28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy.-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Birrell.
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 respectively sheweth:
Infants toilet facilities (these have been condemned for the past seven years by medical authorities). Linoleum covering to floors. (Condition is at present dangerous to children).
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that y,our Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for education services and (ti) 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 Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Office policy of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the Public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices which is detrimental to the public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
And your petitioners, as in duty, bound, will ever pray. by Mr Olley.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House censures the Government for jeopardising Australian security and injuring our reputation as a reliable ally by:
vacillating on Australia’s troop commitment to the Five Power Arrangements, thereby calling into question Australia’s commitment and
the action of the Prime Minister in making public information concerning Australia’s security, for the purpose of relieving the Government from pressures exerted on it to withdraw all troops, contrary to its stated intention, by persons both in the Government and outside the Government, and foi failing to adhere to the Cabinet system by permitting statements by Ministers about matters outside their own ministerial responsibilities, and which are offensive to other countries.
– I wish to inform the House that I accept the notice of motion given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as a censure of the Government for the purposes of standing order 110.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of censure of the Government of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
– I move:
That this House censures the Government for jeopardising Australian security and injuring our reputation as a reliable ally by:
vacillating on Australia’s troop commitment to the Five Power Arrangements, thereby calling into question Australia’s commitment and
the actios of the Prime Minister in making public information concerning Australia’s security, for the purpose of relieving the Government from pressures exerted on it to withdraw all troops, contrary to its stated intention, by persons both in the Government andoutside the Government, and for failing to adhere to the Cabinet system by permitting statements by Ministers about matters outside their own ministerial responsibilities, and which are offensive to other countries.
The recent actions of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Government deserve the censure of this House. The Government has a mandate to govern according to the tenor of its proposals made before the elections. It represented itself to be responsible; its mandate requires no less. We will not obstruct policies which we believe Australians want and for which a mandate exists. Equally, we will not stand by passively and watch the Prime Minister and the Government eroding our defence capacity, our relations with trusted and valued allies, our international reputation and our fundamental democratic institutions. The Government has no mandate for a derilection of duty.
It is most unexpected that a Government should have acted so badly so soon after its election - a performance so poor as to deserve censure in the first week of the new Parliament. Our allies were led to believe that Australia would support the. Five Power Arrangements. On 5th February the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) repeated the policy promise that the Government had decided to honour the full terms of the Five Power Arrangements and that this had been confirmed to Lord Carrington, British Defence Minister, on his visit to Australia.
Lord Carrington said -
We have come to the conclusion that despite this action we think the Five Power Arrangement is worth going on with and it makes sense and we shall do so.
Lord Carrington added, however, that Britain would have to re-open the whole question of its commitment if Australia withdraws all its troops. The phrase ‘honour the full terms’ clearly means more to the British partners in the Arrangements thanit does to the Labor Party. Clearly Britain at least is unsure of what is intended by the Australian Labor Party and continues to plan for the future while the ALP power struggle on this issue continues. The Governor-General’s Speech reaffirming the intention advances the understanding no further.
On 5th February 1973 the Minister for Defence said that he had always indicated that there would be a need for some continuing Australian logistic and training assistance in the area after the withdrawal of the battalion and battery. This force, he said, would also embrace personnel to facilitate the joint training and exercising which would be an important part of Government policy in relation to the countries of the area.
The next day, at a Press conference,the Prime Minister confirmed his statement made at an earlier Press conference on 30th January that 500 to 600 troops will remain in Singapore. The statement by the Minister for Defence yesterday, in answer to a question, is at variance with that statement of the Prime Minister. I quote the Prime Minister:
I’m surprised that there’s been a great number of figures given as to the number of soldiers that will remain. I was asked last time whether there’d be 500 or 600. I said ‘yes’. That’s the total number, and that’s all forces.
That is as clear and unequivocal a comment as a Prime Minister can make. The very next day it was reported that Left wing Labor members of the Parliament wanted to challenge the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence about the Army support force to remain in Singapore.
It may not have been by coincidence that on Sunday, 11th February, 1973, an article written by a respected gallery journalist, Mr Fred Brenchley of the ‘National Times’ said that the support element to stay in Singapore would include personnel manning a secret intelligence unit. He said that this electronics intelligence unit had been a major factor in the Whitlam Government’s decision to retain between SOO and 600 defence personnel in Singapore despite the withdrawal of the Austraiian battalion. Brenchley wrote:
That Defence officials were understood to have told the Government it was not possible to replace the Singapore intelligence unit by using alternative sites until 1975; that the unit had 160 personnel; that it had 10 New Zealanders in its ranks.
It was apparent that Mr Brenchley was helped with information for some deliberate purpose. At the same time the Prime Minister was feeling the pressure of the forces of the ALP who were hostile to the concept of any troops in Singapore. This power was shown up in the Victorian Council of the ALP which met on the very day the Brenchley article appeared. The Council endorsed a motion from its leftwing faction which ‘noted with regret’ statements by the Minister for Defence ‘concerning the retention of a large number of support troops in Singapore’.
The motion said, among other things:
Bearing in mind the tragedy of Vietnam, we are most concerned at the possible effects of continuing military commitments in Asia or elsewhere.
We are also of the view that the Singapore Government is anti-democratic and that Australian military association with Singapore is incompatable with Labor principles.
The Prime Minister had defended the stationing of some Australian troops in Singapore as being consistent with the constitution, platform and rules set out at the last Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party in Launceston. The Prime Minister is unequivocally bound by those documents. He admits that his policy decisions are subservient to them.
The motion was part of a general strategy of the left wing of the ALP to get a neutralist non-aligned Australian policy in expectation of the Federal Conference rejecting the American alliance and other overseas commitments by Australia. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) who, after the Deputy Prime Minister, comes third in order of precedence of the Australian Government, said in relation to the Victorian Council resolution: 1 agree with the motion which I consider was moderately worded and sensible.
Apparently it was moderately worded to say that the Singapore Government is antidemocratic; it was moderately worded to say that Australian military association with Singapore is incompatible with Labor principles; and it was sensible to state those things in direct opposition to what had been said by his own leader and Prime Minister. It was contrary to Government policy for the Minister for Overseas Trade to have said those things, but it was to be expected that he would say these things. Nothing, however, was heard from the Prime Minister, despite his dictum that only the responsible Minister will make statements on foreign affairs. If this was not a statement on foreign affairs, can one imagine what is a statement on foreign affairs? If the Cabinet system were operating properly, fundamental opposition to government policy would lead to the resignation of the Minister who made that fundamental disagreement. The Prime Minister should have the courage to sack [the Minister for Overseas Trade. He has neither the courage nor the power to do it. In the critical areas of our foreign policy, those involving our credibility as an ally and our belief in the right of nations to choose their own form of government, the Prime Minister has been noticeably reticent to make any statements. In the face of the personal abuse of the President of the United States by 3 senior Ministers-r-the Minister for Overseas Trade, the Minister for Labour. (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) - when words such as thuggery, arrogance and hypocrisy were used to describe his actions, the Prime Minister could only respond, after much pressing by journalists, that ‘there will be no further statements on foreign policy except by the Minister*. The Minister he referred to was himself as the Foreign Minister. What has he done to honour that statement to the Australian people after the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade describing the Government of Singapore, an ally, as antidemocratic? The Minister for Overseas Trade publicly announced the next day that he would continue to speak out and has done so on the recognition of North Vietnam and about Singapore. The ‘ Prime Minister has persistently failed to silence his Ministers or even to dissociate himself from what they say. Other countries are entitled to believe that when a Minister speaks he speaks with the authority of government.
The Prime Minister was clearly in difficulties. After the Victorian motion, Mr Barnard searched for ways of changing the Prime Minister’s words ‘500 to 600’ without appearing to give in to the pressures which were clear and apparent for everybody to see. The Minister for Defence said on 12th February that he had never put any figure on the number of troops who were to remain. Are we to assume that the Prime Minister said ‘500 to 600’ without consultation with the Minister for Defence? That is what the plain meaning of the words was, that he had never put a number on the troops who were to remain and that it was a matter still under consideration. Reports stated that other Ministers revealed that the Prime Minister had not received Cabinet endorsement for his 2 statements on troop numbers. In the terms of open government, no doubt the Cabinet decisions will be disclosed to us. This was a clear attempt by the Minister for Defence to dilute the commitment of the Prime Minister. The Brenchley article had not been repeated in the daily Press.
The events of Tuesday, 13th February 1973 shocked all experienced journalists. It was a black day for Australian government and an equally black day for the Prime Minister. On that day, the Prime Minister did not hold his open Press briefing, although in full glory he had declared that he would have one after each Cabinet meeting. Instead, he called selected journalists into his room. He put them through a race. He said; ‘You can come in, but you cannot’. He then gave the selected journalists in his room classified security information about an Australian defence intelligence system which is regarded by defence experts as critical to this nation’s defence requirements. All persons possessed of this knowledge have an explicit duty not to disclose the information which the Prime Minister disclosed. There is a clear formula to follow when asked about security information. That is to refuse to confirm or to deny. If a secret is to be held, who possesses it must remain secret. If there is a denial of it, people can put together the positives by assembling the negatives.
The foreign cable services were excluded. This Press briefing was for domestic consumption. Nobody knows why the representative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was shut out. Also excluded were representatives of radio and television services. But they found out. We then heard on radio and television services, reports to this effect: The Prime
Minister has revealed the existence of a defence intelligence network and has claimed the troops will be kept in Singapore in order to disguise them’. The information had received publicity as planned - so unfortunately did the source of the information receive publicity. That was the briefing by the Prime Minister. When a Prime Minister buys domestic political relief at such great cost to our national interest and to his own reputation he deserves the censure of this House.
The Opposition regarded the matter so seriously that I put to the Prime Minister a series of questions which I believe he had a responsibility to answer. The questions, all of which remain unanswered, were set out in a letter to the Prime Minister. I ask for leave for those questions to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Included in the number of questions was one in which I asked the honourable gentleman to tell me the criterion on which he had separated out the pressmen. He said that his relations with the Press were his own business. He had made this matter national business and it is no answer to say that it is personal to him. I asked him: ‘Do you still say that
Or Cairns’ foreign policy and defence statements are acceptable to you?’ That question remains unanswered I asked him:
What were the factors which led to your choice of this time to make fundamental disclosures concerning Australian security?
It was not answered. I asked him:
Did you give any undertaking to ‘Lord Carrington, British Secretary of State for Defence, which would be negated by your actions?
The same day, the Prime Minister issued the text of a letter he was sending me saying it was in reply to my questions, but it had no relation to them at all. In fact it was a total red-herring dragged across the public platform to defuse his appalling action. It talked about decisions of previous governments in relation to troop placements. It talked about D notices and his relations with the Press. It answered none of my questions. He has an obligation to answer them in this Parliament. Now, seriatim.
A paragraph he omitted to release but which was included in his letter of reply contained a veiled threat that if I pursue this line his course may involve referring to earlier Liberal Government disclosures. But we in the Opposition would not be silenced in our opposition to his behaviour by such threats or by diversionary tactics. The Prime Minister was so anxious to divert the issue, he claimed my questions to him were subsequent to and consequent upon the Brenchley story. They were not at all. They were subsequent to and consequent upon his briefing of his own selected group of journalists to whom he disclosed national security information. He shifted the whole blame to a journalist to escape the consequences of his own action, and it is not an honourable course of action to try to shift it to the journalist. He said that Mr Brenchley had breached a D notice and that he, the Prime Minister, therefore felt free to speak of it publicly. What nonsense that was. He should have stopped his tongue and refused to confirm or deny what Mr Brenchley had written.
Yesterday the Minister for Defence told the House that the Government will bring another 180 troops home by the end of this year, in addition to the battalion and the battery. He said that they could be described as having a combat role. It was no more precisely defined than that but it does appear to mean that there now, will be a continuing force in Singapore of between 320 and 420 troops. That is the deduction from the Prime Minister’s own statement. The Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry could not agree to this decision of the Minister, for Defence. And if the decision has. . the authority of the Government it certainly does not yet have the authority of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. The Minister for Overseas Trade could not agree with the decision if he still endorses the Victorian State Council’s motion, which he said he did, that any military co-operation with Singapore was contrary to the , principles of the Australian Labor Party.
The Australian Labor Party Conference is gradually getting its way. It seems to be only a matter of time until the Labor Conference will tell the Government that in spite of our treaty commitments, our national security or any other interests the Government is not permitted to keep any troops in Singapore. If this is what the Conference decides, the Government will have to comply. This has been made abundantly clear. On 18th February, the senior vice-president of the Labor Party, Mr Hawke, said:
My own view is that 1 think it’s inappropriate for Australia to have troops stationed overseas.
He said he wanted to speak to the Prime Minister on this issue. Asked what happens if the Labor Party Conference decides that the SOO to 600 troops should not stay in Singapore, he, Mr Hawke, said the situation would be that if the Conference made a clear decision on an issue, the Prime Minister would abide by it. Asked further: ‘What happens if the Federal Conference makes a decision and the Prime Minister does not like it?’ Mr Hawke said:
– Why not?
– The interjection ‘Why not?’ demonstrates a total acceptance of subservience to other people outside. One week later the Deputy Prime Minister said:
Not meet together to make a Cabinet decision, but meet at the Conference to argue as to what they believe is the interpretation of the platform. So the question was put to the Deputy Prime Minister:
But if your views are overruled at the Party conference you must give in. Do the people of Australia want that to happen?
To this question the Deputy Prime Minister, with great bravado and great confidence in his status as the Deputy Prime Minister of this great country, said:
I believe the people of Australia recognise that it is a democratic process-
A democratic process! The Commonwealth Electoral Officer has not called for nominations and the people of Australia - the 6i million voters - have no say in the constitution of that Conference. The Deputy Prime Minister went on to say: and that if there is an attitude expressed by Mr Whitlam and myself which the Conference of the Party, and therefore the members of the Party do not agree with, then we would be expected to abide by the decision of the Party as a whole . . .
These decisions are not made by the Cabinet, not by the Parliamentary Labor Party, but by the Conference.
Finally, yesterday, in answer to my question, the Prime Minister himself, after having been given numerous opportunities in the past which he consistently avoided, said publicly and unequivocally that he is bound by the Labor platform and by the Conference decisions. This confession makes quite clear why there has been such vacillation on the whole complex question of Singapore. The Labor Prime Minister of Australia has no control over the policy formulation even on matters of national security and he had to await instructions from the people who control the Labor Party. He is still awaiting final instructions. We do not know, and Australia’s allies still do not know, whether the Australian Government is to be permitted to honour its treaty commitments. Australia has earned a reputation as a reliable and trusted ally. By virtue of that trust we have been given access to the security information of other governments. This is of great importance to us and our defence obligation.
We have been meticulous in meeting the clear obligations of our treaties and agreements. We have ensured that our allies know our intentions in the clearest terms and can plan on the basis of our given word. Now we have a Prime Minister providing information directly bearing on our defence intelligence system, but not on the basis of ‘need to know’, about which he was so pious yesterday in this House. The Prime Minister drew a distinction in relation to his Ministers yesterday. He said that his Ministers would be informed only on a ‘need to know’ basis. But he selected journalists to inform those Ministers who ‘need to know’. He breached all conventions of security conduct because, and only because, he wanted to escape the pressure of domestic political discomfort. The other day we remembered 3 great international leaders - Truman, Johnson and Pearson. A great quality they possesed was their ability to act in ways they thought right in spite of temporary unpopularity and even, for some, vilification. What a contrast to this man, the Prime Minister of Australia. We have the situation in which our allies have to wait for the all-powerful Labor Conference to instruct the Prime Minister how this country will act in relation to defence policy. Will Australia be allowed to keep troops ia Singapore? Will Australia be allowed to maintain the American alliance? What will the Prime Minister’s instructions be from this non-representative, non-parliamentary Conference which effectively governs Australia? The final exciting episode’ will be on location at Surfers Paradise next July. The cable services will carry to our allies and interested governments the Prime Minister’s instructions at the same time as he is receiving them.
The Conference can, of course, produce a note of ‘ certainty. It can decide whether or not the official view of ‘the Australian Government will be that opinions of the Minister for Overseas Trade, the Minister for Labour and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation’ about President Nixon are official views of the Labour Party and whether or not military co-operation with Singapore is consistent with the Government’s principles. It can, for instance, decide whether or not; as is proposed, there is to be an end to the American alliance and it can end our uncertainty by victory for one side on this issue. The Prime Minister will be stalking the corridors and the rooms to drum up votes for his own view and he will either get the votes or he will face compromise on the issues. This is the basis on which our allies can plan in relation ‘ to Australia. Government is reduced to an undemocratic sham, international relations a mockery. They can plan, but only on the basis of which faction of the ALP they believe will win the bitter power struggle, and let there by no mistake - there is a power struggle going on in relation to this matter.
The Opposition condemns the position the Government is placing our allies In. We cannot tolerate the Prime Minister’s behaviour in subjugating the national interest in the hope of less political discomfort. We cannot tolerate the fact that government is by the Federal Conference of the ALP - not elected, not responsible to the people of Australia - while the elected representatives are powerless against its dictates and must wait on its decisions. Their only role is to participate in the deliberations and hope to influence the Conference decisions. The Prime Minister ought to control his Ministers. He ought to abide by the Cabinet system. He ought to say: ‘My Cabinet will decide the policies which will be pursued in Australia’s national interests.’ While he abdicates from that duty, while he allows Ministers te defy it and to announce
I policies contrary to his stated policies, while nobody can understand where the Government will come out, while our allies can have no trust and confidence in it, then this Government deserves the censure of this House.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
- Mr Speaker-
– Are you here to get him off the hook again?
– You will never be able to make a contribution in that way. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has moved his first censure motion. No doubt it will be one of many that the Opposition will move over a very long period. If this is to be the standard of the contribution of the Leader of the Opposition to what is after all recognised as one of the most important debates in this Parliament, I think that the people of Australia will be disappointed as, unquestionably, those honourable members who sit behind him were disappointed this morning. The terms of his censure related to 2 matters. The remainder of his speech was completely irrelevant. He talked about security matters in Singapore. He referred to the Five-Power Arrangements. During the course of my speech I hope to be able to demonstrate how inconsistent the Oppo sition is, how inconsistent it was in government and how it deluded not only the people of Australia but also its own members. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the Five-Power Arrangements and particularly about the signals unit in Singapore. Let me indicate to this Parliament that almost a brigade of public servants and servicemen in this country had been briefed on the matter of the 121st Signals Unit in Singapore.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. Your predecessor ruled on a number of occasions that all speakers must address their remarks through the Chair. I ask you to rule likewise, Mr Speaker.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I was making the point that almost a brigade of public servants and servicemen in this country had been briefed on the signals unit in Singapore, but that did not include 3 former Ministers for the Army who knew nothing about it. My predecessor as Minister for the Army in the previous Government had not been briefed on the facility and neither had other Ministers for the Army. The present Leader of the Opposition, who was then the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, had not been briefed on the organisation. Honourable members opposite talk about security and keeping the Parliament informed on these matters. The previous Government was prepared to brief almost a brigade of people from the Public Service and from the Services and yet it kept the Parliament and the nation in ignorance. For example, it ignored the present Leader of the Opposition.
The present Government will not treat the Opposition in the same shabby way as the Leader of the Opposition was treated by the previous Government. The Australian Labor Party has stated consistently its policy towards the Five Power Arrangements and the ANZUK force. This was one of the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition. As the defence spokesman for the Australian Labor Party when it was in Opposition, I indicated that I believed that facilities ought to be provided for regular exercises in our region. This is now being done. Investigations are being made into the extent and size of the forces that ought to participate in these exercises. My Party has stated consistently its policy towards the Five Power Arrangements and the ANZUK force. This was included in the Prime Minister’s policy speech and has remained the same. The policy is to honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements pending the establishment of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in the region. This is fully in accord with the desires of our regional partners in the arrangements.
Under the terms of the communique issued from London on 16th April 1971 by the five countries involved, Australia has agreed to 2 specific intentions. Briefly, the first is to cooperate with the other nations involved in the Arrangements in the field of defence in accordance with each nation’s respective national policy. The second is to consult with the other nations involved in the event of an external attack or threat of attack on Malaysia or Singapore, lt is obvious that neither the arrangements regarding co-operation nor those concerning consultation require the maintenance of an Australian garrison of combat troops in Singapore. Consequently the ALP in its policy speech promised to recall to Australia the battalion and battery we have in Singapore once their terms of duty expired. This we will do, commencing at the end of this year. This is clearly in line with the expressed policy of the Prime Minister in the election of December 1972. I have since further investigated this matter to ensure that there would be no combat troops left in Singapore and that in addition to the battery and the battalion, as I announced yesterday, a further 180 personnel who could be regarded as being in this category would also be returned to Australia.
Under Annex 1 of the agreement with both Malaysia and Singapore Australia has agreed to continue co-operation with those countries in the training and development of their armed forces. Amongst other things, this Annex specifies the provision of personnel to assist in the training and development of their armed forces, facilities for training members of their armed forces and assistance in the supply of equipment to their armed forces. It is exactly these kinds of assistance which this Government has pledged to continue. It is for this reason that I have instructed my officers to investigate and recommend the size and composition of the logistics force which will remain in Singapore after the return of the combat troops. It is for similar reasons that the Mirage squadrons will remain at Butterworth, where they play a valuable role in the training of Malaysian and Singaporean forces as well as making a major contribution to the Five Power Force as a whole.
This Government will continue with its policy of co-operation with the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore in the development of their forces and with its support of the Five Power Arrangement, which provides the framework within which this assistance is given. This policy is understood by our partners in the Five Power Arrangements. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, I recently held extensive talks with the British Minister for Defence, Lord Carrington, during which this Government’s attitude to the Five Power Arrangements was fully explained. Before he left Australia he told me, and he stated at his Press conference, that he was satisfied that our position did not prevent the continued existence of the Arrangements as a valuable force. I know that the other nations involved welcome our continued assistance in the development of their capabilities. I can also state that other countries in the region understand our position in continuing with this assistance in Malaysia and Singapore.
In short, there is nothing in the actions which this Government has taken since it assumed office which could ‘be interpreted as a weakening of the Five Power Arrangements. Our policy was clearly stated to the electors of this country and they endorsed it overwhelmingly. Since the elections we have proceeded promptly to act on the mandate the people gave to us. This Government’s policy is well known to our partners in the Five Power Arrangement. The overwhelming support of the Australian people for these policies is understood by them. The Government’s actions since the election are a clear proof of our intention to honour our promise to implement these policies. There cannot therefore be any cause for doubt about our commitment to the stability and future prosperity of the region. In this respect, in relation to the Five Power Arrangements, the charges of the Leader of the Opposition are without substance.
Let me turn to the other matter that the Leader of the Opposition raised in his censure motion, the one relating to the signals unit. I have already pointed out how ignorant the Leader of the Opposition was in relation to these matters. The personnel of the 121st Signals Squadron could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as agents, undercover men or by any of the other terms used by writers of fiction to describe their fantasy world of international espionage. There are no glamorous operatives employed by the 121st
Signals Squadron. Instead, the Squadron is staffed by technicians and professional staff drawn from the personnel of the 3 regular Services - .the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. In fact, far from being glamorous, the tasks of the personnel working in Singapore as members of the Squadron could probably be best described as mundane, routine and dull.
The one and only task of the 121st Signals Squadron is to monitor, record, decode where necessary and compile all radio messages within the range of its equipment. This task is totally passive. It does not require an overt act to intercept radio messages. It does not require the contacting or interrogation of any other person, government official, or private employee in any other country or on any other site in Singapore. Instead, the task of the Squadron involves long and. perhaps, tedious hours spent sitting at a bench monitoring electronic equipment in the Squadron’s base facility.
– What does Bill Hartley think of this7
– The honourable member for Wannon regards himself as an expert on defence. That is why he is the shadow Minister for Primary Industry. The Squadron’s role comprises no more than the monitoring and recording of radio signals within its area of reception. It has no authority to evaluate, recommend or initiate any course of action as a result of its activities. Simply put, its task is to gather information - no more than that. Any action which may be taken as an eventual and probably far removed outcome of the information gathered by the 121st Signals Squadron can only be the result of the normal democratic processes of government in this country. It might conceivably be the case that information collected in part by the 121st Signals Squadron might indicate that a change in national policy was desirable. Such a change, if it did eventuate, could come only after the normal procedures needed to initiate any new policy had been completed and after it had been discussed and approved by Cabinet.
The role of the 121st Signals Squadron, therefore, is routine and unexceptional in nature. The importance of this unit to Australia is that it comprises one of the means by which information needed for the intelli gent management of national affairs is comN piled. All sensible people will recognise that it is important to the nation that Australia should have the most complete knowledge of the world around it that it is possible to achieve. Any government which does not seek to inform itself as fully as possible in areas affecting the nation’s welfare is obviously decreasing its chances or possibilities of acting in the most effective manner. For the correct interpretation of day to day events and for long range planning, it is necessary that this nation have as much information as possible. The role of the 121st Signals Squadron is simply to provide part of this information and to contribute towards the better government of this country.
Australia, of course, is not alone in recognising the importance of information and the particular usefulness of radio monitoring in providing this information. Indeed, it is a commonplace activity of all nations to gather information by monitoring radio messages. No doubt, the people of Australia are now well aware of this, following the rash of stories on radio intelligence in recent weeks. This is a generally accepted fact of international life and one with which all countries must learn to live. It is precisely because all countries monitor radio messages that they know other countries are involved in exactly the same activity. For this reason the charges of the Leader of the Opposition that this Government has revealed a national secret are ludicrous.
Just how misguided are the claims of the Opposition has been made abundantly clear by the reaction of the nations within the South East Asian area. Without exception highranking officials of these nations have emphasised their previous knowledge of the station and its functions. None of the countries has claimed to have been unduly worried by the existence of the squadron or by its function. Indeed, some of these spokesmen have implied that the former government made very poor use of the efforts of the squadron since the breadth of its knowledge of South East Asia left something to be desired. We need not delude ourselves that the activities of 121st Signals Squadron were secret to anyone - anyone except the Australian people and the Government in its position of Her Majesty’s Opposition until the elections of December last. That is a topic on which I will have more to say later.
It is also because the location and role of the squadron were known to other countries that the Leader of the Opposition’s charges that this Government has endangered Australia’s security are equally without substance.
Obviously, if the presence of the squadron was no secret the acknowledgement of its role and location creates no new dificulties
The security of this nation does not depend on clandestine, underhand operations behind the backs of our friends or without the knowledge of our own countrymen, as the honourable gentleman would seem to imply. It is our judgment that a national duty, such as that which was carried out quite routinely by 121st Signals Squadron, is no cause for shame and that there is no reason why its existence should not be public knowledge. There is, of course, a clear distinction between informing the public that such activity is carried on and revealing the existence of Australian units involved in this activity and providing more specific details of the methods used in its task. Naturally the Government would not wish the effectiveness of the squadron to be compromised by the release of specific operational or technical details. It is our policy to employ 121st Signals Squadron in the most effective way possible and to allow it to operate as efficiently as possible. This does not require, nor does it justify, the excessive preoccupation with secrecy which marked the affairs of the previous government in this and in so many other areas.
This Government is not afraid to keep the Australian people informed. The truth of the situation is that the effectiveness of any group engaged in monitoring radio messages depends on technology and not on secrecy. Simply because all nations know of each other’s activities in this area, all nations must be prepared to safeguard their most vital information. To do this all countries are constantly engaged in developing and perfecting electronic counter-measures. The previous government failed completely to observe what I would regard as a neighbourly responsibility. It appears that at no time did the then government pay the Singapore Government the courtesy of officially informing it of the presence and function of 121 Signal Squadron. I can only assume that it was then, as now, suffering from the melodramatic delusions caused by reading too many cloak and dagger novels. One could only be amused by this massive act of self-deception on the part of the former Government if it were not for the gross ill manners it displayed to our ally by not officially informing her of the exis tence of a unit of which there is no doubt the Singaporeans were aware and of which they have expressed no disapproval.
In yet another way the Opposition when in government appears to have neglected its duties in regard to the functions of the squad? ron. Its advisers warned it of possible future difficulties in locating the squadron in Singapore. It must also have been apparent to all with a minimum of knowledge that the desire of the nations of the region to establish a zone of peace and neutrality would mean that Australia’s occupancy of any facility in Singapore was likely to be of a comparatively short duration. One would have thought that the then government would have given priority to the development of these facilities in Australia. There are long-time delays in installing this sophisticated equipment. It is costly and it is required to be operational over a long period. One would not have expected to gain as much value from this facility in Singapore as could be gained , from a similar installation in Australia, even if some of the equipment and facilities were inherited from other forces. However, the previous Government saw fit to proceed immediately with the development of a Singapore facility and approached the development, of facilities on Australian soil with much less urgency.
