
– I leave aside any criticism of the honourable gentleman for getting mixed up in 2 completely different sets of facts. I am delighted with the price of wool. Frankly, I hope - and I am expressing a personal view - that it goes still higher and stays there.
I have said that I cannot see the connection between the 2 parts of the honourable members question. However, this side of the House in particular believes in realism; that is, we like to ensure that whenever there is an increase in average earnings in the community at least that increase can be supported by productivity and that it does not lead immediately to a vast increase in inflationary pressures and an increase in the consumer price index.
If the honourable gentleman had any knowledge at all about economic and financial principles he would be playing his part to ensure that we keep inflation at a minimum, that we keep employment at a very high level - at a full employment level - and that we do our best to ensure that we have a constant increase in real wages rather than the mythology that occurs when we get increases in wages but not an increase in effective take home pay.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Can the Minister inform me when the 1972 electoral rolls will be published and ready for distribution?
– The 1972 electoral rolls are now published and available for distribution.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I preface my question by reminding the Prime Minister that his colleague the Minister for Primary Industry has stated publicly that the contradictory views expressed by himself and the Prime Minister last week were the result of the Prime Minister’s lack of knowledge of the facts concerning the establishment of a rural bank. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Has he yet been advised by the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer of their plans for the establishment of a rural bank? If the right honourable gentleman has been taken into the confidence of his ministerial colleagues, could he advise the House when legislation might be introduced to establish such a bank? If the Prime Minister has not yet been aquainted with the proposals envisaged by the 2 Ministers concerned, when does he expect that he will be favoured with information on this matter?
– I think I am as fully informed as anyone about what the current position is. I can state it because the ideas of the Minister for Primary Industry, myself and the Treasurer are identical. What we are interested in is to provide lone term finance for the rural industries. I stated that in the House on Thursday of last week. I have read through most of the papers that have been associated with this problem and I discussed it with the Treas urer before I answered the question that was asked of me last week.
This is a difficult problem. However, the difficulty will not stop us from ensuring that we do devise a method by which long term finance is assured to the rural industries and we hope to be able to achieve those purposes as quickly as practicable.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that any variation of a Commonwealth agreement with the States needs the concurrence of every State even if that variation would affect only one State? Therefore, any variation in the CommonwealthState Softwoods Agreement which would give increased finance to New South Wales would mean a delay in the total agreement, and as that agreement has already been in force for a period of time this could jeopardise its continuation.
– The honourable member is correct when he states that, for an agreement to come into force, it must have the consent of all parties concerned. In this case the parties are the Commonwealth and the 6 States. We had a problem at the time in relation to this particular agreement with one State - South Australia. It was not the fault of South Australia in this case that there was a delay because we had continuing discussions in relation to a certain matter. Ultimately agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and South Australia and finally the proposal was agreed to by all the other States. It was only at that point of time that the agreement which is now before the Parliament for ratification came into force. If there were any points of dispute from one State, that would further delay the ratification of the agreement. I hope that the Bill, which has now come back from the Senate with an amendment and which I understand will be dealt with in this House today, will go through both Houses again expeditiously and so allow us to implement the agreement which has now been finalised with the States concerned.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Riverina claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do, Mr Speaker. I was misrepresented on 3 separate counts by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) in the House on 13th September. The matter was made all the more serious by the Minister’s circulating the misrepresentation by the use of public funds from his office throughout my electorate in the State. The Minister purported to give the House a quotation -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is giving a good deal of information. 1 suggest he explains where he has been misrepresented. He cannot have been misrepresented on all of those counts.
– I have been misrepresented on 3 counts and I will be specific about them. This is a serious matter. The Minister purported to give the House a quotation from the ‘Fabian Newsletter’ of November-December 1970 which was designed to show that I had advocated the adoption of Russian style collective farming in Australia. The quote he gave to the House was not a quote but a part of a sentence which was deliberately edited to give a wrong impression. According to Hansard, this is what the Minister quoted on 13 th September:
The Labor Party has drawn on experience of the USSR and other countries to prepare a programme of socialist agriculture for this nation based on national planning.
The Minister stopped in the middle of a sentence which even in the publication continued to read:
In fact the published text was itself incomplete. Mr Lindsay J. Keith, President of the Victorian Fabian Society and ‘Newsletter’ editor from 1969 to 1971, has returned my original which states:
The Labor Party has drawn on the experiences of the USA wilh corporation farms and of USSR with collective farms and of other countries to show the Australian Government that the policy of get big or get out has been tried in other countries and has failed in its agricultural and social objectives . . .
Mr Speaker, the omission of 2 lines of printed type in the published text in no way excuses the cynical manipulation by the Minister and others of the text of what was published. But, to put this serious matter beyond doubt, I quote from a letter from Mr Lindsay J. Keith, Newsletter Editor, on the misrepresentation. With the permission of the House, I will table it afterwards, lt reads as follows:
Dear Mr Grassby, 1 regret thai I am unable to explain the apparent omission of one or two lines from the version of your letter published in the NovemberDecember 1970 issue of the Fabian Newsletter and the copy supplied by you.
I am afraid, however, thai our publishing methods do not include ‘proof-reading’ safeguards and it would be quite possible for errors to occur in transcribing ‘copy’ for the printing process. 1 do fully agree, however, that both your copy’ and the Newsletter reprint could in no way be construed, except by those who are being devious or dishonest, that you were advocating that the pattern of agriculture in the USSR should be adopted here. In fact Professor E. J. Donath, F.I.A. Ex., Lecturer in Economic Geography, University of Melbourne, commenting on your address at the Fabian Society Forum held in Melbourne in June 1970-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that with his experience he should be able to show in a shorter way where he has been misrepresented. He will not be able to debate this question. As a matter of fact, we will have to allow a special time for personal explanations after question time if this kind of thing continues. I suggest that the honourable member explain where he has been misrepresented.
– I have already demonstrated the devious dishonesty. I shall conclude this quote and get on to the third misrepresentation.
- Mr Speaker, it is not a very laughable matter when the honesty of a member is impugned and when he is maligned.
-Order! I will ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat if he does not come to the point. He will not debate the matter any further. I think I have been extremely lenient.
– The relevant quote on which I conclude - it is from the Newsletter Editor - is as follows:
I am quite confident that an honest appraisal of your address at the June 1970 forum, your article in the August 1970 Fabian Newsletter . . Professor Donath’s criticism . . .all of which must be taken as a whole - would leave no doubt in any unbiased mind that your overall concept for farming in Australia is based on . . new opportunities for young Australians to secure a stake in their own country . . .
Mr Speaker, the third
– Who wrote that?
-Order! Interjections are out of order. I suggest that the 2 honourable members concerned cease niggling the honourable member for Riverina when he is endeavouring to make a personal explanation. Personal explanations are serious matters for honourable members on both sides of the House. This is why 1 have been lenient this morning. It will be remembered that when this matter was raised before I allowed the honourable member for Riverina to quote what he had said. I think that the relevant quote from the Fabian Newsletter was then tabled. Therefore I have allowed the honourable member for Riverina some leniency. I suggest to him that he should not press the point too far.
– 1 am concluding with the third misrepresentation. The Minister, on 13th September-
– If the honourable member wishes to table the alleged original article, we will be delighted to give him leave.
– Will you give me leave to table the letter from the Editor too?
– And the letter from the Editor.
– Thank you. Mr Speaker, I will do just that. On the third misrepresentation, the Minister for Defence referred to a report in the Naracoorte ‘Herald’ in relation to an offer to Mr Garrick, a Country Party candidate, that if he could give me proof of the quotation he would get $1,000 for his campaign fund.
-Order! I do not think anybody else comes into this matter. The honourable member rose to make a personal explanation. I suggest that he resume his seat.
– I was clearly misrepresented, and the relevant information should be tabled.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– 1 rise on a point of order. During the personal explanation on this matter the other day this offer was part of the Minister’s challenge to the honourable member for Riverina and I believe it is important that that be cleared up too.
– Order! I think the matter has been cleared up. The Leader of the House agreed to allow the tabling of these papers in the House and the honourable member for Riverina accepted that offer. Is that correct?
– I accepted the offer, but as a point of order I must say that the Minister quoted a promise which I made to give $1,000 to Mr Garrick’s campaign if he could prove that I said what the Minister alleges 1 said. I have disproved it. I suggest that the Minister cough up the $1,000.
– I present, pursuant to statute, the annual report and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the Auditor-General’s report thereon for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 I present the Second Annual Report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the period 1st July 1971 to 30th June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the preliminary report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30th June 1972. When the final report is available, I shall table it in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1972. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 32b of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949-1966, I present the Twenty-third Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30th June 1972 together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– Pursuant to Section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act 1970-1971, I present the Second Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965- 1966, I present the Eighth Annual Report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– by leave - As foreshadowed in my recent statement to the House on international trade I wish to give details of certain tariff action that will be taken by Australia following the expected determination of the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement (UKATA) The position is that once Britain assumes its obligations to the enlarged European Economic Community, she will be unable to continue to carry out her obligations under UKATA. This has long been recognised by both Britain and Australia and I have agreed with British Ministers that, on the current timetables of accession to the EEC, UKATA will have to be terminated as from 1st February 1973. I have, however, agreed with British Ministers that the existing contractural benefits to both parties should be maintained up to that date. I have also agreed with them that there should be close consultation in the future to ensure that the inevitable changes consequent on Britain’s entry to the EEC will be made with the minimum of inconvenience to the traders of both countries. With this in mind, I announced on 28th July 1972, that it had been agreed under an exchange of notes between the British and Australian governments that, with effect from 31st December 1972, the required notice for the termination of UKATA had been reduced from 6 months to 1 month. I now table this exchange of notes.
As from 1st February 1973 Australia will be free of the obligation entailed in this Trade Agreement. I have already indicated publicly that one step which would be taken very early by Australia would be the withdrawal of the preferences enjoyed by the United Kingdom on imports under the by-laws in the Australian customs tariff. It is the intention of the Government to implement this withdrawal as from 1st February 1973 and notice is given now so that traders involved may be aware of this change well in advance. On 1970-71 figures this would save Australian industry duty payments of some $21m on by-law imports valued at S285m from the general tariff countries. Moreover, general tariff countries will receive duty free treatment in the by-law area over a further import market of some $220m. This is the value of 1970-71 imports from Britain under the assistance of a by-law preference. The increased competition between supplying countries in this area should be of substantial benefit to Australian industry. I therefore regard the withdrawal of the by-law preferences as a significant cost saving measure.
This will be the first of a series of adjustments to the preferential rate structure in the Australian tariff. Last year the Government received from the Tariff Board a report on 800 items in the non-protective area; it has asked the Board for a report by the end of this year on a further 1,000 items on which the margins of preference are greater than we are contractually required to extend. These reports will be considered by the Government early next year with 2 considerations in mind - the scope they offer for cost saving benefits and for negotiating coin for the exchange of concessions in multilateral trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I repeat the assurances already given that the outcome of these broad ranging inquiries will not be injurious to the established Australian industries.
It also follows that for most items covered by Tariff Board reports released after 1st February 1973 a single rate of duty will apply The only exceptions will be where preferences are accorded on a range of specified items to those Commmonwealth countries, such as Canada and New Zealand, with which Australia has bilateral preferential agreements, or where preferences are given to Papua New Guinea or, on a limited range of items, to former or existing dependencies of the United Kingdom. We are already discussing with New Zealand and Canada the question of the future of the preferences they enjoy in Australia. The importance of the preferences accorded to Papua New Guinea and the former or existing British territories is also fully recognised and if, after examination, it appears to the Australian Government that some action is necessary in relation to those preferences, discussions will be held with the particular territories concerned. In addition, of course, special rates under the Australian system of preferences for developing countries will continue to apply. In the context of the process of review of the tariff one result will be the eventual elimination of margins of preference currently enjoyed by the United Kingdom. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– This is an historic occasion. The United Kingdom/ Australia Trade Agreement has specifically influenced Australian trade for 40 years. In fact prior to the 1930s a similar kind of arrangement, which had not been specifically part of an agreement, had dominated Australian trading relations with the outside world. This statement is telling Australia and the world that this historic situation between Australia and the United Kingdom is coming to an end. This is the end of an era. It is the end of a phase in Australia’s history in which our trading relations were mainly with and dominated by the United Kingdom.
This agreement continued over a period when Australia’s trade with the United Kingdom was about 60 per cent of our total trade to a position where it is now 11 or 12 per cent. The termination of this agreement gives effect to the factual termination, the substantial real termination that circumstances have brought about. So it is a very historic and very important occasion for Australia. I have read the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and parts of it I find ambiguous. It might be my fault. I have not been able to clarify my own mind about the nature of the by-law adjustments that are involved. There are one or 2 points that I want to make about the statement. The Minister has told us that as a result of an exchange of notes with the British Government the notice necessary for the termination of this Agreement has been reduced from 6 months to one month. The British authorities have agreed to that. As a result of this action, from 1st February 1973 Australia will be free of the obligations entailed in the Agreement. It will be on 1st February 1973 that this historic phase in Australia’s external trading relations will come to an end. The step that is proposed in this Agreement is the withdrawal of the preferences enjoyed by the United Kingdom on imports under by-laws of the Australian customs tariff.
Generally speaking, the effect of terminating United Kingdom preferences is the elimination of a duty on certain goods for the United Kingdom which is lower than the general rate. The elimination of United Kingdom preferences would therefore have the effect of increasing the amount of tariff that is applicable to those goods. One would expect that, unless the by-law operations with which I cannot make myself familiar have the effect of changing that situation, the withdrawal of preferences under the bylaws would have the same effect. That is to say, it would require those goods which now come in from the United Kingdom to come in at a higher rate of tariff than before. I do not understand why not. Obviously that is not so because the Minister has told us that he regards the withdrawal of the by-law preferences as a significant cost saving measure and he has given some indication of that by saying:
On 1970-71 figures this would save Australian industry-
I wonder whether that last word should be importers’; I would prefer to say importers’ - duty payments of some $21m on by-law imports valued at $285m from general tariff countries. Moreover, general tariff countries will receive duty free treatment in the by-law area over a further import marked of some $220m.
So that is a measure of the change, lt will apparently result in a saving of duty payments of $2tm on imports valued at $285m and general tariff countries will receive duty free treatment on a further market of $220m. The Minister did not say in the statement how much that will mean.
The question I want to be sure about - and I am not sure about it - is what effect this will have on Australian workers. The Minister says that it is a saving of import duty, which means that some commodities will come into Australia at a lower duty. He said, towards the end of his statement:
I repeat the assurances already given that the outcome of these broad-ranging inquiries will not be injurious to established Australian industries.
I look at this from the point of view of Australian workers. I want to be sure that these broad-ranging changes are not injuri ous to Australian workers. I can have no confidence in the statement which the Minister has made because it is quite unclear from his statement how even the by-law reductions that are specially dealt with in this statement will affect Australian workers. Until I can get some assurance on how that would happen I cannot approve of this statement.
The Minister said:
This will be the first of a series of adjustments to the preferential rate structure in the Australian tariff. Last year the Government received from the Tariff Board a report on 800 items in the nonprotective area; il has asked the Board for a report by the end of this year on a further 1,000 items on which the margins of preference are greater than we are contractually required to extend.
Does that mean that the 1,000 items are in the non-protective area or are they also in the protective area? He said:
These reports will be considered by the Government early next year with 2 considerations in mind - the scope they offer for cost saving benefits and for negotiating coin for the exchange of concessions in multilateral trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
But a third consideration has to be, as I have been emphasising, the way in which those reports will affect the position of Australian workers. When will action be taken, that is, when will legislation be introduced to implement this series of adjustments, or the series of adjustments still to come although obviously not soon? That action should be taken by the new government, whenever it is elected. As we are approaching an election and there may well be a change of government, in which case the trade policy of the incoming government would differ quite significantly from that of the outgoing government, I think there is an obligation upon the Government at present in office to take no action until the election is held and until the people of Australia have a say as to who they want to govern this country, if I may use the term in respect of a matter of this kind, 1 think we should have a moratorium on further action until after the election.
Specifically 1 would like the Minister, if he can, to give attention to the questions which I have asked and to explain, if he will, how it is that the removal or the withdrawal of preferences on imports under bylaws, which I would expect to be generally at rates lower than the general rate, do have the effect of reducing duty payments as detailed in his speech. Would it not be more correct to say that these reductions will involve duty payments by importers and not by industry?
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972. I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
- Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point in regard to the motion that these reports be printed. All that appears on the ‘Daily Programme’, or what is known as the blue sheet, is this statement:
Mr Kelly (Chairman - Wakefield) to bring up 3 reports from the Public Works Committee and move for printing.
I think it is appropriate that the full details of the reports which are to be printed should be spelt out. I know that it can be argued that once they are printed they come back to the Parliament to be discussed. I am aware of that, butI believe that the details on the blue sheet should be more informative in case an honourable member wants to debate a particular matter. For instance, a couple of weeks ago a report was presented to the Parliament on the proposed work at Wooloomooloo. Of course, this is a very important matter which many of us-
-Order! Was the motion that the report be adopted or that it be printed?
– That it be printed.
– This is in relation to the Wooloomooloo project?
– Yes. In the case of the report onthe Wooloomooloo project also the motion was that it be printed, and it was not listed on the blue sheet. Unless one is in the know, if 1 may use that ter minology, unless one is a member of the Public Works Committee or unless the Public Works Committee informs one of what is coming on, one has no idea of what is coming before the Parliament.
-Order! I have just been informed that the reference of the Wooloomooloo project to the Public Works Committee was before the Parliament on the previous occasion. The main purpose for moving that a report be printed is so that it becomes a privileged document to the Parliament. The matter then comes before the House again and a debate can ensue. If the motion was to refer works to the Public Works Committee, then the House would be entitled to debate the matter. But a debate on the motion presently before the House can be only on whether or not the paper should be printed. The honourable member for Reid raised this matter with me earlier, and it may help him in what he has to say if I refer him to the Standing Orders. Standing order 102 reads:
Reports of standing and select committees and papers may be presented at any lime when other business is not before the House.
The Public Works Committee Act - I think this is important - requires the Committee as expeditiously as is practicable to consider each public work referred to it and make a report to both Houses concerning the expedience of the work being carried out. Provided there is no other business before the House, the arrangement for the presentation of the report is a matter for the Committee and not the Chair. That may help the honourable member.
– May 1 reply?
-Order! I interrupted the honourable member for Reid. I want the honourable member to bear in mind that the effect of the motion is to make this report a privileged document.
– I am aware of that. The motion before the House the other day in relation to the important Wooloomooloo proposal also was that the report be printed, but we had no notice that this matter was to come before the Parliament. The report will not be printed and it will not become a privileged document of the Parliament which may be discussed possibly until well after the election.It may be brought before the Parliament before the election, but I doubt it very much. All I am requesting of the Chair is that, when the Public Works Committee has examined a proposal and its Chairman moves that the Committee’s report be printed, what the honourable member for Wakefield is to read out in the House be listed on the blue sheet. I am requesting nothing more and nothing less. I am not suggesting that there has been any snide action; all I am trying to do is to attempt to clear up the matter for the future.
– Order! Let me emphasise that this is a matter for the Public Works Committee, not for the Chair, under the Public Works Committee Act.
– I believe that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has made a very good point. I will be pleased to discuss it with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. If he is able to give the Clerk the names of the works on which he is presenting the reports, we will be delighted to make arrangements to put those names on the blue sheet. I think the honourable member has a good point.
-I take the opportunity to applaud the response that the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) has made to this suggestion. I think the matter has arisen over the proposed Commonwealth offices at Wooloomooloo. That project was referred to the Committee when the House was in recess. Accordingly, there could be no debate on that occasion. Secondly, the Committee’s report recommended against the proposal. Therefore, there could be no debate on a motion that it was expedient to carry out the work. The report in fact recommended against it. So this was a very clear case in which the House had no opportunity at all to debate the matter meaningfully, unless honourable members could tell from the blue sheet what the subject matter of the unspecified report was to be. The Leader of the House has very properly and promptly accepted the suggestion made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), and I think this means that the blue sheet will perform its proper function. There is no suggestion that the procedure adopted in tabling that report or any other report was other than in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act and the Standing Orders, but the adoption of this suggestion will make the blue sheet more helpful and intelligent.
– May I remind the honourable gentleman that it is still the prerogative of the Committee whether it wishes to tell us the subject matter of the report. The adoption of the suggestion is subject to that.
– in reply - The arrangement to have shown on the blue sheet the name of the project contained in a report that is to be presented should be quite easily and properly made. I see no problem in that. I see a very grave problem in that the report will be debated before the members of the House have an opportunity to read it. I know that ignorance is no barrier to eloquence, but it would be a pity to adopt a procedure whereby members of the Public Works Committee may have knowledge of what is in the report when members of the House do not. So I suggest that if the name of a project is to be shown on the blue sheet the House should not proceed to debate the matter before it has had an opportunity to read the report.
– Under Standing Orders I am not empowered to allow debate to proceed on these matters. In this situation the motion is that the report be printed.
– Mr Speaker–
– The honourable member has spoken to the motion already.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 August (vide page 244), on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 matters? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– These 2 Bills are part of a series of Bills that come before the Parliament every year either to make additional payments to the States or to vary the formula by which moneys are made available to the States. Under one of the Bills presently before us, what formerly had been regarded as loan funds are to be treated as direct revenue payments from the Commonwealth to the States upon which they no longer will be required to pay interest. lt is becoming extraordinarly difficult in the Australian context to work out the patchwork - I do not know whether it can be better described than that - system of Commonwealth-State finances and, I hope to some degree in the future, CommonwealthStatelocal government finances. For some years now each time the Budget Papers have been brought down a document entitled ‘Commonwealth Payments To Or For The States’ has appeared with them. It is a very handy document because it compiles in considerable detail the variety of payments that are made by the Commonwealth to or for the States. There is quite an extensive coverage of them. The document for 1972-73 has some 150 closely printed pages and part of it is textual material which indicates the general history of this process. Related tabulations contain details of various heads of expenditure for a number of years.
In order to show briefly the magnitude of the propositions, I point out that table 1 on page 10 of this document sets out the Commonwealth payments to or for the States and Loan Council borrowing programmes estimated for 1972-73. It gives the actual figures for 1970-71 and 1971- 72. This table shows that total payments one way or another from the Commonwealth sources to the States is $4,084. 9m, which is a pretty substantial part of the revenue that the Commonwealth raises. When one takes out of the total expenditure of $ 10,000m covered by the Budget the $2, 000m odd described as transfer payments - that is, cash payments via the social services stream - and takes into account the $ 1,200m for defence commitments, one finds that in many respects the States in aggregate have far more constitutional activity - if one likes to put it that way - to perform than the Commonwealth. And when one takes into account the fact that the States are still charged with the responsibility for such significant fields as education, health, road making, public transport, irrigation and power development and contrasts with that the limited scope of such functions that the Commonwealth has to perform, one can see that in some respects the great dependence that the States have on central finance perhaps does not make for the best pattern for reconciling the requirements of finance with the actual responsibilities of function.
The third level of government that perhaps is properly described in the Australian context as the poor relation, the level of local government, receives very little assistance from the Commonwealth. In fact it receives virtually no assistance at all from the Commonwealth but gets a certain marginal amount of assistance from the States. It basically has to rely upon one source of revenue, the property rate. I want to say a little about the unsatisfactory nature of this and to refer in passing to a document. I commend those who have prepared it although I do not altogether agree with the conclusions to which they came. It is a document published in February 1971 by a body called the Ratepayers Association of New South Wales. The title of the document is The Case For A Progressive Poll Tax As A Substitute For Local Government Rates’. The report was drawn up by Mr J. F. Lesueur, a consulting economist in Dubbo. Very clearly set out on page 11 are the sorts of difficulties of both finance and allocation of functions that are regarded as falling within the purview of local government. The document states:
The permissive powers-
That is, the powers mainly of State and local government Acts - . . enable Councils to engage in and undertake a wide range of activities and enable them to supply a wide range of goods and services. The most important are:
Roads. The construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads and the related works; control of the use of roads by certain road users.
Public Health. The specification, control and policing of minimum standard of home bathroom and laundry facilities; control and inspection of public eating and meeting places, butchers and barber shops; sanitation, sewerage, garbage and night soil removal.
Public Works other than Roads. The use, control, construction of: water supply, sewerage and drainage facilities, stock sale yards, public markets, parking stations, pounds, cemeteries, ferries, airports, bridges, parking areas.
Then, under a further functional division, it states:
Public Services. The control of or support of (bush) fire brigades, the control of advertising hoardings, town planning, public immunisation campaigns, industry development and subsidy schemes, parklands, libraries, orchestras, bands, art galleries, hospitals, rest centres, sporting facilities, camping and caravan areas, tourist information services, ambulances, life saving schemes, kiosks, meals on wheels’, and a host of other similar community services.
Housing. Undertake housing schemes and the financial assistance of home builders, financial assistance to land developers/sub-dividers, approval of erection of buildings subject to minimum building codes; the enforcement of repair and demolition of homes and buildings.
Trading Undertakings. The supply of electricity, gas, water, abattoirs and community hotels.
Perhaps it should first be said that not all local councils perform all those functions but many local councils provide a great number of them and they are all provided virtually out of the one source of revenue which is often unfair in its impact, that is, the tax known as the local rate. One of the great difficulties in the field of local authority finance is to get up to date figures. Figures tend to be about 3 years behind in their publication. In the document ‘Public Authority Finance 1969-70, Bulletin No. 1’ table No. 22, which is entitled ‘All Public Authorities: Receipts and Outlay By Level Of Government, 1968-1969’, shows that local authorities had available a total tax revenue of $3 54m as against $5,529m available to the Commonwealth in the same year and $859m available to the States. Out of the local authorities tax revenue of $354.6m, $341.7m came from the tax levied on property. In addition the local authorities had an operating surplus from public enterprises - the sort of activities that have been described in the table, namely, electricity, gas, water, etc - which gave them more than another $90m. I want to say something about the inadequacy of this and also the difficulty of achieving any rational distribution of function in this field.
There is a lot of talk these days, but not much real result or action, about decentralisation and urban renewal. But very little practical result flows from that vast amount of talk. One of the difficulties seems to be that these sorts of things cannot be achieved unless there is some deliberative action involving substantial sums of finance. Whether this is lo be initiated from the Commonwealth level, whether it is to be initiated by the Commonwealth making greater payments to the States who in turn will hand the money over to local authorities, or whether there is to be direct subvention from the Commonwealth to local authorities, seems to be the difficult task that faces us.
The Australian Labor Party, at its most recent conference held in Launceston in July 1971, suggested that perhaps the nexus could be broken by having representatives of local authorities on the Australian Loan Council where attention could be given to works programmes that fall within the area of local government responsibility rather than within the responsibility of the States. At the moment the Loan Council is concerned only about State programmes and the amount of money that the Commonwealth believes it is possible to raise in the total economy after taking out amounts for defence loans, if it is necessary to have resort to any such finance.
One of the rather grim things in this whole pattern - one of the Bills before us today deals with it - is called capital assistance, which gets down to this very murky realm of the burden of interest in the Australian economy in total. In some respects, insofar as debt is held internally, interest payments tend to be a bit of internal bookkeeping rather than anything else, although they can still make vast differences to the actual income of those who happen to be holders of government securities as against the various levels of activity which have to pay the interest. One rather appalling aspect is brought out pretty clearly in a document published some time this year by the Commonwealth Statistician and entitled
Local and Semi-government Authorities: Debt 1969-70’. There is a great deal of difficulty in Australia in getting a tidy arrangement between local government authorities and semi-government authorities for the rather simple reason that sometimes a function performed in one State comes within the realm of local government, yet if performed in another State it comes within the realm of semigovernment. In Victoria electricity distribution is done by a body known as the State Electricity Commission, which is a semigovernment authority, but in some other States there may be aggregates of municipalities which operate the electricity grid themselves. Therefore, the statistics overlap to some extent.
In this publication it is shown that using the classifications which are given, in 1961 the debt owed by local government authorities was S763m on which they paid an annual interest charge of $36m. In 1970 - or 10 years later - the aggregate amount of debt had increased to $l,619m. lt had more than doubled. The annual interest payment had risen to $89m. Semigovernment authorities, which are by far the larger because they include these large bodies like the electricity grids of some States and quite large metropolitan boards of works, in 1961 had an aggregate debt of S3, 110m and an annual interest burden of $140m By 1970 the aggregate debt had risen to S6,025m - had doubled - and the interest burden had risen to §31 lm. The total debt of local and semi-government authorities combined in 1961 was S3, 873m and the annual interest burden was SI 76m. In 1970 thi total debt had almost doubled to $7,644m and the interest rate had risen to $400m. This had more than doubled because there is now a higher interest rate structure and debt has been converted and so on.
These undertakings are great users of capital. In 1961 local government required annually new money amounting to $99m and semi-government authorities, $248m. In 1970 local government was making an annual demand for $188m of new capital and semi-government authorities S458m, or a total of 8646m. These figures are important in the totality of the functioning of the economy. If anybody saw how easily the industrial activity of a State could be paralysed it was some 18 months ago in
Victoria when the stoppage of electricity undertakings virtually brought that State to a standstill and threatened to spill over into New South Wales, because that State also is partly dependent on electricity fed from the Victorian system. With counterorders and cross-orders and so on one sees how totally integrated an economy really is.
This is why something must be done about breaking the nexus between the capital that has to be provided, the interest burden that has to be borne, and the responsibilities that finally have to be carried out. In the long run all of the responsibilities are services to the citizens of the Commonwealth, but for too long we have resolved these questions must unsatisfactorily in Australia merely by turning them into the subject of an arid annual financial debate, where the advantage all along lies with the Commonwealth, which has the dominance of the purse and tends to give a higher priority to its works as against the works of the States. The works of local and semi-government authorities are forgotten altogether except for what is described as the gentleman’s agreement. I have often pointed this out in this House, and the figures are evident enough. In the national income papers figures are shown for total Commonwealth works in certain spheres as against works that are carried out primarily by the States. If one takes only 2 headings - ‘Capital provision for the Post Office’ and ‘Capital provision for the Department of Civil Aviation’, which are both Commonwealth responsibilities - it can be seen that the expenditure this year for the Post Office will be S403m and, for the Department of Civil Aviation, Si 84m. However, in 2 highly important fields which fall within the responsibility of the States, namely education and health, the expenditures will be S275m and S99m respectively. The aggregate expenditure for the Post Office and for civil aviation is $587m. The aggregate expenditure for education and health is S364m. If this matter were decided as between equal partners, who on any rational basis would spend twice as much money on civil aviation as is spent on the provision of capital extensions for health? I suppose one can be gratified that we now have places like Tullamarine and that it is intended that such services as are provided there will be duplicated in some other places. But could one regard that as a high priority, particularly when, apart from businessmen and members of Parliament, most people would not use an aeroplane more than once or twice a year? Civil aviation seems to have a terribly high priority with regard to lavish capital expenditure and the way that it is financed in relation to the services that it provides contrasts greatly with the way in which hospitals and railways are financed at State levels. One never gets in a railway station the grandeur that one gets in a modern airport.
We have the absurd position that airline operators seem to think that the only things they are supposed to provide are the aeroplanes and that somebody else should provide everything else. It would be very easy for a railway operator if all that he had to do was to bring along the trains, with somebody else providing the terminals and tracks. That is virtually the kind of thing that happens with regard to the relative financing of airline operators and railway operators, yet a great song and dance is made about the financial losses incurred by railways, while praise is given because the 2 major domestic airline operators each happen to make a profit. There is no sensible assessment of the overall transport needs of the Australian community.
– Do you think they are of equal efficiency?
– I think that they are of equal efficiency and, if you ask my opinion, the railways are of far more economic importance.
– That is another question.
– It is another question, but it is a question which gets begged in this kind of hand to mouth method of allocating finance. I simply say that it is time that we had in Australia at the public level - I think ultimately we must also achieve it at the private level - something which might be called planning of the total resources. If anything indicates the present paralysis of the economy in Australia, it is the failure to co-ordinate the capital plans of expansion of the public and private sectors, and the Australian economy in total is suffering in consequence.
To return to the issue of local government authorities, the document to which I have referred points out quite well that more and more responsibilities, particularly in the social welfare field, are being expected to be assumed by these bodies but that nobody gives any consideration to giving relief in regard to the payment of the sums of money involved. I hope that this matter will be taken seriously in the next few months - it certainly will be in the lifetime of the next government - otherwise we will have a sense of paralysis in Australia in relation to certain activities. I have often contrasted the luxury of financial resources that is available to the Commonwealth with the sort of marginal starvation that exists at the level of the States and the virtual non-existence of finance at the third level of government. For instance, State governments could claim that service is actually being denied in such important fields as adult education, the provision of libraries and so on for lack of sums as low as Sim. When one finds extravagant performances taking place at the Commonwealth level, it would not cost much if these things were done.
I think that it simply highlights how inadequate existing arrangements are that in an economy whose aggregate transactions exceed $36,O00m, and where the amount that comes within the net of Commonwealth activity is close to $ 10,000m, services at local and State levels should be prevented from being provided because of the lack of sums as small as a few hundred thousand dollars at one level and $lm or so at the other. Members of my Party have discussed this matter for a good number of years. Some people suggest that the answer is to hand functions back from one level to another. Others suggest that what is required is the creation of new regions. Certainly, when one gets away from the Commonwealth, the States as such tend to be historical identities, while local authorities are merely creatures of State legislation. Their boundaries and powers are governed by Acts like local government acts.
As the report to which I have referred points out, there are towns with populations of not more than 1,000 people that are separately incorporated, while quite large towns are smothered within the embraces of shires which have an earlier historical origin. This is a most untidy pattern. I think that there are something like 2,000 separate municipal bodies throughout Australia. In many respects the way that they are constructed and the kind of franchise under which they operate do not in essence lend themselves to their being the sorts of bodies that could perhaps be satisfactorily accountable for large sums of money from either the State or the Commonwealth. There may have to be regrouping of areas for particular functions, but until this sort of thing is done all talk about decentralisation, urban renewal and so on will be idle talk which will not provide any real relief or real solution to what is becoming a most critical situation.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
– I should like to make a correction to an answer I gave at question time to a question that was asked by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). I regret that 1 inadvertently gave the House the wrong information when answering the question, which was about the availability of electoral rolls and their date of distribution. 1 have since checked with the Chief Electoral Officer and the information that I have obtained from him is thus: In New South Wales, where there are 45 divisions, 32 rolls have been printed 3f which 27 have been received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. Of these 21 rolls which have been distributed, 7 have been partially printed, 5 are photo typeset awaiting printing and one is ready for photo typeset. The printing of New South Wales rolls will be finalised by mid-October. In Queensland, the electoral rolls are currently being photo typeset and printing should be finalised by mid-October. In Tasmania, all rolls have been printed and distributed. In South Australia and Western Australia, the rolls will not be printed until the issue of writs. In Victoria, where there are 34 divisions, 19 rolls have been printed of which 15 have been distributed. The other 15 rolls have been photo typeset and are either being printed or are awaiting printing. The completion date of this printing is mid-October. Supplementary rolls will be printed for all States except South Australia and Western Australia as at the issue of the writs.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were debating 2 Bills - the States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1972 and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 3) 1972- both of which relate to the transfer of funds from the Commonwealth to the States. To put the matter into perspective for those who are not familiar with these Bills, I point out that the States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1972 gives effect to the revision of financial assistance grants arrangements made at the Premiers Conference which was held in June.
This Bill has 3 aspects. The first adds $11 2m to the financial assistance grant and builds that amount into the formula laid down in the present Act. The second aspect is to increase the existing $2 per capita grant paid to New South Wales and Victoria to $3.50. Added to the formula grants, this does have a beneficial effect in regard to my own State of South Australia and also Queensland and Tasmania because of the operations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The third aspect of the Bill is to provide $3. 5m extra for Western Australia. This was one of the decisions taken at the Premiers Conference held in June of this year. Altogether, $128m extra funds will be appropriated to the States.
The States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 3) 1972 authorises capital grants to the States totalling $261,879,000. This is more of a machinery Bill which allocates to the States for works and housing amounts totalling $248,539,000 and an extra amount for schools, about which we heard earlier in the parliamentary year, totalling $13,340,000. The fact is that the Opposition is thankful for what is given in these Bills. For years we have recognised that the States have been starved of funds. The great development that has taken place in Australia and the great migration programme have, to a great extent, been at the expense of the State budgets. We have witnessed a reduction in the per capita debt of the Commonwealth whilst the per capita debt of the States, because of insufficient funds with which to discharge their responsibilities in so many fields such as housing and education, has been increasing. So we are glad to see the need for this assistance recognised in Bills such as the two before us. We are glad that some more appropriations are to be made to the States to help them with the problems that they have.
I am pleased also to note that an increasing proportion of grants vis-a-vis borrowings have been made available to the States in these Bills. However, it would be wrong, having outlined what is in the Bills and having given credit where credit is due, to leave the matter there because the problems in Commonwealth-State relations, particularly in Commonwealth-State financial relations that we are dealing with today, are still enormous. To illustrate this I merely have to point lo a couple of newspaper articles which appeared last week when the second reading debate on these Bills commenced. The first article to which I draw attention appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 1 3th September last and related to the State Budget in Victoria. The headline stated: Hamer hits out at “fiscal inequity”’. The article carries the sub-heading:
States have to depend on an ad hoc, patch and mend system of Federal aid from year to year’ - Hamer.
Mr Hamer, as we know, is the Premier of Victoria. He is not a member of my own Party, the Australian Labor Party, but is a member of the Government Party. I would like to read to honourable members his opinion of the existing situation as outlined in the article, which is a report of what Mr Hamer had to say in his Budget speech:
The Victorian Budget handed down in State Parliament yesterday again emphasised the inadequacy and inequity of Commonwealth-State financial relations, the Premier, Mr Hamer said. in his Budget speech he attacked the financial relations and accused the Commonwealth of forcing the States to depend on ‘ad hoc patch and mend arrangements from year to year’.
He said no satisfactory formula had been found to reimburse the States for loss of income tax.
Mr Hamer budgeted for a cash deficit of $17m - S7 more than last year’s deficit.
The State’s reliance on the Commonwealth for funds gives the clue to the small amounts allocated to the new ministries of the Arts, Environment and Decentralisation.
I repeat that what I have just read is a quotation from a newspaper report of Mr Hamer’s Budget speech.
A week before the presentation of Mr Hamer’s Budget, the Tasmanian Budget was presented. On 12th September the Australian’ carried a report of the actions of Mr Reece in trying to discharge his responsibilities in Tasmania. The headline to the article stated: ‘Tasmania ready to make tax deal’. The article continued:
Tasmania will drop its proposed 10 per cent tobacco tax if the Federal Treasurer is prepared to make a deal, the Premier Mr Reece, said yesterday.
Mr Reece said that Tasmania would cancel the 7i per cent consumption tax and H per cent licence fee on the sale of tobacco if Mr Snedden was prepared to make a sufficient and sensible deal’.
Mr Reece introduced the tax in last week’s Budget-
It would be now the Budget of 2 weeks ago: and made his offer to drop it while opening the Federal conference of the Miscellaneous Workers Union in Hobart.
Tasmania was forced to level unpleasant taxes because it was not getting a fair deal from the Commonwealth, he said.
We are fighting down here for a place in the sun from the big blokes in Canberra’, he said.
Yet we find there is an increase of more than $440m in Commonwealth taxation revenue this year*.
He said the Commonwealth had adopted an unrealistic attitude to Tasmania’s position as a small State.
I thought it wise to quote from articles relating to the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of Tasmania to point out that there is so much more that needs to be done in Commonwealth-State relations and particularly Commonwealth-State financial relations. I detected in the second reading speeches of the Minister for Supply and Minister assisting the Teasurer (Mr Garland) on these Bills an aura of complacency in this field, as though the giving of the pay-roll tax to the States, for instance, had now ended their problems. Those problems are still enormous.
I would like to quote a saying of the late Mr Frank Walsh, a former Premier of South Australia, because think it is worth putting into Hansard again. Mr Walsh said:
If education and hospitals were Commonwealth responsibilities and Civil Aviation and post offices were Slates’ responsibilities I wonder would we have the same distribution of resources amongst these functions as we do now.
I will answer the late Mr Walsh’s question by saying: ‘Of course we would not’. The fact is that there is finance available for Commonwealth responsibilities but there is great poverty in the States which prevents them financing their responsibilities. We have only to look at the deficits in the budgets from State to State this year to realise that. We only have to realise how important it is, for instance, that the State of South Australia be allocated more funds at this time of great unemployment. I rose in question time today to present a serious situation in South Australia in relation to unemployment and the call by the Premier of Victoria last Friday for a Premiers Conference on this very issue. It is only by help from the Commonwealth that we will cure the tremendous problem that exists in Australia at the present time. The Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, has made available another $2m of the scarce State funds to try to do something about unemployment but, as every responsible member of this House knows, the real responsibility does not lie in State budgets. The States do not have the wherewithal to cure the unemployment problem. The real responsibility lies with the Commonwealth. We have this low level of economic activity and this high level of unemployment today because of the 1971 Commonwealth Budget and some related matters. 1 suggest that it was wilfully misleading of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) at question time today to pretend that it was the Labor States’ policies that were responsible for a higher level of unemployment in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Let us take them in turn. Every responsible member of this Parliament realises that the cause of the extra unemployment in Western Australia is the fact that so many resources were put into the great development over there at the time of building up the mineral projects in the north-west, that the mineral demand from Japan in particular has come to an end and that the development programmes have tailed off. That is clearly the reason for the level of unemployment in Western Australia. In South Australia a tremendous number of our resources are tied up in the consumer durables manufacturing industry - washing machines, motor cars and so on. South Australia is always the first State hit when there is the slightest slump. There is a clear reason, unrelated to whatever complexion of State government we have in that State, for our unemployment.
South Australia wants to see a high level of activity throughout the Commonwealth so that there may be demand for the products such as motor cars, television sets and refrigerators that are made there. The responsibility for a low level of demand for those products and for the level of unemployment in that State must clearly be sheeted home to the Commonwealth Government. Tasmania has particular problems relating to freight rates. I repeat that it is wilfully misleading for any Minister in this Parliament to pretend, as happened today, that the high level of unemployment has anything to do with the State administrations in those 3 States. The problem is definitely a Commonwealth one and there ought to be Commonwealth discrimination in favour of those States because of their particular disabilities. The Commonwealth Government that we have at present is failing to carry out that sort of action.
I turn now to the Australian Labor Party’s attitude towards the matter of Commonwealth-State relations. I draw attention to an excellent paper by Professor Russell Mathews, Professor of Accounting at the Australian National University, Canberra, on the subject of Commonwealth-State relations. He said:
There are several courses of action that may be followed with a view to achieving better balance between financial powers and responsibilities.
He lists them as follows:
Transfer of functions from the States to the Commonwealth; transfer of taxing powers or other revenue sources from the Commonwealth to the States.
Since he wrote this paper there has been the transfer of the payroll tax. I suggest that that has not been a success. Because the States are so starved of funds they have been forced into increasing the level of payroll tax. I will agree that this has had an effect on employment in the States, because the higher you make the cost of labour the less likelihood there is of labour being employed. This is not due to something going into men’s pockets; it is due to an increase in payroll tax forced on the States because of a shortage of funds and because the Commonwealth has given them that tax to help them to discharge their responsibilities.
The other courses of action mentioned by Professor Mathews were:
Action to provide for the sharing of administrative responsibility of economic decisions by both levels of government; Action by the States to make more effective use of their existing financial powers; and increased use of Commonwealth grants within the framework of the existing division of responsibility.
He makes the valid point that any solution of the Commonwealth-States financial problems must be partially involved in all of those courses of action which he set out. That is as we see it in the Labor Party. 1 now draw attention to a statement on this very subject of Commonwealth, State and civic finances and functions made by Federal and State Labor leaders as long ago as 13th March 1970. They said:
We believe that a new era of joint Commonwealth, State and Local Government co-operation is essential. We propose joint secretariates in each area of common interest between the States and the Commonwealth to ensure maximum involvement of all elected persons and the public in decision-making. The Inter-State Commission will be re-established and the role of the Commonwealth Grants Commission expanded to service these joint secretariats.
They went on later in the report to say:
State and Local Governments, as a result of Liberal policies, have resorted to oppressive and unfair taxation to meet their expanding responsibilities. Even so, they cannot meet just demands on them for public services and meet their increasing debt charges. We believe that the States and Local Government must be assisted in those areas where expenditure will inevitably rise more rapidly than income and population. States must he guaranteed no loss of present revenues. States must be relieved of their growing interest burden and State and Local Governments must be given non-repayable Commonwealth grants for their capital works.
It is the setting up of the joint secretariats in what we like to call a new era of cooperative federalism that will be the special feature of an Australian Labor Party approach to Commonwealth-State relations. I point out that it is only in the field of education in the last 23 years of non-Labor government that we have had any new initiative in the sphere of getting together between the Commonwealth and the States. I am referring, of course, to the Australian Universities Commission as a start in this field. We have to go back to the time of the Chifley Government to find the previous initiatives in this field. Under the Chifley Government we had the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement and the Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement initiated; we had federal moneys first allocated for hospitals; and we had the agreement on rail standardisation, to mention just a few. There is a tremendous number of fields in which we need initiatives such as those right now, particularly when it comes to local government and other kinds of financing.
The statement that I was reading earlier alluded to some of these fields. It said:
The Commonwealth must accept increased responsibility in a number of areas. In each of these areas such Commonwealth grants as are made should not be on conditions set solely, by the Commonwealth but on conditions on which both Commonwealth and States fully consult and agree.
Let us see what some of these fields are. The statement continued:
The Commonwealth Government must assume as much responsibility for city development and redevelopment as do the Federal Governments in the United States of America, Canada and West Germany. The moneys released by the approaching completion of inter-city rail standardisation should be turned to modernising internal city public transit systems.
This is something in which I, as a capital city member, am extremely interested. For some days now I have been trying to get the call at question time to raise a question with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) in relation to an urban public transport study which was apparently commissioned by the Austalian Transport Advisory Council as long ago as July 1971. We have heard no more about it. Rumour has it that this study has been completed and that a report has been made to the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport who met together a couple of months ago. I believe that the report must have been pigeon-holed. This is the sort of area in which there must be new initiatives and a new era of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. I hope that it will not be long now before we have a Federal Labor government which will take such initiatives and which will indeed set a new era in relations - an era which we will call an era of co-operative federalism.
– Some 90 years ago the fathers of the Australian Constitution met. They proceeded, in their deliberations, to frame a constitution with which we are still saddled. It is true that an Australian nation emerged, but our fathers lacked perhaps the foresight and certainly the charity to ensure that the States continued to discharge their proper functions. We are saddled with a constitution which is typical of Australia, the land of paradox. It is a constitution which leaves the sovereign powers in the major responsibilities, forgetting international relations, with the States, but in fact and as a result of the effluxion of time and a major number of interpretative court judgments it leaves the fiscal and financial powers very much with the Commonwealth. In other words, those who need financial assistance most, the States, have not first call; the Commonwealth has it. Conversely, no provision has been made for a proper proportion of the national revenues to be allocated between the Commonwealth and the States according to their respective functions and their true needs. That being so, we come today to a situation in which the States, the second tier of government, and local government, the third tier, literally have their backs to the wall.
As a result of 23 years of the present Administration we have an utter and complete distortion of even the limited powers of the States. Today the position is nothing short of a major national scandal. Finance is government. If I might paraphrase Galbraith, we have today Federal affluence and State squalor in financial affairs. It is the States which in fact provide the infrastructure. To put it in its crudest terms, the States could exist without the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth could not exist without the States, because while we have the present Constitution and the present unwillingness on the part of this Government to alter the situation it will continue and will worsen. It was a former Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, who said - he was absolutely correct and he said it nearly 70 years ago - that the States would finish up tied to the financial chariot wheels of the Commonwealth, and in fact they are.
The final enslavement of the States in financial terms came with the uniform tax legislation which was passed as a war-time measure, and to this day as a result of a High Court ruling the Commonwealth has priority in the field of income tax collection and the paradox continues. If revenue is to be collected, whether directly or indirectly, it comes only through the activities of the States. Just imagine the situation in Australia today if the 25,000 miles of railway line owned by the States, when they finally repay the loans on it, were to fold up. Just imagine the situation if the present main roads system, with all its limitations, did not exist. Where would the Commonwealth be? Both these fields have received scurvy and niggardly treatment. The glamour form of transport, aviation - I give the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) great credit for what he said about it - has money lavished on it, and it is used by fully 3 per cent of the Australian community. The rest of the people use the motor car and the rail transport system.
Take the road system. This Government, of course, has been responsible for the swindle of the petrol tax. Only 70 per cent of it goes to the States, and of that 70 per cent the greater proportion goes where it is of the least use. To this day in Australia one will find the scandal of gravel surfaced main roads and fully bituminised farm roads leading on to them. The responsibility lies again with this Government. Australia is a maritime nation, but on the eastern seaboard of Australia there is not a single harbour which at its present depth at low water is capable of taking a ship of more than 100,000 tons capacity. We are in the world of the super freighter and the super tanker and 150,000 tons is the size of the average ship, the ship of all work, the ship to meet all trades in the world today. This Government leaves the responsibility to the States.
Take housing. Here we come again to the impact of immigration. What has the Government done? We have attempted in Australia, and I do not disagree with it, an increase in population through both immigration and natural growth which is an alltime record for any part of the world, or at least any part of what we might call the western democracies. But in the process it has been the resources of the States that have been strained to the limit; 1 repeat strained to the limit’. The policy of the Government has been to say: ‘Get them here. Kid them into coming. But when we get them here we will put them on the doorstep of the States and we will give them as little as possible’. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you want the proof of that, have a look at the backlog today in the waiting lists of approved tenants of the Housing Commission in New South Wales or any of the other State housing authorities. If you want further proof of the position, have a look at the inflated rates that are being charged for interest on housing loans, have a look at the inflated charges that are being imposed for land and have a look at (he deficits, the record deficits of the State governments. Only last week it was announced that the railway deficit in Victoria in the coming year will be $66m. In New South Wales it will be $40m. One could go right through every aspect of State administration and find the same system in operation. 1 regret to have to say that, looking at the difference in viewpoint between State administrations and the national Administration, it is the latter which leaves much to be desired. The States are more experienced. New South Wales and Victoria have been in the business of government for more than 100 years. They have made their mistakes. Today Australia is being ruled from a city which might be a fairyland and which might have in it some very competent men provided that we stick to the text: books, but when it comes to the hard realities 1 would back the State administrations collectively against that of the Commonwealth. Some of the people who are here in Canberra are the third generation of Canberra administrators. We have had father, son and grandson, and in administrative terms the people here are mentally inbred. If they had to get into industry or commerce and make a living they would be kicked to pieces. There is here a lack of sophistication and an elitism and brahminism which need to be well and truly broken up. These people are not the repositories of all knowledge or all experience. Today the Commonwealth and the Administration here are too apt to look upon the States as the poor relatives instead of as the major milking cows. They are apt to look upon them as a necessary evil to be tolerated, endured, taxed and then ignored.
There is a complete and utter callous disregard for the problems of the States. If honourable members require proof of that they should look at the activities of the States and the Commonwealth in the operation of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. No other country is in the position of the national Government today, which literally owns the whole of its own internal debt. The debt figures are worth citing. The Commonwealth debt domiciled within Australia is $2,73 lm, of which the Commonwealth already holds $2,550m in bonds. The States have a debt of $9,86 lm; local government debts total $ 1,800m and semi-government debts total $6.800m. In other words the Government could in this Budget take a breather from overtaxing the people of Australia, lt has been pumping surplus revenues into its own bonds, lending the money to the States and collecting the interest on it. lt is an absolute scandal. It is the old story. Hitler and Goebbels said that the technique of the big lie was the best. The big lie is that we have been told for 23 years that this Government has had a deficit, sometimes large, sometimes small.
Since 1955 the Government has been planting money away. This year for the first time it has decided to say: ‘Right, we are pretty well holding all of our bonds that are domiciled within Australia and we can afford to let our heads go and give some money away by way of rebate’. That is precisely what the Government has done. Another government can do exactly the same thing and will undoubtedly do it. The loan field has been left to private enterprise. This again is unique. If you look at other countries comparable to ours you will find that in aggregate the Commonwealth for many years has been following the policy of paying cash on the barrel head, taxing to the limit, directly and indirectly. Twenty-six per cent of the gross national product is returned to the Commonwealth in the form of taxation. Posterity has never been asked to bear its proper share of the burden as is the practice in other comparable countries.
Our total public debt is between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of the gross national product. In Canada it is 75 per cent; United Kingdom 96 per cent; New Zealand 92 per cent; and in the United States of America 56 per cent. In the meantime the people and the States have been taxed to the point where they simply are not able to carry on. Local government is in a greater plight than even the States. That is a scandal that has been festering for many years. Local government income is based on an entirely wrong principle. It is based on taxing the unimproved value of land. In the average suburban street which has 20 houses of a similar type all the people in them are paying about the same rates but there can be disparities of as much as 300 per cent in the respective incomes of those people. Local government provides the infrastructure of what can be termed the State structure. Progressively over the years further functions have been passed down the line to local government authorities by the States because they just did not have the money to carry on. These local government authorities in many cases were foolish enough to accept the responsibilities. But wherever they lie, the problem is the same.
Labor’s policy is a clear one. For the first time we will give local government bodies a voice at the Loan Council table. In future they will not need to act vicariously, have plans vetted and then passed on to the Loan Council by the State governments if they choose to do so and wilh whatever emphasis the State governments choose to employ. Representatives of local government bodies will attend Loan Council meetings and will have a vote. We will give a fixed proportion of the national revenue to local government. The Commonwealth Government in its relations with the States, by a system of matched grants, has required the States to allocate a proportion of their limited funds conditionally upon grants being given by the Commonwealth. This has resulted in a further distortion. This applies notably in the case of the universities, and also in many other fields. This Government has been arrogant and hard. It has taxed to the limit. The structure of the Government’s present Budget shows that come hell or high water it will do all it can to extract the absolute maximum, whether by way of direct taxation - particularly on wage and salary earners - or by indirect taxation in the form of excise duty on beer, petrol, tobacco and cigarettes. Indirect taxation is of course regressive taxation, but that suits this Government because the incidence of taxation is falling most heavily and unfairly on those people who are least able to pay. Undoubtedly, gains will flow io Australia from a change of government, from a change of thinking, a change of budget structure and from financial decency, honesty and fairness that this Government will never be capable of in its relationship with the States.