As a result of this strange order of priorities it will be some time before, suitable facilities in Australia can be completed, even with the increased urgency that I have now attached to this project. On behalf of the Government I say to the people of Australia that this unit will be returned to Australia. We do hot accept the proposition that a station of this nature should be located on foreign soil if there is a use for the facility in Australia. If there is a need for this facility - I would not deny that or argue against the need for it - it should be located in Australia. I have therefore moved to ensure that this is done as soon as practicable. I believe the implications of the decisions or the indecisions of the previous Government in relation to this unit and its future express the complete disregard of the previous administration for the proprieties of this matter.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the purpose of the facility being made known to Australians. As I have pointed out, nearly a brigade of public servants in this country were aware of the facility and they are known to have been currently briefed. I will put that in more precise terms. There have been 5,700 Australians briefed on this facility - as I said, nearly a brigade of public servants. That figure does not include the 3 previous Ministers for the Army. Obviously they were not considered important enough to be briefed on a facility which the Leader of the Opposition now claims was held in great secret. It is utter hypocrisy for the Leader of the Opposition to criticise the Prime Minister, who believes, as I and the Government firmly believe, that a facility of this kind which monitors information which may be of use to this country, should be established on Australian soil. In this respect the Prime Minister acted quite properly on behalf of the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition is on unsafe ground when he refers to this facility and what this Government has done to ensure that operations of this nature are returned to Australia. The facility was well known to a great many Australians. I have referred only to those persons who have been currently briefed and have not included persons who have been briefed before, so the number of people who knew about this facility would be, naturally, many thousands. It was known to the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia and there has been not one reaction in the Press of those countries as a result of the statement by the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minster believes that the people of Australia are entitled to know about a base which is using or monitoring information which is valuable to this and other countries, how can the Leader of the Opposition argue that it should not be located in Australia? The Leader of the Opposition now has been brought up to date on the matter. He knows something about it now. He knew nothing about it when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, despite the fact that the then Minister for Defence, Mr Fairbairn, then did know about it. He was not one of the people who were briefed on this matter. He has now been briefed on it and he has asked questions about it.
The censure motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition has no substance on any of the points raised by him. I said that many of the matters he dealt with were completely irrelevant. Time will not permit me to deal with those matters now. But I repeat: They were completely irrelevant. The 2 issues under consideration were: The question of the future of the Five Power Arrangements and the 121st Signals Squadron. On both of these issues I have put the Government’s case as to what we propose to do and what we will honour in relation to our agreements and arrangements with the peoples in this area. For this reason I believe the motion should be rejected out of hand.
– I second the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) that this House censures the Government for jeopardising Australia’s security and injuring our reputation as a reliable ally. These are strong words. They express the severest censure against the Government. When the issue is national security it is a supreme issue. I was pleased to hear the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) say that this is an important matter. He said also that he was disappointed at the way in which the Leader of the Opposition had treated it. If he thinks this is an important matter, why is the Government restricting this debate to only 3 speakers in the Opposition? Why is it treating the debate so lightly? Is the Government frightened of pubic debate? Is it frightened that the Australian people will gain a clearer understanding of the antics and the statements of members of the Government over the last 2 months?
We have listened to the Deputy Prime Minister. Nobody can get a clearer picture of the Labor Party’s policies from that speech. One is not sure whether this radio monitoring station was meant to be secret or whether it is not secret. One minute we hear of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) having a confidential and classified briefing because it is secret. Now the Deputy Prime Minister says that of course everybody knew about it, that it was never secret. The Prime Minister even wrote a threatening letter to the Leader of the Opposition for exposing this matter and asking questions relating to security. But apparently it is not secret. The actions of the Government in the area of national security are engendering great concern and fear in the minds of many Australians. After a period of 3 months of office by this Government Australia is being seen by the world as having new foreign policies that are drawing us more and more into the communist orbit. These policies are fraying our long established and traditional relations with old friends. Regrettably, this impression is valid and one that brings distress to many Australians.
While the Government can claim that some of its actions have been taken as a result of the mandate given to it - a mandate that was by no means overwhelming - the Australian people were not aware or expecting, let alone told, that the degree of national political realignment following the election of a Labor Government would be so radical and pursued with such indecent haste. Australians find it sickening to see the ingratiating way in which the Government is reacting and responding. In the ‘West Australian’ of 27th February a cartoon appeared which expressed far better than any words the feeling of many Australians in recent weeks. It depicted the Prime Minister taking some flowers from the grave of an Australian soldier and handing them to a representative of the North Vietnamese communist Government. That is what the Prime Minister has done. His headlong rush to humour the communist nations against which our soldiers have recently been engaged has caused deep distress among many Australians.
It is the sight on television of Australian communists and unionists kissing and embracing communist North Vietnamese union leaders in Australia that the soldier who fought in Vietnam and the family of the soldier who suffered injury or loss of life see as a display of an appalling lack of sensitivity - in fact, almost treachery. The congratulations by the Young Labor Association in Western Australia to what it calls the sole and legitimate government of Vietnam - that is, the Hanoi Government - on its great and courageous victory against the American imperialists and the gifts of money that Australian communist union officials are handing to communists for their own use distress many Australians who understand the objectives of communism. The Prime Minister by his actions has been associated with these things.
No-one can criticise the Prime Minister for his desire to achieve understanding between nations of whatever political colour. I do not complain of his wish to assist eventually in the reconstruction of countries damaged by years of war. But is it really in Australia’s interests, for example, for the Prime Minister to dump the 18 million people of Taiwan in his headlong rush to recognise China? Why has there not been a single word of protest against China’s nuclear testing programme from the Prime Minister and others who are so critical, and rightly critical, of the French tests? Why has not a single word of protest been uttered by the Government against the barbarous treatment of Francis James? What a hue and cry there would have been from the Government if the treatment that James received at the hands of the Chinese had been handed out by America or South Africa. He was illegally imprisoned, without trial. From his appearance and his physical state when he returned to Hong Kong he must have been shamefully treated.
– We got him out of Hong Kong.
-Order! There are too many interjections from both sides of the chamber. The right honourable gentleman is entitled to be heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I take up the interjection of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). He said that at least the Government got him out. I think that this House and the Australian people need an explanation as to what the Prime Minister did in trying to get this man out of China when he knew, as Leader of the Opposition, that Mr James was in China. Did the Prime Minister make contact with any country? Did he reveal this information to the Australian Government at the time to try to help an Australian citizen? The Prime Minister’s whole approach to our relations with other countries has displayed an extreme lack of understanding of the feelings of the Australian people. They are offended by his haste to ally himself with the communist nations, as I am sure are our friends in South East Asia. They are worried about his inability to control his Ministers. They are worried about his Ministers’ attacks on the United States of America. They are worried about his display of ineptitude in Indonesia when he was given a quick lesson in international statesmanship and its requirements.
The Prime Minister will tell us of the good reception in Indonesia of his regional association scheme. But if we read the ‘Australian* of 27th February - a journal which was not noticeably unsympathetic to the Prime Minister during the election campaign - we learn that the Prime Minister’s self-assumed mantle of an Evatt-style world statesman has been hit for six by his Indonesian escapades. The whole incident in Indonesia was symptomatic of the damaging rush and hurry which mark the Prime Minister’s approach to Australia’s international relations. It is only natural that an anti-communist nation like Indonesia would have reservations about responding quickly to a proposal from the present Australian Prime Minister.
Before a new anthem we need a new attitude of responsibility to the nation and its people. If we are to seek a new national identity, and we should, then we must also seek a new national consciousness of our duties and responsibilities to international friends, allies and neighbours, and this attitude and this consciousness will not come from the damaging attacks which the Prime Minister and his Ministers have been making since they came into office. On television last night we heard the United States Ambassador to Australia say quite openly and firmly that Australian relations with America had been put under a strain by the statements made by 3 Ministers of the new Australian Government. Anyone who understands the constraints which must apply to any representative of one nation in another must have been surprised by the outspokenness of the Ambassador in his reference to this disgraceful series of incidents involving 3 Ministers. That the American Ambassador should have been moved to make this comment demonstrates clearly the seriousness of the actions of the Ministers concerned. It demonstrates the degree to which the American Government took note of the statements and the damaging effects which these statements by 3 senior Ministers had on our relationships with the United States, a country which came to the rescue of this country in its gravest moment of crisis. It is a friend with which we want to maintain the closest of possible links. I believe those relations are important.
The Prime Minister of course says that they are, but the problem is that it is not the Prime Minister or even his Ministers who determine Labor policy. Let us look at what some of the people in the Labor Party organisation have had to say lately. Mr Whitlam said:
Our mandate and duty to maintain the American alliance was equally clear. This we will do.
But Dr Waterson a prominent member of the Victorian State Council of the Australian Labor Party said:
This year, the Federal Conference of the Labor Party will jettison the American alliance.
Of course, we all heard the Deputy Prime Minister state in the clearest possible terms, as he usually does, at his Press conference on 20th February that if the Federal Conference makes a decision then the Prime Minister would accede to that decision. A couple of weeks ago Mr Bill Hartley and Mr Bob Hawke, who are well known to honourable members, both made it clear that the Prime Minister must do what the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference tells him to do. Mr Hartley went on television to say that the Labor Party was determined that Australia would disentangle itself from the American alliance. In fact recent statements have given new clarity to a statement made by Mr Hartley in Newcastle in April last year. He said then:
It is valid for the Left to support the election of the Australian Labor Party to government, at the same time attempting to develop approaches and initiatives which would bind the Government to a left-wing course of action when it took office.
If anybody wants evidence of the determination of the Left to direct and control the elected representatives of the people there is plenty of it today. In this House yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister told us of arrangements being made to bring troops home from Singapore. But how can we place any reliance on that statement? I do not for one moment suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister was deliberately misleading the House; but it cannot be denied that he omitted some very important words from his statement to the House. After telling us of the troop withdrawal timetable he should have added: ‘Provided the Federal Conference does not decide something else’ because then - as I said on 20th February - ‘the Prime Minister will have to do whatever the Conference decides’. They are the words the Deputy Prime Minister should have used but did not.
Let us get back to some of the Ministers in the new Government. The Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) did his bit to help achieve his Leader’s alleged policy on the American alliance by saying on 21st December that President Nixon was using the ceasefire negotiations in Indo China for electoral purposes. What a gratuitous statement. It was an insulting remark about the head of the world’s most important country by a senior Minister of this new Government. The Prime Minister, and I give him credit for it, saw it in the same light. He told the Minister in effect to keep quiet on foreign policy. ‘I am the Minister for Foreign
Affairs’, said the Prime Minister, ‘and I will do the talking’. The Minister for Overseas Trade did not take the slightest notice. He told the world he did not have the slightest intention of taking any notice of the Prime Minister. Is it any wonder the Cabinet has got itself into such a shambles? Is it because the Prime Minister really is what somebody called him the other day, HMV Whitlam - His Master’s Voice Whitlam, the man who does what he is told and whose words and policies are those of other people, his political masters? He is the Prime Minister who jumps when the Labor Party’s Federal Executive tells him to jump. The Deputy Prime Minister says he will. Mr Hawke says he will and Mr Hartley says he will If the Federal Executive decides that troops will come home from Singapore now, then the Prime Minister will do as he is told and bring them home now. That is what the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence said the other day. The Minister for Defence, of all people, was proclaiming the power of the backroom boys of the Labor Party over the Government’s defence policy.
The Prime Minister made an incredible blunder iri revealing to the Press in the most curious circumstances details of the Australian radio Installation in Singapore. It is almost impossible to work out why he did it, unless the Prime Minister tells us. Many people have put forward theories but the one- that seems most likely and the one that has met with the widest acceptance is that he wanted to put Singapore in a position where it would have to tell us to withdraw our troops. If that is why be did it, it shows nothing more clearly than the Prime Minister’s captivity at the hands of the Labor machine. The Prime Minister is deserving of the strongest censure for his inexcusable action in divulging this matter knowing it to be subject to a need for security. The hamfisted way in which he went about making the disclosure has not fooled anybody. I just cannot believe that the Prime Minister would be so naive as to believe that a restricted briefing to selected members of the Press on such a matter would not have leaked out even if the poor old ABC was excluded. There could be no other explanation than that that is precisely what he wanted to happen and knew would happen. This is a shocking way for a Prime Minister to behave. Any man who is prepared to play with the nation’s security to meet his own domestic party political problems must be strongly criticised.
When we on this side of the House talk about democracy we mean the right of the Australian people to tell their elected representatives what they want. When the Prime Minister and the Government talk about democracy they mean the right of the Federal Executive of the Labor Party to tell the Government what to do. It is impossible for this House to have confidence in a Prime Minister whose ineptitude is surpassed only by his dangerous and inescapable captivity at the hands of his political masters.
– The motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) talks about vacillating on Australia’s troop commitment to the Five Power Arrangements thereby calling into question Australia’s commitment. But who is vacillating; who has called into question Australia’s troop commitment? Let us look at the record. The credibility gap - the Liberal Party’s credibility gap - began at the Five Power meeting in Canberra. The start of this credibility gap and the start of the vacillations, were one very well remembered phrase of a previous Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, when he talked about a country called Malaya - a non-existent country. What he did in that ham-fisted way was to deny a substantial part of Malaysia the security to which Malaysia as a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements was entitled. He spoke about Malaya, but did not include the other parts of Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah. It would be rather like the Americans saying: OK, the ANZUS Agreement relates to the continental parts of Australia but let’s forget Tasmania’.
The Gortonian diplomacy went from strength to strength. When he got to London he was asked about the possibility of conflict between Asian countries in terms of the Five Power Defence Arrangements. In one of the great quotes of this century he is reported as follows:
The Tunku said he wasn’t sure what I meant when I said Australia wouldn’t help.’
Well’, I told the Tunku, ‘if you get into any sort of border fight you had better cope by yourselves because Australia bloody well won’t be there.’
This may be the style that is used by the Liberal Party in faction fights but it is not the style that any responsible government adopts in dealing with other sovereign countries. It is not the style that Australia adopts under the new Government led by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who has been overseas, and by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), and it is not the style that any responsible country should adopt.
The next Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, in one of his more memorable remarks in an interview in Indonesia on 12th June 1972 said the Five Power Defence Arrangements did not really matter because it is only an obligation to consult and it doesn’t take us any further’. For once the former Prime Minister was right. The Five Power Defence Arrangements are a consultation mechanism. They are not an arrangement which leads to immediate action. However, what the former Prime Minister said at that stage runs right across the fiction that the present Opposition tried to create when it was in government. Prime Minister McMahon at that stage made a most remarkable observation on the meaning and significance of the Five Power Defence Arrangements He said:
A situation might arise, a battalion, a station somewhere in Singapore would give him- that is, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Razak - the degree of confidence they’d need in the event of the possibility of trouble between Malaysia and Singapore. . . .
So here we have the extraordinary situation where an agreement is intended to keep members of the agreement apart. This is a most extraordinary concept of an international agreement.
Let us get back to the one correct statement that former Prime Minister McMahon made - that the Five Power Defence Arrangements are a mechanism of consultation. I quote from a statement by a former Minister for Defence following talks in London in 1971. The statement reads: . . ‘in the event of any form of armed attack externally, organised or supported, or the threat of such attack against Malaysia and Singapore’ the five governments ‘would immediately consult together for the purpose of deciding what measures should be taken either jointly or separately in relation to such attack or threats’.
I think that this clears up a basic point - that ANZUK is of a consultative nature. But what has been the problem? It has been the woolly thinking of the previous Government. I think what we have to get down to is whether the efficacy of the Five Power Defence Arrange- [ ments is dependent upon having a handful of people in Malaysia and Singapore. We have to decide whether the efficacy of this agreement requires more than 2 jumbo jets full of troops. I think we have to be concerned also about the predicament in which we place Austraiian forces if they are on the ground in Singapore. We are not talking in 19th century terms although the previous Government, which had this 19th century garrison mentality, did. It is impossible for any force on the ground not to become involved in internal disorders or in racial disputes in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. It is all very well saying that it is understood by Malaysia and Singapore that the troops will not get involved.
When I was Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia we had strife in Penang. The difficulty was that Australian families were on the island of Penang. When the riots broke out we had to move those families across to Butterworth. Fortunately no Australian lives were endangered. But think of a situation which is not external aggression or internal subversion but is a civil disorder, and Australian forces willy-nilly become involved. We do not accept that proposition. We will not accept that proposition. Let us have a look at the forces in Butterworth, where 2 Mirage squadrons are stationed. They are there because there is nowhere to put them in Australia. There are no bases in Australia for half of our fighter force. What an extraordinary indictment it is of a defence policy when half of the fighter force of Australia is situated thousands of miles away from Australia. In the event of a crisis, and the countries of this area were either hostile or neutral, we could never get these aircraft back to Australia to carry put their basic function, the defence of the Australian continent. It is fundamental to the Labor Party’s approach to defence that not only must we be able to defend ourselves, but we must be, seen to be able to defend ourselves, Unless we are capable of securing Australian soil, notions of forward defence and of commitments to other countries north of us are a complete nonsense. Our whole credibility as an ally is a nonsense unless we are in a position to safeguard our own territory.
Let . us look at the previous Government’s record in defence. The Defence Review that was brought down by the previous Government last year stated explicitly that our involvement in Vietnam had weakened Australia’s defence position. I quote from page 52 paragraph 26 of the Defence Review. It reads:
The opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping’ of our forces has until recently been restricted by ‘the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity is now restored.
Of course it is restored because the Australian Labor Party argued and argued against the commitment in Vietnam. Not only did that commitment weaken us in general terms but also it made us completely dependent and wholly reliant upon the logistic support of the United States. Our task forces in Vietnam were completely dependent upon United States logistic support so our whole logistic structure within the Australian Army was depleted because of this continuing over.reliance on the United States.
Let us now look at the question of mobility and flexibility in order to understand why it was that under the previous Government we had no opportunity of meeting the obligations under the ANZUK agreement. Again I refer to the Defence Review brought down by the Government in the last Parliament. After 23 years of a Liberal government we were not capable of deploying more than one battalionone lightly equipped battalion - within a radius of 2,000 nautical miles, not from Australia, but from Sydney and that deployment was going to take us 8 to 10 days. This presupposed that whatever airfield was to be used for the ferrying operation the potential enemy or the enemy would be kind enough to leave it In operation. How can we possibly undertake a commitment such as the ANZUK agreement when we cannot move one lightly equipped battalion 2,000 nautical miles from Sydney? The Defence Review very profoundly pointed out that 2.000 nautical miles from Sydney would take us to the northern part of Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. How can we enter into a commitment when the credibility gap is so wide and so obvious? In the event of a crisis, on the basis of the previous Government’s attitude towards defence, we would not at any stage have been capable of undertaking and honouring our commitment. Now we are facing up to reality. We have inherited an appalling legacy and a great deal has to be done to rectify the errors of commission and sins of omission of the previous Government. We are turning our attention wholeheartedly to developing an Australian defence force which has as its primary objective the security of Australian soil. On the basis of the security of Australian, soil our defence force will have the mobility and flexibility to assist any allies with whom we have commitments. We regard our commitments much more seriously than the former Government regarded its commitments because we propose to be in a position to honour those commitments.
There have been references today to the spy base in Singapore. I find myself in a difficult position in this debate because I was one of the 5,700 who knew about that base and in fact it was in the area of my responsibility when I was in Malaysia.
– Follow your leader and just spill it.
– The shadow Minister for Defence says: ‘Let’s spill*. Let us look at the whole question. There is a great deal of difference in security information on the part of public servants and people who are involved in the defence mechanism. They have a responsibility not to divulge information because the responsibility for examining national security - what really relates to national security - is not a matter for generals; it is not a matter for diplomats; it is a matter for the Government. Nobody in the Opposition in the previous Parliament, except myself, knew about that base. It was not until the Prime Minister assumed office that he knew of it. It is for the Government to decide what constitutes national security and how it should be interpreted. It is none of the business of those 5,700 or more to make any disclosures or to say anything about it because we have to take into account the British who are also involved. This is a government responsibility. The Prime Minister has made the statement and has made known the implications and the existence of that base. Let us look at what the Opposition members did when they were in power. They made a fetish of secrecy. They won a couple of elections on secrecy and spying - the Petrov case, for instance. But what did they do in regard to the North West Cape installation? There was an agreement with the United States Government which said in Article 3:
Except with the express consent of the Australian Government, the station will not be used for purposes other than purposes for defence communication, and appropriate Australian authorities nominated by the Australian Government shall at all times have access to the station.
But the Opposition when it was in power deliberately set out to limit the interpretation of that agreement and so we had the United
States ambassador asking for an interpretation of that agreement and getting it very willingly because the text of the agreement states: . . it was clearly understood that consultation
Referred to in Article 3 - connoted no more than consultation and was not intended to establish Australian control over use of the station nor to imply any Government of Australia design to restrict at any time United States Government use of the station for defence communications including, for example, communications for polaris submarines. It is also understood that it was not intended to give Australia control over or access to the contents of messages transmitted over the station.
This was the darkest day in Australia’s history. It was the day on which the then Government sold out to another power the sovereign rights of this country. It refused to stand up for the right of the Australian people to know what installations existed on Australian soil and their purpose. The former Government used this in an election campaign by trying to mesmerise the Australian people with scraps of paper. This is a monumental indictment of honourable members who sit opposite. Yet they have the audacity to talk about us. This was a day that all Australians will remember. This is a day that we have sought to rectify. The Deputy Prime Minister made a statement last night giving to the Australian people for the first time the rightful knowledge as to what is happening on Australian soil.
– There was nothing in that that had not been previously made public.
– There was a lot in that which had not been previously said and because it had not been said there were so many wild rumours as to what the contents were. But let us take the position one step further. We have decided to make open government in terms of what is happening in Australia, How can we, without contradiction, not say what we are doing in other countries? The 2 things are caught up. The attitude of mind of the Opposition when it was in government was to shroud all these things in secrecy and it regarded this as its main purpose. It did not divulge to the Australian people what was happening on Australian soil. It did not divulge to the Singaporians what was happening on Singaporian soil. That is the record of the Opposition. This censure motion in fact applies to the previous Government which is now the Opposition. We have stated our position clearly. That is more than the previous Government ever did. It is more than the previous Government ever wanted to do. It is more than the previous Government ever intended that it should do.
We regard our responsibilities to the Australian people as paramount. That is the difference between the previous Government and the present Government.
- Mr- Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) made at least 2 false statements concerning me. The first statement to which I draw attention was that, as Prime Minister, I initiated a policy - which he apparently did not like- by making a statement at the Five Power Conference held in Canberra at which I referred to Malaya as distinct from other parts of Malaysia. That statement is untrue. The policy to which he referred was initiated and stated to this House in February 1969 iti the first speech made by me on behalf of the then Government on what it would do ‘iti Singapore and Malaysia. It was in that speech that the policy to which Mr Morrison refers was initiated. It was stated clearly that in regard to east Malaysia we would regard ourselves as being more useful giving diplomatic rather than military help. That was a firm and final statement. It was adhered to. We never vacillated from it.
– You used the term ‘Malaya’.
– The Minister for External Territories said that this distinction started at the Five Power Conference here. In fact, the policy differentiating between the peninsular of Malaya and east Malaysia began in February 1969. It has been firmly adhered to ever since. There has been no vacillation. That is the first point on which I claim to have been misrepresented.
The second one is the report, which was not entirely inaccurate but significantly inaccurate, of a conversation held between me and the Tunku of Malaysia which quoted me as saying: ‘If you’ - the Tunku - “have any border clashes you will have to take care of them yourselves.’ This is untrue. In accordance with the policy initially stated and adhered to all the time, I said: ‘If you have border clashes in Sabah or Sarawak you will have to deal with them yourselves.’ It was nothing at all to do with the peninsular of Malaya, which was the area where we first stated we would regard ourselves as being militarily committed. I think that those 2 statements need to be corrected, firstly because they are untrue and slanted and, secondly, because by correcting them I can show that, unlike the present Government, we never varied or vacillated from the firm and right stand we took initially.
Mr MORRISON (St George - Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented. The source of my information on the statement by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), was a report of a speech given to the American Chamber of Commerce in Brisbane in March 1972. 1 would be very happy to table a copy of that report. m FORBES (Barker) (12.13)- 1 do not propose to say much about the speech of the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison). The quality of his contribution was represented by his extraordinary statement that the only reason why the previous Government stationed the squadrons at Butterworth was that there was no place for them in Australia. Of course, this was contradicted by his own Deputy Leader, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who talked at some length of the value that those squadrons have in the training role and in other ways m Malaysia. The only other thing I want to say about the honourable member for St George is that ail of us who in recent years have travelled around South East Asia know something of his reputation in South East Asia. I believe that some of this knowledge has come back to the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who showed great wisdom, when the honourable member was foisted on him by the Caucus, in appointing the honourable member to a portfolio in the Government which had nothing to do with Australia’s relations with South East Asia.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker should refer to the honourable member for St George as the Minister for External Territories.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker. The essence of the censure motion against the Government is that it has jeopardised Aus tralian security, firstly, through vacillation In relation to the commitment of troops to the Five Power Arrangements thereby putting at risk the whole Five Power Arrangements and, secondly, by undesirable disclosures of security information. The Minister for Defence who spoke earlier made the most pathetic attempt that I have ever heard a Minister make in my 17 years in this House to answer these charges made by the Opposition. In relation to vacillation, all he could say was that the partners to the Arrangements understood the new Australian Government’s position. I am sure that is so. I am sure they do understand it. They understand it only too well. What they understand is that the present Government is vacillating, unable to make up its mind about its commitment to the Arrangements. And because they are astute politicians they also understand that the reason for that is that the present Government is not its own master. It is subject to the dictates of the left wing dominated Australian Labor Party Federal Conference.
The only answer that the Minister for Defence would give us to the very well made and searching accusations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) about undesirable disclosures by the Prime Minister was that everybody knew about this. He tried to tell us that it really was not secret at all. If it is true that everybody knew about it and that that was the reason for the disclosure, why did the Prime Minister behave in the way he did? Why did he not make a straight, direct statement either to this Parliament or to the whole of the Australian Press? He did not do that. I will not weary the House by going over the course of what he actually did, but he did it in a clandestine way. He made a restricted briefing unattributable to him. What an extraordinary way to go about it if, as the Deputy Prime Minister said, everybody knew about this. It did not matter, he said, to disclose it in the way he did.
If this was so unexceptionable and so well known, why did the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence - I am not sure who it was but I am reliably informed that this happened - reissue the D notice imposing a voluntary security restraint on the Australian Press and other media in relation to this matter? One of them reissued the D notice and yet the Minister for Defence said that this was unexceptionable because everybody knew about it. The other reason he gave was that 5,700 civil servants - the Minister for External Territories said it was 6,500 but I do not know how many it was - knew all about it. The only comment I can make is that it says a lot for the standard of the Australian civil service that over so many years so many people with the need to know could be briefed about this matter and there was not a hint of a disclosure. Yet the first time that the new Australian Government, and important people in it - the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence - get their sticky fingers on it we get disclosure. I think it is worth asking: Where did the disclosure come from that came to Mr Brenchley? It has been suggested that it came from the office of the Minister for Defence and not from a career public servant, one of those people whom in a way he has brought into question by bandying around this group of 5,700 people. Again it reinforces my point that 5,700 people knew about the matter and we had not a hint of a disclosure. Yet when this matter becomes the responsibility of members of the Labor Government and their hangers-on in their offices - and many of those hangers-on refuse to have security checks - it is disclosed straightaway.
How many more defence secrets will be . disclosed in this way with the same sort of puerile, senseless argument used to justify their disclosure? I do not believe that the argument of the. Minister for Defence on this issue stands up. I do not believe that he believes it. I do not believe that a single member of this House believes it. I do not believe, either, that the Prime Minister wanted to disclose this information, because he knew that it was wrong to do so. He would not have taken the furtive actions which he did behind the doors or through the drafting race, as the Leader of the Opposition described it, and he would not have reissued the D notice if he had not realised that it was wrong. Of course he was forced into doing it to relieve himself of embarrassment from pressure from his own left wing and outside control. One of the principal reasons for this motion is that he did not stand up to that pressure. Any Australian Government worth its salt, when it believes that it is necessary in the national interest to withhold information, however uncomfortable pressures may be and however difficult its domestic situation and however it may effect it in the future, has a responsibility to stand up to these pressures. The Prune Minister succumbed to them and he thereby jeopardised the security of this country. This is why we are taking the step of moving this censure motion today.
Let me go through some of the events which have led us to this serious charge which the Government has to answer, namely the subordination of the vital defence interests of the Australian nation to the claims of domestic party pressures from an ideologically motivated, unrepresentative and unelected junta. Let me take the House through the events relating to the Five Power Arrangements for which the Minister for Defence was unable to give any explanation, and to Australian forces in Singapore. The House will remember the significant achievement of the previous Government in negotiating the Five Power Arrangements and persuading the United Kingdom to reverse its previous decision to withdraw entirely from the Far East. There is no doubt that all the partners to the Arrangements believed that the ANZUK force was the only thing which gave the Arrangements meaning and credibility in terms of the stability of the region. There is no doubt that they believed that at the time it was negotiated by my colleagues, and there is no doubt that they still do.
This is testified, to by the statements which have emanated recently from Lord Carrington, from Mr Kirk - the New Zealand Prime Minister - from Singapore, and more recently from Malaysia, and even from countries outside the Arrangements such as Indonesia. The House will remember - I will not enlarge on it - what might be described as Gough’s goof in Indonesia. All these messages have been .coming through loud and clear. Yet how has the Government responded? Has it learnt that we live in a dangerous, practical world, in a world where words are no substitute for actions, and where high-sounding phrases are no substitute for good friends and a reputation for reliability? Of course it has not. The people of the region understood that. I would like to quote briefly from an article .by the respected correspondent Mr Denis Warner in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this morning. He said:
The Whitlam plan for reshaping Asia with a new pact to include China and Japan, but excluding the United States and the Soviet Union, lost its last possible South East Asian supporter when Malaysia weighed in against the proposal last weekend.