– Tha Opposition is not opposing this Bill but wc do make certain criticisms of the general financial structure that exists between the Commonwealth, States and local government because we have a fundamental belief that it is time for that structure to be changed. As the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) mentioned, the present Constitution and the basic framework of the structure between the Commonwealth, States and local government was laid down in 1901. It is now 1972. lt is very obvious that it is time to reassess the situation because today we are living in a completely different culture, society, economic framework and industrial framework from those that existed when this structure was first set up. For that reason it is commonsense to sit down and to reassess it. Any honourable member who has to represent the areas which are growing very quickly and radically, such as the honourable member for Cunningham and myself, knows the position of rate increases by local government authorities. How many more increases can be levied upon the householder? How much more can be squeezed out of the ordinary, everyday householder who owns his own home? He is reaching saturation point.
We know that the debt of local government is greater than the debts of the Commonwealth and States combined. Unless there is a reappraisal of the situation we will come to a stage of a very great crisis, % complete disintegration of local government works that will mean that finally the Com.monwealth will be forced in a period of chaos to enter the field. For that reason we believe it would be far better if we sat down,
We see all the time the problems associated with financing water and sewerage reticulation. Without a doubt one of the major reasons for the artificial shortage of land which exists today around the metropolitan area of Sydney is the inability of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board to raise the necessary finance for water reticulation and sewerage. Basically the Board is the real planning organisation, not the New South Wales State Planning Authority, because the Authority will not recommend the release of land for domestic development until such time as water and sewerage reticulation is available. By creating a shortage of finance in this field the Government is bringing about an artificial shortage of land which has in itself resulted in the large scale spiralling of land costs throughout the metropolitan area of Sydney where the younger people simply cannot afford to get land on which to build a home. It must be realised that - and apparently this is the attitude being taken by this Government - in making these decisions and saying: ‘Ali right, we do not consider water and sewerage reticulation to be a top priority matter’, and at the same time allowing the Water Board virtually to determine the planning and release of land for urban development around Sydney you are creating a land shortage, you are creating a spiralling of land costs, you are creating an inflationary situation which in itself brings about a natural demand for higher wage increases which add to cost inflation.
Those honourable members who represent, as I do, some of the fast developing
That is why we say that funds should be earmarked specifically for use in areas of need. I refer to those areas on the perimeters of the great cities and which are experiencing this massive development which has been brought about as a result of Government policy, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Cunningham. The bringing of migrants into this country creates demands for increased facilities. It is the Commonwealth Government which initiates the migration of people. It is therefore the Commonwealth Government which in effect initiates the great demand for increased facilities such as schools, hospitals, roads, local government works and transport. All those facilities are, in the first instance, generated by the policies of this Government and therefore it is the Commonwealth Government which should accept responsibility for this matter.
At the same time the Commonwealth Government should look at decentralisation. If it gives to local government authorities direct access to the Australian Loan Council the bargaining power of those authorities and in particular of country councils - our friends in the Country Party should agree with this - would be greatly strengthened. I know that one method by which this Parliament could assist decentralisation would be to rebate telephone trunk line charges to remove the disability which an industry from a city area suffers in trying to move into a country area. The Government could assist with the provision of cheap finance. It could also assist by granting company tax rebates to any company which is prepared to move its activities from a metropolitan area into a country area. As I said earlier, it would be of very great assistance if there were direct access for local government authorities to the Loan Council which is where the financial cake is cut up. This would increase the bargaining power of local governments and give them a far greater opportunity to bring about necessary and important works programmes. It would also be a very good method of assisting to overcome the unemployment problems which exist today.
Let us face reality. Unless some large scale developmental works are implemented in this country within the months to come the employment crisis which has built up month by month will become permanent and it will not be able to be corrected. Short term palliatives can be used but the long term cure is in large scale works programmes initiated by the Commonwealth, the States and local governments.
I leave my criticisms at that. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we do not oppose this legislation but we do lay down certain criticisms of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth on the one hand, the States and local governments on the other hand. I reiterate that I believe that local government should have direct access to the Loan Council. Local authorities would then have greater bargaining power. I believe that there should be a reconstitution of the Grants Commission and that the new fast developing perimeter areas of the great cities should have access to specifically earmarked grants. Until this type of proposal is implemented the problems of local governments, particularly the increasing financial crisis, will continue.
– I suggest today that the Commonwealth should extend its involvement by way of the State Grants
Act to areas where it has hitherto not shown any interest. Last Wednesday the results of a survey carried out by Dr A. W. Willee, the Director, Department of Physical Education, University of Melbourne, for the Commonwealth Council of National Fitness were released. The survey was conducted to assess the present fitness levels of Australia’s secondary school students by establishing fitness norms for 13-17-year-old boys and girls attending government secondary schools throughout Australia’.
This report was prepared some time ago and initially rejected because it made comparisons between the physical fitness of Australian children and that of their overseas counterparts. The results would have been embarrassing to the members of this Government and to their Liberal colleagues who at the time of the preparation of the report occupied the treasury benches in all the States of the Commonwealth. A watered down version, which will still prove embarrassing to the Government, has now been released. The report makes reference to proposed comparisons with American children but states without explanation:
Without going into detail on this comprehensive 131-page report, I would like to draw attention to the following points: Firstly, the results of the 8 fitness tests undergone by 7,439 boys and girls showed that the girls’ physical fitness deteriorated from the age of 13 to the age of 17 and, while the boys’ improved marginally, it was not as great as maturity and development would expect. Let me quote at random from the report. Here are a few of the remarks that are sprinkled through it:
Public and/or Governmental interest in fitness rises and falls according to circumstances. War or threat of war is always sufficient to arouse interest and act as ‘a spur of action. . . . Bach year the cost to the nation of coronary heart disease has been estimated by the National Heart Foundation to be $700m. Large sums are expended on workers compensation. . . . Accident in industry is a constant drain on the nation’s resources. . . . Lack of exercise is a risk factor in coronary heart disease. Exercise itself has a beneficial effect on all the other risk factors associated with heart disease. Fatigue is a major cause of accidents of all types. . . Concern is expressed for a day, each time the rejection rate for National Servicemen is published. There would be a great saving to the community and to the Army, if recruits were not only organically sound and therefore trainable, but were also functionally fit. … A recent survey of secondary schools throughout Australia revealed that over three quarters of all Government High Schools are without covered areas in which physical education activities could be conducted. … No child can take full advantage of whatever education is offered unless that child is healthy. It is physiological common sense, as well as established fact that there is a positive relationship between mental alertness and physical fitness. . . . There is ample evidence that the beneficial effects of exercise are measurable and considerable and that lack of exercise is associated with disease.
As a result of a report which 1 circulated to my colleagues and which contained some suggestions to combat this problem, I was recently quoted in a Melbourne newspaper as follows:
The physical fitness and well-being of a nation is as important to the health and ultimate happiness of its people as its level of affluence, education and cultural attainment and its technical and scientific achievements. . . Australian children compare most unfavourably, with those of similar countries. Whilst our concern about this may lead us to improving the physical fitness of our young people, it is equally true that older generations are even more dangerously unfit than the young. Growing affluence, the universal use of the motor car, labour saving devices and the acceleration of the rate of change from manual labour to clerical and service industries is leading to a more sedentary existence than is reflected in the growing incidence of heart disease and other physical disabilities attributable to lack of physical exercise.
The likelihood of increased leisure coupled with daylight saving will mean a growing amount of people able to and interested in spending some of this leisure in physical recreation, lt is highly desirable that they should do so. It is equally desirable that governments should assist in the provision of facilities that will assist them in doing so.
As a result of the report I received a quite delightful letter of support from Professor John Bloomfield, Head of the Department of Physical Education, University of Western Australia. He forwarded to me a copy of a paper he had given entitled The Conservation of Man’. In his opening remarks he said:
Living in an urban society has deprived man of one of his greatest needs, namely that of movement. As a biological organism, he has evolved over millions of years in an environment demanding physical mobility and endurance, yet in the last 50 years, Australians, by following the trend of other technologically advanced countries, have considerably reduced their daily energy expenditure.
There is now alarming medical evidence which indicates that man’s inability to physically adapt to his changing environment is causing many diseases of a degenerative nature. Research in the field of human biology has demonstrated that a certain amount of physical activity is necessary so that man’s biochemical processes can function normally.
Many European governments, concerned by the trend towards physical inactivity, have attempted to compensate for this lack by establishing a government body with the responsibility of encouraging physical recreation in the community. Although Australians possess reasonably adequate outdoor facilities for recreation, we lack co-ordination in their use, and directional planning for the future. Each average-sized community needs centralised indoor and outdoor facilities, staffed by, Physical Education specialists. Each urban municipality must have easy access to open space, for such outdoor pursuits as bush walking, horse riding, canoeing, camping and nature study, to name but a few.
If a Federal Ministry of Recreation was established in Australia its function would be twofold. Not only could it co-ordinate recreation al the State level, but it could also produce and circulate, via the mass media, regular National programmes and advertisements promoting physical activity and recreation.
We must guard against man falling victim to his own technological ingenuity. Neglect of man’s physical welfare could be disastrous for his future.
I made a number of recommendations that I believe could be initiated by governments, particularly by the Federal Government. Many of these could be implemented through the States Grants Acts, particularly the one we are debating at the moment due to its special interest in schools. I believe that this country needs a Minister for Sport and Recreation and a national sports council to work with and advise the Minister on the order of priorities and methods of implementation of a programme to raise the standards of physical fitness of all Australians and of the sports in which they compete. I also suggest that we should build a national sports institute for the training and educating of coaches and instructors and the awarding of diplomas and degrees in physical education, associated sciences and sports education. Associated with the institute should be a fully Federal Government financed sports medical research unit with adequate facilities for postgraduate work; the provision of a sports training centre for Australian athletes to train and be coached for international, national and intra-national sporting events; each national sporting association to submit a programme for the promotion and extension of its sporting activities on a State or regional basis; and those programmes accepted by the council to receive a Si for SI subsidy from the Federal Government. A national playing fields committee, I believe, is also essential to inquire into and recommend a programme of providing adequate sporting facilities in each community. Approved projects, I believe, should receive a similar $1 for $1 subsidy. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the House may think that this approach is revolutionary. Let me assure them that if I had the time I could quote chapter and verse on how this is occurring in a number of countries around the world, including Canada, Great Britain, France and Germany.
However, the idea that most appeals to me, because I believe it has many functions that will have widespread coverage for the people of each and every community - I hope to see a Federal government take these initiatives - is that the Government undertake a programme of building community gymnasium-swimming pool complexes. A programme of building such complexes would effectively bring to ali Australians a wide range of sports and recreation that is now available only to a handful and it would do so at a markedly reduced cost. The advantage ®f providing these facilities under one roof with the assistance of trained coaches and qualified instructors is immeasurable. Such sports would include basketball, netball, boxing, wrestling, weight-lifting, judo, karate, fencing, table tennis, badminton, athletics, gymnastics, trampolining, archery, swimming, diving, water polo and squash. An extension of the proposal which may have greater appeal is that these complexes be built in co-operation with local government authorities and be located as near as possible to schools. It would be the responsibility of the local government authorities to provide the land and a small portion of the capital cost - let us say 20 per cent - and the Commonwealth’s responsibility to build the complex. Once complete the ownership, administration and upkeep would pass to the local authority, a few communities have built sports centres such as those envisaged - in fact, there is one in Garlands in my electorate - and their experience shows that approximately 1,500 people use each centre each week. Over- seas experience shows that one such centre can adequately cater for a population of 20,000 and that it can be built for approximately $300,000. With community participation and the economies obtained by building thirty or forty such complexes a year, the cost to the Commonwealth should be limited to about $225,000 for each.
I have no doubt that sceptics will say it cannot be done and that the anti-sport lobby in the community will say it should not be done and that we should place more emphasis on cultural and intellectual pursuits than in the worship of the great god, sport. Let me assure the House of 2 things: Firstly, it can be done, and is being done in many countries overseas, particularly in Europe; secondly, sporting and cultural interests are not necessarily incompatible. In fact, they are not incompatible. With a little imagination such complexes could be all embracing to include facilities for both. We should not think of sport competing with the arts, music, theatre and literature for the public purse, but’ as desirable pursuits complimenting one another. For those who believe I suffer from a bad attack of Utopianism let me refer to what is happening in Europe and in particular France and the Federal Republic of Germany - that is, West Germany. Between 1958 and 1970 the French Government built 5,130 athletic centres, 2.620 gymnasiums, 1,130 swimming pools, 1,470 youth centres, 1,700 open air centres and 560 youth hostels. It is anticipated that by 1985 the sports facilities requirements of France will have been met.
In West Germany, with the co-operation of the various branches of government and the German Union of Sport, a programme of measures designed to advance sport and to make it available to everyone in that society, not just a privileged few, has been drawn up. Between 1955 and 1959 the German Olympic Society developed what it refers to as the golden plan, not because it costs a lot of money but because man’s health is one of his most prized possessions. It provides that during the period 1961-75 the building of 31,000 childrens playgrounds, 15,000 public and school playing fields, 16,000 gymnasiums, 2,150 covered swimming pools, and 1,600 open air pools, should be completed. During the first 10 years of the plan two-thirds of these facilities had been built. I am aware that there is a difference in the populations of West Germany and Australia but we have done nothing in regard to this type of activity.
Those of us who have listened to the coaches and commentators returning from the Munich Olympic Games will have noted with interest their repeated comments on the fantastic facilities available to European athletes and remarks that the reason for the great leap forward in performance by the European athletes, particularly the 2 Germanies, is a by-product of those Governments having provided the sporting facilities and the coaches to lift the overall participation and subsequent performance. Let me make it perfectly clear that I believe that in no circumstances should such a programme be undertaken with the object of winning medals at the Olympic Games. I am talking about the health and physical well being of the whole community. Internationa] performances by our sportsmen are just a byproduct of total community participation. It would be perfectly feasible under the States Grants Acts for a Federal Government to undertake a programme in conjunction with the States, local government and the sporting associations to provide these facilities.
I believe, however, that there is one body of sportsmen that requires a special consideration above all others because of the rather unique position it occupies in the community. The Australian Surf Life Saving Association serves the community in 2 ways. It not only provides excellent physical recreation and sport for a large number of young people but it also provides a valuable service to the community. Without the surf life saving movement many Australians would lose their lives each year. From my own personal experience I can vouch for that. Many thousands of young Australians guard Australian beaches throughout the summer months without any remuneration other than the camaraderie of their friends, the competition of the surf life saving movement and the knowledge that they are providing a vital community service. Unfortunately we tend to take them for granted. It is unconscionable that they should be forced to raise the money required to provide the equipment that helps save these lives. They should not have to beg from their fellow Australians for the right to rescue them. They should be able to make their contribution free of financial problems associated with the purchase of life saving equipment such as boats, reels and medical equipment. At the moment they receive differing amounts from the State governments. For the year 1970-71 amounts provided by the States were: New South Wales, $50,000; Victoria, SI 6,000; Queensland, $87,257; South Australia, 58,000; Western Australia, $9,500 and Tasmania, $3,600. Queensland provides 75c for each $2 collected by the Association and in 1971-72 will provide $111,338. It appears that the Queensland Government is far more generous in this respect than all other governments put together. I believe we should consider 2 possibilities which will not cost much. The first is a matching grant with the States which would have promised $174,357 during 1970-71 and approximately $200,000 during ‘ 1971-72. The alternative is the provision of $1 for $1 grant for the purchase of all new life saving equipment.
Finally, let me deal with that long suffering group, the sports spectators. The Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney’s only stadium approaching international standards, cannot seat 25,000 spectators. 1 am sure that you, Mr Speaker, will agree with that. I believe you are a constant visitor at big matches; I have often seen you there. But if one does not have a member’s pass it is very difficult to get a seat. Major contests are witnessed by crowds of between 60,000 and 70,000 people jammed together in uncomfortable, unhygenic and often dangerous conditions. The New South Wales Government has recently proposed the construction of a sports complex in the Moore Park area. I do not believe that this is the right area but I do believe that such a complex should be built. The eastern suburbs of Sydney are nowhere near the centre of Sydney today. They will be even less so when such a complex is completed, probably by the 1980s. I hope the Federal Government will assist financially with the construction of these complexes. This would materially assist those campaigning to gain the 1988 Olympics for Sydney.
– The House is dealing with legislation which will provide massive grants to the States. They are very generous grants under a completely new formula. I would like to take up some of the time of the Parliament today to examine what some of the States are doing with the grants. In particular I would like to mention South Australia. I want to bring tb the notice of the Parliament and the people of Australia what I consider to be a scandalous example of what seems to be a hushed up corrupt practice which is occurring at Government level in South Australia. 1 want to show to the Parliament and the people how Labor behaves when it gets into power, as it is unfortunately and most regrettably in South Australia. For many years the Labor Party has placed all its advertising with Messrs Hansen and Rubensohn, an Australian company. In 1959 an American agency, McCann ErickSOn, bought out this Australian-owned company and as Hansen RubensohnMcCann Erickson Pty Ltd it has since handled all the Labor Party advertising and market research. This company of 4 names is a totally foreign owned agency. Its ownership can be traced back through holding companies to an American company, Gansell and Co. of New York. I have checked on the address of this company. It is a rather remote address - a post office box number - No. 1508 in New York. It is also interesting to note that 2 of the shares in this company are owned by a solicitor in Norfolk Island. I should like to have a lot of questions answered about this agency. For instance, what does it do about paying Australian taxes and other matters?
However, in South Australia, Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson is managed by Mr Geoff Huntley. By using public funds - this is a recent innovation - 6 South Australian government departments have recently embarked on an intensive advertising campaign which must be costing an enormous amount of money. J am not opposed to advertising campaigns per se. The one for the Municipal Tramways Trust, I think, is a good idea on the whole. However 6 government departments have embarked on advertising campaigns - the
Woods and Forests Department, the Municipal Tramways Trust, the new State Government Insurance Commission, the Electoral Department, the Premiers Department, which includes the Development Department, and the Government Tourist Bureau - and are spending significant sums of money. It cannot be any coincidence that the Dunstan Labor Government in South Australia is using the same foreign-owned advertising agency as the Labor Party is using in South Australia. Because of the foreign ownership and the central offices being in the eastern States, this policy is resulting in a considerable loss of employment in South Australia, particularly in the printing, platemaking, engraving, film production and paper supply trades, not to mention artists and writers, many of whom have had to leave South Australia. The production of only one commercial for television could affect the employment of 40 or 50 people and, as we have seen announced today and publicised in this House, the unemployment situation in South Australia is amongst the worst in the Commonwealth.
An even more incredible facet of this affair concerns the hushing-up of reference to these matters in the South Australian House of Assembly last month by the Liberal Country League member for Hanson. He accused the Dunstan Labor Government of corrupt practices and drew attention to the fact that Mr Huntley, the manager of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erick.son, although a highly experienced advertising man has no notable experience in finance, accounting or public administration yet suddenly he has been appointed as a trustee of the Savings Bank of South Australia. The member for Hanson introduced a private member’s motion, as it is called in South Australia, in the State Parliament on 30th August dealing with this matter. The motion stated:
That in the opinion of this House all Government and semi-government advertising should be placed with Australian, preferably South Australian, owned and controlled agencies.
He went on to describe the action in the appointment of Mr Huntley as being a golden handshake. He has told me since that he has been threatened by a senior member of the Australian Labor Party to withdraw or else. It can hardly be any coincidence that since Mr Huntley’s appointment the South Australian owned advertising agency which has serviced the bank for over 20 years has been sacked and the business given to another very large foreign-owned agency. From confidential information which I have received I can reveal that the American owned agency, George Patterson, purely on the basis of writing to the bank in a 2- page letter asking for business, was given this account worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I have a copy of a letter written by the Woods and Forests Department on 11th August 1970 to another South Australian agency, Clem Taylor O’Brien Pty Ltd, sacking this firm from its services. I quote an extract from that letter as follows: . . confirms telephoned a’dvice 1970 that this Department was required by Government directives to employ the publicity firm of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson
I make the point that these government departments have been instructed by the Dunstan Labor Government to put their advertising through this particular firm which also handles the ALP advertising. The Savings Bank of South Australia is the only government departmental account not handled by Mr Huntley’s foreign-owned agency, but under the Act as a trustee of the bank his company cannot serve the bank’s advertising. However it is interesting to note that the account was, once again, given to a foreign-owned agency.
Looking more directly at the Dunstan Labor Government advertising set-up as it has since developed, we find that a Mr Malin, who formerly worked for the South Australian Government as a television and publicity expert in the Tourist Bureau and in the Premier’s Department, has suddenly appeared on the staff of, as honourable members can guess, Hansen, Rubensohn-McCann Erickson. The total silence of the media in South Australia disturbs me more than anything else about these episodes - what I would describe as a disgraceful series of events. Not one word has appeared in the daily newspapers, or been heard on radio or television. Surely the South Australian public and the Australian taxpayers are entitled to know
Something about the circumstances of this use of public funds. I would like to know whether the media in South Australia are frightened of the Dunstan Labor Government. Having regard to the immense advertising revenue of the Labor Party and the Labor Government and its instrumentalities all being channelled through principally one but partially two totally foreign-owned agencies the answer could well be yes. Perhaps the media are frightened of them, their potential power and their spending power or perhaps they think that it is better not to rock to boat.
My colleague in the House of Assembly has attempted to bring this matter to the public notice but not a word has been mentioned. This is the only forum left to us and that is why I am bringing it forward in this Parliament. At least we are on the air. Under the South Australian Labor Government, subservient as it is to elements of the trade union movement and controlled as it is by a handful of people, ] do not suppose we can blame the media for their reluctance to tangle with the controllers of such vast sums of money. But I wonder what would happen if we were ever unfortunate enough to have a Federal Labor government. Then I take it that the amount of money which is spent federally by government departments and which is in excess of $6m, would go through this foreign owned agency. I question what would then happen with the media.
– Your own advertising is going through a partly foreign owned agency.
– I appreciate the interjection of the honourable member for Adelaide because I had forgotten to mention this fact. He said that our own advertising is going through foreign-owned agencies. This simply is not true. The position with the Federal Liberal Party is that it does not spend a nickel on advertising. Each of the State Liberal parties - and I take it this applies to the Country Party - is the same position; it is responsible for its own appointment of advertising agencies. I know that in South Australia, for as long as I can remember and before that, ail moneys spent on advertising by the Liberal Country League were spent with a South Australian agency.
I take the view that, under the Labor administration in South Australia, that State is degenerating into a banana republic, where the institutions that we expect to be the watchdogs of our hard-won democratic processes are under attack and are gradually being taken over. In my view the preservation of these institutions is essential to protect our freedom. I refer to the judiciary, the police and the news media. The judiciary, thank heavens, is still independent in South Australia but already we have seen the Labor Administration there put the Police Commissioner of South Australia under government ministerial direction. I see in the intrusion of this largely foreign owned advertising agency the power for the final control over the third of these elements, namely, the Press and the news media. The Press is the significant section of the news media. What is reported in the Press is what is used on radio and television.
What appears to be the suppression or, at any rate, the lack of public reference to the control of public moneys by foreign owned advertising agencies in South Australia indicates that the Press considers that it is looking down the barrel. I would say to the Press in South Australia that if it does not act now, things will not get any easier in the future. We are on the road to losing one of our very important institutions whose job it is to examine all public issues critically, I do not think it is beyond the realms of belief that the South Australian Press is being subjected to a polite form of blackmail. I would like to know, for example, who checks the accounts of the agencies and I would also like to know what the Auditor-General thinks of these matters.
In the few moments that I have remaining to me I shall refer to the only public reference - that I have seen, at any rate - to this entire matter. It is contained in a publication called ‘Advertising News’ and it is the report of an address given by Senator Douglas McClelland, a New South Wales Labor senator, to a meeting in Sydney of the Australian-owned Advertising Agencies Council. The report states:
One of the fundamental principles of the Labor movement is loyally to those who are regarded as our friends . . .
I take it that, as the Australian Labor Party has been loyal to this agency for so many years it will continue to be loyal to it, whether it is foreign owned or not. I am thinking how loyal the Labor Party was to its friends in the recent Kangaroo Island dispute in South Australia. The report continues:
Senator McClelland said from a personal viewpoint, he hoped the ALP ‘will come to see the wisdom of patronising an Australian owned agency’. He said this view in no way reflected on the present agency which was doing ‘a very good job*.
I just make the final point that the Australian Labor Party is supposed to represent the little man - the local man, the battler. I do not believe that the Australian Labor Party represents that sort of man any more. The Australian Labor Party claims that it wants Australia for Australians and that it is opposed to foreign ownership. I say that the Labor Party says one thing and does another, because all of its advertising is distributed by foreign owned agencies, and the more power that sort of agency accumulates the more it can dictate to editors and journalists generally on what they shall write and publish and what they shall not write. I hope to see a report and some correction of this information in the daily Press in South Australia tomorrow.
– I would like to make a few comments in reply to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay)-
– Supplied by the honourable member for Adelaide.
– Quite right; I am not in a position to know these things as well as is the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). My colleague the honourable member for Adelaide points out that the honourable member for Boothby, as is his usual form, has made a great number of scurrilous attacks on the advertising agency of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson and on its South Australian manager, Mr Geoff Huntley and others. I challenge the honourable member for Boothby to make his comments outside the House. That would be the test of the credibility of the honourable member. I point out one thing that the honourable member for Boothby said, namely, that Mr Huntley had recently been appointed a trustee of the Savings Bank of South Australia. The fact is that Mr Huntley has been a trustee of that bank since 1966. The honourable member for Adelaide has informed me of this. He further has told me that Mr Huntley has played a major role in improving the entire image of the Savings Bank of South Australia. This is just one example of the scurrilous nonsense of the honourable member for Boothby. Those facts have been passed on to me by the honourable member for Adelaide who, like myself, is concerned at the attacks that the honourable member for Boothby has been making.
I am concerned primarily to deal with the Bill now before the House, the States Grants Bill (No. 2), particularly that section which allocates SI 3. 34m between 1972 and 1973 for State school building purposes. This section of the Bill is part of the whole pattern of this Government’s discrimination against State schools. It is yet another stage in the era of the portable classroom, the mobile slum - of portable poverty and of mobile squalor - that this Government and the State Government of Victoria are together inflicting upon students in government schools in that State. The proposed granting of a mere $13.34m to all the State school pupils in Australia is an act of overwhelming discrimination against them. It will maintain slum conditions in State schools throughout Australia for yet another 12 months. As I will point out later, I can see no significant improvement in school buildings, even after the stage when a larger grant has been at long last offered. The allocation of $20m, of which this Bill is part, offers a mere $10 a head to every one of the 2 million State primary and secondary pupils throughout Australia. This is an insult to their parents and it is an insult to those pupils that they have been singled out for victimisation by the Government, particularly when it is pointed out that, under the Bill for independent schools which was passed earlier this year, primary pupils at private schools are entitled to $50 a head and those at the secondary level are entitled to $68 a head.
It always seems to be necessary at this stage to point out that, in fact, I welcome the assistance that is given to those private schools that need it. I am not criticising that at all. I can see schools in my electorate where I welcome the assistance that is being given. But I will not remain silent in this Parliament while assistance is being given to one sector of the school community and is being denied to another. It is the continual discrimination that this Government shows to pupils at government schools that disturbs me most of all. It is interesting to look at the $20m that has been promised - of which a part has been paid - to State schools in 1972-73 and to observe that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who announced this measure in the House, actually claimed that this grant was being made in the light of the survey of needs carried out by the 6 State governments.
It is very interesting to compare the survey of needs conducted by the 6 State governments with a survey of needs that the Minister conducted. The first point is that the survey of needs conducted by the State governments was finished in February 1970. The survey pointed out that there would be a colossal gap between the funds that they would have and the funds that they would need. There is still no indication that this need is being met on any significant scale by this Government. In fact, the survey as it was published was almost immediately rubbished by the Minister for Education and Science. He claimed almost immediately that the figures were spurious and suspicious and that, in any case, some States were being excessive in trying to reduce their ratio of pupils to staff to the level which he accepts as being normal in the sort of private schools that he fosters so deliberately by his policy. His own survey of the needs of private schools was probably the worst survey ever carried out by any government department on anything. A large section of the private schools in the non-Catholic sector which were asked for details of their requirements for the 1971-75 period simply refused point-blank to take part in the survey. They refused to give the Minister any information whatsoever of what their needs were. Another substantial section, although given 7 months to submit information, was not able to do so.
In my opinion this is an indication that there is a substantial sector in the private school education system that is extremely affluent and has no need for any further grant from the Commonwealth Government whatsoever. They were quite unprepared to provide the Minister for Education and Science with a statement of their needs. Even the survey of the handicapped children’s schools, which could have been done efficiently, was also a monumental shambles. Recently the Minister replied to a statement that I had made about the number of schools in the private sector that had not taken part in his survey. He very promptly replied that I had overlooked the handicapped children’s schools that also had not supplied him with evidence. The chronic thing about his survey of the needs of handicapped children is that only 20 per cent of all the schools in the private handicapped sector that was circularised replied. In other words, the information that he has about the needs of one of the most deprived sectors of the school community accounts for only 20 per cent of those schools. It is not surprising that the Minister took no further trouble, that he did not include their survey among the finalised survey of needs. It is not surprising that he did nothing about their requirements because he is not concerned about the needs of the handicapped.
It is interesting to notice just how helpful the Commonwealth Government is in its education grants to the schools for the handicapped. For example, the 2 private preparatory schools which feed pupils into Melbourne Grammar, the Minister for Education and Science’s old school - namely Wadhurst Preparatory and Grimway House - between them get more in per capita grants than all that is given to handicapped children in the entire State of Victoria. These 2 schools between them last year received a total of $31,000 in per capita grants from the Commonwealth Government whereas the schools of handicapped children throughout Victoria received only $24,000. That is an indication of just how sincere the present Government is about handicapped children.
This was an area that could have been handled very effectively. The Senate Select Committee on Health and Welfare which looked at the subject of handicapped people indicated that there was a great need for clear statistical data on the numbers and needs of handicapped people. This need could have been met very simply by the Minister’s own survey of private schools. However, it was not.
Most significantly, leaving out of account those handicapped persons schools to which I have just referred, a very large sector of the wealthier private schools, usually referred to as grammar schools and colleges, simply did not take part in the survey. A total of 140 of those schools out of 294 non-Catholic grammar schools, colleges and schools simply either did not submit details to the Minister for his survey of the needs of private schools in 1970-71 or they did so only after 7 months had elapsed.
I put a question on notice to the Minister for Education and Science and asked whether he would mind informing the public of Australia as to the schools which did not supply him with information. The Minister refused to provide the information as he regarded this as being a matter of confidence between himself and the particular schools, which I regard as being a rather flippant justification for maintaining secrecy in an area where millions of dollars of public money are being spent on schools that simply do not need it.
I think that the public has a right to know the names of the schools which are receiving such substantial sums from the Commonwealth Government and under the new scheme of aid to private schools will receive even more than they have received so far. The Minister maintains that this is a matter of confidence. This sounds very much like the Ethos of the old school tie network. It is apparently a private and confidential arrangement between the Minister for Education and Science and these schools. If the Minister wants to spend half a million dollars on them then that is apparently not the business of the Australian people who are footing the bill!
When I asked for the reasons why such a large number of these high schools either did not take part in the survey of needs or did so only after 7 months, the Minister said that he would not speculate. The Minister added that a handful of schools gave as the reason for not joining in the survey of their needs the fact that they were suffering from staffing difficulties. This is just too childish to be believable. It is a commentary on the secrecy that has developed in this Government and its irresponsibility when handling large sums of public money that the Minister for Education and Science can actually make the statement that there is a handful of schools which say that staffing difficulties prevented them from telling the Commonwealth Government how much they needed.
Frankly, any school in my electorate, be it a high school or a Catholics school, that was asked a simple question of how much money they needed would have an answer ready and back to the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science by airmail within 7 days. The problem is that serious. I simply believe that a school that cannot tell the Commonwealth Government what its needs are after being given 7 months to do so obviously is a school that does not need money at all.
I would like to look at the survey of the needs of private schools and deal with the question of whether there are in fact such things as rich schools. The Minister for Education and Science always refers to affluent schools as ‘so-called affluent schools’. I maintain that there are very clearly affluent schools. They are not merely schools that are attended by children from affluent parents as representatives of the independent schools associations said on television last night. They are in fact also schools that are affluent. An examination of the statistics supplied by these private schools in 1970-71 to the Minister for Education and Science in his survey of needs of private schools will confirm very clearly that there is a very substantial sector in the non-Roman Catholic schools that actually have surplus funds that they simply do not know what to do with. For example, an examination of the survey of needs of private schools conducted by the Minister shows that between the period 1971-75, in which their needs were surveyed, there is a group of nonCatholic private schools that actually have a surplus of $12.9m. This amount is based on the figures supplied by those schools which told the Minister what their needs were. Looking at the figures, one can see in black and white that there is a group of non-Catholic private schools that actually have a surplus of $ 12.9m. That is an absolutely conservative surplus because it does not take into account increases in fees and in per capita grants by State and Commonwealth governments since 1970, when the survey was taken out.
There is a group of schools which, as we know, did not take part in the survey of needs. Assuming that they have at least the same amount of surplus per pupil - that is $181 - as those that did supply a statement of their needs, we can add an extra $7. 5m. In other words, we can say that within probably at least half of the non-Catholic private schools throughout Australia there is a surplus of S20m. Those, in other words, are wealthy schools. How wealthy are they? With that $20m we could build 20 new secondary schools or 40 new primary schools. The wealth of these nonCatholic private schools is that significant. However, it is that significant that it is being completely ignored by the Federal Government and those schools will again come in for very substantial Commonwealth assistance if this Government is returned after the next election.
The Minister has not chosen to name the schools which did not take part in his survey of needs, but 1 am confident that they would include Shore, Sydney Grammar and Kambala. I am sure that Knox at Wahroonga would also be among the schools that are so wealthy that they did not apply for aid. Also included would be Melbourne Grammar and Scotch in Melbourne as well as Wesley, Carey and Geelong Grammar. It would most certainly include St Peters in Adelaide which is a prodigiously wealthy school. It would probably also include Brisbane Grammar and some of the high fee charging schools in the other States. Just looking at the State of Victoria, I have calculated that probably about half of the non-Catholic private schools actually have about $9. 19m more than they can use. This is based on an estimate from the figures supplied by these schools to the Minister.
Of those schools that took part in his nationwide survey of needs of private schools, in Victoria there is a sector of the non-Catholic private schools that has a surplus of S6.34m. Those that did not take part have a surplus, on a most conservative estimate, of $2.85m. In other words, we have schools there that have a total surplus that they cannot use between 1971 and 1975 of about $2m. In simple terms, that means that over a 5-year period these schools already have at least about $231 surplus per pupil, and these are the schools that are coming in for substantial grants from this Commonwealth Government regardless of how wealthy they are. The wealth that those schools in Victoria possess is sufficient to build 9 brand new secondary schools or 18 primary schools. If that money were used in the state sector alone or the Catholic sector, it could bulldoze and demolish some of the decaying and antiquated inner suburban and country schools where children from working class and migrant families are suffering under the most squalid physical conditions. They are being taught in conditions that simply should not be tolerated in an affluent country like Australia. Yet this is the situation they have to put up with in Victoria.
I would like to give just one example of how discriminatory is this grant of such a small amount- -$20m - to government schools throughout Australia. The way to see just how flagrantly class biased is this Government is to compare the needs of 3 different schools. I would say that the Methodist Ladies College at Kew and the Xavier Colleges at Kew and Brighton in Victoria are not poor schools. I would say that on the whole their facilities are amongst the finest in the State; I would say that their ratio of pupils to staff is amongst the finest; I would say that their accommodation is amongst the finest. The Methodist Ladies College at Kew is charging up to $700 per pupil. These are schools that are well established, well appointed, well accommodated and well staffed. I would say that they are the schools that should be last on the waiting list for handouts from the Commonwealth Government.
Let us see what they have been promised or what they have received. The Methodist Ladies College at Kew has qualified for a total Commonwealth grant of $542,000. That includes $196,000 to build, equip and stock a brand new library - which would probably be big enough to suit a whole community in a country area - plus $346,000 in laboratory grants which should build at least 12 brand new laboratories. The Methodist Ladies College at Kew has over $500,000 in grants for which it is eligible. Xavier College is eligible for grants totalling $267,106. This includes $185,293 for science grants and $81,813 for library grants. Compare this with the White Hills primary school in my electorate which a number of children from the St Luke’s Toddlers Home in White Hills attend. Many of the children from the St Luke’s Toddlers Home are from broken families. They are disadvantaged children. They are children who urgently need remedial teaching. The White Hills primary school staff is doing its best to give them just that remedial teaching.
Unfortunately, the conditions under which this is provided are far from attractive. The children are taken out of the school, because of lack of space in the primary school itself, and are sent to the White Hills reading room nearby. The school pays $3 a week out of its $1,000 a year in general purpose grant from the State Government to hire the White Hills reading room. This school has the clearest demand for extra accommodation from the State Government for these children who urgently need assistance. It has not the slightest hope over the next 5 years of receiving any assistance, to build even as much as a portable classroom with grants from the State Government because the State Government says that there are too few children there and, in any case, there are areas of colossal need which must be met before the needs of the White Hills primary school and the children of the St Luke’s Toddler’s Home. I regard it as an act of discrimination against under privileged children like these that while such huge grants are being paid out to schools such as the Methodist Ladies College at Kew, which is receiving over $500,000, and to Xavier Colleges, which are receiving over $250,000 - to children who do not need a cent from the Commonwealth Government - we have these under privileged children attending the White Hills Primary School who are receiving nothing from the Commonwealth Government. This is part of the whole process of flagrant discrimination against those in need and, in particular, those at state schools.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
must go to Western Australia to investigate the situation. He knows that it is urgent and imperative. These grants for metropolitan unemployment relief are needed now. The Western Australian Government has taken action in limited form because of its limited budget, but only the Federal Government has the taxing power and funds available to it to take the action that is needed finally to resolve the problem. The Premiers of the 3 Labor States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania asked for an urgent conference on the problem of unemployment because of the failure of this legislation which is now being debated to grant the necessary relief and when it was found, following announcement of the unemployment figures yesterday, that we have the worst position we ha’Ve had in 11 years. These Premiers realise that their States are being starved of help.
The West provides to the Commonwealth immense funds through its exports of raw materials and through its royalties, but little is being rechanneled to assist the unemployed and those in family businesses or to establish labour intensive works and industry. The Commonwealth continues to send migrants to Western Australia without consideration of the competition they provide to those already unemployed. I asked the Minister a question about restricting migration to Western Australia to family reunion only. He indicated that, as they left the hostels .within a reasonable time, there was no problem. This is ludicrous. Migration must be further curtailed to family reunion only. If more consideration were given to this matter the unemployment situation would be eased. It is up to this Government, now that this legislation has proved to be inadequate for unemployment relief, to take some action to grant the Premiers from the Labor States their request that a conference be held.
Urgent consideration needs to be given to grants to metropolitan districts, in particular, which are most affected. Major works of a labour intensive nature are needed. The only thing that will assist Western Australia is for federal money to be made available for such matters as drainage and sewerage. This has been requested from time to time by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Supply Board. It is useless for the Minister to stand in this House and say that the unemployment figures are not so bad when compared with the figures for previous years. That is of no use to the people who have been unemployed for months. Many of them have lost homes, household possessions and their life savings through the loss of their employment or when their businesses collapsed. All the debates and assurances will not assist these people. Action - not promises - is required. Caring is not enough. Western Australia requires the assistance and co-operation of the Commonwealth. If this Government will not assist, does not care and wishes to use people’s misery for political purposes, it is up to the public to express its condemnation of the shallowness of this attitude. No matter what colour a local government or a State government is, the Commonwealth must place itself above local politics and realise that if it is to be truly representative of all Australian citizens it must treat them all as equals. Unemployment is a national problem. In fact, the unemployment relief costs are paid by the national taxpayer through the national Government. Let the Minister personally investigate the misery of the unemployed. Let the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) call the Premiers into conference. Above all, let us not make politics out of human suffering and misery but find an immediate solution to what is a national problem.
– I thank the House for allowing me time to intervene briefly in this debate. The remarks of the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) cannot be allowed to go unrebutted. He referred to the transfer of all the advertising work of the South Australian Government from the company which does the advertising for the Liberal Party in South Australia. The fact is that work done by Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson Pty Ltd in South Australia is done entirely by Australian employees, so it is not a question of work being transferred overseas. It is not true that all work has been transferred by all South Australian Government departments. At the present time about one-third of the advertising work of the South Australian Government and its departments is done by Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson Pty Ltd. It is also true that this firm does advertising work for the governments of Queensland and New South Wales or agencies of those governments. In fact, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has been so impressed with the work of Hansen.RubensohnMcCann Erickson Pty Ltd that quite recently he endeavoured to steal that firm from the Australian Labor Party and have it do the work of the Federal Liberal Party. Fortunately that bid was not successful.
The real reason why the honourable member for Boothby has made all these complaints is that he is backing the company which does all the advertising for the Liberal Party. I point out that, although under Labor one-third of the advertising work of the South Australian Government is performed by Hansen RubensohnMc.Cann Erickson Pty Ltd, under the previous Liberal Government in South Australia all the South Australian Government work was done by the agency that does the advertising for the Liberal Party in South Australia. In conclusion, it seems quite obvious that the reason why the media chose to ignore these remarks in their coverage of the matter last week was not any particular prejudice but the fact that they rightly assessed that the matter referred to by the honourable member for Boothby was completely trivial and irrelevant.
– in reply - In replying on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) might I say that the points made by honourable members in their speeches will certainly be noted. In summing up I would like to refer to the provisions of the Bill since the debate, particularly the contributions by the last few speakers, has ranged somewhat widely. The first Bill, the States Grants Bill (No. 2), amends the States Grants Act 1971-72 to revise the financial assistance grants arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth and the States at the Premiers Conference held 3 months ago. Firstly, it was agreed that an additional $112m would be paid to the States in their grants for the current year; and built into the formula grants to escalate in future years as part of the for mula laid down and provided in the present Act. The SI 12m is to be distributed between the States in proportion to the 1971-72 formula grants as escalated in 1972-73 under the formula, and this method was decided on to exclude the effects of the adjustments to the financial assistance grants which are accompanying the transfer of payroll tax to the States.
Secondly, the additional grants of $2 per head paid to New South Wales and Victoria annually are increased to $3.50 per head this year, and these amounts also are added to the formula to escalate in future years. This increases the grants to New South Wales and Victoria this year by approximately $ 12.5m. Under the procedures of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the 3 States which receive special grants, on its recommendation - namely Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania - will benefit proportionately from these increased grants. Thirdly, it was agreed that a special temporary addition of $3.5m would be made to the financial assistance grants payable to Western Australia in 1972-73. Perhaps the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) would care to reflect on that in the light of the rather rash remarks he made a little while ago. The total cost will be to add $128m to the financial assistance grants that would be produced in 1972-73 by the arrangements in the existing legislation. The addition to the grants in subsequent years will, of course, be greater as a result of building the major part of this amount into the formula grants. Taking into account all’ the changes in the revenue assistance arrangements that were decided at and since the 1970 Premiers Conference, it is estimated that in the current year the States will receive in Commonwealth general revenue assistance over $420m more than they would have received had the arrangement which existed before 1970-71 continued unchanged. The second Bill - we are debating both Bills together - is the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 3) 1972. Its main purpose is to authorise capital grants to the States in this current year totalling over $261m. It is made up of $248m as the grants component of the States works and housing programme for the current year and $13m as ‘grants for expenditure on State government primary and secondary schools. It will be recalled that the capital grants for the works and housing programme are being provided under arrangements agreed with the States in June 1970 whereby the Commonwealth is providing part, now equal to about 25 per cent, of that programme as a grant in lieu of borrowings, The savings on debt charges to the States for the works and housing programmes for the 5 years to 1974-75, as a result of the introduction of these capital grants, will be of the order of $200m. The grants for capital expenditure on government schools are being provided under arrangements announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in December last year for providing capital grants to the States totalling $20m over the 18 months ending June 1973. Last year’s allocation of the capital’ grants for schools was authorised by previous legislation.
A number of honourable members referred to the financing of local government authorities in Australia. For the record, I want to make some comments on the Commonwealth’s attitude. Local government authorities are created and function under State laws. The Commonwealth does not wish to disturb the constitutional structure whereby the responsibility is placed on State governments and parliaments to determine the revenue raising powers that local authorities should have and to assess the extent to which the financial resources available to them should be supplemented and by what means. In accordance with this attitude, the Commonwealth does not normally provide direct grants to local authorities. What it does is provide to the State governments large amounts of general, that is untied, assistance which they are free to disburse as they themselves decide. It is, accordingly, for each State government to allocate the volume of funds which should be passed on to local government authorities from the total funds available, including those from the Commonwealth. I have referred to that in speaking on these Bills.
The most important way in which Commonwealth assistance is provided to the States is through the general revenue grants. The arrangements under which these grants will be paid over the 5 years ending 1974-75 were determined initially at the Premiers Conference in June 1970 to which I referred earlier and were substantially revised again as a result of discus sions at the June 1971 and June 1972 Premiers Conferences. Under these arrangements the level and rate of growth of Commonwealth general revenue assistance to the States have been significantly increased as compared with the previous arrangements. It is estimated, for example, that the States will receive in 1972-73- the current year - over $420m more in Commonwealth general revenue assistance than they would have received had the arrangements which existed before 1970-71 continued unchanged.
At the June 1971 Premiers Conference, besides agreeing to provide additional revenue grants, the Commonwealth offered to transfer payroll tax to the States so as to provide them with a new and significant source of revenue. The States accepted this offer and have been levying payroll tax since September last year. At the same conference the Commonwealth agreed as a special measure of assistance to local government authorities, to meet the full cost, estimated at about $6m last year and $8m in a full year, that would otherwise be incurred by State governments in exempting the non-business activities of local government authorities from the payment of payroll tax at the former rate. The relief that the States are thus providing to local government authorities has been welcomed by local government authorities throughout Australia and implemented in effect by the Commonwealth.
The Government believes that having substantially improved the general revenue grants arrangements, having facilitated access by the States to a new area of growth taxation which they have already acted upon, and having continued to increase the levels of numerous other forms of assistance to the States which are not detailed now, it has done all it reasonably can do at this time, given the other demands on the resources available to it, towards putting the States in a position adequately to meet their financial responsibilities including their responsibilities in respect of the affairs of local government authorities given the competing priorities which they, like the Commonwealth Government, encounter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 August (vide page 246), on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 569), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Bill before the House may be described as a perennial. Almost each year provision is made to raise certain sums of money for war service land settlement in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during a particular financial year. This Bill deals with the current financial year - 1972-73 - and according to the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) the amount of money to be raised by loan is 56.5m. This will be made available between the 3 States. South Australia will receive$4.156m, Western Australia$1. 6m and Tasmania $744,000. The significant difference between the amounts made available this financial year and last financial year relates to South Australia. Last financial year $1.683m was allocated to South Australia. This year it has jumped to $4. 156m.
The principal reason for the increased allocation to South Australia is related to the problems of Kangaroo Island. The problems, as has been stated, are biological and physical. They are concerned with the problems of sheep production - the problems of lamb survival and the high mortality rate which is sometimes as high as 12 per cent. This has apparently been traced to the physical and biological problems related to pasture improvement on that island. It could be referred to as a peculiar relationship between soil, climate and pasture and the relative animal relationships of those 3 variables. It seems from the evidence available that the high estrogen content in the clover pastures is responsible for a higher than normal fatality rate, particularly amongst lambs.
This is not uncommon in pastures which have clover predominance. On Kangaroo Island there are clover predominant subterranean pastures. This fact has been recognised by the Department of Agriculture in South Australia and by the federal authorities who believe it is only right that these problems should be tackled systematically. They should be tackled by research on the one hand in order to establish the precise causes and the remedies to overcome those causes, and on the other hand by other practical methods to alleviate some of the problems such as the lack of feed at certain times of the year when there are periods of seasonal distress involving the protein content of pastures and also the financial problems which arose from time to time because of these factors.
Overall the money made available is to maintain the viability of the war service land settlers and at the same time to overcome by various methods the problems which are being encountered. The Opposition supports this measure but one wonders when dealing with war service land settlement just how long it will exist in terms of a scheme, to what degree it will be finalised and whether the major problems will be overcome so as to allow all war service land settlers to become viable and to take their place in Australian agriculture in the same way as have their counterparts who are not war service land settlers. The closer settlement schemes in Australia, of which the war service land settlement scheme is by far the biggest, have been plagued by economic and financial problems ever since they started. We are more familiar with the scheme implemented after World War II. This is not hard to understand when one takes time to consider the problems of agriculture in relation to particular projects such as the war service land settlement scheme.
There are many variables to be considered in the maintenance of a major project like this because even one major variable can alter the viability or the whole structure of the project itself. For this reason there have been many areas in the war service land settlement scheme which have had major problems over the years. We can identify some of them. One is the physical problems associated with the property such as the carrying capacity of the land to turn off a certain number of stock or, on the other hand, to produce a particular variety as originally planned. There has been a problem of drainage in certain areas. We have seen physical problems in regard to the predominance of subterranean clover pastures. Then there are the economic and financial problems associated with changing conditions on overseas markets and also on the domestic market. There are changes in the prices of commodities which are sold and also the effects of inflation. All these factors add to the hazards of any civilian or war service land settlement scheme.
It is very difficult to design any closer settlement scheme on the basis of a formula and be able to predict that the size of the farm which was originally designed will weather all the economic and financial storms which will arise in the future. This has been proved not only in Australia but in most parts of the world, no matter whether we are talking about a civilian land settlement scheme a war service land settlement scheme or a private enterprise scheme. We have seen it in the production of wool, beef, fruit and sugar. All these problems have to be faced in agriculture. Therefore when one looks at the operations of the war service land settlement scheme it is easy to be critical. We must remember that there have been major problems which could have been avoided. On the whole one can say that in many parts of Australia it has been a success but one can identify other areas of Australia, particularly some of the islands and areas in the southern part of Western Australia and in northern New South Wales, where there have been problems. Those problems can usually be identified. Despite the physical and economic problems the present problems can be related to financial problems of valuation or revaluation of properties and the rentals paid by individual settlers.
I now move the following amendment, which is in the same terms as one I moved last year:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of the opinion that a Select Committee of the House should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement in Australia in order to formulate guidelines for any future land settlement scheme with particular reference to the level of rentals demanded from settlers, the method of valuations and the option of purchase price of properties.’
Honourable members will recall that last year in this House we debated the problem of valuation and rentals. We argued, particularly honourable members from Tasmania, that there was plenty of evidence of injustice with respect to the level of rentals and the valuation and revaluation of properties. We in the Labor Party are convinced that there should be an inquiry on the lines we have suggested - that a select committee of the House should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement in order to formulate guidelines for future settlement, to enable us to learn from the experience of war service land settlement in Australia and also, I would assume, to gain information regarding civilian land settlement in Australia with the object of identifying the mistakes which have been made in the past and to make certain that they will not be repeated in the future.
For some reason the Government was reluctant last year to accept the amendment which I moved. I should have thought that the Government would have been anxious to conduct an inquiry into this sort of scheme with the object of studying and finding out all the problems which were encountered in the post-war years in closer settlement. This information could be used in the formulation of any new civilian or war service land settlement scheme in Australia. It is of no use to say that the Government has all the answers because it has not; or if it has, then it has obtained them in a way which we believe was not independent. It would have answers which obviously would only be regarded as being biased if gained from any departmental or government inquiry. They may not be biased in terms of fact; they may be completely accurate in terms of fact. It is far better from the public point of view to have an independent inquiry whereby evidence could be given in public by war service settlers themselves about their own experiences particularly in the fields of rental, revaluations and their ability to make their farms viable. This is the whole purpose of the amendment.
Without question there is a lot of emotion regarding closer settlement. There seems to be in Australia, although not so much now I would think as in the past, antipathy towards people who have large properties. There is a feeling that large properties should be broken up into smaller units. There is a strong argument for that, because one can argue on the need for decentralisation, that is, the desirability of permanently settling in country areas as many families as possible, that is, settlers who will raise their children in those areas as distinct from, say, itinerant workers and who would form the nucleus of small country towns. There is also the argument of balanced development by having as many people as possible distributed in rural areas.
On the other side of the picture there is the argument that when land is cut up into smaller units extreme caution has to be taken to ensure that the units do not become pocket handkerchiefs and that we do not generate major problems with respect to the viability of a particular farm or farms. This has been the history of closer settlement not only in Australia but throughout the world. It is far better to have 20 prosperous farmers than to have 22 on the poverty line. Therefore in any closer settlement scheme it is essential that a government should always err on the side of size. It is essential, even if budgets are designed in a most liberal way, to work out the size of a property and then to add a factor, whether it be 25 per cent, 50 per cent or 100 per cent. In that way these schemes will not run the same risk of attempts to part the size of the property down to a minimum area, a home maintenance unit, or however U may be defined. It is far better to have farms that are too big than too small. Thi; is one of the inherent lessons that have been learnt in closer settlement in Australia. One of the main reasons why we want to have an inquiry into war service land settlement schemes and civilian land settlement schemes is so that we do not make the same mistakes as have been made in the past.
Let us look at the history of this particular war service land settlement scheme. From memory, it started in 1942 and, of course, it reached its heights after the war. The Government of the day was determined not to make the same mistakes as were made in other schemes before the war, so it employed the best men it could get. It employed agricultural scientists, agricultural economists, practical farmers and practical men in other fields to work out the best methods of sub-dividing land in the various States. But all the best brains in th_country in 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 could not have foreseen the rate of inflation that we have had in this country since that time, and nobody could have foreseen what has happened to our international markets, whether it be what has happened to the level of prices or the loss of markets. All of these things are variables which have to be taken into account. The budgets in that period were designed on the ‘best possible information, and property sizes, whether in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, the Murray area, or parts of Tasmania. Western Australia, South Australia or even Queensland, were designed on the best available information.
The one criticism I have on the physical side is that a lot of the country that was utilised for war service land settlement should never have been so utilised. This criticism applies particularly to settlement in the swamp country in Tasmania, some of the areas in Western Australia and some of the areas on the islands. But, then again, it is not an easy matter to go marching on to somebody’s property and to say: ‘We are going to take over your land and sub-divide it’. This in itself is a big step; it is an emotional step. A person who has built up his land over generations may be highly efficient. He does not want to lose his land. Nevertheless, the criteria adopted at that time in relation to war service land settlement had, without qualification, the backing of the Australian nation. The Australian people wanted to see the soldiers who had fought in World War II and who wanted land given the opportunity to have land, and that was the genesis of this scheme.