There is nothing that the South East Asian States would welcome more- than the establishment of genuine and lasting peace based on the neutrality of the area. That, indeed, is the goal to which all are working. But their ideas are long range, and take into heavy account present day realities. They do not believe that peace and neutrality can be assured within the next 2 years, and not necessarily in 10.
That is a rather uncomfortable timetable in the light of the pressure from the Federal Conference of the Labor Party. Mr Warner continues:
On the principle of not burning bridges until they are reached, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand welcome the continued presence of American air forces in Thailand - of course as a temporary measure.
All are in favour of the Five Power Agreement under which Australia stations military forces In Singapore and Malaysia.
No-one wants to see SEATO dissolved at this time.
They are the practical realities, but has the present Government shown any flicker of understanding of this situation? Of course it has not. After uttering soothing words in the period prior to the election about the importance it attached to the Five Power Arrangements and playing down those provisions in the ALP platform which required it to bring the troops back to Australia, it was confronted with the imminent visit of Lord Carrington. He would want to know where the Government stood Apparently without consulting any of their colleagues the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence decided, no doubt after taking advice from the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs, that it was in the defence interests of Australia to leave the logistics support force in Singapore. In the light of subsequent events I want to emphasise that this was a decision taken on defence grounds and in the best interests of the security of the nation. It was a correct and proper decision which we supported, although we did not believe there was any justification for bringing the combat troops home.
If the Government was to take this craven action and pander to its left wing by bringing the combat troops home, the next best thing it could do was to attempt to preserve the Five Power Arrangements by leaving the logistics forces in Singapore. This was the decision to which the Government came. It was duly and publicly announced. I pledged on behalf of the Opposition in a statement at the time that we would support the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence in the fight that the Prime Minister obviously had on his hands against his left wing colleagues both in the Parliament and in the Party outside. I reiterate that. It apparently satisfied Lord Carrington, although no doubt he had his own views of the craven decision of the Australian Government to shelter behind the combat troops of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore and to withdraw our troops.
The Minister for Defence let it be known that, in acordance with this decision, 900 men would be left in Singapore. Pressure started from the left wing and the Prime Minister at a Press conference reduced that to 500 or 600 men, including, as I understand it, the Royal Australian Air Force personnel in Singapore. Pressure was applied still further when the resolution of the Victorian Council of the Australian Labor Party was given a great deal of prominence and publicity by Mr Hartley and the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) jumped on the bandwagon. At this point, defence considerations and the security of the country, which had been rapidly diminishing in importance anyway in the minds of members of the Government in their approach to this question, completely disappeared.
Then followed the matter to which I referred earlier; It was the most incredible, extraordinary, irresponsible and unworthy action ever taken by a Prime Minister of Australia. I refer to the incident in which the Prime Minister deliberately leaked defence secrets to the Press of this country, not because it was in the interests’ of Australia - as I said earlier, I believe that he knew it was not - but in the hope of creating a situation which would ease the pressure from his own left wing. In the view of the Opposition, the Prime Minister has demonstrated by this act alone his unfitness for the high office that he holds. In one stroke he has branded his Government as one which cannot be trusted to keep information secure and as an untrustworthy and unreliable ally.
The next step in this extraordinary saga was that the Prime Minister announced that the signals unit would be withdrawn. I ask the House to note this and note it well, particularly in regard to what the Deputy Prime Minister had to say that the Government would ultimately bow to the dictates of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. A decision made by the Government, announced after due consideration, and after taking advice from the Department of Defence can, and probably will, be reversed by a beer swilling, floral shirted bunch of new leftists in some sleezy Surfers Paradise pub-
– A mob of yahoos-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) has shown by his concluding words how baseless, desperate and frivolous this motion is. Both grounds in the motion can be very readily disposed of. There has been no vacillation by this Government, by my Party or by me on the question of the troops in Singapore or Malaysia. Once confrontation ended between Malaysia and Indonesia, there was no justification whatever for Australian troops to remain in Malaysia or Singapore. My Party has made it plain that all those combatant troops had no place in that area; they did have a place in Australia. I have made that plain over the last 2 years or more in Britain to Mr Heath, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Lord Carrington; in Malaysia to Tun Razak and Tun Ismail; in Singapore to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Rajaratnam and Dr Goh Keng Swee; and in New Zealand, formerly to Sir Keith Holyoake and Mr Marshall and, more recently, to Mr Kirk and Mr Faulkner. They have all known what we thought about this matter. In my policy speech before the electionI slated:
Pending neutralisation, we will honour the full terms of the Five Power Arrangements under which Australia agrees to provide Malaysia and Singapore with personnel, facilities and courses for training their forces and assistance in operational and technical matters and the supply of equipment . . . The Five Power Arrangements do not require an Australian garrison in Singapore; the battalion and battery there will not be replaced when they complete their tour of duty.
We put that to the people. We put it to all our neighbours. We were elected on that platform and we will carry out that platform.
The more serious ground of the motion is that I made public information concerning Australia’s security. I was in no position to deny a statement which was made right across the front page of the ‘National Times’ of 11th February. It is about time the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) obtained a copy of this newspaper on the day it comes out in Sydney or in Canberra. He was immensely surprised to hear about it on Tuesday. All the world was barking it; 5,700 Australians knew all about it. Could I deny it? True it is that if the secret of another country were involved 1 would have made no comment at all. I shall not confirm, deny, qualify or correct in any way any secrets which this country has from other countries. I repeat what was said by my Deputy yesterday: . . the Australian and United States Governments have given undertakings to each other to protect from unauthorised disclosure classified information which we share about these stations. The Government will respect all classified information shared between us and the United States, as well as with Britain, New Zealand and other powers, including our friends in Asia. Defence co-operation cannot be conducted on any other basis.
The unit in Singapore was solely an Australian unit. The Singaporeans had no part in conducting it. The attitude of my Party has been made plain for years and was made plain again last night. We believe that it is quite improper that any other country should operate a defence unit in our country unless we share in the management of it. We say the same in respect of other countries. We do not believe that we should operate a defence unit in another country unless that other country shares in the management of it. This was an Australian unit.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a letter which he sent to me. 1 would have been more impressed with his utterances if he had quoted any of the letter which 1 sent to him. It is significant that he did not comment in any way on one particular phrase which was contained in my letter to him in which I reminded him that the Gorton Government, of which he was a member, started plans to transfer this operation to Australia. My letter stated:
My Government is pressing on with that decision. I would be happy, with my officers, to refresh your memory on the decisions taken by previous Liberal Governments and acquaint you with the present situation.
The right honourable gentleman yesterday availed himself of my offer. He was reminded of what the governments of which he was a member were planning to do. He was told for the first time of the nature of this unit. He did not refer to that fact during his speech. He accepts, therefore, that the preceding governments intended to bring this unit back to Australia. This decision had stemmed from 5 years back. But what happened? When the plans were made, the Cabinet submission went through and the then Ministers just dithered. They decided that the unit could and should come back to Australia and they just delayed in implementing that decision.
Now, we are going ahead with it. It is a unit which any nation with the competence should operate. But a nation should operate it in its own territory, or in another territory only in co-operation with the government of that other territory. It will be some little time before this unit can operate effectively from Australia. But my Government takes the attitude that the Gorton Government took, namely, that the unit could and should operate from Australia. We will press forward with installing in Australia this important capacity.
The most obscene attitude of the Liberal Party over the years has been its impression that only it could be trusted with secrets and only it would be a true ally. It is significant that my 2 immediate predecessors did not seek to come into this debate. My predecessor but one, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), could not come in on this debate because he was the man who disclosed the secret of President Johnson, that he was going to suspend the bombing over North Vietnam, in an effort to get to the conference table in Paris. So he could not have referred to anything like this. My immediate predecessor, of course, was involved on 2 occasions which I can reveal because he revealed them in the Parliament. He spoke about the gift to Indonesia of the Sabre jet aircraft before arrangements had been agreed with Indonesia. He it was who revealed in the Parliament on 2nd December - that was in 1971, I hasten to add - security and intelligence arrangements between Australia and Indonesia.
It is remarkable, of course, that the most vociferous, most articulate former Minister for Defence, who has now been told to beat bis swords into ploughshares, does not say anything about off-the-record briefings. It was he, as Minister for Defence in March 1971, who gave confidential background briefings to selected journalists in which he made accusations against senior Army officers - accusations which led to one of the many notorious and demeaning conflicts within the late Government.
I would love to talk a bit longer in going through what the right honourable member for Higgins said about the fact that nothing was secret in any Liberal Government after the Menzies regime. I would love to quote, of course, what the former honourable and learned member for Warringah said about the same. But there will be plenty of opportunity for all these gentlemen who have been so silent on this occasion to speak on this and any other matter they like in the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. There is no substance in either ground of this frivolous, desperate motion. We should now dispose of it without any further ado.
Motion (by Mr Hansen) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister in clear and unmistakable language made accusations against two of my colleagues and invited them to respond in this debate, yet now he has allowed the Government Whip to move the gag.
– No point of order is involved. A ruling of the Chair cannot be debated except on a substantive motion.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Sneddon’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I call on questions without notice.
– I ask that questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Order! The Minister for Social Security wishes to make a personal explanation. I call the Minister for Social Security.
– I rise on a personal explanation. Last night on the debate on the motion for adjournment of the House I misrepresented the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I said:
As the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has pointed out on more than one occasion, the exMinister decided at some stage many years ago to breach the security arrangements at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. He breached them In gaining entry and was locked up for his trouble.
The ex-Minister referred to is the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I went on to give some details of the incident. The Minister for Services and Property advised me this morning that he knows many interesting stories about the honourable member for Mackellar but he was not aware of this one. The Minister feels that I have misrepresented him in attributing him as the source for this story. I apologise to the Minister for Services and Property for misrepresenting him.
– I will accept that. Thank you very much.
– I unreservedly withdraw the statement I made last night rather than risk offending the Minister for Services and Property.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to page 98 of Hansard of yesterday’s date. A statement there by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is clearly offensive to me.
– I rise to order.
-Order! Is the honourable member for Mackellar seeking leave to make a statement?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– No, leave is not granted.
– Right. Leave not having been granted, I claim my rights under standing order 95.
– I rise to order.
– Since I have not stated my point -
-Order! A point of order is being taken by the Deputy Prime Minister.
– The honourable member for Mackellar requested leave to make a statement. That leave was refused. If the honourable member believes that he has been misrepresented and he asks leave to explain the misrepresentation leave will be granted.
– Mr Speaker, I claim my rights under standing order 95. The Minister for Social Security has been offensive. I draw your attention to page 98 of yesterday’s Hansard.
– I rise to order.
– Under standing order -
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Mackellar claims that he is acting under standing order 95 and is claiming the right to reply to remarks he finds offensive. My point of order is that there is no right under any standing order to reply to remarks that are found to be offensive. Honourable members may reply only to misrepresentations.
– On the point of order -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will be quite in order in asking for leave to make a personal explanation. He will not be in order in pursuing this matter under standing order 95.
– 1 ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! You seek to do that on the ground that you have been misrepresented?
– I know that, last night, the speeches in the House were very confused and it may well be that you, Mr Speaker, did not hear what was said. Therefore, I draw your attention to page 98 of Hansard, the second column, wherein the Minister for Social Security made a remark to me which was grossly offensive and which I asked to be considered offensive. Under standing order 77, if you had heard that remark undoubtedly you would have intervened because it would have been your duty to do so. I do honestly consider that you did not hear that remark and, therefore, I am not endeavouring in any way to impugn your conduct. However, if you had heard the remark which is recorded on page 98 of Hansard undoubtedly you would have agreed that the words were offensive. I named them as offensive. Standing order 77 provides that the Speaker shall intervene. You did not and I believe this is because you did not hear the remark. It is important for this House that wc should be able to rely on an impartial Speaker, lt is important for every member and it is important for the House as a whole. This is one of our most important privileges. I therefore ask that you require the Minister for Social Security to withdraw his offensive remark.
– I rise to order. I gather, although it is very difficult to get just what the honourable member is driving at that he is asking for leave to correct what he claims is a misrepresentation.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– He is going on to other things.
– No; the honourable member was quite in order.
– If the Minister for Social Security does not feel impelled to offer an apology then I have nothing further to say. lt throws a very revealing light on what he is and upon his character.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Australian Film Development Corporation Act 1970 1 present the second annual report of the Australian Film Development Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1972 together wilh the financial statements and the Auditor.General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present the communique of the meeting between the
I Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria and me at Albury-Wodonga on 25th January last. Copies of this communique are available to members in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1972 I present the sixteenth annual report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13th August 1972.
– ‘Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1966 I present the twenty-fifth annual report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30th June 1972 together with the Auditor-General’s reports on the accounts of the Board.
– For the information of honourable members I present the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into financial terms and conditions of service for male and female members of the Regular Armed Forces.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the ground that 1 was misrepresented at least 3 times ;n the House this morning.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– During the debate on the motton of censure this morning the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made 2 statements which were inaccurate and by using the word inaccurate’ I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that I am using the most modest language that can be applied to a statement of the kind made by him. We were dealing then with breaches of security and there were definite statements made about a breach of security by the Prime Minister. He then said that on 2 occasions I had been guilty of a similar type of breach. This statement is wrong and I want to emphasise that. The first occasion related to a gift of Sabre aircraft to the Indonesian Government. For some time there had been negotiations for a gift of these aircraft together with civil and military aid to the Indonesian Government. When asked a question in the House about this matter I naturally gave the correct answer that we were negotiating and that we would in fact give the aircraft if the Indonesian Government wanted us to do so. There was no secrecy about this and no reason for it to be regarded as confidential. There was no reason in the world why it should be classified in any way. If the honourable gentleman chooses to regard this as a breach of a security classification then heaven help the kind of open government that he will insist on during the time he happens to sit on the other side of the House.
Similarly in my answer to a question relating to the opening up of intelligence discussions between the Indonesian Government, myself and my relevant departments, it is true that we did open up the discussions and we had a long period of negotiations about them. I felt at the conclusion of the discussions that it was wise that there should be full and complete discussion and full and complete co-ordination between the Indonesian intelligence authorities and the Australian intelligence authorities. There was no reason whatsoever why this matter should have been regarded as even classified in the most humble way. I want to point out to the House that in both of these cases the honourable gentleman has trampled on the truth and has not lived up to the reputation for accuracy be seeks to achieve for himself.
The last misrepresentation concerns the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) and the discussions I had in Indonesia relating to the Post-AMDA Arrangements. As I hope the Minister will remember, the word is ‘Arrangements’ and not agreements, pact or treaty. This word was used deliberately in the five power arrangements so that we could overcome the idea of it being an agreement which constituted a definite problem relating to a military commitment in the 2 parts of Malaysia - whether in the peninsula or East Malaysia. When quoting me the Minister obviously did not read what I had said. In taking a quote from one of the newspapers he omitted certain words. I did say that the arrangements were a voluntary agreement and that it was an agreement to consult only. It did not in fact amount to a precise commitment to undertake activity of an operational nature if we considered it to be necessary. But when we look at the words we find that whilst I said that it was not necessary to have a pact or arrangement - and it was a pact that we were talking about - I said:
But the Arrangements are all the more valuable because they trust us and we trust them.
There I paraphrased the words of Sir Robert Menzies in this House on 25th September 1963.
– I rise on a point of order. The right honourable member for Lowe is debating the question.
– Order! There is no point of order. The right honourable member is making a statement by leave, not a personal explanation.
– I consulted with the Prime Minister before I asked for leave to make my statement. If there were people here with any sense of history - and I believe that the Prime Minister has a sense of history - they would have known thatI said there was no necessity for an agreement because we in the Commonwealth countries had trust and confidence in each other. I was paraphrasing the words that the then Prime Minister used in the House somewhere about the 23rd or 25th September 1963. I have not been able to verify the exact date because unfortunately someone took the precaution of locking me out of my room over the luncheon adjournment. But I will check up the exact date. If you will agree, Mr Speaker - and I hope that the Leader of the House will agree - I will put the exact date in Hansard so that those honourable members who want accuracy and who wish to know the historical background against which the statement was made will be able to read it. I make this confirmatory statement: On both occasions the truth was not followed accurately. In fact there was such a diversion from the truth that although it is past history I felt that it was wise not only that we should test the accuracy of the statements made by the then opposition but to establish the truth as well.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief statement regarding the rules for the use of VIP aircraft.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Government recently gave consideration to the question of rules for the use of Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft for VIP and VIP party travel, following which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stated that the rules would be tabled when Parliament sat. I now table these rules. There are some points which I should specifically mention. Essentially these rules are the same as those which were drawn up and applied under the previous Government. Those rules were the subject of a statement in the Senate on 30th September 1970, by the then Minister for Air, Senator Drake-Brockman, in which he summarised their provisions. The rules which I have tabled amplify the previous rules in 2 respects. First, it is made clear that a request is not to be made to an approving authority for VIP aircraft travel if alternative forms of transport are available. Second, the previous rules said that passengers carried as members of a VIP’s party would normally be limited to his wife, personal staff and departmental officials connected with the official party. The new rules add that if a request is made for travel by a member of a VIP’s family other than his wife it will be referred to the Prime Minister for consideration.
There is a final point I should make to avoid possible misunderstanding. As has been made clear in the past, the rules provide guidelines. They are not intended to include specific references to all circumstances in which travel on VIP aircraft may be approved nor are they intended to be inflexible. There may be special circumstances in which approving authorities will need to exercise discretion and applications in those cases will be examined on individual merits. Such matters will be handled by me in consultation with the Prime Minister. I present the following paper:
Rules for the use of Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft - Ministerial Statement, 1 March 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I wish to speak only briefly on this statement. The Opposition congratulates the Government for moving so promptly to get the fingers of new Ministers out of the toffee barrel. I also wish to make it clear that the Opposition, unlike the Government when it was in opposition, has no intention whatsoever of attempting to make political capital out of responsible and justified use of VIP aircraft. As one who has suffered in relation to this I feel quite strongly about it. The Government should have no fear that the Opposition is not aware of the absolute necessity in many circumstances for Ministers to use VIP aircraft to enable the proper performance of their duties. I wish to mention 2 other things briefly. The Minister said:
The rules which 1 have tabled amplify the previous rules in 2 respects. First, lt is made clear that a request is not to be made to an approving authority for VIP aircraft travel if alternative forms of transport arc available.
I would like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that that is an amplification of a rule which existed and which was rigorously followed while the Opposition was the Government. I think it wise, on the early indication of the way in which members of the present Government might use VIP aircraft, for the Minister to amplify the rules in their case, but it was always a rule inflexibly administered in our time in government that a VIP aircraft would not be made available if, to quote the Minister’s statement, ‘alternative forms of transport are available’.
It surprises me to find on reading the rules that the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition are listed among the people entitled to the use of VIP aircraft but that the Leader of the Australian Country Party is not listed. It seems to me to be quite inconsistent that both the House and the Government should have accorded the status they have to the Leader of the Country Party - a status which obviously springs from his being the leader of a party with 20 members in this House - and at the same time not have included him amongst these people. I understand that consideration is being given to this matter. I hope that the Government will see fit to amend the rules to include the Leader of the Country Party.
Mr BARNARD (Bass - Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) - by leave - The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) raised a point in relation to the Leader of the Australian Country Party. This matter has been under consideration. I believe that one should not overlook the responsibilities, the requirements and probably the intentions of the leader of the third major party in this Parliament. All I want to say at this stage is that the matter is under consideration, lt is being dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and I know that it will be considered sympathetically. In the circumstances it was not possible for the Leader of the Country Party to be included in the schedule until the Prime Minister had made his decision.
– First of all I want to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) on bringing forward this statement and presenting the rules for the use of VIP aircraft to all members of Parliament and to the Australian public. Unfortunately, this is an emotive issue which can be used to try to discredit people who are using these aircraft. At the same time it is an area in which anomalies can be created and it could appear that distortions have taken place. Of course, if people want to abuse the privilege they will do so. We hope that this will not happen.
The Minister said that there will be some amplification of the rules for the use of VIP aircraft by members of Ministers’ families. Far too much emphasis has been placed on this in the past. I think it is quite wrong that Ministers arc not allowed to take with them a member or members of their families who are dependent upon them if there is room on the plane and if no additional expense is caused to the Government. I think that such a concept is far too narrow. It shows little understanding of family life and the difficulties that a Minister of State has.
The other question I want to refer to - and I thank the honourable member- for Barker (Dr Forbes) for bringing it up - is whether in my position I will have use of VIP aircraft should 1 need them to get me to certain political functions or during campaigning. This privilege has always been available to the Leader of the Country Party during the course of campaigns. His right to aircraft on such occasions has been accepted by members of this House. I know of no time when the Opposition has complained of the Leader of the Country Party using a VIP aircraft during the course of a campaign, and I hope that that privilege will still be bestowed upon me as leader of a significant party.
The statement lays down a privilege for the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy l eader of the Opposition and makes reference to people of similar status or importance who may be visiting Australia being entitled to this amenity. The words ‘similar status’ are also used in relation to serving officers. I believe that I have a similar status. I think the forms of this House are such that I should be entitled under that criterion. I have similar status regarding salary; I have similar status regarding staffing facilities.*!, hope that the Government might consider interpreting ‘similar status’ as entitling me to the use of VIP aircraft. I have written to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Unfortunately I did so a few days prior to his visit to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. A message came back from his office that there was inadequate time for my letter to be looked at before the Prime Minister’s departure. I am grateful for the remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister that this matter will be considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, in all standing orders relating to the taking of a division or the counting of the House or Committee for quorum purposes, references to 1 minutes be suspended and 3 minutes apply in place thereof.
I do not intend to speak at great length on this motion, other than to say that its purpose is to extend from 2 minutes to 3 minutes the time that the bells will ring to summon members for a division or quorum. This is a temporary measure only, to apply while the alterations to Parliament House are being carried out. Members will know that the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Cabinet room have been temporarily relocated in the Senate wing which was completed last year. Having a look at honourable members opposite, I think that even the most active of them would have to reach near-Olympic standard to get between that office and the chamber within 2 minutes, and a few honourable members I see opposite might not get to the chamber in 2 days. These temporary offices are as far away from the chamber as it is possible to get.
Renovations to this place are extensive. I do not say this in any political sense, but on the eve of the election, for some unknown reason, the Liberal Party decided to demolish the Prime Minister’s suite. To make sure everything went, the old Cabinet had to go too. I understand that these offices will not be replaced or rebuilt even if the job proceeds with great speed, until the commencement of the Budget session. This means, of course, that the Prime Minister and Cabinet are now located at the very far corner on the Senate side of the Parliament In addition, a number of private members are on the Senate side also. In other words, they arc a long, long way from where we constantly have to assemble for the business of government. Whilst others may not believe so, I believe that the Prime Minister has the right to participate in votes in this Parliament when he so desires. This applies to every honourable member. Every facility should be made available in order that a l honourable members may be able to enter the chamber in time to take part in the divisions that take place. Not only the Prime Minister is involved. Meetings of Cabinet sub-committees could be taking place and the members who are located in that distant part of the building may find that, when the passages are crowded with members rushing along, they will not be able to reach this chamber in time. Of course, the dignity of the Senate must be considered. Senators may not want to see members rushing wildly through their corridors, disturbing the placidity of that august chamber. This kind of thing must be avoided - if not for the benefit of the persons directly concerned, then to maintain the high standard of dignity and decorum of those in another place.
In contrast to the situation in which some honourable members on this side have been placed - this may have been the luck of the draw, I suppose, although there were some disputes about what room would be occupied by whom - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and the de facto Deputy Leader of the Opposition are all located in offices that are very close to this chamber. I suppose that 2 or 3 steps would take them into this place. We do not quibble at that in any way. But it is only reasonable to say that during the time Parliament House is undergo- I ing renovations the time for the ringing of the
I division bells should be extended. That is why today I have formally moved this motion. I hope that it will be accepted. I know that there are great issues to come before the Parliament, but I cannot imagine that an extension of one minute will make that much difference to the deliberations of this House.
I commend the motion to the House and hope it will be supported. I am doing this in a quite non-political way, in the interests of the Parliament and the members of it. I do not have any ulterior motive of giving favour to anyone; rather do 1 seek that the Prime Minister, other members of the Cabinet and those other honourable members who are situated in offices on the far side of Parliament House be given an equal opportunity to participate in debates and divisions without running the risk of having heart attacks, falls or anything of that nature on their way to this august place. I commend the motion to the House and I hope that it will be supported as [ a temporary measure.
– This is the first opportunity that I have had to congratulate the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) on his appointment to that position. I wish him well. I hope that he will show indulgence in regard to the need to provide the Opposition parties with a full opportunity to criticise and scrutinise the matters which are brought before this House by the Government.
– As you did not do.
– The honourable member for Bowman might prefer his own double standard. He is entitled to it because he is known for it. If Government supporters will allow me as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to make a point which, if I may say so, is of marginal significance, I will say that it is already clear today that, in terms of its approach to the forms and procedures of this House, the Government is not prepared to allow the Opposition parties a full and reasonable opportunity to seek to criticise the proposals which it has brought forward.
– That is a lie. That is a double standard.
– That is a strong word from the honourable gentleman. He should think back on the issues discussed earlier today. What have we seen from the Government? We have seen the debate on a censure motion - one of the most substantial and serious motions that can be brought before this House - guillotined by a government that was unprepared to allow the debate on those significant issues to continue today. In a sense, it is ironic that a government which has so eloquently spoken of the need for open government in its policy speech before the election and in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral - 1 recall the phrase ‘a more open society’ - should have proposed this motion which, together with the motion which is to follow relating to the time of adjournment, seeks to shorten the time available for debates in this House.
-Order! We are now dealing with a motion to extend from 2 minutes to 3 minutes the time for the ringing of the bells. The other matter is the subject of a subsequent, motion.
– I make the point that the first motion before this House proposes to increase the period of time for the ringing of the bells and having regard to the total context of these motions - that is to say, there will be a cut-off at II o’clock each evening - I believe it will be self-evident to you. Mr Speaker, that this motion will certainly cut into the time for debate which is available to the Opposition parties. I remind the Government that the rule for 2 minutes for the ringing of the bells for divisions and quorums was not determined yesterday, last night or last year. It has applied in this Parliament since Federation, regardless of circumstances and regardless of which Party has been in government. Although, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), because of the pressures which his own Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has placed upon him. may seek to cry loud about the problems which he alleges his Prime Minister may experience in relation to the existing rule, I remind the House that Senate Ministers, who have in the recent years of government been involved in Cabinet meetings on this side of the House, and honourable members who have offices in the far wings of the House of Representatives suffer no greater disability in coming to this House for the purpose of quorums and divisions than does the Prime Minister.
We on this side, representing the Opposition parties, see no reason for change at this stage. I believe that if one has regard to the point which the Leader of the House has mentioned - the dignity of the House of Parliament - the Government should consider the problem of the proceedings of this House being broadcast and the mumble of voices which go over the loudspeakers during the period in which the Chair is waiting for a sufficient number of members to form a quorum. The extension of the ringing of the bells from 2 to 3 minutes, is insignificant in relation to one call but spread over a series of calls over many days - we expect that we will be keen as an Opposition to put forward a number of matters which will require these sorts of calls - will, in fact, be a problem for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its broadcasting of the deliberations of this House. 1 can well understand that should this proposal be granted, in the due process of time - sooner rather than later - the Leader of the House will come before this chamber to accuse the Opposition parties of seeking to waste time unnecessarily by the calling of quorums and the ringing of the division bells. We believe that this is not a matter of inconsequence - not a matter to be laughed away. 1 give credit to the honourable gentleman for the urbane and witty manner in which he brought his point before the House. In pass ing, I wish the honourable member well. I hope he is able to satisfy his long-standing penchant for overseas travel.
As my colleague, the member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn), has reminded me, the Leader of the House has a long-standing reputation as ‘Dilly Dally Daly’ which 1 understand comes from the simple fact that once he gets overseas he rarely wants to come home. I hope that in the interests of decorum and the procedures of this House he is well able to indulge that particular objective which I know he has held for a long time. I will discuss this point further in relation to the proposed next motion. Although this may appear to be a talking point, the simple fact is that if one relates the extension of time from 2 to 3 minutes and also the cut-off time to the reduction of the time of an adjournment debate I believe one can see the Government for what it is - a party of double standards which preached during the pre-election period about open government and yet comes into this chamber prepared to deny the Opposition [ parties, as it did this morning, a full and reasonable opportunity to seek to focus critical attention on those matters which the Government puts forward. We are opposed to the motion.
– 1 should like to raise one point concerning the time taken when there are 2 divisions close together, as happened this morning. In these instances there is a division on the motion that the question be put, followed immediately by a division on the original motion. The total time taken this morning to decide what was in effect one division was 1.7 minutes. This is a deplorable situation. This morning the bells rang for 2 minutes and counting followed for about 6 minutes, after which there was a fraction of a minute before the next question was put. On occasions such as this all honourable members are still in the chamber, but it is necessary to ring the bells for another 2 minutes - the new proposal is for 3 minutes - before the count takes place on the second division.