We can learn a lot from the experience of the war service land settlement scheme. I feel that many problems have been generated through stubbornness on the part of the Federal Government, particularly in the last decade. I would place much of the blame for this on the Federal Treasury rather than on the Department of Primary Industry whose officers have their feet on the ground more than do those of the Treasury. There is plenty of evidence available on which to criticise the Government separately for its attitudes and policies on rentals and valuations. I believe that some alleviation should be given to many of the war service land settlers in relation to those 2 points. There should be a complete review of the principles and policies of the Government regarding rents and valuations.
It is difficult to generalise regarding the success or otherwise of the war service land settlement scheme over the whole of Australia. One can point without question to areas in which it has been a success. On the other hand, one can point just as convincingly to other areas in which it has been close to a failure. From my knowledge of the subject, it would seem to me that the earlier soldier settlers, in the main anyhow, had the best chance of being fairly successful. I would not say that this was so in all areas; I am generalising although I know it is difficult to generalise. Those soldiers who entered the scheme in the early and middle 1950s have had major financial problems, particularly in relation to the size of properties and the inability to get sufficient productivity to get a sufficient cash income to pay the rent based on the valuation and to support their family. This, in a measure, is due to the twin problems of inflation - the increasing cost of production - and a reduction in Teal income due to stagnant or falling product prices. However, there is plenty of evidence available to enable us to learn from what has happened in war service land settlement. Even if the Government does not accept the Opposition’s amendment, I hope that before very long we will have an inquiry of some type into the success or failure of the war service land settlement scheme, taking particular note of what has been learnt of its problems so that those problems will not be repeated.
I have found that one can learn a lot from civilian land settlement schemes or war service land settlement schemes. I believe that if a government is to venture into closer settlement it has to do so properly. One land settlement scheme with which I am familiar and which I believe is an example of it being done properly is the brigalow land settlement scheme. Originally the brigalow land settlement scheme was to be for war service land settlement, but areas 1, 2 and 3 of the brigalow land settlement scheme as we know it is a civilian land settlement scheme. I believe that that scheme was based on the best possible principles regarding land settlement. Account was taken of the experience of the people in the area. Research into Acacia harpophyllia was conducted for many years. Also there were years of research in relation to the productivity of particular types of livestock from different types of brigalow country. After the results of all this work had been gathered together, the whole area was land classified in detail into more than 100 types of brigalow land, embracing brigalow scrub and its associated land classes.
Then the study continued in relation to subdivision of the area. This included land classification, roads, communications, location of meat works, location of services, and the types of people who would be needed to take part in a civilian land settlement scheme. All of these factors were taken into account in devising that scheme. There were plenty of knockers; plenty of critics. But there was one thing that was insisted upon by the Commonwealth government of the day, and on which it was successful in opposing the Queensland Government, and that was the size of the property. The Commonwealth said that it could not back a major civilian land settlement scheme based on pocket handkerchief sized properties. After the budgets were prepared and while the negotiations continued, sometimes under the lap, the Queensland Government arrived at the size of property for the project. They were much bigger than it originally decided upon - significantly larger. But this was the safety valve because the first 2 years of that scheme were 2 of the worst drought years experienced in the area and a lot of people would have been bankrupted had it not been for the liberal size of their properties.
Since that day schemes 1, 2 and 3 have progressed into a most successful project. The scheme was properly devised and involved years of research, years of experimentation and years of applied research before the land classifications for subdivision were drawn up. A tremendous area of land with some of the richest soils in Australia was involved. That area today is becoming one of the most concentrated cattle areas in Australia. In 20 to 30 years time, with the combination of summer grains and livestock and, to a limited degree, winter grains and cropping, it will resemble the corn belt of America. This area stretches from northern New South Wales, which years ago carried brigalow to the south of Clearmont. In that area civilian land settlement was carried out on very sound principles and it has been a success.
Anybody, including the Government, can learn from some mistakes which were made in that scheme, and there were mistakes made. For example, too much land was cleared too quickly with the result that in the first couple of years of drought there occurred major problems of suckers. Some remarkable suckering occurred. In some brigalow country, after it was ringbarked or cleared, suckers of yellow wood came up. This species had not been seen in the paddocks since the white man came, yet these suckers emerged. The seeds had been dormant in the soil. In some areas this caused minor yellow wood poisoning. The incidence of suckering could be anticipated if there were proper inquiries and this is why the Opposition has moved the amendment for an inquiry into all aspects of war service land settlement with particular reference to rentals and values and in order to learn from other land settlement schemes. 1 hope the House will support the amendment.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– Once again we have the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill before the House. It is not quite an annual event, if my memory serves me correctly, but it has cropped up in many years. Further big sums at this stage are being poured into areas of deficiency in the war service land settlement scheme. One hopes as every year goes by that the necessity for this action will no longer exist but nearly every year we find there is a need for the appropriation of a sum of money for the purposes spelt out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). 1 do not know how much longer the experts behind the concept of planned settlement imagine that this sort of funding will be necessary. I suppose in saying that it is as well to hark back to the fact that repayments are made, I think, to Consolidated Revenue rather than to any fund for the financing of headworks, blocks or the settlers.
In this case we all tend to talk about the areas we know the best. I am more interested naturally in the $4. 156m allocated to South Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry numbered off some of the problems of the area and some of the ways in which the funds will be used. I intend to do as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) did and refer firstly to Kangaroo Island which, although not within my electorate, was certainly an area which I represented for 5i years in the South Australian Parliament. Although I had no direct responsibility as an elected member of the Lower House in those days, it was an area in which interest was taken by those who came from the high rainfall areas in South Australia, as I did. I remember the early struggles of the settlers. It is now 13 years since I first represented Kangaroo Island. I was reminded by a word used in the Minister’s second reading speech of the physical limitations of the country at that time. Some of the clearing methods adopted were haywire to say the least and left many of the settlers on Kangaroo Island with paddocks which to this day, I would not mind betting, are not cuttable for the purposes of making meadow hay or silage. Majestic ploughs went into that country and into very wet areas in the rush to clear and develop. They scarred the countryside in a way that would never have occurred under a normal development programme such as the one which my own development block in the south-east of South Australia formed part. To anyone who knew anything about the matter, it was a very second rate method of land clearing which was adopted on Kangaroo Island. So the settlers there had not only this problem to deal with but also the problems mentioned by the Minister, problems such as maintaining flock numbers as a result of losses caused by dystocia - I will come back to that in a moment - transport and marketing difficulties and, to please the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who I can see is fraught with excitement over the whole thing, the problem of union difficulties on the island. The unions can if they wish take advantage of the problems I have mentioned.
But let us get back to the first problem, the biological problem. I am now going back 15 years to the time when dystocia suddenly hit that particular area of South Australia for the first time. At that time dystocia was purely a disease of the early maturing clover regions of Western Australia. The Minister has listed the names of the clovers all of which, I think, originated in Western Australia, and which have the capacity to produce high oestrogen contents which have been responsible for such devastating effects on the sheep population. The principal clover which caused dystocia problems in those days was Dwalganup. It is a subterranean clover. Since then other clovers have become more suspect. Dystocia produced grave difficulties for the settlers. It caused milk production in wethers, and this did not help one bit. It caused a high mortality rate in lambs. What the Minister did not mention in his second reading speech and what was even more devastating was the fact that it caused great infertility in the ewe flocks. In these circumstances, allied with the problems of transport, inaccessibility and poor land clearing methods adopted earlier, dystocia has created a great problem for the war service land settlers in that area.
AH I can do, when I look at the great benefits to be given to this area under this legislation, is to express my wonderment that suddenly this amount of finance is to be made available. In his second reading speech the Minister said that the proposed programme would enable the continuance and enlargement of scientific investigations into these matters, would provide for partial rental remissions and would allow credit for fodder conservation. I shall refer to fodder conservation presently. The programme will deal with the recasting of settlers’ accounts in appropriate cases and will make provision to enable creditworthy settlers to pay off stock mortgages. Some of these provisions are part of the normal rural reconstruction measures that the Government has introduced and carried out from time to time.
When I look at this tremendous breakthrough for the settlers of Kangaroo Island I think of 2 people who consistently over a 15-year period battled hard for those war service settlers. The first man cannot stand in this House and stick up for himself. He is the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) whose persistence in these matters is, I think, well acknowledged. The second person is a man who is retiring from politics. He is the State member for Alexandra, which includes Kangaroo Island, Mr David Brookman who was at one time the South Australian Minister of Agriculture. These 2 men have always been tremendous champions of the cause of the settlers in those areas, including a time when I was indirectly representing Kangaroo Island for 5i years in the South Australian Legislative Council. I think also of the determination to wreak some changes and to introduce some constructive thinking on this . matter of the then Minister of Lands in South Australia, Mr Quirke, MP. If I remember correctly he started his political life in the Australian Labor Party. It did not take him long to see the light. Thereafter he spent most of his life as an Independent but he completed his wonderful metamorphosis by becoming the Minister of Lands in the Playford Government before eventually he retired honourably from the unequal struggle. These 3 men are some of the people who made an impact in these areas. However, none of their efforts will have made as much impact as the tremendously worthwhile contribution to those settlers envisaged in the Bill we are now debating, but which is probably due to their efforts.
If I have any complaint about the legislation it is where it states that some of the funds being made available are to be used as credit for fodder conservation. I am not clear what this means. If it means a return to the English system of subsidising anyone who builds a hay shed or if it means finding funds for people to buy conservation materials I think it is an appallingly bad idea which should not be continued. If it is designed to help in parlous circumstances - for instance, in drought conditions - and to give financial help in respect of fodder conservation it may have some merit on a short term basis. My argument here is the same as my argument against the ultimate development of the brigalow country.
If ever an area was plagued by Federal financial help where such help should never have gone it was the brigalow country. I know of one firstclass South Australian family which had some experience in clearing land, even in Queensland. That family would have taken over vast sections of the brigalow country if it had been given any private encouragement. 1 would bet my last dollar that that area would be a damn sight more forward as a rural enterprise had that happened than it is now after having been spoiled by all the Federal help that has been poured into it. However, that is another matter. I am simply being consistent in saying that there are areas where Federal Government assistance should not go. I am sure that fodder conservation, depending what is meant by it in this legislation - no doubt this will be explained to me - is one of those areas where people carry out the necessary procedures far better than does a government. If loans were granted at 3£ per cent to war service land settlers for fodder conservation equipment then that would be entirely excellent and I would go along with it.
In the time remaining to me I must refer to those areas with which I am more directly concerned, namely, the Riverland areas. For a. period of 2 to 3 years now 1 have been most concerned about appeals for a review of valuations of soldier settler blocks in that area. Last year at this time I castigated the Minister by saying that although many appeals had been heard, as far as I could ascertain no action had resulted. As late as July of this year the same situation appertained. I do not have with me at present the details concerning how many appeals were heard but within the last 2 weeks I have heard - this is rumour only - that 3 settlers will have the valuations of their blocks altered as a result of appeals. Quite obviously one of the settlers who is to receive some recompense is entitled to it. He had planted, under this scheme, areas of citrus in frost pockets where they could not hope to continue to produce quality oranges in even 4 years out of 5. Obviously from that circumstance must evolve some alteration to a valuation. This farm contains 2 or 3 acres of soft fruits as well as citrus and these plantings of soft fruits have carried that man, not his major areas of citrus which should have been playing their part in determining his future. In this case there should be a review of valuation. I believe a similar sort of situation applies in 3 of these blocks. However I have heard only indirectly and not officially that there will be some alteration to their valuations. Evidently in no case has the valuation of a farm been lowered other than in those instances I have mentioned.
I think back to the speech I made at this time last year - I do not think it was the year before - when I said that with an association in my electorate permission had been obtained from the Minister for exservicemen to have the right to take on the debts of surrendered leases and so amalgamate areas. For a long while the reserve prices prior to the surrendered leases being put to auction were unduly high and no ex-serviceman could properly take over this commitment. Unfortunately from their point of view, farms have been recently put up for sale where the reserve price has been, say, $10,000 and where $14,000 has been paid at the auction through outside civilians coming into the auction field. I think that people such as myself should know the answers and should be told by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) precisely what has happened as a result of those appeals.
I will not refer to several of the matters on which I wished to speak this afternoon. I will content myself with once again trying to impress this thought on the Minister: One of the 2 principles behind rural reconstruction - nobody in this House would say that he is against this principle - is to amalgamate non-economic areas to try to make future farmers viable, subject to certain qualifications about the standing of the farmer and his financial position. Nobody would argue about that. But in this case, too often blocks are surrendered by ex-servicemen who, in some cases have reached the age of 60 and above - sometimes health forces them to surrender their blocks - and who frequently have no good will and no assets remaining against their debt. When these leases are surrendered it is totally inconsistent for the Government to continue to refuse to proportion those blocks and to build up to viable areas remaining blocks around them. This business of insisting upon the resale of surrendered blocks at auction is not consistent with the good principles that the Government adopts in other areas of rural reconstruction.
Once again I make a plea for the exservicemen who have properly been awarded war service land settlement blocks. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said a while ago, each new land settlement scheme continues to subdivide land so that individual areas become too small and are not viable. For goodness sake, when we have the chance to secure these blocks through the leases being surrendered in some of these areas, let us do the intelligent thing and make the blocks viable. We should sub-divide the blocks and add to the areas of the better farmers so that they can be put in a viable position. My complaint is that they are not subdivided and aggregated to other areas. They are left as whole farms for takeover in their totality at a reserve price by exservicemen. The facetious remarks being made by honourable members opposite can go to blazes; I am trying to finish my speech. I am not amused by the humour of members of the Australian Labor Party in relation to matters that are soul destroying to ex-servicemen. I hope that I may con tinue uninterrupted. I want to see that these farmers have some protection in the future and that the principles that are adopted be those adopted by the Government in the case of rural reconstruction in relation to aggregation of areas.
I hope I have made my point clearly. I will not support the amendment. I do not have much time to deal with .it, but I do not support at this stage any further closer settlement schemes while the marketing condition of so many primary industries is as it is today. I am not one who agrees with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) that we have a limited supply of dairy products; in fact; the opposite is the case. We now have a surplus arising in every area of that industry and in every area of the canned fruit industry, the dried fruit industry and in many other industries. I do not believe that until we find more consumer and export demand there is a case for closer settlement. I therefore do not like the word ‘future’ in the Opposition’s amendment and I convey the fact that I will not support it.
– For the third consecutive year the Opposition has moved a motion calling for a select committee of inquiry into the war service land settlement scheme in Australia. This motion has been rejected previously by the Government for a number of reasons. It is quite plain from the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) that there has been a considerable amount of reassessment and reexamination of the scheme within the Department of Primary Industry. The Minister refers to a comprehensive review of the scheme undertaken by his Department. If there is a report based on this review, then the Minister should share its contents with the Parliament. In particular any examination of the scheme made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics should be made public. The Minister has not made it clear whether the Bureau participated in the review he referred to in his second reading speech.
The House should not have to reconstruct the nature of a major review of the scheme from a trickle of adjustments made in a series of Bills of this sort. The case for an examination of the operation of the scheme seems to me to be so overwhelming that it should be agreed to by the Government. The main reason for such a review is lack of information about the overall operation of the scheme. It is possible to get a considerable amount of information about the workings of the scheme in the 3 States which come under the authority of this Act. These are the 3 agent states of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. In addition, a comprehensive review of the administration of war service land settlement in Tasmania was made by a select committee of the Legislative Council of Tasmania. In the other 2 States there is a considerable amount of information available on the operation of the scheme but it is a major exercise to get this information and draw it together in any sort of coherent form. The amount of information available at the Commonwealth level is extremely disappointing although the Commonwealth is responsible for policy guidelines and the general supervision of the scheme. There is no statutory body administering the scheme and consequently no responsibility for an annual accounting to the Parliament of its operation. The Department of Primary Industry does not make regular reports on the operation of the scheme, presumably because it has the same difficulties as members of the Parliament in drawing together the relevant material.
Another reason for appointing a select committee to look at the operation of the scheme is to fulfil the review requirements of this Parliament. This scheme which has extensive economic and social implications has been in operation for 27 years. Surely a piece of legislation which has been in operation for this length of time without substantial amendment should be reviewed by the legislative body which brought the scheme into existence. A comparable example is the repatriation legislation. The Opposition pushed for many years the case for a similar review of this legislation. Despite its logic the case for a parliamentary review of the repatriation legislation was rejected by the Government, although it has now appointed an independent inquiry into the Act under Mr Justice Toose. A Senate standing committee is also looking at repatriation. In many ways the legislation before the House is related to the Repatriation Act; both were designed to assist ex-servicemen to re-establish and rehabilitate themselves after 5 years of warfare. Surely it is appropriate that the war service land settlement scheme be reviewed now that the repatriation legislation is under intensive scrutiny.
Turning to the measures announced by the Minister for Primary Industry in his second reading speech, it is obvious that the legislation before the House denotes a radical change in policy. For the first time a comprehensive scheme of assistance is to be provided to a particular area experiencing difficulty. The implications of this decision should be looked at very closely. It is undeniable that there is a very strong case for assistance to Kangaroo Island. The point at issue is whether this comprehensive assistance should have been given to the island under this particular piece of legislation. The case for Kangaroo Island has been made very strongly in this Parliament on a number of occasions.
Looking back over the debates in both Houses of Parliament the first analysis I can find at length of the peculiar problems of Kangaroo Island was given by Senator Cavanagh in the Parliament 3 years ago. Government members and senators have also raised the difficulties of Kangaroo Island on a number of occasions. This seems to have prompted the examination of Kangaroo Island by the Department of Primary Industry which produced this substantial increase in the volume of loan funds going to South Australia. The Minister describes in some detail what he calls a unique combination of circumstances affecting soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. He builds up a strong case in justification of the assistance, although I doubt whether many members of the House would be able to give any sort of critical analysis of ecological factors he has raised.
The Minister made the important point that there are other islands carrying soldier settlers. He referred particularly to Flinders Island. He could also have added King Island to his list. He went on to say that nowhere else in or around this continent did there exist the unique set of difficulties confronting soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. Without disputing this contention by the Minister I feel he should have put greater stress on the peculiar environmental conditions of the rural islands off Australia’s coast. Each of the 3 large islands which are important rural producers and are farmed largely by soldier settlers is confronted by a unique set of environmental conditions. Each island has in common transport difficulties and higher than average production costs. Apart from these joint problems there are physical and biological problems produced by the distinctive character of an island environment.
The Minister referred to the prevalence of clover disease on the western part of Kangaroo Island. This may put Kangaroo Island in a rather more unfavourable position than either King Island or Flinders Island. However, I believe the problem is one of degree rather than kind. If the Minister wants evidence on the difficulties experienced by soldier settlers on King Island and Flinders Island he will find it abundantly clear in the report of the select committee of the Tasmanian Legislative Council. While I agree with the special assistance given to Kangaroo Island I have doubts about whether it should be done under this piece of legislation. This assistance establishes the precedent that if a particular soldier settler area gets into difficulties because of physical, biological and economic problems - what the Minister has described rather diffidently as a unique set of circumstances - it should be assisted under the Act. The question then arises of whether an area which got into difficulties of this sort would get assistance if it were not a soldier settler area. It would have been more consistent to have provided the assistance in some other form, perhaps by a straight-out grant to the State Government in South Australia for assistance to Kangaroo Island. The range of difficulties experienced by Kangaroo Island seem to go beyond the boundaries of the war service land settlement legislation. It is a measure of the unsatisfactory nature of the Government’s regional development and decentralisation policies that a major scheme for rehabilitation of Kangaroo Island should be implemented through the war service land settlement legislation. What this programme amounts to is a very substantial ecologial and economic programme to revive and stimulate an important region of Australia. I do not question that this scheme is desirable; it is questionable whether this sort of project should be done through this particular piece of legislation. If the logic of this plan for Kangaroo Island is followed through it means that other areas which get into difficulties and have important soldier settler components should be accorded the same measure of assistance.
Looking at the programme for Kangaroo Island in more detail, it breaks down into 2 principal strands. The first is a scientific examination designed to conquer environmental problems produced by imbalances between soil, plant and animal relationships on the island. This is the long-term strand. Until this research project yields results the programme provides for rental concessions and credit facilities for soldier settlers on the island. In addition, repayment obligations are to be eased in certain cases and soldier settlers whose credit status is good are to be given access to departmental finance. It is not possible to predict the future prosperity of Kangaroo Island but these measures must stimulate the rather depressed level of economic activity on the island.
Again I stress that I support this sort of assistance; I hope that similar comprehensive programmes of assistance will be worked out for other regions which may suffer from the incidence of a harmful combination of economic and environmental factors. If this principle is conceded, the main remaining source of uneasiness must be whether areas outside the soldier settlement scheme would get the benefit of similar treatment. This raises policy issues way beyond the rather narrow area of soldier settlement. It has policy implications related to decentralisation on which the Country Party is putting a lot of work in the run-up to the elections. Obviously it has relevance to the broad question of improving credit facilities for all farmers, whether soldier settlers or not.
The Minister pointed to the relation between the Kangaroo Island programme and broader rural policies such as the rural reconstruction scheme, the emergency assistance scheme for wool growers, wool deficiency payments and the tree-pull scheme. It is in this broader context of rural policy that this Kangaroo Island improvement programme which has several quite innovatory aspects should be put into perspective. Now that the precedent has been established for Kangaroo Island under this legislation, there are logical reasons for hoping that similar programmes could be implemented for the Bass Strait islands of King Island and Flinders Island which are important soldiersettler areas and also share many problems in common with Kangaroo Island.
Another feature of the Bill is in the extension of access to departmental finance for other soldier settlers in South Australia. This is conditional on these settlers being deemed good credit risks. The Minister points out that this is an extension of facilities already given to soldier settlers in Tasmania; in the interests of consistency this extension of the scheme seems reasonable. The Minister concludes his outline by describing the war service land settlement scheme conceived by the Commonwealth and Slate Governments as an excellent scheme. Unfortunately there is a world of difference between theory and practice. Many soldier settlers have done very well; their problems are the same as their peers outside the scheme who suffer setbacks not through lack of farming skills and effective management but through the uncertainties of rural markets and the inevitable reconstruction now being forced on many rural industries. There are many soldier settlers who are in difficulties because of defects in the soldier settler scheme; perhaps their blocks were too small or the land they were allocated was marginal in character. Individual settlers were launched into rural production with inadequate capital or the rentals charged them were too high and did not assure them of an adequate living in the terms of section 18 of the Act.
It is difficult to generalise about the operation of the scheme because of the host of vastly different physical and economic conditions confronting the individual producer. The Minister has said rightly that it is wrong to attribute broad economic difficulties which are common to most rural producers to defects in the war service land settlement scheme. It would be just as wrong to explain all difficulties experienced by soldier settlers by these industry-wide problems. Obviously many farmers are in trouble because of defects in the scheme; this is the lesson which emerges very clearly in the Tasmanian report, which lists many problems exclusive to Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands but also covers many problems common to all soldier settlers. If I remember correctly this very comprehensive report which was prepared by a select committee of the Tasmanian Legislative Council was submitted to the Commonwealth Government about 2 years ago. There has been no comment from the former Minister for Primary Industry, now the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), or from his predecessor on the recommendations of that select committee. The select committee investigated war service land settlement schemes in Tasmania. It may be argued that what was applicable to Tasmania would also apply particularly to Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. But there has been no indication on the part of this Government that it either considered the report or intends to give effect to the recommendations of the committee.
If there has been disinterest on any matter in this Federal Parliament that comes within the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Minister for Primary Industry, it is the complete neglect and failure to face up to the problems of war service land settlement schemes. I acknowledge during the course of my remarks that some improvements have been effected on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. What has been done as a result of the terms of this legislation will no doubt provide a greater opportunity for more viable properties on Kangaroo Island. But the Minister admits that a mistake has been made in relation to Kangaroo Island, and if that mistake applies to Kangaroo Island it also applies to the other claimant States in relation to war service land settlement.
I have always acknowledged in this Parliament that individual cases ought not to be dealt with in a second reading debate. No doubt there are occasions when one can take the opportunity to refer to individual cases. If I were to set aside this principle and refer the Minister to individual cases on Flinders Island and King Island, I am sure that the Minister would be more interested than he appears to be at the moment. Unquestionably, in relation to soldier settlers on Flinders Island there are individual problems. I know that the same applies to King Island. No doubt the same situation would apply to soldier settlers in the other States. The Minister has acknowledged this by virtue of the Government’s decision to provide some improvement and some relief for the soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. We acknowledge this. Whatever .the time factor is - after 23 years or 27 years, as the case may be - this scheme has been allowed to deteriorate for far too long because there has not been a government that has been prepared to accept the responsibility for determining, as a result of the investigations of a select committee of this Parliament, who would have the opportunity to investigate the problems of the war service land settlement schemes in Australia.
Surely the Minister must be aware of these problems. No doubt he has received representations on many occasions. 1 have spoken about Flinders Island, referred to King Island and pointed out that the Minister might have taken the opportunity to refer specifically to King Island in his second reading speech, and I have no doubt that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) who has consistently argued in this Parliament about the deficiencies of war service land settlement, particularly in relation to King Island which comes within his responsibility, will be able again to give some indication again to the Minister in confirmation of what I have said about the failure of this scheme in many ways. There has been no indication on the part of this Government that it is prepared to face up to its responsibility in this way. I need hardly refer to the very large investment the Commonwealth has in the field of war service land settlement. Therefore, I sincerely hope that this Parliament, having some indication from the Minister that there are problems in relation to war service land settlement, will at least on this occasion accept the motion that has been moved consistently on this side of the House for a joint parliamentary select committee to look at these problems.
Finally, I want to refer to the possibility of extending the benefits of the scheme to veterans of the Vietnam war who want to become rural producers.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Drury) adjourned.
– I move:
Honourable members will appreciate that I move this motion because of the events in Sydney last Saturday when, as 1 believe one may aptly describe it, the biggest mass crime in Australia occurred. The motion is deliberately limited to matters of Commonwealth responsibility, in that this Parliament has the constitutional power to make laws with respect to external affairs, emigration and immigration, and trade and commerce with other countries, for instance, civil aviation. The motion does not cover what would be called domestic police activities in the narrow sense. I might not have moved this motion if it were not for the fact that the Criminology Research Act, which was assented to on 6th April last year, has still not been proclaimed. I move this motion on this occasion because there has been a marked deterioration in the circumstances since 20th April last when I moved:
That the Government should take effective legislative and administrative action to counter racial prejudice and violence.
I was followed in the debate by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) who said, amongst other things that I had chosen to pick on a few isolated incidents which are mainly of a small character’, that I had brought before the Parliament pettifogging trivia when we should be discussing serious issues, and that ‘under the present Government this country is one of the freest and safest in the world for citizens to walk in their streets’. I apprehend that no honourable member would make so bold a claim now or would be so capricious in dismissing the matters that my colleagues and I brought before the House on that occasion. It happens in the world now that there is ready movement by air- craft of migrants to Australia from Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Middle East, South America and Yugoslavia, in all of which countries and areas there is a degree of political dispute leading to violence. It is a matter of common observation that if there is some trial in any of those countries, if there is an assassination, if there is an anniversary, if there is a hijacking, it is likely to have repercussions in other countries including, in some cases, our own.
I will be confining my remarks to the Yugoslav situation. I would remind honourable members that the Department of Foreign Affairs in its annual report for 1968-69 referred to some demonstrations against Yugoslav offices in Australia mostly inspired or carried out by extremist or terrorist elements formerly from Croatia or from other parts of Yugoslavia. It will be observed that my references are in fact based on official documents. Far from dealing with pettifogging matters or a few isolated incidents of a small character, on 20th April last I described the number of bombings of the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney on 3 occasions, of the Yugoslav Embassy in Canberra on one occasion and of the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Melbourne on one occasion. I had listed the cost of repairing the damage on those occasions and the cost to the Victoria, New South Wales and Commonwealth police of affording protection to the personnel and premises of those missions and consulates.
Since then the position has become much more serious. In addition to those events which I enumerated on that occasion, on 19th May 1964 a man of Yugoslav origin lost his legs and his sight while carrying a bomb. On 19th February 1965 a bomb was thrown into a Yugoslav dance at West Geelong, on 19th April 1967 a bomb was thrown into the residence of some Yugoslav migrants, on 24th April 1967 a bomb was thrown into another such residence at St Kilda, on 8th November 1968 a bomb was thrown into another at South Melbourne, on 28th April 1969 a bomb was thrown into another at Mona Vale, on 15th February 1971 there was a bomb threat to a Yugoslav concert group arriving at Mascot airport, on 23rd November 1971 a bomb was thrown into the Adriatic Trade and Tourist Centre in George Street, Sydney, on 19th December 1971 a bomb was thrown into a cinema showing a Yugoslav film at Newtown, on 11th January 1972 a bomb exploded outside the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canberra, on 6th April 1972 a bomb was thrown into a residence at Carlton and on the same day a bomb was thrown into a Yugoslav exhibition in bank premises, and last Saturday there was the present outrage which has given rise to this motion.
It will be noted that 5 of the 13 incidents I have detailed today occurred in April. Honourable members should recollect what was said by the Minister’s predecessor. He said:
Various organisations in Australia celebrate 10th April 1941 as the date of Croatian independence. On 6th April 1941, Hitler attacked Yugoslavia as a prelude to its subsequent occupation and dismemberment. As part of this operation, on 1 0th April 1941 the Germans created a puppet Croatian state, dominated by the Ustasha terrorist movement under Ante Pavelic, who had until then been an exile in Italy. The victory of the Yugoslav Resistance in the war against Germany put an end to the so-called Independent State of Croatia.
The present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the 29th of last month said that this was still the view of his Government. The preceding Foreign Minister said that Australia had never recognised the independence of Croatia. I refer to those historical matters, but I do not wish to touch on the international aspects beyond saying that I believe it is unfortunate that in the Senate Senator Greenwood has been far too loose in his references to Yugoslav activities, provocation and trouble making in Australia. I believe that honourable members will support the rebuke which the Foreign Minister implied to the honourable senator in his answer to my question today. There are enough difficulties in our relations with Yugoslavia for me to go no further into this matter. I want merely to point out that it is clear that there are not sufficient resources available and not expert enough knowledge available to the law enforcement and intelligence organisations in Australia. It was quite clear when the hijacking occurred in Sweden at the end of last week, coinciding it appeared with a trial in Yugoslavia, that there was likely to be an incident in Australia. The repercussions of domestic events such as that - assassinations in other countries, anniversaries and so on - are well known. We ought to be much more on our guard than we have been.
I have referred to Croatia in the context of Department of Foreign Affairs documents and ministerial replies. It should not be necessary to point out that among those who are most distressed at this violence are people from the State of Croatia in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavs are worried indeed because it is becoming quite difficult for people from Yugoslavia to obtain and retain jobs because they are branded in general, because of the misdeeds of a few importing their political feuds into this country, as troublemakers and dissident elements. There can be no doubt also that Ustasha flags and pictures of Ante Pavelic, including those in this capital, have caused grave offence to migrants as well as to native born Australians. The overriding feature we must bear in mind now is that there are threats to life and limb in Australia on a scale which we have never had before. We can quite clearly source these to imported political disputes, and it is clear therefore that the nation needs to be armed with police and intelligence forces with greater knowledge and greater resources than are available at present.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and I will speak straight away. The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has a relevance to this Parliament because it is recognised and admitted by everybody who has considered this question that what we are concerned with when we are concerned with what the Leader of the Opposition has just described as the largest mass crime ever committed in Australia is something that is international, something that relates to other countries and something that has been imported into Australia from overseas. What is imported here from overseas, what relates to relations with countries, is quite clearly the responsibility of the Federal Government. The responsibility for preventing crime is shared between the Commonwealth and the States. The States have a responsibility, but of course the Federal Government has its responsibility in relation to the matters which have just been defined by the Leader of the Opposition. The motion that he has moved relates specifically to the need for the Common- wealth to have effective police and Intelligence services to be fully aware of the nature of overseas terrorist organisations and to prevent their entry into and operations in Australia.
I believe in political freedom, but I oppose criminal freedom - and I know the difference between the two. I am satisfied that the series of governments we have had under Sir Robert Menzies, Mr Gorton and Mr McMahon - I leave out one Prime Minister - have favoured making some aspects of political freedom into crimes and, on the contrary, have proved sympathetic to certain criminal conduct provided that those who carry it out are anticommunist and are supported or believed they will be supported by Democratic Labor Party type and National Civic Council type leaders and supporters.
As the Leader of the Opposition has detailed, since 1964 there have been 20 bomb explosions - not one or 2 or 3, but 20 - each of which could have killed or injured many people. Now in Sydney 16 people have been injured - some seriously - by 2 of these bomb explosions. Both the State and Commonwealth Governments have a responsibility to prevent such criminal action and to find, arrest and deal with those who carry out this activity. Not only is the record bad but only one person in Australia has been found, arrested and charged with an offence as a result of these bombing offences, and that was in Geelong. Incidentally, the man who was charged with that offence is one of those who are alleged to have been arrested in Yugoslavia for carrying out similar terrorist activities there after being trained here. Two other persons were arrested in the Australian Capita] Territory for being in possession of explosives similar to those that exploded at the Serbian Orthodox Church here in Canberra, and 5 persons have been arrested in Victoria for being in possession of a large quantity of explosives similar to those used in explosions in Victoria in April. I point out that each and every one of those persons regards himself as a Croat and in fact is one. All except one of them are known to be sympathisers with the Croatian Liberation Movement in Australia. The Government has known that these bomb attacks are likely to take place.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) in brushing aside what the Leader of the Opposition had to say in moving his motion on 20th April.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs had deprecated the suggestion that these bomb attacks could become serious, but they have become serious. The Government denied the existence as an organisation in Australia of the Croatian Liberation Movement and its supporters have said that there is no evidence that anyone associated with the organisation could have exploded the bombs. Further to that, some of the Government’s leading supporters have from time to time acted in a way which shows sympathy for the Croatian Liberation Movement and its leaders. They have thereby encouraged the organisation and have made more likely the extension of its activities in this country.
That is why this motion is a matter of urgency. That is why some action should be taken to ensure that the Government of Australia has the means, police and intelligence to prevent these activities from taking place. It is almost impossible to deny the origin of these outbreaks of terrorism and violence in this country. What is the evidence to show that an organisation in Australia could have been responsible for the explosion of these bombs? The kind of evidence is-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to a point of order. What is the idea of allowing only 5 minutes to speakers in this debate?
-If the honourable member reads Standing Orders he will find that the procedure is correct.
– In speaking for the Government I wish to express our deep concern, in fact our horror, at the bombing which occurred in Sydney last Saturday. As the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) mentioned at question time this morning, immediately he learned of the incident he visited the area where it took place and also visited in hospital the men who had been injured. The Prime Minister has since kept in close touch with the progress of the police investigations. These investi gations are being conducted by a high level team from the New South Wales Police Force. The Commonwealth Police Force is assisting so far as lies in its power. We must all hope that these police inquiries will prove successful in revealing the truth of this matter and that they will lead to the apprehension and ultimate conviction of whoever was responsible for the outrage. We must hope that that is so, not only because of this particular case but also for our safety generally. If there is one thing that the law has taught me it is that in the certainty and speed of detection and apprehension is the greatest deterrent to crime.
We have to find an effective deterrent to this kind of violence and terrorism. If we do not, the orderliness of our society and the everyday safety which as citizens we are entitled to expect may well be threatened. As I said earlier - and the Leader of the Opposition has quoted meAustralia is one of the safe countries of the world where one can walk the streets freely. People who have travelled around the world know that that is not true in many other countries. We have to see that we can keep Australia this way. There has been a succession of violent acts in recent times. Reference has been made to these acts and I agree that they are a cause of real concern. The Government for its part will do everything in its power to find and root out the beginnings of any cult of political terror in Australia. I ask our citizens to realise and to accept that they all have a stake and an interest in supporting and assisting the police and all organs . of law enforcement to ensure that this, sort of situation does not get out of hand in Australia.
Coming back to the bombing in Sydney, I think it is important also that we in this House should do nothing or say nothing which might in some way have the result of impeding the proper progress of the inquiries of the police. We do not want public discussion of this matter blown up to proportions which might tend to deter some people from speaking freely to the police. We consider it undesirable to have a full scale debate on this matter while the police inquiries are in progress. In those circumstances the Government will oppose the motion to suspend Standing Orders. At the close of my remarks it is intended to put the matter to a vote.
However, before I close I believe I should make some comment on some of the wider questions which have been raised. On 16th August the Yugoslav Ambassador saw me to protest against the activities of alleged Ustasha terrorist organisations in Australia. He left me with a substantial aide-memoire giving names and some details for investigation by the Australian Government. Since then, most active steps have been taken to investigate the allegations and material placed before us. Searches have been made, documents have been seized and individuals have been questioned. This investigation is still proceeding but is not yet complete. It will be carried to its conclusion with resolution by the Government.
Today the Yugoslav Ambassador called to see me again and conveyed his Government’s view that the bombing in Sydney demonstrated, as he said, that the Australian Government had not undertaken efficient measures for the prevention of terrorism on Australian grounds to be used against Yugoslavia. I pointed out to the Ambassador that not only were we pursuing our investigations into the material placed before us but we have also devoted considerable resources to the protection of the Yugoslav Embassy and consulates. We had had no reason to anticipate the attack which occurred at commercial premises in Sydney, The Ambassador expressed some concern at some allegations of terrorist activity being described by my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) as groundless. I pointed out that earlier allegations made by private individuals when investigated by the police had indeed proved groundless, but that the allegations in his aide-memoire were still under investigation and the Government was not yet in a position to state a judgment on them, one way or the other. I do not read what my colleague Senator Greenwood has said in his statements as having amounted to the passing of judgment on the allegations and the material contained in the aide-memoire. I have not in any sense intended to rebuke him in respect of that matter.
I suggest to the Ambassador, as I did to the House this morning, that the constant assertion of allegations or the assertion of beliefs, however strongly held by anyone, did not assist in this matter. What is required is ascertainment of the facts. What is required is ascertainment of the truth. When that is established the Government will act on the basis of the facts and the truth which have been revealed. I mentioned that some allegations and material had been placed before the Government suggesting activity by Yugoslav agents and again the Government would not accept mere allegations or assertions. It would investigate these allegations and this material, again with the object of ascertaining the facts.
One result of the barrage of allegations and assertions which have been made has been as the Leader of the Opposition mentioned in his speech, to cast a shadow upon Yugoslav migrants which they did not deserve to have cast upon them. Australia has welcomed its migrants from Yugoslavia. We have found them to be hard working and courageous people who have become good and useful citizens of Australia. It is unfortunate that the actions of a few people can do damage to innocent people in this way. The Government wishes to make it clear that it will do its utmost to discharge its obligation to protect the Yugoslav Embassy and consulates. It will certainly not permit its territory to be used for the training or preparation of any group which is engaged in an attempt to subvert or overthrow the Government of any country with which we have friendly relations. We welcome migrants, but we wish them to leave their political hatreds behind them.
Finally, Mr Speaker, may I say that Australia will join with other countries in seeking solutions to this problem which is evidencing itself in very many countries around the world. We are aware of the tragedy which occurred at Munich. We believe that at the current assembly of the United Nations this matter will be raised with a view to the nations combining their efforts to find a solution to this world wide problem of political blackmail by terror and murder. At the coming assembly of the United Nations Australia will seek to play its part also in this wider field.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a document which I did not have time to table when I was speaking in this debate, lt purports to be a handbook of the Croatian Liberation Movement
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– There are a number of terrorist movements which may have some bearing upon Australia. We have a combination of religious fanticism and nationalism in several localities - in Ulster, in Croatia and in the Arab territories.
– Order! The time allowed for this debate has now expired.
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I make this statement on urban and regional development in Australia with particular reference to the Commonwealth Government’s role in this matter of great national importance.
In recent years, the concentration of our population and our industries in and around our principal cities has created problems of congestion and contributed to pollution. Unless these problems are tackled with vigour and imagination, our efforts to secure a better quality of life for Australians will be compromised and the consequences will be such that our growth and progress as a nation will be impeded. Our population has now reached 13 million. In 1971, about 60 per cent of the Australian population lived in the 6 State capitals. Approximately 40 per cent lived in Sydney and Melbourne alone. Overall, in the 5 years to 1971, the population of the metropolitan areas increased by an amount equal to 75 per cent of the increase in Australia’s population in the same period. As things stand, thereis no evidence to suggest that this trend will change unless new initiatives are taken
It is against this background that the Commonwealth Government has decided that it will take immediate steps, financially and in other ways, in a co-ordinated programme with State governments directed towards fostering a better balance of population distribution and regional development in Australia. I have written to the State Premiers informing them of this and seeking their co-operation. Funds will be made available for the remainder of this financial year to provide for the initial operations of a new Commonwealth authority concerned with urban and regional development to which I will refer in detail later.
The planning and development of our major population centres in the States is, of course, the direct responsibility of the State governments, but the totality of the associated urban and regional problems and challenges is clearly national in character. Commonwealth initiatives in this field must be carried out in full consultation and in partnership with the States. Our early discussions with the States will have as their first objective the fullest understanding of the nature of the problems to be overcome, and establishing how best the combined resources of the Commonwealth and State governments can be marshalled to tackle them in the interests of the natron as a whole.
We believe that the most effective means of achieving our objectives will be found in concentrating our efforts in a limited number of centres rather than by spreading them thinly over many projects each having only a limited impact. We propose, therefore, to give Commonwealth backing to 2 separate concepts: The development of regional growth centres, and the promotion of sub-metropolitan centres around the existing cities. There is undoubted scope for the expansion of most Australian cities provided this is done by means of balanced development rather than by the spread of residential or ‘dormitory’ suburbs that add to traffic congestion and strain on the existing facilities in the city and inner urban areas where commerce and industry offering employment are largely concentrated.
It will be our aim to identify and foster the balanced growth of sub-metropolitan centres that offer potential for development. Decentralisation offers further opportunities of relieving concentration in existing cities. The report by a committee of Commonwealth and State officials on decentralisation has concluded that the only type of decentralisation which offers significant prospects of success is selective decentralisation. The Commonwealth endorses this view and favours the concentrated development of a small number of carefully selected centres, having regard to factors likely to be favourable to their growth. We expect that, as we grow in experience and as more resources become available to us, more centres will be selected for accelerated growth.
The programme for selective decentralisation, under which the Commonwealth will, as an initial step, assist the States with the accelerated development of growth centres, will be separate from, and additional to, present State programmes fostering decentralisation. These State programmes embrace a number of measures designed to bring about a more balanced distribution of people and industry throughout Australia. The Commonwealth in this new initiative has similar objectives. The Commonwealth therefore looks to the States to maintain their expenditures for these purposes, and we hope that their programmes will continue to be developed in the future. Selective decentralisation is not a simple process. Ways and means will need to be devised to attract to the selected locations the employment and industries which will be basic to their establishment and their faster growth.
In addition, the Commonwealth and State governments could directly assist in the growth and development of new centres since they are both large employers. The Government is anxious that the development of the selected centres will bring maximum benefit to the nation as a whole. For example, it will be necessary to guard against the cost of development of the selected centres being inflated by increases in land values directly attributable to the policy initiatives of the States and the Commonwealth. Land acquisition policies in the selected centres will need to be consistent with that objective. The selection of particular projects or sites for putting into effect the 2 approaches I have outlined is one of the first tasks to which the Commonwealth and the States will need to address themselves in the co-operative approach we envisage.
For these purposes, we have considered, in broad outline, the scope and nature of the machinery that will be required. We propose the establishment of a ministerial council, consisting of the Prime Minister and Premiers, as the principal body for consultation and co-ordination in the fields of urban and regional development. The Commonwealth’s own machinery will provide for the establishment of a statutory organisation to be known as the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. Interim legislation will be introduced into Parliament this session. This Authority will be responsible to me, as Prime Minister. It will be headed by a Commissioner, and my Government proposes to invite Sir John Overall, Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, to accept the first appointment to this office.
The Government also has in mind the establishment of an advisory committee, or committees, as necessary, which would include members of various organisation and groups, chosen for their expertise in relevant fields. In deciding upon the steps outlined, the Commonwealth has recognised that practical, effective action to cope with the problems of the cities, and to promote regional development, is a matter for the Commonwealth and the States working together in a truly federal spirit. To achieve the best results for the Australian people as a whole, we must together define the relationships, roles and contributions which will characterise our future co-operation in what we in the Commonwealth believe will be a major step towards further enriching the quality of life in our Australian community. I commend these proposals to the House. I present the following paper:
Urban and Regional Development - Ministerial Statement, 19 September 1972.
– I move:
In moving this motion, let me say that because the statement is of great national importance many honourable members will want to speak to it. So, the arrangement is that tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who is the shadow Minister in this field, and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) will speak; and I give an undertaking to the House that the debate will be resumed at an early date.
– Honourable members will welcome the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), belated and inadequate though it is. Honourable members who serve on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works and the
Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory have shown that they have been aware well ahead of the Ministry and well ahead too of the Public Service of the necessity in this country to relieve the pressure on the State and Federal capitals and to create new centres of employment, production c.nd recreation in this country. The proposals that the Prime Minister has made are for a ministerial council and a national ti! bun and regional development authority. The decision for the authority to be headed by the present head of the National Capital Development Commission is an admirable one. The ministerial council will no more enlighten or impress the Australian people than do the Australian Loan Council or the Premiers Conference or other bodies on which once or twice a year Federal and State Ministers get together. These bodies are conducted in secrecy; the respective parliaments are not told of their deliberations; the Australian people are nol alerted to what needs to be done in our Federal system by the Commonwealth or the States or both together.
Let me go through some of the things which quite clearly need to be dealt wilh if Australia is to have proper urban and regional development. The Prime Minister’s proposals make no reference to local government. Local government is not represented on the Loan Council: local government cannot approach the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is because local government is not represented on the Loan Council and has no access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission that we find that our cities are inadequately financed and serviced. Let us admit it. The States which have the responsibility >‘f speaking and voting for their creations. The local and semi-government bodies, do not in fact look after their interests. My Party is committed to the proposition that aldermen and councillors in each State /.should elect a representative to speak and vote for them on the Loan Council. Only thus will there be adequate attention given to the capital requirements of the State authorities. Secondly, my Party believes that the local government and semi-government authorities should have the right to approach the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This expert body, whose recommendations have invariably been accepted by successive Commonwealth governments without division as regards party in either House, at the moment can examine claims for the 4 smaller States. It cannot receive claims from the standard States. Still less can it receive claims from any regional body in any of the smaller States or in the standard States. It is for this reason that the State capitals invariably are becoming more expensive for individuals to live in and less and less serviced.
I mention here one particular aspect of pollution which the Prime Minister mentioned. We were told by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, and it is a matter of notoriety in Australia more than in any other developed country, that the biggest cause of pollution in our city areas is the lack of sewerage. On 9th May this year the various water and sewerage authorities in the main cities of Australia added up their requirements and announced that Sydney’s Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board was unable to provide sewerage services for half a million people in its area, some 17 per cent of the population; the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was unable to service 360,000 people, 15 per cent of its population; the Perth Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board was unable to service 300,000 people, 50 per cent of its population; 50,000 people in the suburbs pf Hobart, 50 per cent of the population, were unable to be serviced; the Hunter District Water Board was unable to service 70,000 people, 20 per cent of its population; the City of Brisbane was unable to service over 200,000 people, over 30 per cent of its population. In the same month, on 24th May, the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) in a statement, entitled ‘Australian Environment - Commonwealth Policy and Achievements’, incorporated statements of the Government’s observations on the recommendations of the Senate Committee and concluded:
Accordingly we find that the largest semigovernment authorities in Australia, the ones which have most conspicuously failed to meet the requirements of a civilised community, are to have no help from the Commonwealth as far as the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts is concerned and no help from the Commonwealth as far as the present Prime Minister is concerned. May I have the satisfaction of quoting what the right honourable gentleman’s predecessor said in what I think is his most memorable phrase. When following me on 19th November 1968, he said:
It is not really, part of my purpose to follow the Leader of the Opposition down every manhole into which he may choose to disappear.
Some people disappear - it does not matter where - and they will be followed by others who ignore this civic service.
I come to some other matters where clearly the Commonwealth has some responsibility. We all accept the fact that it is now impossible for any new university or any new college of advanced education in Australia to be established or for there to be any significant increase in any existing university or college without the Commonwealth’s participation. Yet we find that in the State capitals, in the ones which are most dispersed, there is precious little tertiary education in the outer suburbs. A very conspicuous shortcoming here has been in respect to teachers’ colleges. The Commonwealth has provided money for one of the finest teachers’ colleges in Australia at Lindfield in the north shore area of Sydney. But the people who are minded to become teachers, particularly those who are minded to remain teachers and make teaching their career, are not to be found generally within 15 or 25 miles of Lindfield. The new college is completely off centre. It involved Commonwealth money. The State Public Service and State Ministers have overlooked the requirements of the customers. There is no considerable commercial enterprise in Australia which would act as State governments do, putting new installations where the population is declining or is static. Any of the new regional centres that are being provided in the private sector are going to where the people are and it is about time that State governments accepted the same principle. We in this Parliament, providing the money, can ensure they do and that the public gets the services it wants. We do it in respect of universities and colleges of advanced education if we are so minded. Similarly, we can do it for teachers’ colleges.
I come again to hospitals. These are very expensive government investments. Again 1 give the example of Sydney. The Planning Liaison Committee of the public hospitals in the Sydney metropolitan area has just repoted that last year there were 548 fewer hospitals beds than required. In the inner region there was a surplus of 1,290 beds but deficits of 270 beds in the southern region, 691 beds in the northern region and 877 beds in the western region. The Committee reported that by 1980, if ail present proposals are fulfilled, the surplus in the inner region would have grown to 1,430 beds, the deficit in the southern region would have been eliminated, the deficit in the northern region would have been reduced to 359 beds and the deficit in the western region would have grown to 960 beds. This figure of an increased surplus in the inner region is achieved by adding Bankstown, which can scarcely be said to be in the inner region of Sydney, to that particular hospital area. It is quite clear that we- in Australia need a Commonwealth hospitals commission, just as we have a Commonwealth Universities Commission or a Commonwealth Commission on Advanced Education, to ensure that public funds are adequately provided and to see that people who need hospital treatment can get it within a reasonable time space. The largest highways in Sydney, the Great Western Highway and the Hume Highway, the ones where most of the cranial* surgery is made necessary, the areas in which most of the people are born, are 20 or more miles from the most advanced surgical or children’s facilities in Australia.
I turn now to transport. It is true that the Constitution says that the Commonwealth cannot build a railway except with the consent of a State. But this does not apply to other forms of transport. I ask honourable members to consider the dearth of public transport - government transport. Trams in Melbourne and buses in Sydney are not to be found in any of the new suburbs. I come now to the cost of land acquisition. I applaud the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the Commonwealth would now be prepared to make proper arrangements for land acquisition in new centres.
But why not see that land acquisition is made possible in the capitals? If one wants a block of land in Sydney which costs less than $8,000, one has to move 15 miles from the city. In Melbourne one does not have to move out quite so far. In Perth one has to move almost as far. The fact is that now one has to move, in Sydney or Melbourne, more than an hour’s travelling time from the centre of the city if one is to get a block of land which costs less than 88,000 or $10,000.
The Commonwealth and States together need to have a land development commission in these metropolitan areas as well as in the new regional centres. We should be able to have the position that existed in Canberra until a couple of years ago where it it was possible, without the cost of land rising at all, for people to get blocks of fully serviced land at cost, the supply equalling the demand. Canberra was the only capital in Australia where that was possible. In fact there are Commonwealth lands already available in some of the capitals. In the southern part of Sydney, for instance, between the Georges River and the Heathcote Road is an Army area which is not used and has not been used for artillery purposes and which is perfectly suitable for residential purposes. The Commonwealth could have this land developed now. If we are to see that housing is put within people’s reach in the largest State capitals we will have to see that there is a proper Commonwealth-State proposal for land acquisition as is now accepted for the new regional centres.
I come now to the regional centres. I notice that the Prime Minister is still suitably coy as to which should be chosen. There should be no coyness about this. The obvious first centre at which to start is Albury-Wodonga. If there is ever to be a successful new inland city in Australia comparable to Canberra it must be at this centre. It has the water, the rail, the road and the primary production facilities. It is little comfort to have a reference to the Commonwealth-State Officials Committee on Decentralisation. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory reported that this Committee was singularly unco-operative. In the Prime Minister’s statement there is no reference to the Country Party Committee of the
Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Shipping and Transport. I quoted from the report of the Committee last week, pointing out that the Commonwealth, a great employer, could send some of the 10,500 people in Melbourne, marked for transfer to Canberra, to Albury-Wodonga. And, in particular, in respect of people in manufacturing activities, research and testing activities and large-scale processing the Country Party Committee reported, perfectly properly, that a regional centre was certainly as suitable for them as Canberra or Melbourne.
I want to make 2 other references to this question. The Commonwealth can be a full partner in Albury-Wodonga because this centre lies on a State border. The Commonwealth has constitutional power in relation to interstate trade. The Commonwealth can make telephone and telex concessions in such a centre. The Commonwealth can establish tertiary education facilities in such a centre. There is a great deal to be done, indeed, beyond what the Prime Minister has proposed in his statement.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition wish an extension of time? We would be delighted to give him one because we would be very much like to hear his views on this matter of national importance.
– No. Other members are wishing to speak.
– I am very pleased to be associating myself with the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and in some ways with some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), although I am sorry that he has expressed them in somewhat of a sour tone. But 1 have no desire to be provocative or to antagonise members on this issue. Tonight marks an historic occasion, when the Commonwealth has declared a policy in relation to urban development and decentralisation. I do not think there would be much difference of opinion between any honourable members in this House that the major problems facing Australia today concern the congestion of the cities and their allied problems, and the lack of development of country areas and the lack of job opportunities and so on for people living in those areas. The problems of both areas are virtually related, namely, how to relieve the growth pressures in the city and how to give encouragement to the establishment of more industries in the country. I am very pleased to know that there is a high degree of harmony on both sides of the House on this question.
The Leader of the Opposition sought more information than was contained in the Prime Minister’s statement. It is not possible to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s at this early stage. To implement a national policy will take the complete and co-operative support of State governments. Of course, in involving State governments there will be a need to involve local government authorities. I should like to say more about the siting of these new growth centres presently.