I suggest that the method of counting used in this place is quite preposterous. We have this ridiculous method of checking every name. I have no doubt that as the Whips become more conversant with the names of new members and can identify them more readily the time involved in counting will be reduced by 1 or 2 minutes. Nevertheless, it will still be a very long job. Even at the end of the last Parliament about 4 minutes was taken each time to count a division. If there are 2 divisions, one immediately following the other - for example, a division on the motion to apply the gag followed by a division to resolve the motion before the Chair - at least 15 minutes will be required. Some method should be found by those whose responsibility it is to devise methods to increase the efficiency of the House, to improve on that. I do not care what method is adopted, but it must be possible to find a more simple way of counting a division even if it is necessary to do away with traditions that have existed since Federation such as the alleged granting of VIP aircraft for leaders of the Australian Country Party.
– I should like to join my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), in his concern for the consequences of the suggestion put forward by the Government. I appreciate that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is approaching his dotage and as such finds that his mobility is not quite so great as it once was. This is part of the problem that the Government faces. As most honourable members on this side of the House appreciate as they look at the front bench opposite, the Ministers are all somewhat senior in years to those of us on this side of the chamber. I think the average age of the Ministry is 7 to 8 years older than that of the Opposition. The same age difference applied when we were in Government. It is strange that the Party that aspires to the support of the young people is far from young itself.
This first measure which the Leader of the House has introduced reflects concern that the mobility of some members of his Party has been reduced and it has become necessary for them to have a longer time in which to reach the chamber. In all seriousness I think it is equally true that - as all members of this House know - if this motton is being introduced only as a matter of concern for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) because of the location of his present office, there is a permanent pair customarily available for the leaders of the Government and the leaders of the Opposition. True it is that the Prime Minister should share with every other member of this House the right to vote on any matter which might come before the House. The very fact that the Prime Minister has a permanent pair and the Leader of the Opposition has the same right with him is a reflection of the sort of responsibilities which they exercise. In other words, they cannot always be immediately available to come into the House to vote. I think it is hardly necessary to change this particular standing order in order to accommodate the Prime Minister alone.
Moreover, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated, in the past there have been frequent occasions when Senate Ministers have been attending committee meetings or Cabinet meetings on this side of the House when a division has been called, just as there have been occasions when the bells have been rung while members from this side of the House have been attending committee meetings on the Senate side of the House. There have customarily been located in offices in remote parts of this building members some of whom are not so agile as they might be and all of whom could have found a little difficulty in reaching the chamber within 2 minutes of the bells being rung. For that reason also I am opposed to any change in this standing order.
The honourable member for Prospect has just referred, quite justifiably in my opinion, to the time taken in the counting of a division of this House and of the projected extension of that time on each occasion when the bells are rung. I trust that the Leader of the House in his new quest for saving time in this place will reflect each time when he asks the Whip to move the gag that by so doing he will be extending the 2 minutes to 3 minutes and that the time of the House will be frittered away.
I do not know how many divisions are held in the course of a Parliamentary sitting. Hardly a week would go by without between 10 or 20 divisions being called. Each time a division is called, if this motion is agreed to, the bells will ring for an extra minute. That will all be time taken from the time available for the running of this chamber and consideration of its business. Is the Leader of the House really so concerned with the efficacy of the conduct of the business of this place? I share with the honourable member for Prospect a concern at the manner in which the vote is taken in this place. I think it is a matter that could well come under our consideration. Others forms of counting are used in other Parliaments throughout the world. I am quite sure that it is not beyond the wit of nian, the Speaker or the Leader of the House, to find suitable alternative forms for counting divisions. If this were done perhaps the time for which the bells are rung could be reduced.
It was also said that the change is to be temporary. In fact, we are meeting in a Parliament House which is said to be temporary. 1 think it was first occupied in 1927. I rather fear the consequences of a temporary change of this character. Any change, once made, is not temporary: it is a change until such time as it again is altered. I see no reason to accept the change only on the basis that it might he allegedly temporary.
Another factor concerns me. At this present moment the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast. Those of us who have been away from the chamber from time to time have listened to the parliamentary debates being broadcast. Sometimes the standard of the debate is not as high as it might be. but fortunately that is not always so. However, on those occasions when there are divisions and the bells ring those Who sit in the broadcast control booth and who look at our proceedings constantly, find it somewhat difficult to keep the listeners amused, entertained or whatever they endeavour to do, while the bells are ringing. I believe that it would be worth while if for that reason alone we kepi the time for ringing of the bells to the minimal period of 2 minutes instead of the 3 minutes as proposed. When a debate was gagged and a succession of divisions called in this chamber - that situation is not unknown here - the additional time taken, if this proposal were accepted, to hold those divisions would erode the capacity of most listeners to remain interested in parliamentary proceedings. T think that it is a good thing for the country and a good thing for the Parliament that an opportunity is given to people to listen to these proceedings when they are broadcast. Any erosion of that opportunity is to be decried.
I find it very hard to accept this proposal, despite the good humoured way in which the Leader of the House has presented it, as being anything other than an attempt by the Government to erode the rights of the individual member. To my mind this is the great tragedy. These great champions of Parliament on the Government benches now claim the right to reduce the amount of time available to parliamentarians to speak. Each time the bells ring, it is true, it will take one extra minute. One minute less debating time does not seem long, but one minute multiplied time after time after time in divisions tends to cut down the time available for the proceedings of this chamber. I do not believe that is in the interest of the House. I do not believe that it is in the interest of the public. I do not believe it is in the interest of open government. Accordingly, I share with my colleague an intention to oppose the motion.
– I am very surprised at one of the arguments at least which have been put forward by the 2 spokesmen for the Opposition. I think it is fallacious and trivial for members to rise here and to suggest that the business of Parliament should be conducted in order to provide entertainment for possible radio listeners. Next we will have members of the Opposition suggesting that we should bring Little Pattie in to sing during divisions. That is the level of argument which has been put forward by members of the Opposition. They are saying that if there is nothing entertaining on the radio when a division is to take place then the division should not take place. If they accept the facts of life of Parliament then they will not call divisions. I hope they would not accept that argument but that is the sort of argument they are putting forward.
Members of the Opposition have suggested that there is some parallel between the position of Senate Ministers relative to the old Cabinet room and Ministers of this House to this Cabinet room. I would suggest to any betting man on the Opposition that the oldest man in this Parliament could get from the old Cabinet room to the Senate, which was a very short distance-
– There is a committee room right around the bottom end of that chamber.
– is the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) suggesting that Cabinet should meet in a committee room? It is nowhere near as far and I think the honourable member is aware of that. The new Cabinet room is at least 100 yards further from the doors of this chamber than the old Cabinet room was from the doors of the Senate. It is a piffling argument that is put forward, that the Parliament is being destroyed by the addition of one minute to the time for which the bells will ring. We are all aware that the time taken up by divisions can be excessive and as a former member of the Opposition I am also aware that Oppositions - this Opposition will do it too - use divisions as a stonewalling device when it suits them. It is part of the tactics of an Opposition in Parliament. So do not let us have crocodile tears about the time that will bc taken up. When it suits the Opposition it will use divisions in the same way as the previous Opposition did to block the Government in this House. It is one of the legitimate tactics available to an Opposition and I do not think anyone would deny it to them.
What is sought here is a temporary measure to meet an unusual circumstance. One wonders what sort of argument we would hear if a decision was taken to house some of the members in the West Block or East Block. Would they then argue that by giving honourable members time to get from those places to the House for a division we would be destroying the institution of Parliament? I quite strongly suggest that any action of the House which denies any member the opportunity to be present at a division at which he wishes to be present is an attack on the parliamentary institution. If there is any doubt that honourable members located legitimately in a part of this building while carrying out their duties as members will be able to be present in this chamber because of the limitation on the time that the bells ring when a division is to take place, it is the responsibility and the duty of this House to make sure that the time for the ringing of the bells is extended sufficiently to enable those members to be present. It has always been the practice for older members who have disabilities to be housed close to the chamber.
– Certainly there are no other facilities provided for them.
– I do not think I should comment on that. There are some very interesting sidelights to it, such as honourable members complaining that Bills providing salaries for members which they passed when in government are not adequate now that they are in Opposition. But that is neither here nor there. One such member :s the Leader of the third party in this House. Those members thought the provision was all right when we were in Opposition. The argument we have at the moment is whether the bells will ring for 3 minutes while extensions are being made to a portion of Parliament
House. If it is to be a permanent feature then the matter must be considered by the Standing Orders Committee as it was at the behest of Government supporters during the last Parliament. So it is not something that is totally foreign to the Opposition. When it was in government it put the suggestion to the last Parliament but it was not acceptable to the Ministry. The then Leader of the House said that it would take too much time to complete a division. Government supporters have put forward the belief that there -should be a 3 minute ringing of the bells. This is a temporary provision and only a temporary provision and as such I think should be adopted by the House.
– By the temporary Government.
– 1 can remember saying the same thing in this House for S years, and some of my predecessors said it for 20 years. I sincerely hope that the honourable member will be spared to have the same opportunity at least for 20 years.
I suggest that the House adopt this proposal and I do so because, as I have said, it is essential that the House provide rules that make it absolutely certain that every honourable member has the opportunity, if he wishes to do so, to be in the House and vote.
– You just said that.
– I have just said that I said it. If the honourable member’s ears were all right he would have known that. I think that what in fact we are saying is that the Opposition, unused to the role it has to play, believes it has to oppose everything. I can assure honourable members opposite that it is not necessary to oppose everything. Trifling opposition has been put forward to this matter although there may be legitimate debate and legitimate opposition on the other matter that is to come before us. However, I do not want to discuss that. The proposal before us at the moment is purely a formality to meet the. circumstances created by the extensions to this building which are taking place. I think that the opposition that has been put forward is, to say the least, trifling.
– I also oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). In so doing might I briefly also offer my congratulations to that venerable fatherly figure who is sitting at the table at the moment and hope that he succeeds in displaying virility, if possible, and energy, if even more possible, in his attitude to the leadership of this House. I doubt whether I can use many more adjectives, Mr Speaker, without incurring your wrath. I take this chance to point out that we have heard so far today not only from the Leader of the House but from the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) who, if I might make a synopsis of his speech, said that he was against the wastage of time in the House. We will look forward, if a division occurs, to seeing him across with us. That would be the only reason for which 1 would personally welcome him on this side.
We have heard also from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who, in one of his more pedantic efforts, really hinges his arguments on 2 concepts. The first is the distance from the temporary suite, if that is the right word, of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to this chamber. In developing his argument he suggested, amongst other things, that the distance from the new Prime Ministerial suite - temporary - for the use of - to this chamber is in excess of 100 yards. I would have thought that 100 yards would have put him fair and square in the nearest parkland. But this is a matter of judgment and I do not have much faith in the judgment of the honourable member for Corio.
The second basis on which he hinges his argument is the problem of a Prime Minister who wishes, and is so keen, he said, to attend a division.
– I did not mention the Prime Minister.
– I apologise. The Leader of the House mentioned the Prime Minister’s undeniable right to attend a division in this House if he sees fit. The key surely to this is the fact that, as the Leader of the House suggests, the Prime Minister is keen to attend divisions - I think that we can safely leave out quorums from this line of reasoning. I think it is quite fair to say, if one looks at the length of the legs of some honourable members in this chamber, that if anyone has a tremendous advantage in this respect and in fact does not seem at all top heavy that person is the Prime Minister. If those, his lengthy encumbrances, cannot get him the short distance between the Prime Minister’s suite and this chamber if he is keen to attend a division, there is something wrong with my logic.
Of course the whole reason for the moving of this motion is that the Government is scared stiff of the factionalism in its ranks. You do not need to be a Whip to have discerned this in the past. There is a faction of members in the Australian Labor Party who are not ke.en about attending the House when the bells are rung and when this Government was in opposition it had trouble with this faction. It is going to have trouble with this faction again. I do not think an extra minute for the ringing of the bells will saVe this Government. I think those honourable members will need about an extra quarter of an hour to get a lot less distance from the Prime Minister’s ministerial suite to this House. That is the. issue and that is why the Government is today trying to delude us that there is logic in this motion, lt is not game enough to face the fact that it does not have a lot going for it in regard to holding the House over the next year or two.
A lot more could be said today on this matter including the fact that anyone who has sat in this House consistently over the last 3 years could not have been impressed with the tongue in cheek attitude, adopted by the then opposition over that period. We heard sanctimonious speeches made almost nauseatingly with a hand over the heart and tongue in cheek which suggested that we did not give the then opposition a fair go. But the time of testing is at hand and I have not the slightest doubt after today’s performance that in a serious debate the Government would not allow an opportunity for previous Ministers for Defence, previous Prime Ministers or interested back benchers to take part in it. The Government has scuttled on to the defensive. This motion is purely another move in the same direction. I do not think it takes a great deal to convince anybody listening to this debate that the grounds on which this motion has been brought forward today are pretty shallow and pretty cheap. To conclude my remarks in far more good humour than perhaps I feel, .1 say to that venerable, ancient and pleasant figure, that veritable father of Dad’s Army’ that I deeply regret the fact that he has had to bring forward such a silly little motion in this his opening effort, if 1 may describe it that way, in this new Parliament.
– It is pretty surprising to hear on this day the new Opposition putting up such a barrage of hollow verbiage about a matter which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has put forward to assist in convenient running of the Parliament. I suppose one should say that the customary time of 2 minutes allowed for the ringing of the bells for a quorum or a division during the last Parliament was probably brought about by the fact that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) moved the gag so many times that if the ringing of the bells had lasted for 3 minutes there would have been no time for debate at all. The hollow vertiage in the arguments against this proposed increase from 2 minutes to 3 minutes was equalled only by the pitiful arguments that were put in the censure debate this morning. If common sense were to rule, then the time that the Opposition and the Australian Country Party have taken in this debate would more than total the time that an extra minute would take in the ringing of the bells for a whole session. It is just utter nonsense. The arguments of Opposition supporters indicate the sterility of their viewpoints. They indicate that after 23 years in office, now that they are themselves in Opposition they have no appreciation of the running of the Parliament or of what can be done to assist the members. If it is so simple and the extra time is not needed perhaps the Speaker should consider converting the Liberal Party room to the Cabinet room and that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) be shifted from their rooms over to the other side of this building and then they would have to cover the extra distance. I wonder how much that would appeal to them.
As to the spurious argument that an additional minute for the ringing of the bells for a quorum or for a division will interfere with the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, have not those honourable members learnt, many of them after many years in this Parliament, that we are not here simply for the purpose of broadcasting proceedings? We are here for the proper conduct of debate, the proper discussion of matters which should be brought before the national Parliament and the proper making of decisions. The Leader of the House is making in this motion some small procedural change that will allow us to carry out our duties more effectively. It is just as well that this Parliament has no severely handicapped members in its membership because there are few facilities to enable a handicapped member to comply with the rule relating to the ringing of the bells. It seems to me that perhaps we should set an example to ensure that if there is a disabled or handicapped member he will receive some assistance. The honourable member for Prospect (Or Klugman) raised an interesting point. 1 think if he had said it straight out - had the Speaker allowed him to do so - he would have said that we should have electronic counting during divisions which is a method used in other parliaments. Perhaps we should consider that proposal. As to the spurious and hoi ow argument which has been put opposing an increase from 2 minutes to 3 minutes, a measure which the Leader of the House in his wisdom has put forward for the assistance of members, it is just so much nonsense. The motion should be dealt with and we should get on with the more important business that is before us.
– I think I can speak with some personal experience on this occasion on this matter because for a long time I occupied a room on the far corner of the Senate wing on the upper storey and therefore somewhat more distant from this chamber than the Cabinet room. It does seem to me from personal experience that a reasonably active person would find no difficulty in covering the distance in 2 minutes. However, I suppose some allowance must be made for the decrepit condition of certain members of the new Ministry. There are 2 matters that I would like to bring forward and I would ask the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to give me his attention for a moment because I think that these are practical points. Firstly, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) made some remarks with which I felt myself in sympathy particularly in regard to what is known as the subsequent question, the question which arises after the application of the gag, and we must expect that the new Government will be applying the gag somewhat more frequently than the last one did. I suggest to the Leader of the House that when the subsequent question is called, namely after the gag, that the ringing of the bells might perhaps be reduced to one minute or even 30 seconds because there is no reason really why extra time should be allowed for that. If members are not here for the gag they do not want to vote on the division. If they are sitting in the House for the gag division there is no need to give extra time. Perhaps the Leader of the House will consider amending his motion in line with the very constructive suggestion made by the honourable member for Prospect and where the subsequent question is called, that is, the question which follows the application of the gag, the ringing of the bells should be reduced to not more than one minute.
The second point 1 want to make is one which followed on the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). I think he was right when he was speaking of the effects on listeners at times of parliamentary broadcasts who, when listening to divisions, had nothing to hear except perhaps the mumble. It is important if the proceedings of this House are to find their echoes in the electorate - as they should - that this time of waiting should not be lengthened from 2 minutes to 3 minutes. If this were done it would be a retrograde step which would cause many people to turn off the parliamentary broadcast. This matter is quite an important one for the conduct of this House. I would suggest that during this time appropriate music might be p ayed. If the motion is moved by the Opposition the appropriate music could be ‘Waltzing Matilda’ or some Australian tune. If the motion is moved by the Government, obviously the appropriate tune would be The Red Flag’ or something of that character. I think that we should consider very carefully the use of some appropriate tunes while the division bells are being rung.
– Parliament should finish with this puerile, pettifogging discussion on the question of whether there should be 2 minutes or 3 minutes to permit honourable members and Ministers to come into the chamber. The Parliament should settle down to the important business of government. This shows the bankruptcy of responsibility of the Opposition which has taken so much time to oppose a proposal that the time to permit honourable members and Ministers to come into this place should be extended by one minute. This is not a subject which concerns the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) alone. This subject is one which concerns every member of the Parliament. In particular it concerns members of the Cabinet who will be attending meetings and who will be required to come from their meeting place into this chamber when a division is called. With all the major questions facing this nation - fiscal matters, international matters and matters of great concern on the domestic front such as housing, education and social welfare - the Parliament has wasted more than an hour this afternoon discussing this question. Surely there should not be an argument.
There is an extraordinary circumstance at the present time. As the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has said, the Prime Minister’s suite has been dismantled and his offices have been moved to the most distant extremity of the Senate building. These are important considerations. They are facts that should not be overlooked. If some of the younger 60 year olds on the Opposition side feel that they do not require 3 minutes they should have regard to the membership of the Parliament generally and make provision in accordance with the present circumstances. 1 regret very much that the great issues of this country have been halted, temporarily at least, for a discussion of a matter which ought to have been determined by a statement from the Leader of the House and by some acceptable point of view from the members of the Opposition. They have not been prepared to face up to the major questions facing this nation. They want to oppose the extension of time from 2 minutes to 3 minutes. I repeat that it only shows the utter bankruptcy of responsibility of an Opposition which cannot settle down to the real business of this nation.
– The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) could not really have believed what he said. This morning the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) moved a most important censure motion against the Government and the Government has shown its attitude to the Opposition and to private members of this Parliament by gagging that first and most vital censure motion over the manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) summoned certain selected Pressmen into his office and gave them security information.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I point out to the honourable member that this is a debate on an extension of the time for ringing the bells by one minute. Referring to a previous debate in this Parliament today is completely out of order.
– I take the point of order. The honourable member is in fact replying to matters which have been raised in the debate. I ask him to make the reference to those matters relatively short and to deal with the subject matter of the debate.
– Thank you for your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will certainly make the matters relevant. As we know, this morning the Prime Minister gagged the debate on a matter of quite vital concern to Australia. He did so to avoid further exposure of himself on a matter that was highly damaging to Australia. To prevent this he was prepared to trample upon the rights of the Opposition and the rights of private members of this Parliament. So it does not really serve much purpose for the honourable member for Macquarie to say that it is the Government that wants to debate important issues and it is the Opposition that does not. Already on this second day of the sitting - the second day in the life of this Government - the gag has been most ruthlessly used and, I venture to say, used in a cowardly fashion. As we all recall, the Prime Minister offered a challenge to the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and to me in that debate, knowing that the debate would be gagged immediately after the Prime Minister sat down. That was a cowardly and offensive action against both of us.
There is a real principle in the action that the Government is now taking. It might appear trivial, It is possible for the Government to show that it is trivial. What is important about changing the time for the ringing of the bells from 2 minutes to 3 minutes? A principle is involved because there is a long standing convention in this Parliament and in Westminster-style parliaments around the world that matters relating to Standing Orders are changed by agreement after they have been considered by the Standing Orders Committee. The Government says that this is merely a suspension. But does anyone really believe that? By suspending this standing order or another standing order the Government can whittle away the rights of an Opposition and the rights of private members and make the Parliament completely subservient to the majority party. That will not serve this Parliament or this democracy well. Earlier we heard the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), a frustrated Speaker, trying to suggest that it was a temporary suspension. I believe that these arrangements would become permanent. What is the purpose of this? Is it merely to serve the interests of the Government? I do not think that the real reason has been mentioned by the Government. The reason for it is that the Government has a lack of confidence in the ability of its own
Whip to maintain the support of this House. It is fearful that, with a vigilant Opposition, the Government would be counted out through its inability to maintain the interest of its members in the business of this House.
– Absolute rubbish.
-The future will show that this is right when the Government is first counted out. It has a lack of confidence in its own supporters. Cabinet knows when there will be a division involving the members of Cabinet. It knows the order of business of the House. It knows when the Government is going to apply the gag. To suggest that there is an inconvenience for the Cabinet in the present arrangements is not real. One must remember that Cabinet is not the master of this Parliament; it is the servant of this Parliament. The Parliament itself ought to remember that well. But the principle that is important is that the Standing Orders are altered by agreement. This particular standing order has been in existence since Federation. There have been Senate Ministers who have had to come from the other end of the House. The Prime Minister is given a permanent pair. In any case, if there is a vote in which he wants to be involved he would know when that vote would be taken. What the Parliament needs to ask itself is: What will the Government attempt to do next to reduce the rights of private members and the prerogatives of the Opposition and to establish circumstances in which matters which might well be embarrassing to the Government cannot be raised within this Parliament?
Some highly embarrassing and damaging matters were raised in the adjournment debate last night. Therefore, the very next day there is a motion to gag and restrict permanently the adjournment debates as a result of the success of the adjournment debate last night on a matter that was likewise highly embarrassing, especially for the Prime Minister aud members of his Ministry.
– Order! the honourable member is debating the next item on the notice paper.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was only suggesting that this is the first small peg driven in by the Government in changes to Standing Orders which will whittle away the rights of the Opposition and of private members, and I was just pointing, by anticipation, very gently-
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member may enlarge that argument during the relevant debate.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable gentleman is defying your ruling. While it may be very interesting for members of the Opposition to show a new-found interest in back bench members-
-Order! I am quite capable of deciding whether or not the honourable member is defying my ruling. I was pointing out something to the honourable member for Wannon.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall finish very shortly. I thank you for your ruling and I understand its context. I finish on this one point: This might appear to be a small matter but it is important to preserve the principle that Standing Orders be changed only after agreement. That is the only way in which the rights of all members in this Parliament may be preserved. Even though this proposal in itself may appear to be a small matter, we need to ask what the Government may attempt to do next. During a later debate there will be some discussion of a further proposal. But there are other changes that could well be in the Government’s mind, but which have not yet been put down. The Government may, for instance, be considering changes in the procedures for suspending Standing Orders, or doing away with general business days and grievance days, all of which affect the rights of private members. I believe that the Government will be trampling rough shod over these matters in the course of time.
– I did not intend to come into this debate, but so much irresponsible nonsense has been talked, and the remarks of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) contained so much of what I can only call hypocrisy, that I must give an answer. No-one knows the facts better than I. I had to move the suspension of Standing Orders in the last Parliament on a number of occasions because of the attitudes expressed by the Opposition when it was then in Government and its deliberate moves to remove the rights of the individual members of this Parliament. For example, was it not the Opposition, when it was in Government, which guillotined the debate on 17 Bills in one night and gagged the debate on another 3? Was it not the Opposition, when it was in Government, which refused honourable members their rights, when it carried a motion in this House suspending the right to move for the suspension of Standing Orders?
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Chifley referred to the hypocrisy of my remarks. I resent that statement. It is offensive to me, and I ask for it to be withdrawn. It is just one further example of the way in which the Government shows no concern for this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member for Wannon has asked for the remark to be withdrawn.
– I will have to ask for your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. In view of some of the remarks made by members of the Opposition about communists and so on do you rule that it is an offensive remark?
-The honourable member for Wannon finds it offensive to him. Therefore he is entitled to ask for it to be withdrawn.
– I would have to withdraw it if you ruled that way.
-In this case I would ask the honourable member to withdraw.
– I withdraw it under protest, because I recall that in the previous Parliament so many people-
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your ruling, but I believe that a withdrawal should be unequivocal, and a withdrawal under protest is not unequivocal.
-Order! I think that a withdrawal is a withdrawal.
– I will stick to the word irresponsible’ and outline the provocative actions of the Government in the last Parliament. As I said, it guillotined the debate on 17 Bills and gagged the debate on another 3 in one night. It suspended the right of members in this House to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. Time after time we had to draw attention to the deliberate action of cutting down the period of question time. I had to sit over on the other side of the chamber and keep, a daily note of the time allowed for questions. I found that instead of our getting 45 minutes the time was cut down one day to 32 minutes by the action of the former Prime Minister. As I say, surely that shows the irresponsibility of members of the Opposition in their remarks before this House now, even if, because of the sensitivity of the honourable member for Wannon, I cannot say they have been hypocritical in their attitude.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member may at this stage, 9 minutes into his speech, mention the motion before the Chair.
– I am mentioning the motion very decisively. These were the things that were done. No Government acted more to gag the activity of this House than did the previous Government, particularly in the last year. The facts are that this proposal is a simple one being put forward because alterations are being made to the building to facilitate the working of the Parliament, lt is a commonsense action to take at this time. I repudiate the statement by the honourable member for Wannon that the previous Government always worked on the principle of agreements between the 2 sides of the House on changes to the Standing Orders. Time and again we have opposed the previous Government’s restrictive actions on the floor of the House. I have mentioned only a few of those actions of opposition here this afternoon. In the time that has been wasted on this debate we could have put through the increase for pensioners. But for the debate on this matter we would have finished the address-in-reply debate much more quickly. We could have given pensioners their increases, which they are all asking about, much more quickly. We could have done something about the removal of the excise duty on wine, and done it much more quickly, not to mention-
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member come back to the subject of the debate before the Chair.
– For the reasons 1 have mentioned I say that the proposal put forward is a sound one. I ask the House to realise that it is being put forward only to facilitate the working of the House. No-one can possibly complain about the action taken by this Government in the short period it has been in office. It has not been restrictive. Consider the time that was allowed for the adjournment debate only last night. In all the time I have sat in this Parliament in Opposition never before have we been given as much time for an adjournment debate. The action taken by us has so far been most responsible. I would have thought that since we have been in office now for less than 3 months the Opposition would at least give us a go to get on with implementing a very important, wide-ranging programme instead of engaging in the type of irresponsible, pinpricking tactics that it is now employing.
– I can only express my astonishment at the paradoxical position taken up by both sides of the House on this matter. On the face of it, it would appear that the Government would have every interest in shortening the time of divisions, because it has a lot of legislation to put before this Parliament and one would suppose that it was anxious, therefore, to get that legislation through as quickly as possible. Why, therefore, should it lengthen the time of divisions? It is said, of course, that this is a temporary measure only. Many of us are aware of temporary things that seem to have an inevitable tendency to become permanent, and one can hardly accept that as a reason. But this is not the reason why I rose to speak. I rose to speak because there is a quite important principle involved here. The matter is not trivial. The manner in which we take divisions and the time taken for divisions form a very important part of the working of Parliament. There are those, I think like the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who speak about electronic counting in divisions, as is done, for example, in the United Nations. There is the English system of members passing through the lobbies and being counted as they pass through. Then we have our system here.
One of the weapons, perhaps the only weapon, that an Opposition really has to insist upon being heard is the capacity to make use of the forms of the House to slow down the process of legislation, to block the Government, in effect to gum up the works. The time that is taken up, therefore, in divisions, among other things, or in having the count taken in a variety of ways is important to an Opposition because it is, as I say, the only way it can enforce upon the Government the right to be heard. It can make the working of the House so impossible that the government in the end prefers to let the Opposition have its say rather than make no progress at all because the Opposition uses the forms of the House, such as innumerable divisions and a variety of other devices, to block and slow down legislation. Therefore, I repeat what I said at the beginning of my speech: I am astonished at the paradoxical position adopted by the 2 sides of the. House. I would have expected the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to wish to reduce the time taken in divisions. I would have expected the Opposition to wish to increase the time taken in divisions. However, that has not happened.
We have been told about loss of time. If loss of time in the taking of division were the only loss of time with which we had to contend in this place, I would think that not only we but also the public at large would be delighted. The loss of time that arises from futile debates on trivial matters lasting for hours is enormous compared with the trivial amount of time taken when the division bells ring for 2 or 3 minutes. As for dull broadcasting during the time when divisions are being taken, when all that people outside the place can hear over the air is coughing and sneezing and a murmur of voices, all I can say again is that if that were the only dullness with which the listening public had to put up from this place they would be delighted. Unfortunately, innumerable dull speeches going on for innumerable hours are the things that kill broadcasting from this place. We can forget about the time taken up by divisions.
So I say, as I have always said, that the method we have for taking divisions - this would include the time they take - is an essential weapon for an opposition. When people have raised that apparently progressive idea of taking divisions by electronic means, I have opposed it for the very reason that I have mentioned. This is the only device that an opposition has. I believe I am right in saying that I am the only member on this side of the House who has even been a member of an opposition. It is for that reason and because I and my colleagues in another place used this method to gum up the works that I am astonished that the Leader of the House does not realise that he is doing something against what is patently in the interests of the Government Party. I have sat in divisions in another place during the Committee stage of a Bill when there were perhaps 30 clauses and on each of the 30 clauses there were 2 divisions, first on the gag and then on the clause. I have sat there for 2 hours, with the ringing of bells and the counting of votes and nothing else. That was done to protest against the Bill that was going through the House.
We do not want to do that kind of thing here; I hope that we will be sensible. But I must repeat what I said at the beginning of my speech: I rose in my place to point out that the time taken in divisions involves an important principle and I, for one, stand for that time being as long as possible because I believe that this is the only weapon that an Opposition has. I hope that my colleagues will learn this.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to take a point of order on the honourable member for Chifley. He made a great to-do about the previous Government getting 17 Bills through by the use of the gag and the guillotine.
– Order! What is the point of order?
– The point of order is simply this: It was not 17 Bills-
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. A point of order can be taken only on a matter which relates to the conduct of the business of the House; it cannot be taken on a matter which arises from a debate in the House or from any subsequent debate in the House.
– Then may I speak in this debate?
-I call the honourable member for Ballaarat.
– The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) made quite a to-do about the previous Government putting 17 Bills through this chamber in the one night by the use of the gag and the guillotine. I want to tell him the truth. Nineteen Bills went through in the one night.
– No, 17 Bills went through by use of the guillotine.
– Just hold on; 19 Bills went through in the one night and the gag or the guillotine was not used at any time. The reason for the 19 Bills going through was that the members of the Opposition went to sleep. After 8 o’clock they dozed off and they did not know what was going on. They became completely lost. The Opposition members who were in charge of the Bills were not in the chamber. We had complete co-operation between the Government parties and we got 19 Bills through in the one night, only because the Opposition was sound asleep.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member for Mackellar has already spoken in the debate and cannot take any further part in it.
– May ] move an amendment?
– No; the honourable member has already spoken in the debate.
Mr DALY (Grayndler - Leader of the House (3.51) - in reply - Anybody listening to the debate this afternoon, particularly the speeches from the Opposition side, would have no doubts as to why honourable members opposite were rejected at the last Federal election. They are the people who were trying to run this country for the last 20 years. For one hour and 10 minutes they have argued about whether or not there will be an extension of one minute to the time allowed for honourable members to enter this chamber for a division. Have honourable members ever in their lives heard such rot as when the honourable member for Toorak thundered into the attack, in his new position as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to fight for a minute for the Opposition?
Order! I suggest that the Minister refer to the honourable member by his correct electorate name.
– 1 refer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). 1 have not quite worked it out yet, but that is my understanding of his position from the Press. It was mentioned today that this rule has not been changed for 73 years. There are many rules that have not been changed for 73 years and it is nearly time that some of them were changed. If it takes that long to change rules, it is no wonder that on many occasions this aud other parliaments do not function effectively.
The first thing J should like to say is that this is not a permanent measure. The Liberal Party in its wisdom decided to demolish half of Parliament House and that has caused inconvenience to not only the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) but also other members of the Ministry and various other people as well as private members. Private members received j no consideration at all from the previous Government and today they are as inconvenienced as Ministers are. Therefore, all we are seeking to do, pending the completion of the renovations which are being carried out, is to provide extra time for honourable members to enter the chamber for a division. I mentioned today that we have heard a lot about the justice associated with the previous Government. The fact of the matter is that no other government ever took away from private members more of their rights in this Parliament than did those who sit opposite. No other government ever gave less to private members than did those who sit opposite, whether it be speaking time, facilities or anything at all. The humbug and the hypocrisy coming from honourable members opposite nearly make me sick after sitting here for 30 years and listening to the drivel that they put forward.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that I spent a bit of time overseas. Anybody who was given the Overseas Property Bureau to administer after the previous Government had been handling it would know that I should spend all my time abroad to take up the slack or the leeway that the previous Government left as a legacy for us to remedy. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) said that I was somewhat decrepit and that I had to have an office n.-ar the chamber, ft is funny that when I was looking for an office I was told by certain people that the office closest to the chamber was occupied by him. They said that he had to have an office close to the chamber in order to get into the chamber quickly because he was known as the tortoise of the Country Party. They said to me: ‘Mr Daly, it is not because you are slow but because you must be in the chamber so often that we are putting you in the closest room’. So, 1 have a reasonably good office that was given over by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
Honourable members opposite refer to the whittling down of members’ rights in respect of the one minute that will be used up in the ringing of the bells and say that Cabinet Ministers and others could easily reach the chamber in 2 minutes. They talk about the great amount of time that will be loy’ by extending the time for the ringing or the division bells by one minute. There will not be such a great loss of time because this is a democratic government. The restriction of free speech is opposed to the principles on which we were elected. We have no intention of following the infamous example of honourable members opposite in the ruthless use of the gag and the restriction of debate in this Parliament. There is no need to worry about these matters. However, let us look at the facts of the case. The old Cabinet room is 80 paces from the Senate and it takes 40 seconds walking quickly to cover that distance. The new Cabinet room is 180 paces from this chamber and walking flat out it takes one minute 45 seconds to cover the distance, provided one is prepared to knock a few people out of the way, hurry down stairs and pass through a few doors. Is it not logical to expect that something should be done about the situation? lt was interesting to listen to members opposite speak about why this proposal to extend the time for the ringing of the bells is not wanted. It is interesting to note that the Opposition parties when in government had their own committee on the Standing Orders recommend that the time should be extended to 3 minutes. Today the great defenders of democracy, who did not care when it was suggested that 1 minute should be taken away from the Australian Labor Party, find the situation somewhat different. As one honourable member said, this is an amazing reversal of attitude. Today, for a time, I thought members opposite were fair dinkum. They spoke with conviction. One former Minister said that the Government sought to restrict debate and that he was not able to reply to charges made against him this morning. The shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), would have plenty of time to speak during the Address-in-Reply debate. At present there are about 50 members listed to speak during that debate, but he is not game enough to put his name on the list to enable him to reply to the charges he so much resents. Members opposite claim that we are restricting their rights. Earlier they said we were trying to push measures through. I was here when the previous government arranged for 17 or 18 Bills to be passed in about 4 hours. Those Bills went through like sausages, and they were not much better.
Sufficient time has been wasted debating this motion. The Liberal Party and the Country Party have given us a vision of their great strength in being united on this great issue. They were fighting for one minute and they stuck together like glue. It was lovely to see them standing as one in this place, fighting for democracy and justice and to save one minute. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) is smiling now that the parties have come together again. Hie parties to the old shotgun wedding have had a reunion. They are in harness again and are enjoying a second honeymoon - all over one minute. The attitude of members opposite is simply humbug. Their remarks should be treated as a joke. They have put up an argument that cannot be substantiated. The real reason that they oppose the motion is to try to persuade people outside that they are the defenders of democracy, free speech and expression in this Parliament. If anyone listening is silly enough to believe that, their minds will soon be disabused when I relate the record of the Opposition parties when I move the next motion standing in my name.
I opened this debate in a kindly and friendly spirit. I tried to do my best for the Parliament. I thought I would be helping some of those aging members of the Country Party as well as some very active, virile and busy Ministers. At the same time I thought I would enable every honourable member from the Prime Minister down to have the right to be in the chamber and vote when necessary. I moved the motion in a non-partisan spirit. Little did 1 dream that I would arouse a united attack from members opposite over one dear little minute of debating time. I appeal to honourable members not to divide the House on this motion because if they do they will waste a minute or two and, after all, they want all the time they can get to discuss matters. They want plenty of time at their disposal, so they should not waste a second. I hope to see the time when no time will be wasted in divisions and numbers will be recorded electronically as in some other Parliaments.
Let us be practical. The Opposition, when in government, half demolished Parliament House. It pretty well demolished itself into the bargain. Members opposite have taken 1 hour 10 minutes to discuss this motion. I have some sad news for them. They will not be allowed 1 hour 10 minutes to debate the next motion. If they can waste 1 hour 10 minutes debating one minute, they might take 3 days debating something that really matters. Little did I dream that in their first attack in this Parliament members opposite would look so silly in the eyes of the Australian public. I urge the House to support the motion and give away one minute in the interests of restoring democracy to the Parliament and maintaining the rights of members to vote here. Members opposite should not forget the recommendation of their own committee on the Standing Orders.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, at fifteen minutes to eleven o’clock p.m. on each Tuesday and at fifteen minutes past ten o’clock p.m. on each Wednesday and Thursday the Speaker shall put the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; if the House be in committee at the time stated, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report being made the Speaker shall forthwith put the question - That the House do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate. Provided that:
Provided further that if, at eleven o’clock p.m. the question before the House is - That the House do now adjourn - the Speaker shall forthwith adjourn the House until the time of its next meeting.
The principal purpose of the motion I have moved is to ensure that late sittings of the House are avoided. We want the House to rise each night at not later than 11 o’clock after reasonable allowance for adjournment debates. In order to do this without unduly hampering the progress of Government business in the House we propose also that the House shall meet half an hour earlier each day. In addition we propose to reduce meal periods by a quarter of an hour, as was done in the Budget sittings of the last Parlliament. The new meeting times and meal periods will be: The House will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and on Thursdays at 10 a.m. The suspension for luncheon on Thursdays will be from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m. and for dinner each day from 6.15 p.m. to 8 p.m. This is a trial measure only and I ask honourable members opposite to absorb that when they are thinking of moving amendments to this resolution. It is a trial measure only and will be reviewed during the early sittings of the Parliament. Opposition members should be careful that we do not adopt at that stage some of the amendments that they might have in mind, if they do not like what we are putting up. The success of what the Government proposes will depend on the goodwill and support of all members. If we find after a few weeks that our proposals are not working as we had hoped we will have to review the situation I am confident that members on both sides of the House will recognise the advantage of the proposals that 1 have put forward. Honourable members cannot expect to perform their tasks in this Parliament to the best of their ability if the House sits late into the night or into the early hours of the morning. All honourable members who have been in previous Parliaments will recall the effects that long sittings have had on members’ tempers and capacity to contribute their best. We should have very much at heart also the interests of all those who work so tirelessly and uncomplainingly for us in this Parliament. They are often here for some time after the House rises and must be back on duty again at the usual time next morning. Late sittings are an imposition that we should not place on them.
As I have indicated, this proposal is being put forward because the Government believes that it is very much in the best interests of all honourable members and of everybody who works in this place. I wish to elaborate on that a little. When in Opposition other members and I were constant critics of late sittings of this Parliament and, as such, we hoped when in government to be able to improve the position. Consequently this measure is designed not only to enable honourable members to have full discussion but also to see that meetings of the Parliament finish at a reasonable hour. The legislative programme of this Government is very heavy. In fairness to all Governments, no doubt their legislative programme is very heavy. In this session as many as 60 Bills may come before the Parliament and as many as 150 or 160 may come before the House during the year. Consequently, honourable members will want to bc alert and awake in order to be able to debate measures at a reasonable hour.
The Government is quite mindful of the need to protect the rights of private members. No honourable member appreciates the position of private members more than the members of the present Government because we were at the receiving end of what I would describe as the most torrid Government in the history of this country in respect of the taking away of members rights. The Government is pledged to support the rights of private members and it is making adequate provision for adjournment debates. There will be a big improvement on what was done under the previous Government, as I shall demonstrate. Discussion will be available to all honourable members, not in the dead of night but at a reasonable hour. Many honourable members who have listened to members of the Liberal Party in the middle of the day should be able to work out for themselves what those members sound like in the middle of the night. We are not here to put through legislation by exhaustion. The hours that I have proposed will give all honourable members not only an opportunity to participate in the adjournment debate at 10.15 p.m. instead of 11.15 p.m. or 12.15 a.m. as under the previous Government but also adequate time for full discussion. If honourable members opposite check on previous adjournment debates they will find that very rarely, if ever, did they start until the very late hours of the night. The opportunity contained in the present proposals is one of which honourable members should take advantage because it will give them a chance to speak at a reasonable hour. 1 propose now to give honourable members some indication of what the Government proposes. Under these proposals there will be no vote on the adjournment. In this respect the proposals are similar to those that were brought down by a previous government for a trial period in April 1970. The effect will be that on Wednesday and Thursday nights the House will begin the adjournment debate at 10.15 p.m., and proceedings will automatically peter out, as it were, at I I p.m. The House will then automatically peter out, as it were, at 11 o’clock each sitting night. This will allow honourable members 45 minutes to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The motion for adjournment will be moved at quarter to eleven on Tuesdays. Another 15 minutes will be available on Tuesday nights if honourable members wish to use that time. This proposal seeks to give to honourable members an opportunity to speak in adjournment debates, as I say, at reasonable hours.
There is some criticism that not enough time will be provided. The present Opposition, I understand, is screaming to high heaven about it. Listen to the record of the Opposition when it was in government. In 1972 the total time given to adjournment debates was 26 hours 13 minutes. There were 60 sitting days and adjournment debates took place on only 38 of them. The average time for an adjournment debate in that period was 41 minutes 24 seconds. These figures have been given to me by the Clerk of the House. The motion now before the House concerning-. the sitting hours of Parliament proposes a definite 45 minutes on 2 nights a week and another 15 minutes on another night for adjournment debates. No figures can be produced to deny that that is a considerable improvement, particularly when we remember that under the previous Government’s management of this House most debates on the adjournment took place when, as I said, only people of undesirable character were on the streets so late was it. We are making a genuine effort to provide for honourable members opportunity for debate at a reasonable hour.
Honourable members opposite scream a lot about restricting opportunities for private members to enter debates. I shall now give honourable members the record of the previous Government in respect of opportunities for private members to debate various matters. In 1970 it gagged debates on 56 occasions. In 1971, debates were gagged on 92 occasions - the then Government just missed the century. In 1972, which was a short sitting year, the score was down to 68 gags of legislation. This is the record of the former Government which now talks about the freedom of members of the Parliament. On the subject of general business days, in 1970 there could have been 9 opportunities for private members to discuss general business but the Government of the day allowed us only four. In 1971 there were 10 opportunities and the Government permitted six. in 1972 there were 9 opportunities and the Government gave us four. Of the 28 days in those 3 years when (here were opportunities, only on 14 occasions were honourable members given the opportunity to debate general business. This is about 50 per cent of the available opportunities.
Honourable members should now listen to the former Government’s record with respect to grievance day debates. Grievance day is the one day in this Parliament when members can really put forward subjects that matter to them. In 1970, there were 9 opportunities for grievance debates and that benevolent Government let us speak on 4 occasions. In 1971 there were 10 opportunities and the Government said that we could speak on 4 occasions. In 1972 there were 10 opportunities and we were allowed to speak on 5 occasions. In 3 years there were only 29 opportunities for private members and only on 13 occasions did the former Government allow private members to exercise their sights. Fifty five per cent of the time available to private members was taken up by Ministers and others on the Government side.
When honourable members opposite talk about the rights of private members they should remember that there are a few skeletons that are well worth rattling in their old cupboards. The simple fact is that no other members of Australian Parliaments ever took away more of the rights of private members - as the figures I have given show - than did members of the previous Government. Honourable’ members on this side of the House were allowed to talk for only 26 hours of the time available in adjournment debates. The Government’s proposal will not only increase the time available for debate but will also give private members an opportunity for grievance day debates in which full and adequate discussion may take place.
Some honourable members on the other side of the House constantly have expressed the point of view which I am expressing from this side of the House. Today I hope they will participate in this debate and give expressions of approval to what we believe is a commendable effort to improve the sittings of this Parliament. As a Government we do not mind debating any subject. No member of the Government would be here if he could not answer members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party and their policies. We are not afraid of debate. We are not afraid to give members an opportunity to speak. But here is an opportunity in this new Parliament to open up a new concept of the way in which sittings may be held to benefit all honourable members. No matter how honourable members opposite vote on the proposal, I will be interested to scrutinise lists later to see how many of them arrange pairs if debates continue after 11 o’clock. Those who vote against this measure today will be the first to seek leave of absence tonight when the chips are down.
There is nothing new in this proposal. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who is at the table, will look at the report of the debate of 10th April 1970, he will see that on the question of adjourning the House at 11 o’clock his own Government at that time sought to introduce what we propose today. We agreed with it except that we wanted to advance the commencement date a little. Today we are only following a pattern of sittings and the adjournment of the Parliament at night that was introduced at that time by the then Leader of the House, now Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). In August 1970 similar proposals were put. I say to honourable members opposite that if they do not support this proposal they will be opposing if for one reason only, that is, that they are on the opposite side of the House now and they want an issue on which to seek to make some political capital.
– That is why you are introducing it.
– I think some honourable members on the other side must be uncomfortable in that new paddock because now and again a rumble is heard from that side of the chamber. The proposed hours are just right for the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who is seeking to interject. The motion for the adjournment of the House will be moved at 10.45 on Tuesday night. On other nights the motion will be moved at 10.15 and the House will adjourn at II. Does any honourable member on the other side want to sit later? Do they really think they can speak and apply themselves intelligently well into the early hours of the morning? Do they really think that they can apply themselves in debates which continue to 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning? Is it fair to the public, to the staff or to others involved for us to sit to those hours?
The new hours of sitting are available for everyone to see. They have been circulated. The proposal is a genuine attempt to bring reasonable sitting hours to this Parliament. They will be reviewed in due course. I will listen with interest to the amendments put forward by the Opposition. I will store them in my archives. If at some future time we need a change of hours we may have to fall in line with the proposals the Opposition puts forward. But I have a shrewd idea that they will not be nearly as compatible to it if given effect to as the proposals which I have moved.
I have always been opposed to very late sittings, as have other honourable members on this side. We believe in full and frank discussion. We want the Parliament to sit at reasonable and proper hours. That is why I have moved this motion on behalf of the Government. Unfortunately the Opposition earlier today spent a good deal of time in discussing the extension of the ringing of the division bells by one minute. There are 25 or 26 names - among them some of the most prominent members of the Country Party - breaking their necks to take part in the AddressinReply debate. I must say regrettably that they must not let themselves speak for too long on this motion because it will not be long before the result of this proposal is known, no matter what amendments may be proposed.
– There is one thing I want to say to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) before dealing with the matters which are before the Chair.
– The honourable, member is now going to be insulting.
– The honourable gentleman knows that I am never insulting in this House. I never have been and I never intend to be. 1 do not need to be insulting at all or offensive to describe accurately some of the honourable gentlemen sitting opposite. But I say to the Leader of the House that these are early days for the Government and for the Opposition. If the Government believes that it can pursue a course of ruthlessly seeking to restrict and control debate in this House, the Leader of the House will in due course wish that he had not heard of that policy. Government members now opposite know very well indeed that it takes 2 sides of a House to make it work effectively. We on this side representing the Opposition Parties say to the Government and in particular to the Leader of the House that it is all very well to have fine words in a debate of this type but if we are to be subject to the restrictions to which we have been subjected in the course of recent days, the Leader of the House and the Government generally will know that there are Opposition Parties prepared to force the Government to allow a reasonable opportunity to canvass the national issues and to scrutinise and to criticise the legislation which the Government is seeking to introduce. 1 hope that the heady days which obviously the Leader of the House is experiencing and the early euphoria to which he is apparently subject will soon be dissipated because threatening words by the Leader of the House will not force the Opposition parties to go along with forms of procedure which we know will inhibit the correct projection of what ought to be properly the major debates of this House. I want to say also, seriously, that if the debates in the last few days have proved anything in this House it is that we have seen the ghost of open government finally laid to rest, lt has been suitably interred in the limbo of forgotten causes. What a tremendous irony it is that a Leader of the House should come before this chamber seeking to restrict the rights of members to participate in a full examination of issues during the course of an adjournment debate. It is very plausible to seek to concentrate attention on the sitting hours whilst at the same time conveniently overlooking the need for the Opposition parties to have a full opportunity to use the adjournment debate in the manner in which that period of the time of the House has been used over past years, that is, to enable Opposition parties to concentrate on matters suitable for legislative action, on great national issues and, of course, on matters affecting the constituents of members.
The Leader of the House knows full well that according to the allegations of his own Government, the Government in its terms, is bringing forward in this Parliament the most comprehensive programme of legislation in the history of the Australian Parliament. Whatever may be the doubts on this side of the House as to the accuracy of that statement it is a statement of Government policy and it behoves the Government to provide the Opposition with a full opportunity to criticise and scrutinise what the Government is bringing forward. The time suggested by the Government for the adjournment debates during a particular week covers only 105 minutes - that is, 45 minutes on both the Wednesday and Thursday evening and 15 minutes on the Tuesday evening. The Government when in Opposition was not happy with a total period of 2 hours a week. I do not want to spend too much time on the issue. I have outlined what the Opposition believes to be the essential questions. There are other honourable members on this side of the House who will be seeking to make a contribution to this debate.
I would ask the Leader of the House to be patient and indulgent because he of all people will know that unless he is prepared to be indulgent and patient with the Opposition parties who wish to mirror the aspirations of the Australian people correctly, as we see them, we on this side will make life very difficult indeed for the Government. That is not our intention in terms of procedure. We on this side recognise a responsibility to assist the Leader of the House to make the House function effectively, but if we are to have actions such as those taken by the Leader of the House in seeking to curtail the censure motion this morning to only 3 speakers on this side, with his Prime Minister criticising 2 senior members of the Opposition for not seeking to contribute knowing that they were unable to do so because of the restrictions he had laid down, with the guillotining of the earlier debate and the foreshadowing of the early guillotining of this debate, I say again to the Leader of the House that these are early days. I hope from his point of view and that of the Government but, most important of all, from the viewpoint of the functioning of the national Parliament of this country that he will not see that experience sour too early simply because the power he already holds has gone to his head. The Opposition will not be opposing the first part of the motion before the Chair, that is to say, for the House to meet for the dispatch of business on each Tuesday and Wednesday at 2 o’clock and each Thursday at 10 o’clock. We see merit in the proposal. We see substance in it. We think that this particular part of the motion is constructive and positive and we certainly will not be opposing it. However. I move the following amendment:
That paragraph (2) and the provisos thereto be omitted.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– 1 am amazed to hear the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), particularly the threats he made when referring to the parties on the other side being determined to mirror correctly the aspirations of the Australian people for he was a member of the Government which operated under the old time schedule. This led to an article being written in yesterday’s “Canberra Times’ which described this House as a repressed and demoralised institution because of the actions of the Liberal-Country Party Government, a minority government. How well did the then government, with its sitting hours, allow the Opposition to mirror correctly the aspirations of the Australian people, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says? The article asked this question:
U the Government’s legislative program to be handke! in the House in the same old way? That is, by about 70 meetings a year, with the legislation being bulldozed through by, the ‘gag’ and the ‘guillotine*.
Let us not forget that the Government of which Mr Chipp-
Anil, incidentally, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was a Minister in that Government - was a Minister won its own way in the House of Representatives in the last Parliament (1970-72) by gagging debate no less than 223 times; in that time the House passed 414 Bills (all introduced by the Government) but such was the pressure to. hurry this process that of those Bills 322 were not even given a committee-stage scrutiny of their detail (the stage was omitted of all (he 414 Bills only 45 were seen worthy of the suggestion of alternatives by way of committee amendments: and in all of that legislation-making back-bench members from both sides had only II amendments accepted.
This is the record of that minority Government which now utters threats that if more sensible hours of sitting are arranged it will obstruct the meeting of the House because it cannot correctly mirror the aspirations of the Australian people. The suggestions were put forward by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), a man of long experience in this House and a man who made delightful use of the adjournment debate for effective politicking and putting his viewpoint and that of the people he represents. If we examine the sitting hours that are proposed, we see, as the Leader of the House has already shown, that there will be more time for honourable members to speak on the adjournment. He has shown that there will be more time for debate because of the change in commencement times and the alteration of meal times. Why then is there this objection to the alterations that are proposed? Is it because the Opposition fears these extra hours of debate.? Does the Opposition worry because it may have to sit for more days over more weeks? Surely it is the business of Parliament to examine the extensive legislation that is put forward in an efficient and correct manner. This is all that the Leader of the House, on behalf of the Government has asked the Opposition parties to agree to, to make these conditions and to make the opportunities for amendments more open. There is more to it than just the matter of time. I have served not only in this Parliament but also in another. I have seen the deterioration of efficiency that long hours bring upon members. Debates become stultified. In fact they become incomprehensible in the later hours of night and the early hours of the morning. What people in industry and commerce would allow the sort of hours that are allowed in this House and expect efficiency of the people who are carrying them out? If honourable members opposite are not going to accept the commonsense arguments that have been put forward by the Leader of the House in support of a change that will allow adequate time for the adjournment debate and adequate time for the questioning and debating of legislation before the House I ask them to give some thought to the effect long hours have on them and on other members of the House.
I know that little thought has been given to this matter before. Perhaps that is why members of the present Opposition deteriorated so much in the last 3 years. They were so anxious to be sitting around the place talking in circles, gagging debates and not allowing proper consideration of legislation that they went into a state of decay from which it will take many years for them to recover. If we expect efficient work from honourable members we must give the proper conditions. The extra hours to be gained under this proposition are hours gained at a proper time of day. If after the trial suggested by the Leader of the House the arrangements are not effective, changes can be made. Perhaps honourable members will have to be absent from their electorates for more days than the 70 days a year that they are away at present. Perhaps they will have to journey to Canberra for more than the number of weeks than is the case at present. But at least in dealing with legislation over a reasonable spread of hours their health will not deteriorate, their senses and minds will not become befuddled and the legislation will receive the proper consideration that it should. One would hope that in this way the very extensive programme that the Government is putting forward can be critically examined and can be properly discussed.
I am disturbed at the Opposition’s attitude to the schedule that is proposed. It seems to me that it is not a matter of the hours of sitting; it is a matter that because the Opposition can find so little else to do after its overwhelming defeat it wishes to waste the time of the House by opposing sensible measures on sensible conditions such as this. If this is the way members of the Opposition are going to behave during this Parliament they will make a very good-looking Opposition for many years to come. They will then welcome the hours that are suggested by the Leader of the House. The amendment should be rejected and the motion should be accepted by the House.
– Like the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) 1 share his concern about the implications of this measure. I share his concern at the threats made to this place by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). Initially let me talk about the motion that is before us and the amendment to it which has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. I think it is true that from time to time amendments to the Standing Orders of this place are necessary, and no-one would deny that once we have instituted an order to relate to the proceedings of this place we should not regard it as being sacrosanct and there should be opportunities to adjust it.
I am grateful to the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) for referring to an article which appeared in the Press this week about the proceedings of this House, the standards of this House and the degree to which, it is said, the capacity of individual members of Parliament to participate in the proceedings might be eroded. In many ways I find myself in disagreement with the article. But if it is true - and the honourable member for Scullin apparently feels it to be so - it is important to see in what way members of Parliament can protect their rights. Essentially i as private members we all in this place know that there are very few opportunities to talk in broad terms on matters that affect one in terms of one’s philosophy, the manner in which a government is behaving or matters affecting a particular electoral interest. Of course, a few occasions are given for these matters to be raised during the Grievance Day debate. But I think the most important of all the occasions available to us is not through the moving of urgency motions but through the opportunity given to us in the adjournment debate.
I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for giving us the statistics of the time that was made available by the previous government for the maintenance of debate by private members. One thing that comes out of that analysis is that there was no restriction placed under Standing Orders on the length of the adjournment debate. It is true that changes were made. The practice during most of last year was that the House as of 11 p.m. set aside the business of the House for the time being and then approximately an hour was spent on the adjournment debate. Th;re was no hard and fast rule drawn but essentially about an hour 2 nights a week was available to us to speak on the adjournment. The significance of the Opposition’s amendment is that we wish to avoid a situation in which henceforth there will not be any flexibility. The Government proposes to insert rigidly into the Standing Orders of this place the restraint that one night a week the length of the adjournment debate will be 15 minutes and on 2 nights a week it will be 45 minutes. This will be the only time that will be available to honourable members of this place to speak on the adjournment and raise matters of importance to them.
If the honourable member for Scullin believes, as he apparently does, that there is an erosion already of the rights of members of this Parliament, how little it becomes him now to support a measure that will restrict those rights. It is important that there be available on the maximum possible number of occasions opportunities for private members to raise matters that are of importance to them and matters which relate to the exercise of their roles as members of this place. I believe that any suggestion for a restriction in the form suggested in the second part of the motion of the Leader of the House is anathema to anyone who is seeking to improve the function and opportunities available here. I do not find anything objectionable with the first part of the motton. I can see the necessity for the Government, in view of the legislative programme that is before us, to obtain what additional hours it can out of the normal sitting day. Indeed, I . suspect that those who will suffer most from the changes will be Ministers themselves, because one of the real difficulties in the exercise of Ministerial responsibility is both to perform as one should in this chamber and also to attend to the pile of paper work and the necessary deputations and other factors that demand so much of one’s time as a Minister. But so be it. But 1 find the second part of the motion quite contrary to the attitude that I believe all members of this House should have as to the time that should be available to each and every one of us to raise matters of principle and matters of concern. The best and most suitable time to raise such matters is, of course, on the adjournment.