The statement which the Prime Minister has made this evening marks the beginning of a major attack on the imbalance of population and industry which has plagued this nation for a long time. A great deal of work has been carried out by officers of State and Commonwealth departments. A report has now been presented to the Commonwealth Government. A lot of work has gone on between Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Department of the Interior, the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department, in examining this matter closely, for it is a matter of great complexities. We want to see success. I regard the measures that the Prime Minister has announced tonight as amongst the most far-reaching and significant steps ever taken by an Australian government. For many years the people of country areas in Australia, and particularly my own Party, have fought for decentralisation. They have made some worthwhile gains with the help of State governments and with some indirect help from the Commonwealth. But not until now has the urgency of the situation been understood by the great mass of Australians who live in our major cities. Today the problems of pollution, crowding, stress and cost have brought home to most Australians th: fact that decentralisation is an urgent national necessity. In tonight’s statement, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has firmly set the Commonwealth on a course we believe will lead to a substantial degree of correction of this major problem in our national development.
The change of direction in the historical pattern of our development to which we are now committing ourselves will not be achieved without great difficulty. In the interests of saner development and a more sensible use of our national resources, 1 hope all Australian governments, all Australian political parties and the whole of the Australian people will work together in the spirit of co-operation which will be needed to make this new approach succeed. There is not the slightest doubt that we must make it succeed. Failure in this new line of attack will not only perpetuate and intensify our existing lop-sided development pattern, and thus make even worse the problems of the future, but also it will set back for a long time - perhaps make irretrievable - our opportunity to make Australia an example to the world of sensible national development in action. The proposals outlined by the Prime Minister will, of course, be be worked out as to their details in the fullest co-operation and consultation with the State governments. The proposals in themselves cannot alter the constitutional situation of the States having the authority and the powers to implement the physical aspects of the kind of programme we envisage.
The programme is based on 2 main lines of attack. They call for a new method of planning the development of our major cities, and for a new concept for Australia - selective decentralisation, or the fostering of growth centres. I have no doubt that there will be people who will say we should try to prevent further major growth of our big cities, and direct all new growth into other areas of the nation. While there is some attraction in such a proposition, I think we must be realistic enough to accept the fact that we cannot completely block further growth in our capital cities. Having accepted that fact, we must then look for ways of directing the metropolitan growth that will inevita bly occur into the best possible paths. The urban development aspects of the programme announced tonight will make such a new approach possible.
The other main line of attack, and the one which, because of my special interests and the interests of my Party, gives me particular cause for satisfaction, is the Government’s plan to strongly support the growth-centre concept. Here again, the regional development aspect of the programme will be founded on 2 main lines of approach. Firstly, we will be looking for a continuation of, and if possible further development of, the existing measures which the State governments use to encourage decentralisation of industry on a generalised basis. By this I mean those measures which induce industry to establish in whatever decentralised location it feels best suited to do. 1 believe it is vital that this approach continue so that industry can be attracted to cities and towns all over Australia where the natural advantages and the facilities provided can make such decentralisation effective and useful.
But the major new Commonwealth initiative involves the superimposition on the existing measures of a new policy involving the growth-centre concept. This concept is accepted world-wide and by every authority in Australia as the only means of achieving the kind of really large-scale decentralisation which will make a significant impact on our national population imbalance. I am the first to acknowledge that the selection of growth-centres will create difficulties. It will create difficulties for politicians who will be faced with competing claims for selection of growth centres in various regions. We must not run away from these difficulties; in the national interest, we cannot,. What must happen, in my view, is that growth centres must be selected according to criteria which are carefully determined to achieve the gest possible results in the overall national interest. The establishment of a national authority and an advisory committee or committees, as described by the Prime Minister, will I believe make this approach possible.
May I say how delighted I am to see that Sir John Overall has been invited to be chairman of this national authority. Sir John Overall would be the most experienced and competent authority in this nation to develop such a programme. Sir John Overall is the man whose work lies behind the modern concept of Canberra - the man who has been in charge of Canberra’s development since 1958 - and I believe great credit rests on him for the magnificent job that he has done. He is a man who has also won great recognition by State governments and has been consulted from time to time with some of their developmental projects.
The programme outlined tonight by the Prime Minister marks an historic new direction not only in our approach to our population and industry patterns, but also to our traditional federal relationships. I believe that the Australian people will see in this programme the chance to achieve a different kind of Australian development and, indeed, a new kind of Australian living. I believe we can achieve through this programme a new understanding of what quality of life can mean. We can show the world how a sensible nation can go about the kind of development the modern world and the modern needs of man and the demands of his environment require. I look to the Australian people to make this programme work, and I will do all in my power to educate and to help increase the public’s understanding of this new national policy. I look forward to all members of this Parliament doing likewise.
– At 5.30 this afternoon I received a copy of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I was at this time to have addressed a meeting at the Australian National University in connection with the proposed Armco steel works to be constructed at Jervis Bay, which programme has been fostered by this Commonwealth Government and, of course, by the State Government of New South Wales and which will destroy that beautiful area. However, on receiving the Prime Minister’s statement I had to meet the challenge of at least trying to put some contribution from this side of the House in support of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlarn). The statement of the Prime Minister can be well described as an imitation of progress.
I want to deal with certain aspects of the statement because time does not permit me to deal with it in detail. In his statement the Prime Minister said: . . the Commonwealth and State governments could directly assist in the growth and development of new centres since they are both large employers.
Let me deal with this Government’s record and policy in regard to decentralisation, not over the last 23 years, but now. The Government has proposed a blueprint of centralisation within Melbourne and Sydney. The Government proposes to develop an office block in Melbourne to house 20,000 employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. It has another proposal to house 15,000 employees at Woolloomooloo. This has been the record of this Government that now preaches that it can guide people out of the centres of centralisation and try to disperse them with decentralisation. It has been a government of centralisation. May I deal with the question of the powers of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Parliament has power over insurance companies and foreign investment. The investment of insurance companies iri the development of the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne and other capital cities has increased over the last 10 years from $144m to $994m or 588 per cent. At the same time the total investment of insurance companies in statutory funds has increased by 190 per cent. There has been further centralisation. Yet this Commonwealth Government had the power to persuade and guide insurance companies to decentralise their investments elsewhere.
Let me deal now with the question of foreign investment. This Government, because it is too narrow-minded to think rationally, has allowed foreign investment to destroy the central business districts of our capital cities. The property managers of insurance companies have informed me that the investment by overseas interests in capital cities is 4 times that of their own companies. But the Government has refused to make the details of foreign investment in our cities available to me. This Government has the hide to say that it believes in decentralisation. It has been a government of centralisation.
The Government now proposes to deal with land acquisition. I question its proposal. What does it mean by land acquisition? The Government has never done anything about trying to stop the spiralling prices of land in the capital cities or our country cities. Now it talks in glib terms about land acquisition. What does it mean? Does it mean that it will develop leasehold land tenure or does it mean that it will sell the land to its friends.
Let us examine what has happened in Canberra. From 1st January 1971 the Government altered the whole structure of land ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory. The average amount paid for land at unrestricted sales increased by 178 per cent in 1971 compared with what it was in 1970. In the period January to June 1972 the increase was 255 per cent on the cost in 1971, and 465 per cent on the cost in 1970. ls this the type of land policy that the Government intends to adopt or will it deal with this whole question as a piece of window dressing? The Government will be challenged on its record - not only its record in the last 20 years but its record in the last 10 years and the last 2 years in particular.
Let me deal further with the Prime Minister’s statement. The Prime Minister referred to the question of debt and said he wants the Commonwealth to work in cooperation with the States. What is the position in this respect? The debt of the Commonwealth in the last 23 years has increased by 3.3 per cent, the indebtedness of the States by 364 per cent, that of local government bodies by 845 per cent and that of semi-government authorities by 1,071 per cent - due mainly to the increase in interest. The Commonwealth’s interest repayments have increased by 57 per cent, the States by 698 per cent - which is an increase of nearly 700 per cent - local government by 1,931 per cent and semi-government by 2,607 per cent. I wonder when the States, local government bodies and semigovernment authorities will get a fair go from the Government?
The Government proposes to appoint Sir John Overall, a very famous and distinguished Australian who has done a fine job, as the first appointment to the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. However, let me tell the Minis ter that the responsibilities of Sir John Overall will not be determined by his Government; they will be determined by a Labor government from this side of the House. We will determine what his responsibilities of Sir John Overall will be. The measure proposed by the Government will be only interim legislation and will remain only interim legislation. It will never become permanent.
Let me deal with the record. The Chifley Labor Government in the post-war years from 1945 to 1949 established an administration and had plans to encourage decentralisation. The Liberal-Country Party governments in the last 23 years destroyed the opportunity to create a new settlement pattern in Australia. During those years Australia’s population increased by 65 per cent. The populations of Sydney and Melbourne have increased by about 60 per cent. The main reasons for the increase were the economic and immigration policies commenced by the Chifley Government and outlined in the White Paper on Full Employment in 1945 and subsequent studies. The activities of the Department of Post-War Reconstruction - and let me say that the hidden remnants of that postwar reconstruction have been hidden in the archives of the Minister for Trade and Industry’s Department over these long years - and the Department of Immigration saw Australia’s early post-war development off to a good start.
The Liberal-Country Party Government, when it came to power in 1949, was happy to inherit part of Labor’s policies, but did not realise that encouraging secondary industries and immigrants was only half the story. In 1948 Labor realised that it would be self-defeating to develop Australia’s population and resources rapidly without taking the necessary action to direct and encourage where that development took place. The consequences of those short sighted policies have been admitted by the Prime Minister here tonight. We recognise the long years of bad planning which has been the record of this Government.
We find the whole question of decentralisation to be a matter of importance particularly in regard to the 2 major cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The 2 major protagonists of decentralisation in this House and elsewhere are the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and myself. We ure both fringe dwellers of the city of Sydney. Unlike the Prime Minister who lives at Potts Point and does not live in bis electorate the Leader of the Opposition lives in suburbia 20 miles from the centre of Sydney. I live 16 miles from the centre of Sydney. If one draws a line north and south through my electorate and that of the Prime Minister at about Flemington the area west of that line in metropolitan Sydney holds a population in excess of one million people, which is more than the number of people who live in the whole of Western Australia. The point I want to make is that this area does not have a theatre where live artists or musicians and ballet dancers may perform. It does not have a museum or an art gallery.
Labor’s policy on decentralisation and urban development will be twofold. It will be directed towards aiding the quality of living on the fringes of our capital cities, particularly those of Sydney and Melbourne. This is an important basis of our policy on urban development and decentralisation. Also we will try to slow up the growth of capital cities. The Leader of my Party has committed himself to the Albury-Wodonga complex. We look at 2 most important principles when dealing with decentralisation. We look at the important question of land and transport costs which must be dealt with. 1 went to Albury some 9 months ago to reiterate the commitment. I said that when the Labor Party comes into office and commits itself to developing Albury-Wodonga, in cooperation with the State governments, the public authority it will set up to develop this area will want authority for land acquisition.
An important facet of the development of these new cities will be the type of authority we will set up to develop them. The Labor Party believes that it can set up a development authority similar to the National Capital Development Commission. This authority can contain representatives of State and local government. We will develop new cities, some from completely open acres and some from existing cities and towns. We see a corridor of development between Sydney and Melbourne; we see a corridor of development between Sydney and Brisbane; we see a corridor of development between Sydney and Orange in the western districts; we see a corridor of development between Melbourne and Ballarat and between Ballarat and Adelaide; we see a corridor of development sweeping through into the La Trobe Valley. That is our concept. It is important to work on the principle of corridors of development because of the costs of transport which is so vital to Australia. Our cities will also balance with nature and the inhabitants will always be close to open areas.
The Federal Treasury and the Federal Government have been the major opponents of decentralisation in this country. Only through efficiency and using the best scientific skills of this nation can decentralisation be achieved. We on this side of the House believe we can do it. We believe that we have to slow up the growth of Sydney and Melbourne. People living on the fringes of those cities are no longer really living; they are just existing. They do not have the quality of life to which they are entitled. That is why we join with our brethren in the rural areas in wanting to see a healthy, balanced nation. We believe it can be done, and it will be done under a Federal Labor administration at the end of the year.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1572).
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were debating the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1972. I am pleased to know that the problems of Kangaroo Island, where I have many friends, are to be tackled. This programme will comprise initially scientific investigation of pasture problems that have been encountered, partial rental remission, credit for fodder conservation facilities, recasting of settlers’ accounts in appropriate cases, and provision to pay out stock mortgages for credit worthy settlers. I can only hope that any reconstruction work done will not become an added book entry in the debt structure of the settlers concerned. A few years ago the settlers on King Island accepted several million dollars to write off some arrears and to have extensive redevelopment work carried out on their properties. Their incomes had been affected by regrowth of rushes and titree on properties that had not been adequately cleared and prepared before the settlers had been placed in control. We were told at the time, both by the then Minister for Primary Industry and by the settlement authority, that this cost would not be taken into account. But the settlers are convinced that in the valuations which they have received now they are paying for the earlier errors of the settlement authority.
A similar position exists at the Togari settlement south of Smithton in Tasmania. The Government installed a water scheme costing $64,000 and demanded that the settlers pay in full. The settlers maintained that some of this was included in the option prices from the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth disputed this claim. We know that it was included in the State valuation figures, as indeed it should be, because a farm - especially a dairy farm - is useless without a water supply However, the Commonwealth later admitted that $33,000 of the cost was included in the total option prices as the water content. The Government is now demanding that the settlers pay the remainder of $31,000 plus $2,000 for improvements - a total of $33,000 - over a period of years, with interest charges. Ned Kelly was a babe in arms compared with the settlement authority, lt tried to get away with $64,000 as the cost of the water scheme, and then loaded $33,000 in the option prices, so that in all it expected to receive $97,000 from the scheme. Again I hope that any costs incurred on Kangaroo Island will not be inbuilt by devious means into the debt structure of the farmers who are there.
I turn now to an item that appeared earlier this year in the ‘Australian’ newspaper. It referred to the fact that 100 soldier settlers near Greenways in the south-east of South Australia will not have to pay $100,000 back rent they owe to the Federal Government. The article pointed out that the money was a backlog of payments caused by an increase in rental fees which the Government imposed 9 years ago and which the farmers refused to pay, claiming the increases were illegal. The settlers said that the Government realised after 9 years that the increases were unjust. This was brought about by the case of Heinrich v. Dunford in the Supreme Court of South Australia. It arose because of a blanket increase in the rents imposed in 1963. Mr Justice Bright found for the settlers. He said that the rents were to be 2i per cent either of productivity valuation or of the cost. The South Australian Government then proceeded to implement the court’s findings.
I want to clear up any doubts which honourable members may have about which section of the settlers was to benefit, in case there are some who still believe that it applies only to those who had refused to sign their leases. On 13 th October last year the South Austraiian Minister for Lands wrote to the settlers outlining the proposals to reduce the rentals. He said:
I had also advised the settlers of the following adjustments with which the Commonwealth was prepared to agree. Settlers still in occupation who had already signed their leases would participate. This arrangement would also apply if a property had passed to the family of a deceased settler.
I emphasise that the reduced rentals were to apply to conform with the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Bright and that the Commonwealth agreed that these proposals would apply also to those settlers who had already signed their leases. I simply point out that if the reduced rentals are to apply also to those who have signed their leases in South Australia, there is no reason why the same justice in adjusting valuations and rentals cannot apply to settlers in Western Australia and Tasmania where the Commonwealth has an overriding authority. There seems to be no reason why the judgment in South Australia should not flow on to settlers in the other agent States of Western Australia and Tasmania.
On 12th April this year I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) whether this could be done. He replied that a committee had been set up to report on this matter. He also said that once a policy had been formulated in respect of the findings of the select committee of the Legislative Council in Tasmania he would let me know of the decision. As time had elapsed, I wrote to the Minister to ascertain whether anything was to be done. I do not know who handles the Minister’s correspondence - I see that he is busy talking now and I would appreciate his interest - but somebody certainly made a blunder in this matter. I received a letter from him dated 8th June 1972 in which he stated that, because of the dual involvement of both Commonwealth and State governments in the existing financial arrangements for the conduct of war service land settlement, it seemed most desirable to him that agreement be reached between the Tasmanian Minister and himself before any announcement was made. Anyone would take it from that letter that there were to be further consultations between the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry and the State Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania. This letter was dated 8th June 1972. However, I understand that on the day before that, 7th June, the Minister for Primary Industry had written to the State Minister for Agriculture flatly turning down the recommendations of the select committee of the Legislative Council.
Settlers in Tasmania consider that they have a very just cause, and if the recommendations of the select committee are not implemented they will certainly put one of their settlers into court to challenge the Government and the administering authority in respect of the method by which both rentals and valuations have been determined. Legal opinion has been obtained, and there is no doubt that the settlers will succeed in their challenge in the courts. However they are reluctant to do this. They hope that common sense will prevail and that the Commonwealth authorities will accept the recommendations of the select committee of the Legislative Council. Those recommendations have been accepted by the Tasmanian Government. It is now a Labor government, but the recommendations were also accepted by the preceding government, which was a Liberal government. The recommendations with respect to the Commonwealth are dealt with in sections 1, 2 and 4 of the committee’s conclusions, and for the sake of the record I quote them:
The State valuation of structures, together with advances for improvements at time of allotment, shall be deducted from the State valuation to determine the net option price. The second recommendation states:
That all rentals on the above holdings be recalculated at an annual charge of 2½ per cent of the new option price determined as above and that the reduced rentals apply retrospectively to the date of allotment of the holding.
Recommendation No. 4 states:
That all debts owing to the Board at 30th June 1969 be written off if these can be shown to be due to any clauses referred to in No. 1 of the Conclusions, provided that any credit under the reduced rentals be offset against such debts.
I have been advocating for many years that the Commonwealth should accept State valuations with provision for structures and so on, instead of the phoney figure which the authority has determined, and that the rental should be 2i per cent of this figure. I am naturally very pleased that the select committee has more or less justified the stand that I have taken in this Parliament for many years. I point out again that the court case in South Australia resulted from a blanket increase in rents and that the same conditions prevail in Tasmania. The select committeewas very critical of the attitude of the then Director of War Service Land Settlement on the witness stand and for his lack of frankness. The members pointed out that they were frustrated and at various times confused by the lack of co-operation received from the Commonwealth Director. The committee questioned him for some time on the basis of the fixing of rents, but he failed to inform it of the change that had taken place in Tasmania similar to the change that had taken place in South Australia. It was only by acccident that the committee discovered that a change had been made, and it is certainly not to the credit of any Commonwealth officer that it discovered this change. On page 15 of its report the committee states:
Your committee is convinced that a mistake was made when the Commonwealth scale was adopted in 1956 and that the rents demanded since that time are excessive.
Because of this I contend that there should be a flow-on of the benefits gained by the South Australian settlers through their court case, and I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary for the Tasmanian settlers to take a case to court. As I pointed out, there is no doubt that they would win, bearing in mind the judgment in South
Australia together with their own legal opinion and the findings of the select committee in Tasmania. I point out in all fairness that the Tasmanian authorities attempted to resist in 1956 the Commonwealth moves to increase rentals, but the Commonwealth wielded the big stick and imposed a new set of rentals. This imposition resulted in a great deal of unfairness and great variation in the rentals changed, even for properties in the same districts. Rental for a dairy farm on King Island carrying 57 milking cows increased from $366 a year to $470 a year. Six dairy farms in one district on King Island were assessed as having a carrying capacity of 57 dairy cows, yet the rents varied from $270 to $415.
Even the then Minister for Agriculture, Mr Beattie, could not tell us why dairy farms with the same assessed carrying capacity and therefore with a similar income earning ability should have widely varying rates of annual rent. Even the Minister could not get through the smokescreen thrown up by the then Commonwealth Director. So the House can see why the Director hedged on the witness stand. He was severely reprimanded by the select committee, which was not at all happy with his performance. It is quite clear now why this Government rejected the requests by the National Executive of the Returned Services League for a royal commission. In a letter dated 3rd December last year, Mr Beattie advised us that he was unable to offer reasons for the different levels of rentals in the same area. Sheep properties with higher carrying capacities on King and Flinders Islands were worst affected, and their rents increased substantially because of the change made in 1956 by the Commonwealth. I have always maintained, and this has been substantiated by the select committee report, that the rentals were increased as much as possible and I suspect that this was done under instructions from the Treasury to reduce as much as possible the write-off consisting of the difference between the cost of the holding and the capital value. 1 refer now to the question of valuations and option of purchase prices, which is the subject of the amendment moved by the Opposition. The method of fixing these is nothing short of a scandal. In the earlier days of the settlement the capital value of the holding was assessed in a very strange manner. The officers estimated what profit a farm was considered capable of making and, after providing for the various commitments on advances made to the farmer and a living allowance for him, they took the balance and considered this to be the rent. The rent was then capitalised at 2i per cent. So, for example, if a farm had an assessed rental of $600 the capital value was given as 40 times this figure, or $24,000. This method was changed in keeping with the findings of what was referred to as the Payne report, and it is no wonder that this report has never been published and is still marked ‘confidential’. As disclosed on page 36 of the report, the select committee found that the amount that could reasonably have been expected to be available from the income of dairy farmers to meet commitments with the settlement authorities was $200 a year. Even if we do not allow for a figure to meet the advances made to the settler and accept this as the basic rental figure for the scheme used by the Commonwealth Department, the capital value of these farms would have been $8,000.
When we look more closely into this it is easy to see why all the procedures were changed in an attempt to minimise any further write-down. I could best explain this by pointing out that, where the cost of the farm exceeds the capital value as determined by the budget method that I have mentioned, the excess cost of development is written off. The loss incurred in this is shared between the Commonwealth and the agent State in the proportion of threefifths to two-fifths. The capital value as determined by the budget method served no other purpose than to come up with a figure for the amount to be written off. However, as the committee points out, a high level of rents became a very important factor in increasing capital valuations and reducing the loss on development costs and the subsequent write-off. So later, when the valuation officers set an option of purchase price, we notice that there is a very close relationship between the option of purchase price and the rental based capital value determined by the budget method. The higher the rent that could be demanded, the higher the capital value and the lower the loss on development and consequently the lower the write-off by the Commonwealth and the State.
The Commonwealth Treasury had a vested interest in maintaining high rentals under the method adopted by the Commonwealth of fixing capital valuations from rents. Right from the start the authorities adopted as a level of rentals 2i per cent of capital value. They should have calculated the capital value by accepted valuation procedures, then deducted the cost of the structures and taken 2i per cent off this as rent. However, they chose to work in the reverse manner, much to the detriment of the settlers and the farmers. As the select committee points out, this method cannot be condoned. Whereas we had 170-odd people on King Island in the good days of settlement, now we have barely 70 people in the settlement areas. Even the valuation officers themselves realised that the malpractices were taking place once their reports reached Canberra and this is referred to in a letter on file in the Tasmanian Branch of the Returned Services League. There is no doubt that the legal right to determine the option prices rests with the State Government. There is every evidence to point to the fact that the Commonwealth Government acted illegally in demanding that the option prices should go to Canberra for determination and approval.
When questioned on this matter at a State Congress of the Returned Services League in Devonport, Mr Wherret, the Acting Director of War Service Land Settlement in Tasmania, said that he did not see the option of purchase prices at all because they had to go to Canberra. The implication is that they had to go to Canberra for adjustment. We believe that the only fair method to be adopted now in order to clean up the whole sorry mess is for the Government to accept the State valuation nearest to the date of occupancy. This figure is available and from it we should take the book entry for the advances for improvements and for the value of the structures on the farm in order to determine the option price available to the farmer.
The annual rent should then be recalculated at 21 per cent of the option price and the reduced rentals should apply retrospectively to the date of the allotment of the holding to the settler. I have given in this House numerous examples indicating how the settlers have been so unjustly discriminated against under the system used by the Commonwealth. Recently I was very pleased to receive a submission from an eminent barrister drawing attention to this matter and I shall refer in detail to some of the cases that he has investigated. He has taken the option price set by this Government together with the structure conversion figure. This is essential to get a fair comparison with the State valuation figure that I will cite and that which is based on the farm as a complete unit. In the first case the Commonwealth value as the debt to the settler amounts to $34,812. The State valuation figure is $25,200. The variation in favour of the Commonwealth is $9,612. In the second case the Commonwealth figure is $34,812, the capital value set by the State is $22,000 and the variation in favour of the Commonwealth is $12,812. In the next case the Commonwealth figure is $34,623, the State valuation is $25,000 and the variation in favour of the Commonwealth is $9,623. We maintain that these figures have been dummied up to suit the conditions imposed by the Treasury.
I return to the question of rentals and valuations. As one of the Commonwealth valuation officers revealed, the rentals and the valuations were corrupted by Commonwealth officers to suit the demands made by the Treasury. Years of investigation by us, backed up by the court case in South Australia and by the Select Committee in Tasmania, support these charges. Only one course is open to the Government.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Australian Country Party supports the Bill which was introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). It indicates the concern of the Government for the welfare of soldier settlers in general and particularly soldier settlers in trouble in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The Minister in his second reading speech referred to the complex technical agricultural problems that have arisen at such places as Kangaroo Island. He mentioned the investigations already made which have prompted this legislation. He also mentioned the need for these investigations to continue and for flexible administration so that changes can be made as necessary. This is a far more sensible approach than that of the Australian Labor Party which seeks the appointment of a select committee of the House of Representatives. Such a select committee would have no hope of matching the technical expertise already available to overcome these problems. In addition to the specialist technical agricultural advice already being used there is the considerable financial and budgetary knowledge of the State administering authorities.
The proposed amendment also mentions future land settlement schemes. The Murray electorate contains several hundred soldier settlers and over 100 more have been settled under the more recently established civilian land settlement scheme of the Victorian Government. These are fine people, good citizens and good farmers, as I am sure are the soldier settlers in the other States, including those referred to in the Bill. Victoria ensured that these settlers were provided with a viable living area. I believe that part of the problem with some of these schemes has been the failure of the State government - usually a Labor government - to provide a viable living area.
I would hope that any talk about future land settlement schemes - such as that in the proposed amendment - would concentrate more on the provision of adequate credit for settlers to buy existing properties than on the development of closer settlement schemes as the amendment suggests; that is for the development of the single unit system that has been available in the past schemes. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in the near future at either Federal or State level, or at both levels, a serious study will have to be made of a credit incentive scheme to encourage young people to enter farming. The Australian Agricultural Council is a suitable body to hold such a discussion.
The average age of Australian farmers is rising, lt is not as high as it is in Europe, but it is already uncomfortably high. Insufficient numbers of young people are entering agriculture for the continuance of a balanced and dynamic agricultural industry in this country. The main problem is the capital required for young people to enter the industry. If young people in adequate numbers are not encouraged to enter the industry we will run into problems similar to those being encountered in agriculture in Europe. One has only to compare the level of efficiency of agriculture in the European Economic Community countries and study the manifold problems there in order to realise how fortunate we are to have a balanced agricultural industry. I ask the Minister to consider this proposition, not just for the future of farming but for the future of this country as the provider of an efficient agricultural work force and an efficient agricultural production unit. I support the legislation and reject the amendment.
– The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that at this stage he did not see that any further development in settlement was warranted in our country. I think that his negative note marks the difference between the approach of the Government and that of the Opposition. We foresee a future for the countryside and an orderly expansion of development. We support the Bill before the House which provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6.5m for war service land settlement in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during 1972-73, but I most enthusiastically endorse the amendment put forward for the second time in this Parliament by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I seconded the original amendment. I again enthusiastically second and support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. It states:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of opinion that a select committee of the House should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement in Australia in order to formulate guidelines for any future land settlement scheme.’