The other matter which was raised early in the speech of the Leader of the House related to the attitude that he as Leader of the House would adopt in the conduct of the debate on this matter. It ill behoves the Leader of the House, so early in this session, to start wielding the big stick. It is very true that this morning we debated a matter of very significant concern to the Australian people. It is equally true that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during this debate raised matters of issue which affected 2 of the front bench spokesmen of the Opposition, knowing full well at that time that they were to be denied the opportunity of responding to him. It was suggested by the Leader of the House that one of their names is not on the batting list for the Address-in-Reply debate. Perhaps if he had been in the House last night he might recognise that the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has already spoken in this chamber in that debate and under the Standing Orders he is denied the opportunity of speaking again.
The point I make is that it is important that on every possible occasion the Opposition should not be denied opportunities to raise matters of significance and of public importance. This morning the Government chose to deny us the right to a full and open debate on matters of that character. Therefore it ill behoves the Government to spend the time, as it did, in criticising our reaction to a further curtailment of the opportunities that will be available to us on future occasions to speak on matters that are of concern. There is no better opportunity to speak on matters of this character than on the adjournment. For that reason 1 believe that the amendment which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved should be supported.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That paragraph 2 and the provisos thereto stand part of the question. (Mr Lynch’s amendment.)
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 93), on motion by Mr Mathews:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Before 1 call on the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown) 1 inform the House that the honourable member is about to make his maiden speech and I would ask the House to afford him the normal courtesy given 10 a member making his maiden speech.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, with the indulgence of the House I should like to speak on the subject of local government which has been the cause of growing concern among many segments of the community particularly over the last decade. It is a service with which I was privileged to be associated for many years. Members of the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), have been acutely aware for a long time of the dire circumstances of local government. Yet it is, or has been until now, a paradox that that third tier of government, which has been a cradle of the political life of so many, has been so cynically neglected and, at times, even contemptuously thrust aside.
I should like to refer to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General on the occasion of the opening of Parliament. Among other things His Excellency said:
It is the intention of my Government to introduce legislation establishing Commonwealth-State Land Commissions to acquire and develop residential land. These Commissions will co-operate with State and local government authorities in achieving a more rational and economic form of urban development and will help combat rising land prices.
My Government has offered immediate financial assistance to the States to increase the number of dwellings under construction for letting to needy families.
The success of urban and regional development and the provision of additional housing can be made so much easier with a financially buoyant local government. Local government is not a matter that has not been well ventilated and documented. From the most erudite commentators to the most humble observers there has been a common plea for justice and recognition. There have been commissions of inquiry, symposia, treatises, theses and seminars. Some have had official status; others have been inspired by student and academics; others have been from local government associations meeting in annual conferences, including lord mayoral get-togethers; others have resulted from the concern of professional administrators, engineers and planners, and of course there have been those from progress associations and kindred organisations.
The range of these investigations and activities has not been narrow. Had they been but parochial and entirely selfish they might have merited the inaction and lack of interest which they have met. But they were not. They have attempted to look at local government from all angles. They have tried to assess its role, its very reason for being; its effectiveness; whether its scope should be enlarged or diminished, and, if so, whether it should be restructured into more or less tiers or replaced by statutory authorities and ad hoc bodies; how it should be financed; and, above all, given its very delegated nature, whether it is or is capable of meeting the needs of the communities it seeks to serve.
What, then, is this local government? Whose is it? What is its place in our present federal structure, and what can be done not only with it but for it? It is not that reasonably happy state that elsewhere was the progenitor of central government, that local government which grew, on the one hand, from parish responsibilities for the poor and the sick and, on the other hand, from what citizens of market towns saw as necessary for the good government of the community of interests. Neither is it the hodge-podge of town moots still existing in some parts of New England, the school, fire and other local boards of Michigan, the bustling dynamic city-state of Singapore, the city-country boroughs of London, nor the departments of France. It does not even have sure knowledge, as laid down by previous government, that it is only advisory - an illusion of local government - as is the Advisory Council of the Territory in which this Parliament assembles. No, ft is none of these things; it is the creature of State governments, told what it may do and often execrated for doing it.
This is its dilemma. It varies from State to State. There are trading undertakings and municipal transport systems, but it is the roads, drains, parks and general local government activities which are of prime concern. I doubt that what I want to enlarge upon could be gainsaid generally by representatives of Geraldton, Bendigo or Gladstone any more than by the representatives of Bathurst, Blacktown or Parramatta. Lest the House think that 1 am addressing myself to a question of little consequence - after all it is local government, the lowest rung of the ladder - I should like to inject some facts and figures. These facts and figures will, I hope, illustrate that junior, the third rung on the ladder, is a fairly big boy; that of necessity he consumes a fair slice of the national cake; and that therefore he merits the most serious considerations of his social and economic guardians and dieticians.
The danger lies not in his demise as such. If planned, it might cause a momentary but absorbable shock to the body politic. The danger lies in his demise from inattention, lack of interest and a creeping paralysis. At a conference on local government economics held at the University of Sydney on 21st February 1969 Professor Gates of the Faculty of Commerce and Economics at the University of Queensland brought out some highly interesting facts. He opened his address by saying:
This is intended to be an argumentative paper, a paper concerned less with empirical facts than with principles and policies.
I do not wish to engage in what is termed quoting out of context, that is, selecting only those of his arguments which suit my book, but I wish to repeat some of the statistics he used. On one basis of classification there were 217 cities, towns and municipalities, 682 shires, boroughs and municipal districts and 53 New South Wales county councils largely engaged in electricity distribution. At the end of 1968 those 950 local government authorities employed slightly more than 100,000 people or about 10 per cent of all employees of government bodies, other than the defence forces, and about 1 in 40 of the total work force of Australia. Their capital expenditure in recent years has constituted around one-sixth of the total for all levels of government, including government business undertakings. Their current expenditure on services, other than those for which they charge a commercial price, amounts to a little over 5 per cent of the corresponding figure for Australian governments as a whole.
The yield of local government taxation is equal to not much less than half the amount raised by all the State government taxes to gether. Local government taxation in 1969-70 amounted to $466m and the taxation of all State governments amounted to $l,103m. As Professor Gates said, clearly we are not dealing with peanuts. We can see, therefore, that as a whole we are speaking of a segment of government which is not insignificant either from the point of view of employment and other social factors or from an economic point of view. The problem is compounded by what is now expected of local government bodies and the ability to pay for those expectations.
Mr Speaker and honourable members might well be indisposed to be treated to a dissertation on the history of the development of local government in Australia. But to put a case I fee] that there should be some reference to its beginnings, particularly to the thinking which led to the narrow, non-growth basis of revenue-raising, which basis persists largely today. Thus during the 1830s, it has been noted: ‘Changed circumstances generated forces which eventually introduced local government . . . making the colonists bear some of the rising costs of administering the settlement’. It is true that there were protagonists as well as antagonists of some form of local government for Sydney in line with Governor Bourke’s minute of 1832. The minute recorded that it was believed that it was then suitable for the inhabitants of Sydney to minister to their own convenience and comfort, by means of providing, by means of a body elected among themselves, for the repairing, cleansing and lighting the streets, etc., at no greater cost than a rate levied on the houses according to their value. Two points might be emphasised, apart from the imposition of this rate from above - the narrow basis of revenue raised and the restricted nature of the works proposed. Although such a system did not eventuate until some years later, it might be noted that there was no mention of parks, libraries, community centres, town planning, health services or baths, let alone such modern day concepts as meals on wheels, immunisation campaigns, etc. Since it was a time when land ownership was equated in one way or another largely with income and wealth, the basis of taxation may be deemed to have been not wrongly laid.
Local government responsibilities since 1906 have been extended into wider fields of community service essential to the needs of all people. The mounting costs of these needs are to a large extent met by the rates on property, no longer regarded as a measureable consideration for benefits received. In the background has been the reluctant ratepayer unwilling, and with justification, to accept the full responsibility for the cost of some service or a development claimed to be of wider than local significance and, for that reason, qualifying for outside financial aid. What is wrong with local government today is that the rates levied bear little if any relationship to the capacity to pay. True, there are some wealthy areas where only the wealthy reside and there is some relationship between the demands made and the capacity to pay. One pays income tax on one’s earnings, and surely one’s capacity to pay the sales tax on a Rolls Royce is related to one’s ability to think in terms of a Rolls Royce in the first place.
There may well be some argument in that some areas of local government want the best of everything. Be that as it may, let them pay for it. But in local government, as elsewhere, standards of expectation have risen. There are now items in the consumer price index that would have been considered luxuries years ago. Similarly, today in local government people expect more as basics: Paved footpaths to walk on; something more than a Stygian gloom to light their way home at night; and drains that do more than flood the property where they finish. What is iniquitous is that a system of taxation, devised for limited means, is now expected to finance, on an equalityofquality basis, social, health and welfare needs for everyone from all areas, irrespective of their capacity to pay.
Governments have deemed home-nursing services to be not only necessary but also worthy of some subsidy. Yet what would happen if, in order to reduce or maintain a rate level, local government bodies decided to opt out? Who would then attend to the needy? Governments have set up such worthy causes as libraries, vacation play centres, pre-school kindergartens and the like, but in the long run, however, it is local government that pays for these. Services today, particularly in the western areas of Sydney, in many respects fall far short of public requirement and the standard that local authorities would like to give. Over the last 20 years the Sydney western metropolitan region, which I had the pleasure of inspecting with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) some time ago, is the scene of a vast population increase. Forced by the lack of low or medium priced land close to Sydney, great numbers of the city’s population have moved into the western areas of Penrith, Blacktown, Windsor, Baulkham Hills and Colo. This rapid migration to the west, without adequate detailed and co-ordinated planning, has placed a tremendous burden on all areas of government in even providing basic services, and this has been particularly felt by local government where the provisions of sewerage, roads, etc., has fallen way behind demand.
In the local government field, where the costs must be met by local residents, we have the situation where people moving into these areas usually are young people trying to establish homes, who then have the additional financial burden of trying to upgrade their area. ‘Construction Finance Australia Ltd’ states that in 1966 the population of Penrith, Blacktown and Baulkham Hills was 191,000; in 1971 it was 274,000; and by the year 2,000 it is expected to be 880,000. So between 1966 and 1971 we had an increase of 83,000, and the increase between 1971 and 2.000 is expected to be 605,000. Councils are not geared to cope with these increases without additional financial aid. Rates have climbed steadily until saturation point has been reached with regard to the ability of the ratepayer to pay. Councils, endeavouring to collect outstanding rates, broke the payments down to half-yearly, then to quarterly, and now it is monthly but still the outstanding rates continue to grow. Mr R. Else-Mitchell in ‘Challenge and Change’ said:
One of the major problems that arose again and again in the course of the Royal Commission’s proceedings was how to bridge the financial gap between needs and revenue.
He said also:
I think we accepted as basic the proposition that local government is dynamic and that its increasing demands require additional funds.
But none of the recommendations was accepted by the New South Wales Government.
In conclusion, might I say that today there is a very large gap between the cost of building the standard of community the people want and the adequacy of rating as a system to meet this cost. What local government requires is financial assistance to bridge this gap. Local government requires representation on the Loan Council so that it can state its case in order to obtain that extra finance which is so necessary today to give to the old and new residents alike those little extra amenities which are so necessary.
– Before I call the next speaker I would remind the House that this is also a maiden speech. I call the honourable member for Fisher.
- Mr Speaker, in expressing my personal pleasure at being elected to this assembly, this august House, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the electors of Fisher. I assure you that I do not regard this honour either flippantly or lightly. Mr Speaker, I offer my congratulations to you on your election to a very high and distinguished office. I think that you can take great satisfaction from the additional honour of being appointed completely unopposed. I wish you well in that position.
I acknowledge that the Australian people have voted for a change in the government of this nation, and as a member in opposition it will be my duty to analyse the measures introduced by this Government, to expose weaknesses in its policies and legislation and to inform the Australian electorate of alternative policies and another point of view. My personal relationship should not preclude me from drawing the attention of this House to the very distinguished record of service of my predecessor, extending over a period of 29 years. I refer to the Right Honourable Sir Charles Adermann. Although denied the opportunity to complete even a formal primary school education, by study, dedication and ability he made a contribution to the Parliament and to the Government of this nation which has been equalled by very few men in this nation’s short history. He occupied a
I number of high offices - that of Deputy
Speaker, Acting Speaker, Minister for Primary Industry, a senior member of Cabinet, and Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. The electorate would have me say that in those offices he showed his sincerity, ability and adherence to high Christian principles. As a Minister he introduced more than 50 Bills into the Australian Parliament for the direct benefit of Australian primary producers. He was accepted and respected by political friend and foe alike, and was well worthy of the honours that were bestowed upon him. I pay my tribute to this man who is truly a great Australian.
The electorate of Fisher, which I represent, is a large important rural electorate within the boundaries of which will be found almost every primary industry, substantial and important secondary industries in provincial cities and towns and the unequalled splendour of the glorious Sunshine Coast which is known to many tourists. It is a privilege and a challenge to be a member for an electorate like Fisher. But already the primary producers of my electorate, as a result of deliberate action by this Government, have been robbed of a significant part of their export income. I am not by any means satisfied with the statement in the Governor-General’s Speech about adjustment assistance for certain industries. This could mean anything or nothing, and I suspect that it means nothing. As a result of the appreciation of the Australian do’.lar in December, primary industries will lose between $150m and $200m in export income, and that figure will be greatly increased by the lack of action following the American devaluation.
A lot of promises were made about revaluation compensation. It seems certain now that the Government is callously and brutally indifferent to the primary producers ot Australia. I condemn this lack of activity in providing the compensation which was promised. During the election campaign copies of an impressive document headed ‘Labor’s Rural Policy’ were circulating around my electorate. This document saturated my electorate. It was peddled enthusiastically by every Government candidate, including my friend ite honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), lt was fu’l of promises. We were told that $500m would be provided at 3 per cent over repayment periods of 40 years, or something like that. We were told all about proposed extensions of rural reconstruction and assistance which would be given to the primary producer.
I see no mention of any of these things in the Governor-General’s Speech. Primary producers in my electorate are no longer interested in platitudes or promises. They are interested in performance and, up to now, the performance has not been good. Because of serious attacks by Ministers of this Government upon the President of the United States, Australia has lost her favoured nation treatment with that country and, despite the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), the dairymen have lost a powdered milk contract worth $6m. Dairymen in my electorate and all over Australia just cannot afford that kind of loss. Beef and sugar producers, grain growers and sorghum exporters in my electorate are all vitally concerned and dismayed about the possible effects upon their American export markets.
Because it is a matter of no small consequence, I refer now to something which relates to my electorate. The potato growers in the Lockyer Valley of Fisher have made the strongest representations to me, which I have brought to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), regarding applications that have been made by processors for permits to import substantial quantities of potatoes from New Zealand. One processor alone wants to import 65 tons of potatoes a week for 3 or 4 months and there are a whole host of others. I call on the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister representing him in this place to have regard for this important industry. I cannot find any shortage of potatoes in Australia, or any likely shortage, but I do see a determined effort to undermine the price of potatoes produced in my electorate. If these permits are granted without a proper investigation, a grave and disastrous injustice will be done.
The Government’s decisions to appreciate the Australian dollar and to do nothing about the devaluation of the American dollar will have a disastrous effect on another great industry in my electorate, the Australian tourist industry. Tourist spending by overseas visitors is income from an export industry and, because the Australian dollar is now dearer on world markets, many people will decide not to come to this country purely on the basis of value for money spent. This blow comes at a bad time, lt comes just when Australia was on the threshold of a tourist bonanza. This has been further aggravated by the Government’s decision to subsidise Australian tourist air fares out of the country, despite its election policy calling for the encouragement of cheap air holidays within Australia. This money could have been far more wisely used in assisting the Australian tourist industry. I call on the Government to provide assistance in the form of grants, special loans and tax concessions such as are being provided by, I believe, about 80 other governments to the tourist industries of their countries which are direct competitors with our industry. This matter is of great importance to my electorate and it is vitally necessary that this sort of assistance be given to provide things such as international- class accommodation and facilities. 1 will be constantly reminding this Government of the importance of this rapidly expanding but often forgotten industry and of the necessity for the provision of such assistance.
I bring another matter to the floor of the House because I have not been able to obtain satisfaction through other representations. I bring to the notice of the House a matter that I raised with the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). I refer to the critical situation which exists with regard to telephone connections in my electorate. Despite the excellent spending in Queensland of the previous Government, the situation is now critical. In addition to making specific requests for urgent attention to vital rural connections, I want to make specific mention of the Maroochydore area, which is in the heart of the Sunshine Coast. Yesterday I received advice that 138 business people are awaiting telephone connections in that area alone. These people have built premises and have announced opening dates on the understanding that telephones would be installed. They are now being told that the lucky ones might get telephones in July but most will have to wait until September. This is a disastrous situation. Here we have real decentralisation and a remarkable and wonderful tourist industry. Here we have businessmen trying to become established and doing something in the. way of decentralisation; yet these men are stopped’ in their tracks because of what I regard as a critical situation. The answer we have been given is that there is a lack of cables. I do not accept that answer because I have information from [ other sources that it is not correct. I hope i that the Postmaster-General will take note of my statements. I bring these matters to the floor of the House in the hope that they will be dealt with and that my constituents will receive satisfaction.
I was appalled yesterday to hear in this House a vitriolic and uninformed attack by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), who I understand has, under the privilege of Parliament, done this sort of thing before. This man, who can look through his lounge room window and, without turning his head, survey his entire electorate, criticised the Australian Country Party in a vitriolic fashion. I would like him to go around the electorate of Kennedy with my friend the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I am sure that he would not manage to do that in 3 years. The honourable member for Bowman talked about one-vote one-value. That is a high sounding phrase, but it does not mean much, except that honourable members who peddle this phrase have a lack of knowledge of what a country member must do.I thinkit would do them good to take such a journey and have a look around. We would hear less of this cry if such honourable members had more work to do.
The honourable member for Bowman, again speaking under privilege, made a vicious personal attack on the Queensland Premier, even to the extent of being ordered by Mr Speaker to withdraw unparliamentary remarks. I cannot understand how an honourable member could sink so low as to attack the Premier’s Christian standards. That appalled me. Obviously, the honourable member for Bowman does not know the Queensland Premier as closely as I know him because, if he did, his words would have choked him. Of course, the attack was made because the Premier has been the most outspoken critic of the discriminatory and unconstitutional attacks by this Government upon the Queensland Government. I see my friend, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), in the chamber. He knows that this is so. I wish there were more Queenslanders in the Cabinet who had an understanding of the problems of Queensland because the arbitrary attempt by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) to assume responsibility for all mineral export contracts is a deliberate attempt to destroy Queensland and to gain Queensland’s markets for the high priced mines of the south that are in the Minister’s electorate. If the honourable member for Bowman ever enjoys a fraction of the gratitude, esteem and affection that are enjoyed by the Queensland Premier among those who know him, I will be the first to congratulate him.
It is well known that the economy of Queensland relies heavily on minerals and it would be abhorrent if there were any truth in the rumours that go slow tactics will be employed by this Government against Queensland because of the Premier’s stand. I point out to all honourable members that the coalition Government in Queensland hasled Queensland from the position of being the Cinderella State of this country - from the stagnation and shame of almost 30 years of Labor government - to the position where it is now a wonderful, progressive State. It is the most decentralised State in Australia today. The protests about mineral royalties do not hold water. The. men who make those statements know that there are many more factors to be considered. The Queensland people know where their salvation lies. They showed it at the last State election and at the Federal election on 2nd December last. I can understand that the Government would be disappointed, but if that disappointment becomes vindictiveness it will be intolerable and unforgivable.
The Governor-General referred in his Speech to decentralisation. The AlburyWodonga centre was mentioned but Queensland was forgotten again. I assure the Government that it has a long and impassable road ahead if it persists in pursuing unconstitutional attacks on the rights of the sovereign State of Queensland. I heard an honourable member opposite say yesterday that the Government is concerned with people. If he is concerned with people, let him be mindful of the Torres Strait islanders. Let him be mindful of their desires in the border dispute and let nothing arbitrary be done. Let nothing be done against the wishes of people to be free and to remain Queenslanders and Australians.
I wish to raise another matter to which my attention has been directed during my electoral visits. I have tried to check it out. It greatly concerns and alarms me because it affects the security of our nation. If what I have been told is entirely true, it is disastrous. If it is true in part it is cause for alarm. I have been advised that in at least some of our Air Force bases, and perhaps military bases also, some of the service staff have been replaced by civilian employees. I have been told that these civilian employees have been advised to join a union. I have also been told - my authority is good and if a Minister can deny what I have been told I will be the happiest man in this House - that the officers commanding these bases have been instructed to allow union officials the full facilities of the bases. If that is so, it places our security absolutely in jeopardy. It is a matter of alarm to me. Because it was raised with me in my electorate by people whom I respect, I bring it to the attention of this House.
Mr Speaker, I hope that you will find in me the same forthright advocate and honest representative that you found in my predecessor. I promise you that I will give opposition where opposition is due. I think the House for the opportunity of making my maiden speech and
I look forward to long and happy service in this House.
– The Westminster type of government which we follow in this country has a number of disadvantages. One of them is that we line up against each other in this House and make many personal attacks. But it also has some pleasant traditions and it falls to me today to follow some of them. I follow in this debate the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who has just made his maiden speech. I sincerely congratulate him on it. I might add that he was rather more controversial in what he had to say than is normal in a maiden speech but I agreed, if not with a lot of what he said, at least with his congratulations of his predecessor for what he had achieved in this House. The honourable member did not mention that his predecessor is his father. We all remember his father with a great deal of affection. The honourable member has left the chamber but I hope he is listening when I say that I believe he made a controversial and forceful speech. I wish also to congratulate the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown). I thought his speech was very apt, coming from where he does, as he spoke on the subject of local government. I listened with a great deal of interest.
– He is much better than his predecessor.
– I will not comment on that on this occasion. While I am offering congratulations in this beneficent mood I want to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the motion for the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer to the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). I congratulate them on the splendid speeches they made yesterday. Most of all, as the honourable member who used to sit directly in front of you in the last Parliament, Mr Speaker, I want to say that I will miss your interjections, even the sotto voce remarks which perhaps not many honourable members heard. I congratulate you, Sir, on your election to your high office.
I have not told you privately that on Boxing Day last, of all days, an article appeared about you in the ‘Advertiser’ in my home town of Adelaide. It had many wonderful things to say about you and referred to your famous interjection when Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister was replying to attacks on him as ‘Pig Iron Bob’ and so on. He was telling honourable, members how much he was revered by working men. He explained that on the previous day when his car had drawn up at traffic lights a working man had driven up in his car alongside. He had wound down the car window and had said to Sir Robert: ‘Good on you, Bob.’ Your interjection, Mr Speaker, was: ‘He should’ have been had up for drunken driving’. That was one of the best interjections ever and deserves to be recorded again. In the same newspaper appeared another most interesting article under the heading ‘The new name is Cope.’ I read it with great interest and discovered that it referred to a new body formed under the auspices of the Marriage Guidance Council. Its name is the Centre of Personal Encounter. You, Mr Speaker, occupy a centre of personal encounter and I suggest that you ought to look favourably on this excellent cause.
Having dealt with all the pleasantries I turn now to the substance of. the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and to deal particularly with economic planning. I will have failed during my few years in this House if, my. colleagues on both sides- at least those who were members of the last Parliament-r-do not know of my commitment to long term economic planning. Consistently in Budget debates, debates on urgency motions and economic affairs and on many other occasions I have .expounded on the poor rate of growth per head of population in this country and on the. higher than necessary rate .of inflation. I believe that the only way to attack the root .cause of these ills is by long term economic planning. The only way that any government, particularly this Government which I support : so enthusiastically, will be able to carry out its great social policies, its attack on poverty and improvements to the standard of living for people not only in the cities but right across the countryside, is to guide the allocation of resources in our community in a more enlightened way, seeking the ultimate achievement by the optimum allocation of resources to a far greater extent than any conservative predecessor of our Government has achieved hitherto.
I am delighted to see in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a reference to a programme to institute long term planning, which promises so much from this Government. The needs are as great as ever. The first report on
Australia by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since we joined that very important body was published only a few weeks ago. It showed clearly how badly we have been dragging our feet when the effects of the increase in population are removed and we look at the figures of economic growth in our country per head of population. The average figure in the period 1965-70 was only 2.6 per cent. It is well below the OECD average for the other 23 countries in that body and only just above the slowest growing rate. In spite of a high rate of savings and investment, because of the poor allocation of resources savings and investment m Australia yield a return per head of population of only one-third of the yield in Japan. I have mentioned Japan advisedly because it has not been considered a socialist country but has a well developed tradition of Government intervention in its private sector business as well as its public sector business, but, more importantly I have mentioned Japan because it now has a very well developed system of economic planning. As I have said before in this House, this planning, worked out in co-operation between the public sector and the private sector, is now so successful that whereas 12 to 15 years ago only about 10 per cent of the Japanese businessmen were taking any notice of the long term plans of their country now 85 to 90 per cent are doing so. In my view it is essential that we institute such planning in Australia rather than rely on short term measures as our predecessors have done. They have ricocheted from one ad hoc method to another to control our economy. 1 repeat that the whole essence of proper economic planning is controlling the use of resources. If we are to do anything about these business cycles from which we suffer we must bring an end to the stop-go policies. We have to institute long term planning as has been done in Japan, to mention only one country. It is not easy, particularly in a Federation such as ours where we have State governments to consider as well, and it is particularly difficult in the initial stages. Initial forecasts are bound to be wrong and will have to be altered. All budgets will have to be altered m the light of circumstances. The first bold move must be to build up the Resources Branch of the General Financial and Economic Policy Division of the Treasury. 1 will not enter into discussion at this stage about whether the long term plans for the building up of that branch should be that it remain in the Treasury or be moved elsewhere. Part and parcel of the building up of the Resources Branch should be the publishing of long term forecasts. The whole of the annual Budget must be built on some forecasts. The publishing of these forecasts will itself help to ensure that the forecasts which are made will come to be correct, because the private sector will use the forecasts when making its decisions. Maybe we will not have such a strain on our resources in the future as we have had in the past as, for instance, when $500m was invested in a bauxite industry by the Nabalco company at Gove in the Northern Territory and, at the same time, another $500m was invested by another company at Weipa and Gladstone. What causes inflation is too much money chasing scarce resources. Only long term planning will tackle the root cause of this problem.
The Governor-General’s Speech pleases me because a start is being made on such long term planning. There are a number of places in the Governor-General’s Speech where this is seen to be so. Firstly we have the Government’s intention to develop a positive programme of policy measures as was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech: . . to promote more vigorous growth of efficient, competitive Australian manufacturing industry. A basic objective will be to reduce uncertainty and to create a sense of national purpose within which investment and in turn employment decisions in industry can be made confidently. The Government intends to establish a prices justification tribunal. I could spend much more time debating that plan alone. The Government also proposes to establish a protection commission to advise on assistance for both primary and secondary industries. Legislation will be introduced to expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and to equip it for the task of assisting the Government in its objective of achieving sound industrial and resources development with maximum Australia ownership and control. I break here to mention something that was said by the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), namely, that this Government was neglecting the primary industries in doing that. There is positive proof in the Governor-General’s Speech that this is not so and that, indeed, primary industries will be looked after in this whole scheme of adding to the growth of this country.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-I call the honourable member for Adelaide.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– Ring the bells.
– Mr Speaker, is an honourable member allowed to go out of the House?
– No. I did not see any one go out.
– The Deputy Government Whip just left the House.
-I will see him and reprimand him. Serjeant-at-Arms, would you please get the honourable member for Bonython. Order! A quorum is present. I call the honourable member for Adelaide.
- Mr Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for realising the quality of my speech and providing me with such an audience. As the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has said, it is the only good thing he has done this year. There is one good thing about being interrupted half way through a speech by the suspension of the sitting for dinner and that is that one thinks of some of the things that one meant to say and forgot to say earlier. I want to congratulate not only you, Mr Speaker, but also the Chairman of Committees. We have seen how good our choice was in electing you, sir, and today we saw how excellent was our choice of Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), who underwent his baptism of fire.
Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had traversed the traditional pleasantries and pointed out that the theme of my speech was the need for economic planning of a long term nature in order to build up our national cake so that we can get on with that job to which all of us in the Labor Party are so committed, namely, allocating fairer shares and making sure that there is a more just society. I mentioned that a start had been made on this job, as exposed by the promises in the Governor-General’s Speech. I spoke about the Government’s intention to develop a positive programme of policy measures to promote more vigorous growth and an efficient, competitive Australian manufacturing industry. I spoke about the primary industries and also referred to the intention to establish prices justification machinery.
I want to proceed, Mr Speaker, and also draw attention . to what was said . in the Governor-General’s Speech about the promised establishment- of a protection commission to advise on assistance for both, primary and secondary industry. Legislation also will be introduced to expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. There are many other areas to which I could point to show that this start is being made on long term economic planning. These, as I mentioned, are only some of the things needed because it is my conviction that we still have more to do to build’ up the strutures, to co-ordinate all these activities in a more highly developed department of economic planning. I know that the Government will go even further than those areas mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech.
I would hardly be a worthwhile member for the electorate of Adelaide in my State of South Australia if I did not relate this conviction of mine for economic planning to the needs of my own electorate and my own State. On Saturday week there is to be a State election in South Australia. It is vitally important that we retain our efficient State Labor Government in order that . we might have complete co-operation in economic planning and in providing fairer shares. Cooperative federalism is a term first coined, I believe, by our State leader in South Australia, Mr Don Dunstan. Another phrase that sums up some of the attitudes of this Government - I think it was used in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech- is co-operation rather than confrontation. I believe that it is only if we have a Labor government in South Australia that we will have this co-operative federalism, this co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State, just as we in this new Federal Labor Government seek co-operation between management and the workers and between the private sector and the public sector generally.