There are some urgencies about this matter and about the inquiry. We have heard from the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) some very cogent reasons. 1 submit that the existence of about 4,000 settlers in New South Wales who are rebelling against current conditions and edicts reinforces the need for urgency. About 600 members of the Closer Settlement Association and their families have been settled on the land by the Government. They have put forward very clearly details of their position in relation to rentals which they submit are too high. They have decided to withhold all rentals until reductions are effected. There is some morality on their side because they well remember that the present New South Wales Minister for Lands and the present New South Wales Minister for Agriculture on 2 occasions, in 1960 and 1963, attacked the then government for raising rents from 2i per cent to 5 per cent and they pointed out that this would make the whole scheme inoperable. In fact they spoke very strongly in favour of that adjustment. Now they are in a position to put their words into action. They have not done so. Those 600 families have said: ‘Well, we will stay by the words of those members as members and not as Ministers.’ So you have got that situation.
One of the greatest soldier settlement schemes in the whole continent of Australia was the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. It came into being as a crucible for experimentation in both the agriculture and the social spheres. There is no doubt that a great many mistakes were made. There were mistakes - and this may sound strange in this place - that were not political mistakes as such. They were basically mistakes of lack of knowledge, lack of know-how, and a lack of understanding of soil and water relationships. It was a great experiment. It was the first time in the history of Australia that a vast tract of country in the semi-arid zone had been put under intensive irrigation and irrigation culture. It was a great experiment and that experiment is continuing. From time to time there have been attempts to close it down, once in the days of the depression when an overseas mission brought out by the then Federal Government headed by Mr Bruce came and examined it and said: It would be a very good thing to phase it out - to finish it.’ There was a Premier by the name of Mr J. T. Lang who heeded the request of the area and the settlers at the time and said: ‘No, I do not think we will yield to that particular request from the overseas mission.’ He used his authority together with the then Minister for Agriculture, Captain Billy Dunne, to put the irrigation areas and the land settlement scheme on a proper and sound basis.
Incidentally, there was also at that time a royal commission which was the last major effort I know of to tackle these problems. It was the Pike royal commission which was held 3 decades ago or more. Mr Justice Pike came up with recommendations that were accepted by the Commonwealth and by the States at that time. I might say that the Pike royal commission addressed itself to the duty and the responsibility of settlers in relation to capital works. One of the findings of that royal commission was that the settlers should not be liable to pay either the principal or the interest for State capital works such as dams, canals and other major works of that nature. The commission said this was not the responsibility of the settlers as such because water was a multipurpose commodity and it could not be divided up like a sausage and the costs apportioned to one section of the community alone.
The Pike royal commission was a very valuable exercise. 1 repeat that the Commonwealth and the States accepted the findings of that commission at the time, but it seems to me that over the years the results of that inquiry have been set to one side and this has led to a second revolt in the State of New South Wales by soldier settlers and people in closer settlement situations, particularly in the Murrumbidgee Valley and in the Murray Valley where water charges have been made by the State authority which have not been directly and specifically related to the operation of the areas but in fact were pitched at a level which meant and has meant that the settlers have been requested to make contributions to capital works and to interest on them. This was in direct conflict with the last rate inquiry that was carried out, but it has been done. The revolt has gone ahead because it has been said: ‘No, we will not pay the increase. It is unjust and uncalled for.’ Settlers in all their organisations have joined together in a remarkable display of unity to say that these things should be more properly examined. They have appealed for an examination of the operations in the Murrumbidgee Valley and in the Murray Valley. They said that this should be the subject of an inquiry.
This proposal which we advance to the Parliament tonight could be just 3u:h an inquiry. I am not attempting to sheet home to the Minister for Primary Industry responsibility for the matters I have just touched on except that the Commonwealth has made the funds available and therefore if there is no direct legal responsibility - I accept that there is not-
– Not for Coleambally.
– Not for Coleambally?
– You included Coleambally.
– I have not dealt with Coleambally but I will refer to it in a moment.
– It has nothing to do with the Bill.
– It has a great deal to do with the amendment which we have moved. The Minister may have forgotten about the amendment. He might remember that we have asked for the appointment of a select committee to review all aspects of war service land settlement in Australia.
– It is not a war service land settlement scheme.
– Coleambally happens to have some veterans from Vietnam who incidentally were national servicemen. So there is a commitment there. There is a commitment wherever there are exservicemen. Surely this can be accepted in the terms of our amendment. I hope that the Minister will not run away from that. I am not trying to say - I come back to my point - that he has a legal responsibility in this regard but surely there is a moral responsibility inasmuch as Commonwealth funds were involved and have been involved over the years. I am not, as I said very clearly at the beginning, attempting to suggest that errors of omission and commission have been political errors in every instance. Of course they have not been. The Minister in his second reading speech has, I think, given the greatest possible support to our contention that there should be an inquiry. If I may recall the words of the Minister in his second reading speech, he said:
The problems of the Kangaroo Island settlers arise from a combination of physical and biological problems.
He went on to refer to the incidence of clover disease. This was something that obviously had not been provided for in the original planning, either financially or physically. I accept that this was an error made in good faith. There were such errors that had to be corrected in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. As the Minister has mentioned Coleambally, there were errors there which were quite unrelated to political considerations but were related to technical considerations. I hope that the Minister accepts that that is the position.
– The errors to which you refer are quite unrelated to the war service land settlement scheme.
– I am not suggesting that the war service land settlement scheme should be looked at tonight in isolation. T am suggesting, in the terms of our amendment which is properly before the House, that the inquiry should look at all aspects of land settlement. Wherever exservicemen are settled surely that is where we should be looking. I hope that the Minister is not suggesting that, if the Parliament in its wisdom accepts the amendment and an inquiry is carried out, he would debar from that inquiry exservicemen who are settled in the areas to which T have referred. Surely it is only fair, just and right for them to be heard. Surely we do not want to be bound or imprisoned by dead legalism.
I want to draw attention to the fact that the Minister himself in his second reading speech referred to the technical problems that have arisen. I understand only too well how they can arise because in areas such as Coleambally technical problems have arisen in relation to horticulture. They have arisen in relation to the rice areas where there are problems associated with soil and prior streams which have created difficulties for permanent intensive culture in some locations. That is a very nice technical statement, but it does mean that there are families and settlers in those locations who are in trouble. Again I draw attention to the fact that in 1956 we had a disaster of considerable magnitude in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area as a result of the wettest season in 100 years. A rehabilitation scheme which placed people on new farms was undertaken in an area called Kooba and in an area called Cudgel. In both of those locations there were high hopes that rehabilitation would be effective. In fact, because of technical considerations that were not identified at the time, a critical situation has arisen whereby people who have put 7 years of their life and have sunk their savings into the scheme are not getting their return. This situation has arisen simply because of lack of hoped for reaction by the soil to the cultivations which were recommended and which were followed.
I appeal to the Parliament to support the Opposition’s concept of an inquiry. From my own point of view, I think such an inquiry would review existing closer settlement schemes throughout Australia. It would embrace war service land settlement md all of the closer settlement experience we have had in this country. It would give an opportunity to review the management and operation of irrigation areas and districts and to assess, for example, the need for government charges at present levels. This is very germane to what the honourable member for Braddon said. He referred to the position caused by high rentals. I have referred to that position also. So there is no point in dealing with these areas and these problems in isolation. I would hope that the inquiry would review the experience that has been gained in the Coleambally irrigation area and enable consideration to be given to a reassessment of the settlers needs in that area. I would hope, too, that it would review the technical problems not only of Coleambally but also of Cudgel and Kooba to which 1 have referred. All of these farms were created by the State and all have failed to measure up to the hopes and aspirations of the settlers and to the blueprint of government.
There is no, doubt at all of the need for this national review. The Opposition has moved for it repeatedly. I hope that the proposal will be accepted on this occasion. I hope that it will be accepted for another reason, and that is that the whole matter of closer settlement in our country - the whole matter of irrigation for that matter - is under question. Suggestions have been made that this should be phased out, that there are too many settlers and too much production. I would hope that an inquiry would be able to attend to some of the criticisms that have been made, particularly by the suburban lobbyists who seem to feel that all development should cease on the outskirts of the metropolitan areas. This is a unique opportunity for us to complete some of the great works that were put in hand, such as the great investigation work that was carried out by Mr Justice Pike. I commend the Opposition’s amendment. I have had the pleasure of seconding it for the second time. I have indicated the range of the problems before the country and before the Parliament. This is one constructive way of tackling these problems, and I commend the amendment to the Parliament.
– I rise to support the Opposition’s amendment. I will confine my remarks to what, in my mind, obviously are the archaic and outmoded policies of this Government insofar as exservicemen are concerned. I was interested in a remark made by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) who raised the question of the need for the Government to have a credit incentive scheme for younger people. I assume that he means younger ex-servicemen. If he means the veterans of Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, then I am very much afraid that whilst he supports that proposition the Government he supports certainly does not.
– He knows nothing about it.
– It is pretty obvious that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) does not. It is remarkable that it took 3 Ministers to give a competent reply to 2 simple, reasonable questions which I directed to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) last Thursday. The first question I asked the Minister was:
Are volunteers who served in Vietnam denied the benefits of the retraining scheme for national servicemen who served in Vietnam?
The second question was:
Are both national servicemen and volunteers excluded from the benefits of the war service land settlement scheme?
Initially the question was farmed out to the Minister for Repatriation who had some difficulty in answering it. Subsequently he was obliged to come into the House in the afternoon and submit an explanatory statement. The facts stated in the question that I asked are correct. At the same time the question fell to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to answer. I shall read part of the
Minister’s answer to the House. I hope that I will not be taking it out of context in doing so. I was obliged to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who directed a subsequent question to the Minister for Primary Industry in the following terms:
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Hawker. Are national servicemen and members of the volunteer forces who served in Vietnam eligible for war service land settlement re-establishment? If they are not eligible, will the Minister confirm that ex-servicemen of the First World War, the Second World War and Korea were given this advantage? If those who served in Vietnam are not entitled to the same consideration and assistance in this respect will the Minister say why the Government has adopted a discriminatory practice against those who served in Vietnam compared with those who served in other wars in which Australia was involved?
The first part of the Minister’s answer is irrelevant to this matter, but in his answer the Minister went on to say:
It is true that it was felt that in the case of Vietnam servicemen, whether members of the Regular Army or national servicemen, to provide the benefits under the war service land settlement scheme would not necessarily give them the opportunities that most of them would like to have if they were to go on the land. Accordingly, what the Government has done is provide for national servicemen funds which can bc allocated to them to enable them to set up in a particular business. I cannot recall the exact sum, but my recollection is that there has been a greater sum of money provided for national servicemen engaged in primary production than for those going into other businesses. The range of benefits available to national servicemen is not entirely within my responsibility, although the part relating to the war service land settlement scheme is. It is true that there is no facility available under the war service land settlement scheme for national servicemen, but it is not true that there are no funds available for those who are going into some type of agricultural venture.
It is obvious that the Government’s current policies which are outmoded and archaic in this context could affect tens of thousands of Australians who have served this country since 1945. Some 50,000 servicemen were involved in the Vietnam conflict alone and, according to the Government, they do not rate any concessions at all under this scheme. A large proportion of those servicemen were forced to serve in Vietnam; they went there not by choice but by an act of this Government. I think it is an indictment of the Government that it took 3 Ministers to make somewhere near a responsible and competent reply to my questions.
What is the factual position in relation to retraining? Perhaps the Minister could have made some observation on this point. Regular servicemen are entitled to 3 months leave at the end of their service on full-time engagement, but they are not entitled to any agricultural loan whatsoever. Vet national servicemen are entitled to a training period of up to 2 years on a parttime basis or 1 year on a full-time basis. A national serviceman further is entitled to a re-establishment loan. I ask the Minister: Why is there this distinction? Was there any distinction between ex-servicemen from the First World War and the Second World War, whether in fact they were regulars or were called up? Is there any distinction between the man who fought in Vietnam and the man who fought in the Second World War? If not, why the distinction on this occasion? What is the factual position? Who, in fact, is eligible to participate in the war service land settlement scheme? Perhaps we can have a look at the facts.
– Not everyone was entitled to it after World War II either.
– Those that were eligible have a right to apply. On this occasion the Government has not made that concession available. So let us get our facts correct. The war service land settlement scheme no longer provides funds to enable war veterans to take up agricultural holdings. The scheme, and any new grants made under it, applies only to those veterans who were eligible for assistance under it prior to I960.
– Why the discrimination?
– That is the point I am coming to. Under the war service land settlement scheme introduced after the 1939-45 war, the Commonwealth Government provided moneys to the States for land settlement of returned servicemen. Since 1960 the scheme has continued mainly as a credit arrangement for development, working expenses and purchases of stock and plant and for developments - for example, irrigation - in particular war service land settlement areas. Redemption payments in 1963-64 have been returned to Consolidated Revenue and are not available for reinvestment in the scheme.
In effect, there are no Commonwealth funds available under this scheme to assist returned regular soldiers who wish to take up agricultural occupations - none at all. National servicemen, whether or not they are veterans of a foreign war, are eligible for assistance under the Defence (Re.establishment Act 1965-68. I ask the Minister: Why? I would like an answer at the conclusion of my speech. Under the terms of the Act, a national serviceman may apply for an agricultural loan to a maximum of $6,000. That is the only provision in the Act under which he can apply for a loan of $6,000. For professions other than in agriculture there is a limit of $3,000. Interest is payable on these loans at the rate of 4.5 per cent. By 31st August this year 334 loans under the scheme had been approved to former national servicemen. The total amount paid was almost $2m. None of this, of course, was paid to regular servicemen.
To qualify something that was said by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), let me give a classic example of where these provisions should apply. I refer to regular servicemen who would like to apply for blocks in Cooltong, which is not far away from Renmark in South Australia. A constituent of mine who went along to the Government department to apply for a block under the war service land settlement scheme was told that he was not eligible. As I understand it, in the early 1950s some 50 ex-servicemen from World War II started the Cooltong settlement. I am conversant with this scheme having covered the channel from Waikerie to Jervois in South Australia. It was started with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government under the war service land settlement scheme, and the South Australian Department of Lands acts in effect as agent for the Commonwealth. The blocks were established with the aid of long term loans over some 45 years with interest payable at the rate of 3 J per cent.
Many settlers still have outstanding mortgages as high as S20,000. In the main, if one of the blocks is sold the outstanding mortgage must be paid out. But where block values can be $40,000, or even more, a settler can often be forced to stay on his block because it is difficult for a potential buyer to find such a large mortgage on purchase. If younger exservicemen, particularly those from Vietnam, were able to establish eligibility to take over existing mortgages many more of the original settlers would be able to sell their blocks. This would not involve the Commonwealth in the outlay of extra finance and would result in the injection of younger men with younger ideas into the industry which could well profit from the infusion. If a settler walks off his block, other settlers in the area or their immediate families are given first choice of purchase by paying 15 per cent deposit and taking over the existing mortgage. If this option is not taken up such a holding is then . sold at auction. Terms can be arranged on 30 per cent deposit with the remainder over 7 or 8 years.
But what is the current position? These blocks are being bought by syndicates - Wall Street farmers, Brougham Place farmers and North Terrace farmers. This is what is currently happening in this area, and because of the Government’s lack of policy, ex-servicemen, particularly regular, servicemen, are denied the opportunity to take up holdings and become part of the settlement area. The second point that arises is that the syndicates inflate the prices of the blocks, and individuals often are not able to compete or are not in a position to afford the capital expenditure necessary to make the holding a viable economic proposition. If post-1945 exservicemen were able with priority to establish eligibility to take over existing mortgages, current settlers, most of whom are in their 50s and many of whom do not have families interested in taking over the blocks, could sell to the younger men who are perhaps fitter and more able to keep this part of the fruit industry alive and progressive in the increasingly competitive atmosphere of today.
The point I now wish to raise, to confirm the Minister’s thinking on this matter, relates to a publication of the Department of Labour and National Service entitled ‘Re-establishment Benefits for
National Servicemen’. Pages 13 and 14 deal with eligibility ratings and re-establishment loans. It reads:
A re-establishment loan may be made to a national serviceman where this is necessary to enable him to re-establish himself in a business, profession or occupation, including farming, in which he was engaged on his own account, as an active member of a partnership, as a share farmer or as a contract worker prior to call-up, or was prevented from so engaging because of call-up, or in any case where the administering authority, the Repatriation Department for business loans, and the Department of Primary Industry for agricultural loans considers it desirable in the circumstances of the case to grant a loan. A loan may be granted to a national serviceman who is in need of financial assistance:
To purchase or lease any land, premises or business.
To improve land.
To purchase or hire tools of trade, stock, plant. equipment or livestock.
To reduce a debt on property to be used in business.
To complete terms of a hire-purchase agreement in respect of property to be used in business.
To pay any subscription or fee to qualify for engagement or resumption in an occupation, business or practice.
Otherwise to establish or re-establish himself in civil life by engaging in or resuming a business, occupation or practice.
Loans will be available up to a maximum amount of $3,000 except for agricultural purposes, where the limit will be $6,000. The rate of interest on loans is currently 4½ per cent, the first $100 being interest-free. Adequate security or guarantees for a loan will he required.
I will not read it all but I want to make one last quotation from the document. It says:
A national serviceman who, while performing national service, enlists in the Regular Forces is not eligible for a re-establishment loan.
How can the Minister or his Government possibly justify such discrimination? Not only is there a distinction between a national serviceman and a regular serviceman but there is also a provision which totally and utterly debars a national serviceman from this concession the moment he decides to become a regular serviceman. I ask the Minister at this late hour whether his Government will immediately take steps to remove this ridiculous anomaly or give an explanation as to how it is justified.
Mr LLOYD (Murray) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Hawker. When I spoke of a credit incentive scheme for young farming people I was not referring to exservicemen as he claims. I meant that such a scheme should be available to young people generally who were desirous of entering farming. I did so because of its importance, because the general land settlement policies had been mentioned in the Opposition amendment, and not one of the Opposition speakers had thought it either important enough or knew enough about the subject to mention it.
– in reply - The debate tonight has ranged over a series of issues related to closer settlement. I think that the closing commentary by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) is of very real significance when we look at the nature of the problem that this Bill is intended to encompass. The difficulties in agriculture are well known to all of us who have been associated with the rural community. We all appreciate that the very marked slump in wool returns in 1971, the decline in wheat production as a result of the introduction of wheat quotas and the difficulties experienced in selling particularly sheep and lamb created very real difficulties. In circumstances of that order there was a general acceptance in this Parliament and in the community that we needed to look at our agricultural scene quite critically. We needed to look at it in order to ensure that the people who were on the land in all their different sectors could again be restored to economic operation and instead of being dependent almost entirely in some instances, on State or Commonwealth assistance should receive prices for the goods they produced sufficient to enable them to sustain themselves and to make a positive contribution to the community, as they have always done. I believe that the product of what has happened is that there has been a very significant recovery in agriculture in the last 6 months.
– I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition needs to take a look at the wool market at the moment. He may then see what 1 am talking about. The product of this improvement is that many of those in the farming community again are able to operate profitably. But we would be foolish if we thought that by the continued break up of holdings we would be able to operate profitably on all holdings irrespective of their size. One of the real tragedies of the land subdivision schemes in Australia has been that regrettably many of the means of agriculture on those properties have either not been adequately researched or knowledge has not been available at the time those settlement schemes were developed. This B;11 is designed to assist some of the settlers who have been prejudiced because of that lack of knowledge. The Bill does not preclude extension of aid in other areas where assistance might be needed. Rather it demonstrates that there is a recognition by the Commonwealth Government of deficiencies in some areas of closer settlement which need correction. It is for that reason that this specific measure has been introduced.
I am delighted that at least by its amendment the Opposition is not denying the passage of this Bill. The Opposition is seeking an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill but is supporting the Government’s proposals. It is essential that we recognise that in closer settlement there have been very real problems and that this Bill is designed to alleviate the difficulties that some of the settlers on those holdings now experience. There has been, I think, in the statements here today, a recognition that generally a great deal of good has been done under the war service land settlement scheme. Undoubtedly a tremendous amount of good has been done through the closer settlement schemes that have been developed over the years. I am now canvassing some of the problems that have beset those in particular areas. There are problems, and nobody is denying them, but it is also true that there are difficulties if one looks only at the one side of the ledger. I think it is interesting to note in the figures which have been extracted from the Commonwealth Year Book that excess costs which have been written off with respect to war service land settlement schemes at the moment represent about $53m. Within the figures that I propose to table - they are a compilation of figures from the Year Book - is a series of references to the number of settlers, the acreage acquired and so on. They might be of interest to members in this place. They demonstrate that more than 9.000 settlers have settled on the land and that while there are problem areas many of those settlers obviously have been able to make a significant contribution to Australian agriculture and have been able to operate profitably. I think the scheme needs to be seen in that light. Indeed, I regretted the comment made by one member of the Opposition, who cast derogatory references with respect to one particular officer of my Department. I believe that each of the officers within my Department works to the best of his ability and that each one of them, while there might be areas within which he might have been inhibited or within which he has not been able to perform the task which has been allotted to him, has nonetheless done the best that he can in the circumstances that prevail. Accordingly, I would completely reject allegations made against any members of my Department.
As to the Tasmanian select committee’s report, in the context in which these references were made I think first it needs to be stated that it was a select committee of the Tasmanian Legislative Council.
– What is wrong with that?
– I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might be interested to know that the report was submitted, not 2 years ago as he seems to believe but in December 1971, and that this report canvassed a number of particular problems as seen by those who inquired into settlement in Tasmania. The problems certainly are such that I am afraid that for our part we challenge some of the recommendations that have been made. 1 have replied to the Tasmanian Government to this effect. The debt position of most of the settlers in Australia fortunately has improved significantly since the report was made. I think it also needs to be seen that there has been a range of assistance, some of which ante-dated by some considerable time that report, which has been designed to alleviate the problems of those settlers. For example, there is a financial management scheme operating in Tasmania under which finance on very concessional terms is available to soldier settlers. Nonetheless, there are problems in the horticultural sector and some of those, I believe, also will be relieved as a result of the legislation which is about to be introduced into this House with respect to a tree pull extension of rural reconstruction. Of course, the settlers are also receiving assistance within the apple and pear stabilisation scheme.
With respect to areas other than Kangaroo Island, because this Bill itself canvasses the one particular area it is by no means intended by the Government that all other areas should be neglected. Indeed, I have made it clear in this Parliament on other occasions, and will do so again, that there are problems in many areas of agriculture. There are specific problems affecting some soldier settlers. While the Tasmanian select committee’s report has not been accepted because of some areas where we find the grounds on which it has based its case have not been a true reflection of the circumstances, there are still difficulties in Tasmania, on King Island, on Flinders Island and in other areas of settlement on the mainland throughout Australia. It is intended that we shall continue to pursue the studies which, as in this instance, are producing positive programmes of assistance which demonstrably will assist to alleviate the adverse circumstances in which soldier settlers find themselves.
The honourable member for Hawker has made a number of specific requests with respect to assistance that is currently available under the war service land settlement scheme. He suggested that the provisions of the scheme currently should be available for those who served in Vietnam and presumably, although he did not mention it, he would wish that the same assistance should be available for those who have served overseas, for example in Korea and Malaya, who were similarly excluded from the scheme.
– I said that.
– I am sorry; I did not realise that you did include them. Neither the servicemen in the Korea and Malaya campaigns nor those in the Vietnam campaign have been eligible for war service land settlement assistance. The reasons that they had been excluded have been the difficulties that have been associated with closer settlement schemes and the fact that in many instances, while a great deal has been achieved from these close settlement proposals, it has not been felt that the circumstances of their relatively shorter period of service in the instance of many of them justified the same sort of assistance that was provided following the 1939-45 war. In addition, in regard to members of the Australian Regular Army, there has been a conception, which I believe is quite justified, that those who are in the regular Services should look on their service there as a career. It should not be regarded as a passage by which they move into other forms of civilian employment, other than at the time when the/ have concluded their career in the Services. At that time they should be eligible for the full range of repatriation facilities which is their due as a result of their service outside Australia. There is in addition a field within which they can be given special assistance because of the training they received during the completion of their career commitment as full time members of the Services. But there is a distinction between a national serviceman and a person who is a member of the Australian Reguluar Army, the Navy or the Air Force in that in each of the armed Services there is an opportunity for a full time career for those who belong to them.
On the other hand, the careers of national servicemen are being interrupted and because they are interrupted there is provided a special range of assistance which enables them to be re-established. The period of service of national servicemen is significantly less than that to which most servicemen were committed in the 1939-45 war and it is for that reason that their rehabilitation facilities have been of a different character. In regard to agriculture, the Bill contains a provision, to which the honourable member for Hawker referred, for a loan up to $6,000 to assist exservicemen in re-establishing themselves in a suitable agricultural occupation.
The provisions of the Bill are designed specifically to and do specifically accommodate the difficulties that have emerged as a result of problems in regard to scientific investigations into the oestrogen deficiencies in the pastures of Kangaroo Island. As a result of the provisions of this Bill there is to be a capacity for partial remission of rent during the period of scientific investigations. There is to be a provision for fodder conservation facilities and for funds to bs advanced at the concessional rate of 3i per cent for that purpose. There is to be same recasting of accounts and provision made for stock mortgages to be taken up under the war service land settlement scheme to assist those settlers who are having difficulties in operating in the normal way.
The whole function of this Bill is specifically to assist those who have had problems in this area. It is recognised that there are different problems in different areas. The same situation is not equally applicable to other areas. It is for that reason that we an looking at the entire range of assistance necessary in each of the soldier settlement schemes. I have mentioned in this House that I have asked my Department to examine the position of all soldier settlers to see whether other assistance or alleviation of their present terms and conditions of occupancy of their holdings should be provided in order to ensure that they can operate profitably and can achieve the objectives that the scheme was designed to achieve when it was created.
Let there be no doubt that war service land settlement has made a significant contribution to the rehabilitation of exservicemen. Inquiries are being undertaken into areas of deficiency and this Bill reflects the result of some of those inquiries. 1 believe that as a result of this type of action there is every reason for soldier settlers who are in difficulties to feel confident that their particular problems will be accommodated. I do not see that a select committee of this House would have the competence to undertake the sort of inquiry that the Opposition’s amendment is designed to implement. A select committee of this House would not have the necessary agri cultural expertise. It would not have the capacity to examine the sorts of problems that this Bill is designed to combat. It is true that there are areas where further inquiries are necessary, and I would hope that as a result of those inquiries we might be able to present before this House whatever other modifications may be necessary to assist soldier settlers. But I do not believe that an inquiry of the character that this amendment proposes would achieve the objective of ensuring that in each of the soldier settler areas there should be the sort of assistance provided that is justified in all the circumstances.
The war service land settlement scheme already provides very concessional terms and conditions of finance and operation of holdings by comparison with those operating in other areas. Those who know the circumstances of closer settlement schemes of other characters will recognise that the soldier settler generally is in a highly preferred position, and justifiably so. But irrespective of the justification, it is necessary that we ensure that they are not put in a position where they are unable to operate as far as possible in the normal context of those who work and live on the land today. lt is for that reason that they are in no way denied the benefits of schemes of other characters that are introduced. For example, they are not denied the assistance that is provided by the rural reconstruction or the tree-pull scheme that I envisaged earlier in my closing remarks. For that reason 1 do not believe that the amendment proposed by the Opposition would meet the needs of soldier settlers today and the Government therefore does not propose that it be accepted. Before concluding, 1 spoke earlier with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) about incorporating some figures which may be of interest to honourable members. They are taken from the Commonwealth Year Book and I ask leave of ‘he House to incorporate the document in Hansard.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720919_reps_27_hor80/>.