In my State we have suffered from a lack of economic planning. So many of our resources are tied up in consumer durables, such as washing machines, television sets and the great motor car industry. This is one area which is first hit when there is the slightest slump in our economy. I am committed to economic planning because I do not want slumps. I am committed to economic planning because I want what the State Labor Government in South Australia is giving to our State - a wider distribution of industries in our State without having all our eggs in one basket. In fact, our State Labor Government has been making a valiant effort to diversify. We heard the splendid announcement of the very real possibility of a new $300m petro-chemicals industry being setup in the iron triangle in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), at Redcliffs south of Port Augusta. But Premier Dunstan would be the first to recognise that this industrial development will best be achieved if there is coordination between the State Labor Government and our Federal Labor Government here in Canberra. Instead we have suffered from policies of the Liberal-Country Party which were anything but planning.
In the last couple of minutes available to me I want to draw attention to the great tragedy being suffered by the shipbuilding industry in my State. Adelaide Ship Construction is going out of production and shortly 800 men will be without a job. The blame for this can be attributed directly to the previous Government, in fact to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), the Minister for Shipping and Transport prior to 2nd December. The Liberal-Country Party Government decided to open the shipbuilding subsidies to anybody who obtained a tender. That decision created the situation facing Adelaide Ship Construction right now. Adelaide Ship Construction put in the lowest tenders for 2 ships which at present are being built in Whyalla but did not receive the contracts. Only when we can reorganise the shipbuilding industry in this country, and apply this sort of economic planning policy to it and to so many other areas of secondary industry will we have security of employment.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Bendigo I remind honourable members that this will be his maiden speech.
– I want to add my remarks to those of previous speakers and congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your elevation to the Chair. I trust that you treat that honour as highly as I do the honour of being elected to this Parliament. It is an honour indeed for me to rise and speak tonight for the first time as the member for the electorate of Bendigo, particularly in the knowledge that I am the first Liberal Party member to be elected to represent it. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the people in my electorate who gave me their support and confidence.
The electorate of Bendigo, with a population of about 52,000 and of which the city of Bendigo is the major centre, covers a large area of central Victoria. It includes the city of Castlemaine and towns such as Seymour, Kilmore, Gisborne and Heathcote, to name but a few. It is an area steeped in the history of this country, being famous initially for its gold fields. In fact, in view of the current price of gold, we may yet see another gold rush in Bendigo. At the present time the electorate of Bendigo is noted for its primary industry, its retail centres, its education centres and its tourist attractions. It also has a number of progressive secondary industries. For the interest of honourable members 1 point out that one of those secondary industries - a joinery firm from Bendigo - is pro viding the joinery for the new sections of Parliament House. Another firm, which is perhaps the most decentralised industry in Australia, is in fact competing with the big guns of air-conditioning in this country and providing a lot of the air-conditioning lor the large buildings being erected in the Australian Capital Territory. The city of Bendigo is also one of the cities that was selected by the Victorian Government for accelerated development.
Among Bendigo’s many notable features is the service it provides to the aged and infirm. It is to the problems facing this section that I wish to draw the attention of honourable members tonight. The services provided to the aged and the infirm are generally divided into 3 sections, namely, homes classed as incorporated registered and subsidised institutes, homes classed as registered homes and homes known as rest houses or homes or registered boarding houses for the frail aged. The problems I am about to direct to the attention of honourable members are, of course, related to all similar institutions throughout the country. Therefore the total problem is that much greater.
Under the classification of registered incorporated and subsidised homes I shall refer for the point of discussion specifically to the home in Bendigo known as the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged. This home, which is known throughout Victoria for the magnificent services it provides to the aged and the infirm in the area, is suffering an economic crisis, as are other homes under the categories I mentioned previously. This home has some 360 beds catering for 120 intensive care . patients and 240 infirm or ordinary patients. It also provides a day hospital service and a domiciliary patient service. At present this home receives an income from its 360 bed patients on the following basis: For the 120 intensive care patients it receives $82.90 a week each, which is made up of $15 a week from patients’ pensions, $24.50 a week from the nursing home benefit, the $21 a week extra benefit provided for intensive care patients and the $22.40 a week new benefit that has been payable as from 1st January 1973; and for the 240 ordinary or infirm patients it receives $61.90 a week, which is made up of $15 a week from patients’ pensions, $24.50 a week from the nursing home benefit and the $22.40 a week new benefit that has been payable as from 1st January 1973. Averaged over the total of 360 patients this means the home receives $69 a week a bed.
The new benefit that has been applicable as from 1st January 1973 is, of course, the grant provided by the previous Government in the last Budget. It was designed to assist in meeting the difference between the income received per bed as against the actual cost per bed patient. As at 31st December 1972 the cost of providing beds was $75.30 a week. However, the home was able to meet the difference between the $69 average and this amount from the grants it received from the State Government and from the various funds raised by charitable organisations and auxiliaries. This situation applies throughout the Commonwealth and not just in Bendigo.
Then came the crunch. Equal pay was granted to employees at the home. As a result of that decision the cost of providing a bed has now risen to $86.20 a week. The wages bill alone at the home will increase by $127,000 in a full year. To add to the problem the State grants which provided for the ancillary services, such as the day nursing homes and the domiciliary nursing services as well as some of the relief between the cost of the bed and the amount received, have been cut this year by $110,000. That is equal to $6 a week, which is the amount that actually made up most of the difference between the $69 a week and the $75 at that time. The home needs a further grant of at least $20 a week per bed to enable it to cover not only the cost per bed but to allow for the further added costs which must surely eventuate within the next few months. This home alone will need an extra $360,000 a year to keep up with present costs. It is going to cost millions of dollars for the Government to keep the homes throughout the country for the elderly, aged and infirm in a viable position. However, unless prompt action is taken by the Government, it will be economically impossible for these homes to continue to provide the service for the aged at its present level.
Secondly, I refer to those homes classed as registered homes. Again for the point of discussion I shall refer specifically to the Bethlehem Home for the Aged in Bendigo. The Bethlehem Home provides accommodation and services for: both infirm and ambulant aged persons. It has. facilities for 124 patients; of which 27 are intensive care patients, 14 infirmary or ordinary patients and: the balance of 83 what are called ambulant patients. The home is subject to subsidy as a nursing home for the 41 intensive care and. infirmary patients only, but receives absolutely no subsidy for the ambulant patients. Certainly it is, as a registered home, entitled, to charge for these patients, but, like so many other homes, it can charge only a very reasonable or modest fee and many of its patients are in fact pensioners who can pay only the . maximum of $15 a week. As with the other type of homes, many of the patients who are listed as ambulant are in fact infirm or require intensive care. It is these patients to whom, I now refer.
The subsidy the home receives for its intensive care and infirmary patients is the same as that provided to the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged and similar- institutions. However, due to its receiving a subsidy for only one-third of its patients, it obviously has to rely very heavily on auxiliaries and public appeals from within the district to help offset the deficit which is incurred in providing this service to aged persons. The equal pay award has meant an increase of $1,000 a week in the wages bill of this home. Consequently the cost per bed has risen in proportion. As from 1st March the new domiciliary benefit will come into effect. This involves the payment of an amount of $14 a week to relatives for the care of a patient in the home of the relatives. It is another of the positive measures provided for the aged and the infirm by the previous Government. I am aware that this benefit will be payable only on the production of a certificate from a doctor and nurse.
As I have mentioned previously, many patients classed as ambulant in registered homes are in fact incapable of providing for themselves and require constant medical and nursing care. Despite this the homes cannot claim a benefit of any sort I strongly urge the Government to consider this problem with a view to providing extra benefits to these homes to cover those patients for whom a doctor’s certificate can be obtained, even though they may not be quite so ill as to be classified under the rules as intensive care or infirm cases but who definitely need special attention as they are in fact incapable of looking after themselves. Benefits should be paid to at least the same amount as that provided for under the nursing home benefit to infirm and ordinary patients. This would involve a total benefit of $46.90 a week, including the benefit payable from 1st January 1973. Any such benefit could, of course, be subject to the normal conditions of such benefits and possibly have the means test applied. Whilst there are probably many aged persons who will be able to benefit from this domiciliary grant, while being cared for in their own or a relatives home, it must be acknowledged that there are many who, for various reasons, will not be able to obtain such care and will need to look to the registered homes for help.
I now refer to the so-called rest homes. Those running such homes do not like that name and prefer them to be classified as boarding homes for the frail aged. No subsidy is provided for this class of home because they are commercial enterprises. The proprietors receive no subsidies as the homes are not classified as nursing homes. However, because of the acute shortage of accommodation in the various registered homes for the aged, they do provide shelter and care for the excess number of aged persons. Doctors and hospitals alike have recommended these rest homes to some patients. I believe that these institutions, like the registered homes, should receive assistance in the form of a benefit for the care of those persons where there has been a recommendation by such doctors or hospitals. Perhaps they should qualify for $14 a week which is the amount being paid as a domiciliary benefit. It is our duty to provide the best care and attention for aged persons in Australia. I call upon this Government, which has as part of its platform a policy to provide for the aged- or so it says - to take immediate action to provide sufficient funds for the various purposes that I have mentioned.
I mentioned previously that Bendigo was a city selected for accelerated development by the Victorian State Government. In its election campaign the Australian Labor Party promised, if elected, to develop the AlburyWodonga complex as the first step in its concept of urban and regional development. The Government already has initiated with the State governments of Victoria and New South Wales moves for this development. Perhaps I should congratulate it for that action. However, in Bendigo we have been assured by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) that Bendigo will be the subject of a feasibility study by the Commonwealth to determine its potential as a growth centre.
Let me refer to an article by Dr J. Paterson, an adviser to the Government on regional development. He stated that due to the lack of adequate water in many country areas - I think he was referring specifically to the Albury-Wodonga complex programme - it would be difficult to implement planned regional development to the extent that was envisaged. I point out that in Bendigo no water restrictions were imposed during the recent drought. Bendigo has a water supply sufficient to meet any foreseeable needs of development. Therefore, I request the Government to give high priority to the announced feasibility study in relation to establishing Bendigo as a growth centre. The Bendigo City Council has planned an urban renewal scheme for the commercial centre of the city.
I have written previously to both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to seek their support, firstly by visiting Bendigo to study at first hand the proposed plan and then by supplying the financial assistance which will be required for such development. Over the last 15 years the City Council has reclaimed at its own cost hundreds of acres of despoiled mining lands for residential, industrial and recreational purposes. It has made efforts to decentralise and to bring industries to Bendigo. The Council has studied the urban redevelopment that is occurring in many cities overseas and it believes that it is now time for such redevelopment to take place in Bendigo, bearing in mind that Bendigo is a particularly old city with a very old commercial centre.
The problems associated with old buildings, small allotments, the lack of open spaces and the increase in the number of motor cars cannot continue to be ignored if there is to be a proper urban renewal in that city. Bendigo is prepared to work at development: It is ready for accelerated development. Therefore, I now ask the Government to honour its election promises of regional development by acting in a positive manner to assist this city with its plans for regional growth.
-Order! I remind honourable gentlemen that the next speech also is a maiden speech.
– Firstly, I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your elevation to the position of Speaker. Our association goes back to my earliest days in the Labor Party. 1 say that no man in this Parliament deserves the honour of being Mr Speaker more than you. Of course, it is an honour shared equally by those whom you represent.
During the last 40 years or so we have seen a number of administrations in the United States of America which have given to their programmes specific names. We had the New Deal and the Fair Deal of President Roosevelt, the New Frontier of President Kennedy and the Great Society of President Johnson. In Australia we have silently witnessed - almost politically stupified - the development of the imposition of the depersonalised society. This is a society where machines have more importance and are given greater significance than men and women who operate them, where material possessions are the very criteria of success, where job satisfaction and purpose of life have come to be regarded as almost irrelevant and certainly ignored by previous governments, and where peace of mind and harmonious living are matters which have been replaced by disharmony, discord and division.
The development of advanced technology is essential for the welfare of Australia and for the development of our economy. Technology must be developed further in order to allow this nation to play its part in the development of those countries to our north - countries which are sometimes called underdeveloped or undeveloped; countries, of course, which in many cases have cultures reaching back for thousands of years and which also in many cases surpass our own in cultural achievement. But in order to encourage and to assist in the development of those economies we need technological development. I say - and I challenge any disagreement - that nowhere in the world in the last decade has technological development received such active co-operation as it has in Australia. Its introduction has not received more assistance anywhere in the world than it has in Australia from the organised trade union movement.
In response and in return for that assistance, which I might add has not been forthcoming in all other parts of the world, governments of Australia have ignored their rights and obligations to protect employees in those industries which have been so affected. What is one of the primary effects of massive technological development? It is the growth of monolithic giant international corporations. These corporations are owned in foreign lands. They are completely impersonal. They have little or no regard for those who work for them.
We hear talk of faceless men. When we look at the faceless, impersonal, giant corporation, we see in most cases a callous and cynical machine which has no concern at all for those who work for it, for those who develop it, for those who produce the wealth of its organisation and, certainly, no concern for the families of these people. During the past generation previous governments have created and have encouraged this depersonalised society in which the rights of individuals are cheap, in which individuals count for little and in which all that counts is the number of dollars and cents that were made in each year. They have developed a society in which the hopes, desires and needs of individuals have been swamped and submerged beneath the insidious tide of so-called progress but which is described more properly as the glorification of materialism and financial reward.
In spite of the enormous growth in the Australian productive capacity, which under successive inefficient Liberal governments has rarely, if ever, been utilised fully, we have significant numbers of citizens who are in need. We have significant numbers of citizens who are caught in the poverty trap. One hundred thousand seems to have been the acceptable number of unemployed in this country. When there are 100,000 out of work, about 300,000 people are in need. The previous Government seemed to think that it was a magnificient achievement when the number of unemployed was reduced to about 130,000. To the previous Government the unemployed were units on a piece of paper. It had no concern for the homes or for the children who suffered and whose future perhaps was impaired because they failed to get an education. I remind the House that those who suffered the greatest unemployment in the past year or two were those in the low income bracket - those who could least afford to lose a day’s pay, let alone be out of work for weeks or for a month.
What do’ we find in our society? With this mass of technology and with this enormous productive machine we find that today young people who marry and attempt to set up a home are set an almost impossible task. They face a trail of heartbreak and sorrow as they work long hours to save every cent in an attempt to establish a home, only to find that their savings are. outsped by inflation of the price of land and housing. Our senior citizens, many of whom have had family commitments and are on low wages, have not had the opportunity to save, but they have played their part in developing the national wealth. Their return for 30 or 40 years of hard, laborious and, in some cases, dangerous work is to spend their evening years in need, cold, lonely and hungry. They lead a life without dignity and without security. Because of bad planning and maladministration our youth find it difficult to get employment in occupations of their choice and to gain admission to universities or technical colleges. In many cases our youth is denied the right to be apprenticed in the skilled trades for which this country will cry out in just a few years time. Previous governments have not bothered to take out a statistic or to concern themselves about ascertaining Australia’s employment needs and its needs for skilled tradesmen 2 years from now, let alone what those needs will be in 10 or 20 years time.
So this Government starts from scratch. One good thing about that is that it will not have to undo any of the damage because nothing has been done. In some cases today, by the time young people who have been trained in jobs and who have spent their youth in study to acquire skills, have finished their study, those skills will have become completely redundant. That is a serious situation. It is a situation which typifies this lack of concern for people, the glorification of the machine and the adoration of the dollar as the most important thing. I say that a government which adopts these criteria and these standards to guide it along its path deserves the judgment of the Australian people that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government got in December last year.
I put it to the House that technology belongs to all the people. It is not the inventor who gains financial reward, it is the person who employs the inventor who gains the financial reward, because of the society which has been developed. But technology does not and cannot be allowed to belong to those who have the funds to utilise the development for the sole purpose of enriching themselves and of satisfying their narrow, selfish and greedy desires. It belongs to the people. The people own technology. It is developed through community means. It is developed through the resources of the whole community. Therefore it is morally sound that those advances be used for the benefit of the whole community. Australian workers are regarded, and rightly so, as among the best educated and most highly skilled workers in the world. They are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, whether they be employed by foreign corporations, Australian companies or government which is, of course, a very large and significant employer. They are entitled to be identified as persons and not to be identified merely by a number on the payroll. They are entitled to have a name. They are entitled to be considered at least the equal of if not much better than - that is my view - the capital equipment which they operate. But is that the position?
Security of employment in Australia ranks among the lowest in the world. Under the Commonwealth arbitration laws, under the laws of the so-called master and so-called servant, an employer - the corporation - can dismiss an employee for any or no reason. The legal redress is practically nil. With the absence of the strike weapon the worker is powerless. This is not the position in other parts of the world. I hope that before the end of this Parliament it will not be the position here. There is no security of employment. With the introduction of technological change or at the first sign of an economic cold breeze labour is the most easily disposed of part of the company’s productive process. Much depends on what Australia is trying to achieve in respect of its labour relations. Those who believe that the Australian work force is motivated solely by the financial return will fall into the same trap as previous Ministers of Labour have fallen into. They made a serious error when they acted on this assumption. The Australian worker is entitled to receive and demands that he receive recognition and job satisfaction. We on this side of the House are entitled to say that those who produce the wealth are entitled to share in it. I notice from what has been said in this Parliament and from what has been said in previous debates that honourable members opposite seem to have an antipathy towards trade unions. That is very unfortunate.
Today I listened to the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) say that he regarded as a security risk the fact that civilian employees in defence establishments were being asked to join unions. I remind the honourable gentleman that since 1904 judges of Australian arbitration tribunals, both Commonwealth and State, have said that employees who enjoy benefits of union awards should be members of unions. It may be, of course - I gather that it is - that some honourable members opposite, including those who have held ministerial office in this area, regard it as wrong to encourage actively persons to become members of unions. But let them argue that not only with us but with a long line of authority from independent tribunals dating back 70 years. At some stage we may have the opportunity to debate this aspect more fully with those honourable gentlemen. Who knows, it may be possible to rescue them from then* ignorance. I remind the Parliament that it is not the trade unions which significantly limit production in this country and it is not the trade unions which determine that food shall not be grown or that only limited amounts of food shall be grown. During the last election campaign we heard a lot spoken and written about moral issues. I challenge honourable members opposite to justify in moral terms a situation where one-third of the world has so much productive capacity that goods are deliberately not produced. While one-third of the world is starving, another third destroys what it grows or refuses to grow more than a certain amount of food. In some countries, including this, farmers are paid not to produce food while our neighbours go to bed hungry every night if they have a bed. The morality of that is non-existent.
What we wish to see is a society which is different from this depersonalised mess that has been developed over the last IS years or so. We want to see industry recognised for what it is. We want to see it recognised as an enterprise requiring the co-operation of capital, management and labour. We want labour to get its recognition as a partner in that enterprise, not merely serfs employed by those who own the financial resources. We want to see worker participation in the management of these enterprises because in many cases the employees hi an industry have a far greater stake and a far greater interest in its prosperity than do the investors.
After all, it is not unknown for some investors to like buying companies at a loss - at least they did under the previous administration. This represented a tax gain and they could close the business down and write off accumulated losses against current profits. But what happens to the workers in that situation? What happens to those employees and their families? Many of them were required in my experience to shift home by 1,000 miles or stay and suffer the indignity and deprivation associated with unemployment. If this Parliament does not recognise the need to come to grips with what is one of the greatest social problems of our time, Australian progress will be, dampened. The need for Australian progress is unchallengeable. We need to ensure that we get equality of opportunity, that we look after the employees and also that we do not forget the girls at home - those who look after the family and suffer the difficulty today of low wages and high prices. A reduction in the real purchasing power of money is a problem suffered by the employee and his family - by the little girl who tries to buy the meat that the children need to give them sustenance. We, need to say that we will try to change this, not by some radical sweep of the pen because that is not possible but by a process of leadership and change which is regularised, planned and thought out. I believe a great deal can be done to improve the present position. The lack of leadership over the last IS years particularly has meant chaos and confusion. To say that Australia was in the marshland of chaos and confusion would not be putting it too highly. I look to the new Government, particularly the leadership of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), to ensure that we can develop leadership in this country on both a national and community level. I believe that this Government is well equipped to give that leadership. It is a government which is not bound to follow the dictates of those faceless corporations - the heartless people who sit in New York, London or Zurich or somewhere else and dictate what shall happen in Australia. I believe this Government will march towards new horizons filled with the hope of full equality of opportunity and a sense of national unity. It will ensure economic, political and cultural development which will make citizens the most important consideration in our society.
– At the outset I join with other honourable members in this Parliament and extend the Opposition’s congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on achieving the position of Speaker of this House. I have no doubt that you will discharge the responsibilities of your office with the inimitable distinction which has characterised your predecessors. I also congratulate those members who have made maiden speeches during the evening’s proceedings, particularly my colleague, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who made an outstanding contribution to the future of the Liberal Party by his election to the seat of Bendigo. It was a hard fought election and he is a member who I am certain will make a very great contribution to the deliberations of this Parliament.
I also extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) on his maiden speech. He is a man who has had a very long experience in the industrial jurisdiction and who I have no doubt will seek to utilise the expertise and experience he has in working for the development of a bigger and better Australia during the course of his period in this Parliament. He drew particular attention to the most important problem facing the Australian industrial community and ‘the principal parties which are operating within it - the employees and the trade unions. That problem is the development of what I would call in terms of the theme which the honourable gentleman put before us ‘a community of interest in the Austraiian work place’. This is a community of interest in which all employees will experience a sense of job satisfaction which goes far beyond the receipt of a pay packet and the undertaking of a routine task.
I have no doubt that all honourable gentlemen in this House would join with the honourable member for Phillip in saying that if the purpose of work means anything in a modern industrial community it certainly must mean far more than the receipt of a pay packet at the end of a given period. In terms of the fundamental philosophy which I would hope we would pursue on both sides of the House, we accept the broad proposition that work is designed to dignify and not to demean. It is designed to challenge and not to stultify. It is a process whereby every individual ought to be ennobled and hot ignobled at the end of his work period whether it be a day, a week, a month or a year.
This is a problem which is far easier to define than to solve. Yet it will become increasingly more important with developing specialisation and technological change and both employers and employees must recognise the need to establish consultative processes to enable a dialogue between parties on matters of common interest. I hope that the new Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde. Cameron) will highlight this pressing need iri his approach to Australia’s industrial relations because until such time as a community of interest can be established in the Australian work place, no attempt by him or other members of his Government will be successful in seeking solutions to those problems which have bedevilled Australia’s industrial relations in recent years.
Having said ‘that by way of marginal response to the fundamental .’ proposition which the honourable gentleman placed before this House, I would say to him on behalf of the Opposition parties: Never assume that the honourable members on this side of the House are anti-trade union or proemployer. I repeat what other of my colleagues have said in recent years and that is that we are prepared to call the shots in the industrial jurisdiction as we see them. Of course, we have been critical of trade unions and I will be critical of them in. this address. If we believe such criticism to be justified we should at all ‘times seek to put’ it before the Australian people. Equally, if we believe that the employers as a group can rightly be the subject of criticism then that criticism ought to be properly applied to them. If one looks back over the course of recent years to the pronouncements of Ministers in’ the former administration who have been responsible for industrial relations, it cannot be said as fact that we are anti-union and pro-employer. Honourable members opposite may say that we on this side have taken a wrong judgment but they should never accuse us of seeking a sectional advantage which ‘ transcends the national interest. They may say that we are wrong, and that, of course, is their entitlement in this Parliament.
I believe that this 28th Parliament will be one of the most critical in the history of Australia because we have a government which has not experienced office for some 23 years and which proposes many sweeping changes in the Australian community, some of which would seek to alter the very fundamental basis of our society. We on our side of the chamber, accept that the people of this country voted for change. We may argue with their judgment but we recognise the fact. The people who voted in the recent election believe that the charter of their new Government will create new opportunities and a better life for all Australians. During the course of this Parliament the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Government at all times while proposing nothing new. We are mindful that we are the alternative government and as such our policies must be constructive, positive and purposefully designed. We recognise above all things that just as our basic task in this Parliament is to oppose, to criticise and to scrutinise, equally our task is to initiate, to formulate and to develop new policies upon which the people of this country can make their judgment when the next election takes place. We will strongly oppose when it is clear to us that the Government’s actions are not in the national interest, and when we are agreed with the Government’s objective but against the means set by that Government for its attainment
There are fundamental differences between government and opposition. I believe that those differences, whatever they might be in terms of policies and programmes, in terms of philosophy remain so divergent today as to create a gulf. I do not see the task of this Opposition as looking inwards in terms of philosophy because I stand here tonight, as I have before and as other colleagues have before, saying that here is a government accepting the tenets of socialism which it will be seeking to embody into legislative form during the lifetime of this Parliament. But we on our side do not believe in any concept which seeks to strangle the efforts and the individuality of people in this country. We believe that individual rights and freedoms are basic to our society. We believe that individuals must be able to plan their own destinies free from the interfering solicitude of governments. Of course, this is a philosophy seen in contemporary terms and not something which is a plea for laissez faire in the old sense such that governments may become disinterested in their concern for persons who are disadvantaged in the Australian community. We recognise that governments per se must become more involved in social responsibility and in their sensitivity to human needs. It is the function of government to provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups in the Australian community, but we reject that which is the Government’s underlying philosophy. The trend of undue dependency on ‘ governments today is becoming, I believe, a social malaise throughout the Western world. We believe that social objectives can be achieved without the abdication of the basic dignity and self respect of the individual.
Although the Government’s first 100 days honeymoon has not yet concluded, it is a matter of record that already that experience is beginning to sour in the Australian community because the Government, by its many actions in so many critical areas in the Australian community, has indicated that it is prepared to subordinate the national interest to the dictates of Party policy. It has adopted - apparently it is prepared to continue to adopt - a policy of sectional application. Whereas the honourable member for Phillip brought before this House a plea not to be anti-trade union, let me say this to the Government members opposite in the interests of the people of this country: ‘Do not seek a short term political advantage in terms of satisfying the pressures to which you are subject if, in that process, the national- interest itself goes by default’.
I think closely of some of the matters which I canvass, only in passing comment and for which I have responsibility. In the context of that comment does anyone here seriously doubt that, in the industrial relations area at the present time, the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will not jeopardise the authority of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and seriously weaken its efficacy? This together with the Government’s attitude to negotiated agreements must lead, I believe, to the inescapable conclusion that it will destroy the concept and application of a rational and equitable system of wage and salary determination in this country. We on this side of the chamber are not persons who are opposed to preference to trade unionists, as has been mentioned tonight, but we stand here totally opposed to any concept that any member of the Australian work force - male or female, skilled, unskilled or semi-skilled - ought on any basis to be forced to join a trade union against his will.
We are concerned and alarmed at the backdoor methods whereby the present Government has sought to introduce compulsory unionism in the Commonwealth Public Service contrary to the explicit mandate of the newly formed Government. Government supporters themselves might well recall the policy speech delivered by the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in which he said that all Commonwealth public servants would receive 4 weeks annual leave. Can he rationalise that with the stealth with which the Minister for Labor has sought to condition that particular policy to the extent to which the Government seeks at the present time to deny it to all Commonwealth public servants contrary to the concept of an open and humane society so eloquently proposed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. This Government says one thing and claims to stand for one set of principles, but in practice it is seen to be a government prepared to adopt a double standard, a policy of discrimination, a policy which in the industrial area would seek to confer on some major industrial benefits but which it would seek simultaneously not to confer on others.
Where is the sense of equity in the industrial area? Do we in this country believe in terms of basic conditions in seeking tlo apply to one small group a 35-hour working week, 4 weeks annual leave and maternity leave, or do we rather believe in the long established industrial principle that major conditions of service - hours of work and wages - on the basis of the normal Australian principle of egalitarianism ought to apply, not to the chosen few but, in fact, to wage earners at large. I want the Government to know that the Opposition parties in pursuing their policies will fight to the last ditch in the Parliament in opposing the Government’s desire to seek by compulsory unionism to provide some in the Commonwealth Public Service a benefit which it believes might well advantage those concerned but which, of course, completely cuts across the concept of individual freedom and individual liberty. This is a Government claiming one thing and doing another. I usually adhere to normal parliamentary terms and I dislike to use the Australianism ‘guts’, but perhaps in this context it becomes an appropriate term. I want to tell the Government that there are many Australians in the trade union movement who are asking when their Prime Minister will be prepared to stand, up and be counted. The. Prime Minister has had, as honourable, members know, a period of almost 3 months in government, a period during which there has been a major increase in industrial unrest, including a virtual strike in the sense that certain exports to the United States of America were banned. During this period his left wing Ministers took the lead and he remained silent.
We on our side would like to see in this country a Prime Minister who is prepared to stand up and be counted, even though he may be a Labor Prime Minister. I remember, as I am certain, do many honourable gentlemen in this House, the comment made by the now Prime Minister in Sydney some 12 or 15 months ago when he used these specific words:
A Labor Government would not be the unthinking mouthpiece of trade union officialdom.
Now where is the evidence that can justify that statement after 3 months? If an answer cannot be given are we and the Australian people entitled to believe that this is not the man of the new age but the man for the double standard - the man who preaches open government and yet denies to colleagues close to himself the opportunity for consultation? Can anyone in this Parliament think of a more fundamental economic decision than the one which concerned the recent ‘ currency crisis around the world, a decision taken by Mr Whitlam acting with some marginal concept of an economic czar.
– It was a non-decision.
– I appreciate very much the comment by my leader that it was a nondecision. The Prime Minister’s actions portrayed vacillation and indecision. But is this the process of open government or is it a process whereby the Government preaches one doctrine and seeks to apply another? In the area of trade unions and the business community, as I said in the terms of my opening theme in response to the honourable member for Phillip, we join with the Government in seeking in the industrial area a community of interest in which no-one can say there are not faults on one side or on the other side. But are we in this Parliament to be confronted day after day with all of the things which the Government is seeking to do in the interests of one group in the Australian community and in which area we have many supporters. I tell the Government that I have received many representations from trade union members who have asked of me the question which they might well ask of honourable members opposite: ‘When is the Prime Minister of this country prepared to stand up and be counted?’ Whether in the area of the economy, the area of industrial relations or, in terms of the censure motion which was moved today, the international area, this is a government led by a man who is prepared to sacrifice national interests to the dictates of party policy, a man who cannot give an effective lead and a man who cannot lead this country into the mid 1970s and beyond simply because he is not captive to the Parliament or subject to the Parliament as he ought to be, but rather is subject to many people outside of it upon whom he depends. His is a very shoddy performance and a disgrace to this country.
– I was pleased to hear mat the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) recognises the change in society and that he concedes the fact that the Australian people in voting in the last election voted for a change. But the odd thing was that, with all his rhetoric, he then proceeded to talk in the very self-same vein in which I have heard him talk for the previous 3 years, as if in fact he had learnt nothing at all from the recent election result. The honourable member expressed concern about overdependence by the people in the community, and in fact in all western nations, on governments. I take it that he included Australia in this. But oddly enough I have been under the impression that for the last 23 years or so we have had a Liberal conservative government and not a Labor government. So surely the honourable gentleman should be asking himself what it was he and his colleagues have been doing which has been wrong and which has led to, in his view, this overdependence on government.
The honourable member discussed for a time the vexed question of compulsory unionism. I concede that one can see the arguments against belonging to a trade union and superficially they appear perfectly reasonable. After all, why should one be forced to belong to a union? Where is freedom - and so on? But, of course, in real terms the economic welfare of people who do not belong to unions often depends upon the action of trade unionists. I am talking, in other words, about wage and salary earners. I have yet to see employers who voluntarily and without being asked or pressed freely giving improvements in conditions or wages. Such improvements almost invariably depend on some action by the workers themselves who have formed trade unions to attain these improvements. Such a move by the workers usually involves not only the financial sacrifice by members of trade unions in just paying their contributions to the unions, but in addition very often the additional sacrifice of going on strike with their fellow unionists.
I know that superficially it often seems that the trade unions are defeated when they call a strike and then go back to work seemingly with their tail between their legs. But it is very interesting to note how often a judgment comes soon after from the Arbitration Court or some decision is made which gives the unions the very things they had been seeking in their industrial action. I reiterate my claim that usually improvement in the conditions for people on wages in this country depends upon the action of trade unionists. So where does that leave the proposition of a person’s freedom not to belong to a trade union? I would be perfectly prepared to accept this proposition on condition that the people on wages who do not wish to belong to the trade union, who do not wish to take part in the trade union activity, who do not wish to go on strike and who in fact do not go on strike, do not accept the increases in pay gained by the unionists when they have been on strike, on condition that they do not accept the increase in holidays gained or the improvement in working conditions. If they do not accept these improvements it would be reasonable for them to adhere to their view that they should not belong to a union. (Quorum formed). I now turn away from the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to consider the comments made by the Governor-General in his Speech. Mr Deputy Speaker, I refresh your memory by quoting the Governor-General’s observation that the grounds on which the Australian Labor Party Government has decided to put forward its programme of change included
Perhaps this is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition hinted at, but does not fully comprehend. To me the significant change in society has been the increasing commitment of young people to what is going on, the things that they see wrong with society and their commitment to active political participation in changing society. I think that all of us can recall at school and later in early adult life the comparative lack of concern of our fellows for what society was about and what was going on. Now I am pleasantly surprised to find an increased involvement even on the part of my own children who are still only at secondary school and their increased concern for what they consider to be the ills of this society.
We have a growing movement by women, young and old, in the community to assert their rights and their position in this society. For too long women have been considered second class citizens. Now they themselves are joining in the fight, no longer leaving it just to trade unions which in the past have talked about equality of opportunity and equality of wages. Women are taking a more active part in this campaign, but not just at that level. They are seeking equality of rights and recognition of their place in society as people, not just as chattels of men or as the housekeepers of the community. I think that these are some of the significant changes that prompt the Australian Labor Party to propose many of the things that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition admitted basically would change Australian society.
I turn to foreign relations. To illustrate what we are seeking to do, I quote again from the Governor-General’s Speech:
My Government supports the proposal by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations for a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South East Asia, and will encourage other nations involved in the region to support the concept.
For too long the view of this country has been that we must protect ourselves against attack from unnamed - but with heavy implications as to whom they might be - would-be aggressors around us. Depending on the atmosphere in the community at the time, the aggressor could be any one of half a dozen nations to the north of this country. Of course, the reality is that all nations in the area have felt beleaguered and. threatened, probably by us and one another. For too long we have maintained treaty arrangements that essentially have been military pacts. We have adopted the habit of making arrangements with one group of nations and them making arrangements with another group of nations, seemingly in conflict with one another. Secrecy builds suspicion upon suspicion and reduces the confidence between nations. It is time we broke down these walls between us. It is time we sought to change these relationships between nations from so-called treaties to protect one another to treaties to assist one another to develop, recognising that basically, as I believe, no nation wishes to attack another nation. I realise that in many people’s view that may be taken to be a naive proposition. In fact, I do not believe that any nation decides to go to war for the fun of it. If nations go to war they do so because they feel threatened by some other nation or in some way or other they feel they have a need for this action in order to assert their rights or their position. In other words, they feel aggrieved; they have a problem. To me, the best way to solve problems like that is not for us to get on the defensive and’ arm ourselves to the teeth in competition with them but to seek to help them overcome whatever the problem is that they feel they have.
I would guess that in most ‘cases we would overcome the problems by helping them to overcome some of their . developmental difficulties because in the main this is usually what the problem is. They have difficulty in developing a reasonable standard of living for their peoples, in finding access for their manufactured goods or in finding markets for their raw materials. AH nations are often placed in this terrible predicament. Even this country has difficulty in exporting its goods at times. But we do not overcome the problems by threatening to punch someone on the nose. We will overcome the problem only by seeking agreement with other nations so that we can extend and promote our trade possibilities. To this end in trying to lower the barriers and break down the walls, this Government has, after many years of waiting for the last Government to do it, ratified the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons - again, many people would say, a naive proposition. After all, the Russians, the Americans, the Chinese, the. French and the British still have their bombs. That is true enough. They have had them for years. They have not used them. They have sat on them and they have felt uncomfortable, They have continued to produce them. There is enough nuclear power in the world now to blow us to smithereens probably 100 times over. What does it achieve? It does nothing but raise the anxieties of everyone. It is time that we sought to lower the anxieties of the world community by agreeing to things such as the Treaty to which I have just referred, seeking to show that we are prepared to trust the present nuclear nations and that we do not aspire to compete with them. In turn, they may then recognise that they are wasting their time continuing to produce these nuclear weapons.
Of course, I know that many people will disagree with me. They still feel that it Ls just poppycock. They are anxious and suspicious. The answer to that is improved education and understanding. We need to understand not the mechanical things of life but many of the spiritual things of life. We need to have a new look at education. For too long our education has concentrated upon technical training and not upon education for living. This Government is proposing to establish a schools commission. It will not only be concerned with such matters as school buildings, the teacher-pupil ratio and textbooks but also I hope it will look into the philosophy of education. It will seek to understand how we might change the emphasis in education in order to overcome the problems that many of us are seeking more than ever at the present time. People are trying to obtain help from us because although they are well trained technologically they still cannot obtain a job. If they obtain a job, it is one which they are not trained to do. They feel frustrated and hopeless. All our education system is doing at the moment is increasing the bewilderment of many who find that once they are educated there is no place for them in society. Education is more than technical training. (Quorum formed)
Another point raised in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech related to the Aboriginal people. For years our treatment of the only real Australians has been a terrible reflection on our honesty and sincerity. I hope and trust that at last we will seek to redress the injustices that we have perpetrated on these people. For too long we have failed to recognise them as human beings. We have denied them basic rights. We have even denied them the very land which historically is. theirs. The Government intends to press for the establishment of Aboriginal land rights, far better health services and better nutritional standards for Aborigines so thu no longer will they be the poverty-stricken section of this Australian community with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
In the few. minutes remaining to. me in this debate I should, like to discuss something which relates particularly tq , my own portfolio, namely, the .environmental impact statement technique which we have proposed. I concede quite frankly that the previous Government had adopted the concept of environmental impact statements designed to protect the environment; but its proposals had not in fact reached the implementation stage. Its idea was that the appropriate departments would prepare these statements and the statements would be called for if there appeared to be anything’ in a project which impinged on the environment. The statements would be prepared and submitted to the Cabinet together with the proposal. Once the Cabinet approved it, the statement would, be released to the public.
We have taken the view that this is not good enough because it hides’ the decision for far too long. We intend to call for the selfsame impact statements in consultation with whatever departments are involved. Usually it is not just one department but a number of departments’. Once these statements are prepared, they will be made public so that the community may know about them and be in a position to criticise them. Should I consider that a project concerns the environment, then I have a discretionary power to call for an impact statement; but after January of next year that discretionary power will no longer exist and the statement will be automatically expected. We also intend to provide opportunities for public hearings so that the community can express its views before such statements are finished and before they are presented to this Parliament or to the Cabinet. In this way we hope to evolve a system whereby the community can have a far more direct say in the way it is developed. It will not be left to governments or to cabinets to make decisions for people; it will be up to people themselves to make those decisions.
I should like, finally, to comment on the human progress index. Many people thought that this was a bit of a laugh. It is, if one looks at it’ in terms of wondering how one might measure happiness or God knows what. But that is hot what is being sought. We seek to understand : and recognise that the gross national product is not necessarily an accurate measure of how much the welfare of the community is improving. It just measures the output, lt has no bearing at all on how something influences or affects people. We may be increasing the production of motor cars and be polluting ourselves to such an extent that’ we will no longer be able to survive in our cities, but that is counted as progress. In our approach we seek to measure not only industrial output but also its consequences; and if those consequences are bad a subtraction is’ made, thus giving a more accurate measure of real human progress. That is the essence of the Government’s proposition.
– 1 should like to extend through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, congratulations to the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) on his elevation to the Speakership of this House. I congratulate you, Sir, on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. I also congratulate all those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in this AddressinReply debate, particularly my colleague, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), whose father the Right Honourable Sir Charles Adermann, P.C., was a member of this House for 29 years and who as a Cabinet minister held the portfolio of primary industry. In the present honourable member for Fisher we have a very worthy successor in our Country Party team.
I was amazed to hear the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) say in this debate tonight that he was delighted to see that primary industry had figured very prominently in the Governor-General’s Speech. I had a good look through the Speech and 1 found it extremely difficult to discover any mention at all of primary industry. I found that 15 lines were devoted to primary industry, 7 of which related to the Australian Wool Corporation, 3 to fisheries and 5 to general assistance to primary industry. So, I do not think primary industry received much attention from this Government in the Speech. When I note that primary industry is responsible for earning $2,500m of export income, it amazes me to see how little thought is given to this important industry by the present Government. In my experience since I became a member of this Federal Parliament very little attention has been given to primary industry by members of the present Government
I should like to address my remarks tonight mainly to decisions made by . the mini Cabinet. That mini Cabinet made some decisions which will have far-reaching effects on Australia. They may np,t be felt at the present time but they certainly will. $e. felt very severely, economically and nationally, as the months and years, go by. The first- decision to which I refer . is the, recalling of our Ambassador in Taiwan and the return, to.. Taiwan of the Taiwanese Ambassador in Australia. What was the need for hurry? There was no need to ‘hurry in severing our relations with these loyal people - none whatever. Taiwan has had a wonderful relationship with Australia. The 15 million people on Taiwan do as much trade each year as their 800 million counterparts in Mainland China, and while this trade continues Taiwan will remain very much a going concern.
– What about our .exports to Taiwan, including barley?
– We export to Taiwan large quantities of Australian primary produce. In 1970-71 our exports of primary produce were worth $40m and last year they- were worth 855,734,000. They included barley, wheat, wool, powdered milk, beef and many other primary products. I am particularly interested in this trade because I represent a very rich dairying electorate. The loss of export markets could mean that the producers in my area could lose at least $2m in trade in the powdered milk field. Two-way trade wilh Taiwan is of great benefit to Austrafia. Our export trade could be endangered by the Government’s action in breaking off diplomatic relations with Taiwan. I know that great play has been made of the supposed loss of our wheat trade to Mainland China, but Mainland China has always bought wheat when she has needed it. Six or 7 years ago Mainland China purchased SI 00m worth of wheat. That figure came down to $63m. It has gone up again. Mainland China has always purchased our wheat when she has required it, irrespective of the influence of Taiwan. It is interesting to note, too, that the communist controlled countries Mainland China and Russia have great, difficulty in getting their government farmers to grow grain and hand it over to the government because farmers,, being what they are. do not like handing over their produce when there is no incentive for them to do so. In the factories there is an incentive for workers to lift production. Another action of the miniCabinet was the severing of diplomatic relations with Rhodesia. In 1971-72 we sold to Rhodesia 45,384 tons of Australian wheat valued at $2,443,000; Now we are not trading with that country and there will be a loss to Australia and to the Australian wheat farmer.
The revaluation of the Australian dollar by the mini Cabinet was certainly a severe blow to Australian mining, manufacturing and primary industries. Let us look at the loss sustained by our industries in the revaluation process. In mining there was a loss of $143m in February plus a loss of $100m in December and $l,000m has been written off the value of Australian iron ore. Let me refer to manufacturing industries. Taken in conjunction with the effective revaluation of 6.3 per cent in 1971 and the more recent unilateral revaluation of 7.05 per cent in December 1972 Australian exporters are now faced with the fact that in the worst instances their products must be 23.5 per cent more expensive in some overseas markets than similar products exported by the United States of America.
Let us look at the immediate effect that revaluation has had on our great primary ^industries. The effect has not yet filtered through to the cities but it could do so and no doubt it will do so. The December upvaluation cost primary producers from $150m to $200m. As all honourable members will have read in the Press, the Wheat Board announced recently that there would be a loss to growers in this industry of $ 18.5m on outstanding contracts. Cotton contracts are written in United States dollars, and Australian growers face a crippling loss of $5m. This industry which has been developing so wonderfully in the Wee Waa district of New South Wales will feel the effect of this revaluation tremendously. Revaluation could seriously affect this industry that has been developed over the past 5 years and which has brought great benefit not only to the north west of New South Wales but to the whole of Australia. Overall the loss to primary industry caused by the 2 revaluations could not be less than $300m and could even be as much as $400m. In my electorate pf Paterson the extent of the loss will be from $6m to $8m in the various primary industries spread over an area of 25,000 square miles.
No doubt the Labor Government will say that the revaluation of the dollar has occurred at a time when our primary producers can best stand it because of the high prices being obtained for their meat and their wool. It appears that the Government has completely forgotten the great droughts that have occurred in this country’ over the last 3 or 4 years when our primary producers have lost stock, when they have had to sell all they had on their properties to get some return, and when poor prices have prevailed in the industry for many years and thousands of farmers have been in poor financial situations. Now, when they have an opportunity to recoup their losses and gain financial strength, they are faced with a considerable percentage loss in income. Primary industries are indebted to the banking institutions for millions of dollars. This revaluation has hit them. At a time when they have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and their finances every obstacle is’ placed in their way. Our great country towns and provincial cities are seriously affected by the incomes of primary producers. The agricultural machinery manufacturing industry, the manufacturing of trucks and cars, steel fabricating and many similar industries all feel the immediate effects of the economy of the country districts. Whether the Government or its industrial supporters like it or not, this is a fact. It is a great tragedy., to these industries that, when they are getting out of the trouble they have been in, they are hit with revaluation. The only industry in- the primary sector that the Government has helped over this trouble has been that which produces apples and pears and canned peaches and apricots. ‘
– Fair go. It has not. :
– One of my .colleagues says that it has not but my information is that the Government has given that industry some assistance. It has certainly given no other primary industry any assistance for losses suffered through revaluation: In answering a question recently at a Sydney luncheon the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said that the Government did not have any compensation plans at this stage but that every case could be looked at on its merits. It is to be hoped that the Government will look at these industries on their merits and will give assistance in some instances before it is too late.
I want to say something about meat exports. A few weeks ago, after we had gained valuable contracts for the supply of beef to the United States of America, we found that ships in various ports were tied up because the waterside workers refused to load meat for the United States of America. That situation went on for about 10 days. The abattoirs throughout our nation had meat stored in their chillers. 1 am the chairman of a very big abattoir which had 10 or 12 chillers completely filled with frozen beef for the United States. All the stores at the waterside in our capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and other exporting cities were filled with beef. A very serious and dangerous situation arose. Hie sales of cattle in the country areas started to go down. Hie operators did not want to buy the stock because they could not load it for overseas destinations. What did this Government do? What did the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) do? They did absolutely nothing; they let this situation exist and endangered our trade relations with the United States of America. They jeopardised 400,000 tons of beef. Thank goodness the situation was rectified and the meat was able to be exported to that country. This situation could arise again at any time. Right throughout the meat industry there is a very uneasy fee ing with this Government in power, not attempting to do a thing to get our produce away from our ports.
– It is uneasy right through the country.
– Yes, the feeling is uneasy right through the country. I have been delighted to bring these facts to the notice of the Government and I hope that some attention will be given to them. It has been a great pleasure to speak in this debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may 1, firstly, join other honourable members in congratulating you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker and as Chairman of Committees. I trust that you will convey to Mr Speaker our congratulations also, for both of you have given considerable service in this part of the parliamentary procedure over the years. There is no doubt that the confidence which the House has shown in you is well warranted. My next congratulations are for the Opposition - what is left of it. I must admit that in the environment in which I see them at the moment I have never seen a better looking group, and I hope that I shall be able to sit on this side of the House for many years and watch them. I congratulate too the new members who moved and seconded the motion for the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I believe that both showed in what they outlined the hopes and aspirations of this Government and of the Australian people, which supported it at the general election. I congratulate also those other honourable members who also made their maiden speeches; each in his own way has expressed his personality and his respect for this institution. I suppose I ought to congratulate the previous speaker, the honourable member for Paterson, on his narrow survival that enabled him to take his place in this House. Having listened to the comments he made, one must admit that it was no wonder he went so close to defeat. Imagine the honourable member for Paterson talking about the question of devaluation- or rather revaluation - about which much could be said.
– There is a difference.
– I thank the honourable member for his help. There is indeed a difference between devaluation and revaluation. We have, of course, experienced revaluation of our currency arising from the devaluation of the United States currency.
– Tell us about the AMA.
– There is a very interesting story to be told, since the honourable member for Balaclava has mentioned the Australian Medical Association. The honourable member well knows that his own Party when in government instituted the nursing homes legislation, and in conjunction with the AMA drew up the form which is the cause of such conflict. While a Liberal government was in office the doctors were very happy to use the form, and now simply because there has been a political change they are taking political action, with no respect whatsoever for the patients. It is at times like these that I am ashamed of my profession. I am diverging from the Address-in-Reply debate, but I should like to speak about a number of social security matters, and the honourable member’s interjection was most appropriate. In 1949 the AMA revolted against using the standard prescription forms under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, yet all doctors today use those same standard prescription forms because they are supplied free by the Government and so save them money. These are some of the factors that ought to be considered in relation to our social welfare because they show inconsistencies and, despite the plea of concern for patients, reveal what the true attitudes are. I thank the honourable member for Balaclava for reminding mc of that.
I return now to the honourable member for Paterson, who spoke with great concern about mineral exports. He spoke of the effects pf the currency changes on contracts written in United States dollars. The late President Kennedy in the early” 1960s was pretty worried about the stability of the United States dollar and took steps to try to boost it. It was well known that there were problems about that currency and yet the gentlemen on the other side of the House when in government, in about 1966 applied government pressure on the Reserve Bank so that the mining companies in Western Australia, in the Pilbara, woud have their contracts written in United States dollars. It was part of their “AH the way with LBJ’ plan. Now they say that it is the fault of this Government that those mining companies are in strife. What utter nonsense. lt was lack of government assistance, advice and proper support from the previous Government that caused the trouble.
The honourable member for Patterson spoke also about mainland China. It is rather interesting to recall that as soon as China was recognised by Australia Mr Murray Byrne, a Liberal Minister of the Victorian Parliament, went off to China to try to promote trade and tourism between the Liberal controlled State of Victoria and the People’s Republic of China. The honourable member then raised the burning question of the damage that could have been done to meat exports to the United States by a recent strike. This is from a man who belongs to the parties which formed the last Government and allowed the adverse meat inspection procedures and the restrictions that were placed on the Australian meat industry. What was he referring to in relation to the interference with this meat export? Only 2 ships - a Shaw Savill ship in Sydney, which was part passenger liner, and one freighter in Melbourne. So how much real concern was there?
Mr Deputy Speaker, having been diverted to those questions for far too long may I comment that the most pleasant part of His Excellency’s Speech is the initial statement:
Following the clear decision of the people of Australia at the elections for the House of Representatives on 2nd December 1972 and acting upon advice, I commissioned the Leader of the Federal parliamentary Labor Party to form a new Government . . .
His Excellency went on:
My advisers will now ask this Parliament - itself the fundamental means by which the will of the people can be expressed - to pass legislation embodying the central parts of the programme Which the people have instructed them to implement. ‘
I have listened to Opposition speakers to discover whether, they appreciate the breadth and wisdom of the legislative programme that has been outlined, but they seem to be rather more concerned . with post-mortems on why they lost the election. I watched several former Ministers on election night when they conceded defeat, and having had to cop it sweet for a number of years - I learned early in politics never to whinge- -I listened to some of the, most abhorrent whingeing in the world from some of those Ministers who claimed to be the most progressive in the previous Government. It - just shows how poorly progressive the other Ministers were. So much did they whinge that 1 must admit I should like to. congratulate the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who in conceding defeat did so in a proper and able manner. We had the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) talk about the first Whitlam Ministry of two as being a junta. He well knows that at that stage certain seats were in doubt. He well knows that the Labor Party, unlike the Liberal and Country Party coalition ‘ Government,- elects its Ministry. It does not rely on cronyism and patronage to fill the positions of Ministers. It was this cronyism and patronage that contributed to the previous Government’s downfall, so why does he raise pettifogging criticisms like that.
It has been suggested- that State governments are upset by the present Federal Labor Government. It seems amazing that in his Speech His Excellency could speak of the conference held in the Albury-Wodonga area on growth centres and state that approval has already been given for planning the development of this area to go ahead. From that statement it sounds as though the States are enthusiastic enough. The transport services and railways in the States are receiving consideration by the Commonwealth. I have already mentioned that one Liberal State Minister has taken the opportunity to scarper to China to see that his State gets its slice of the cake. I mention also housing in Victoria and the remarks of the Premier, Mr Hamer, and the Minister for Housing, Mr Dickie, who has held just about every portfolio in that State. The Victorian Government does not seem to be. able to find one suitable for him. I have had brought to my attention an incident involving the sale of a house by the Housing Commission in my electorate only recently. I am informed that there are grave doubts about whether the purchaser of the house ever lived in it. He held it for a short while, carried out no improvements and then sold it for thousands of dollars profit. Is it any wonder that the Commonwealth Minister for Housing wishes to see low rental housing to be provided for those who are on the three to four-year waiting list for Housing Commission homes in Victoria and to see that Commonwealth money is not made available to build houses for sa’e so that private entrepreneurs can make quite considerable profits.
Mention was made of the recognition of Bast Germany by this Government, I remind honourable members opposite that the delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Rome last year, which comprised representatives of all parties in this Parliament, unanimously supported the admission of East Germany to that organisation. Is it surprising then that the present Government has recognised that country? Let us consider the obsession of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party with security. One wonders what their definition of security is, because so far they have not given it. To them is a person a security risk only because at some time he might have been a communist or even had membership, say, of a youth organisation such as the Eureka Youth League or might have had some association along the line with someone who has what is commonly termed pinkish tendencies, or do the League of Rights or the National Civic Council or any of these organisations which are popular with some of the other members opposite come into the picture? What is the criteria of honourable members opposite for security? Perhaps they would like to tell us.
In many ways we believe that the security of Cabinet and Government information is tied up with ministerial responsibility. It is for the Minister to decide and be responsible for the safety and security of confidential information in his hands. If he fails in that responsibility he must therefore fall. But one thing for certain is that Australia is one of the most backward of what are called the liberal democracies in its attitude to heads of political parties. Did the present Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, receive any briefing on defence, foreign affairs and other matters, or was he considered a security risk? There has been a lot of sneering about the unsuccessful candidature of Senator McGovern against President Nixon in the recent United States presidential elections, but at least when the campaign had begun and McGovern became the endorsed candidate for his party, he was taken by presidential advisers and given a full briefing on all aspects of national policy. So perhaps the Opposition should think about what it means by security.
The Government proposes a wide ranging programme about which I would like to have said much more but, as I indicated, I was diverted from my primary objectives by some earlier interjections. We have proposed changing overseas relationships. We want respect and co-operation not only from major associates and allies but also from our neighbours in South East Asia. As is stated in His Excellency’s Speech, we want to have discussions with Australia’s neighbours, friends and allies on ways of developing new arrangements for regional co-operation free from military or idealogical overtones. I think that is a very important point.
I have always deplored the concept of political prisoners or prisoners of conscience in any country of whatever political persuasion. I think that in making these approaches the Australian Government has a particular responsibility in South Vietnam. Part of that perhaps stems from a guilt complex by the people for our unnecessary involvement there. But there are political and prisoners of conscience in that country who are in the most deplorable situations. I have had a recent approach from a representative of the Young Student Christian Movement who spoke to me of the incarceration of a number of YCW members in South Vietnamese prisons.
– Do you ever feel any compassion for the prisoners in North Vietnam?
– I feel compassion for prisoners of conscience or political prisoners in any country. But in South Vietnam we are supposed to have a particular influence, yet we countenance the incarceration of members of the YCW. The YCW leaders who were arrested in South Vietnam were found not guilty by court martial on 18th November 1972, but they were not released. On top of that, on 26th December they were deported to Poulo Condor Island. Their health was so bad that they had to be carried on stretchers.
So this dreadful story could go on to cover the tortures that were inflicted in the prison on that island. The techniques are more refined, according to a statement I have, for political prisoners. They include intense beating of the soles of the feet, the legs and the chest; electrical shock; soapy water, dirty oils and garbage being forced into the mouths of prisoners, provoking vomiting through the nose; periods in water-filled metal tanks which when struck can cause effects to be felt in the internal organs. So it goes on. Women and young girls have special attention, being raped by the insertion of coca bottles and live eels in the genital organs. To these physical tortures is added the torture of humiliating persons in order to destroy the human qualities in them. This is what faced representatives of the YCW who were trying to do work in a country which has grave troubles and a country in which we have accepted special responsibilities and from which we ought to expect special responses.
– I hope that the nation is listening to the honourable member tonight.
– Go back to your camels. I hope that the Government will seriously exam-, kie this matter to see whether an amnesty can be provided for these political prisoners who have been so badly treated in a country with which we have a special relationship. I join with my fellow members in saying how much hope the Governor-General’s speech raises for, the future of Australia and, as one of the members of this House, I look forward to playing a part in its fruition.
– It is with some surprise that I find myself speaking in this debate. During most of the afternoon and evening we have heard Liberal Party speakers particularly telling us how the Government was depriving them of their right to speak in this Parliament. It is now 10 p.m. on the second day of the sitting of Parliament. The next 2 honourable members listed to speak from the Opposition side, both of whom are members of the Liberal Party, have not been able to acquire sufficient energy to arrive at the House to speak in this Address-in-Reply debate. (Quorum formed). It is amazing that members of the Opposition, who are so desperate for opportunities to speak in this chamber, are not even able to be present.
The programme which was outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech is one of consid erable vision and one which will bring to Australia the type of changes which the electorate desires. It will give the Australian people the opportunity to express their views as Australians . which they so much desire. They are sick and tired of being told by frightened governments that they are not capable and do not have the capacity to stand on their feet as people. This Government believes that Australians are able to stand on their feet as people and do not have to crawl or kowtow to any people in the world. The programme set out in the Governor-General’s Speech provides for welfare benefits which will bring some dignity to many longforgotten sections of the Australian community. It is an unfortunate habit, particularly of honourable members who have never had to struggle for ‘ employment or . income, tq describe people. . who are. unable to find employment as bludgers and loafers. Many people are willing, and able to -work but suitable employment cannot be found for them. These people will at least now be treated with partial dignity. There are many other people who will have a role in society as human beings rather than the role which the previous Government imposed upon them. I seek leave to continue. my. remarks at a.later;date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to standing order 18, I lay on the table my warrant nominating the following ‘-honourable members- to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees: ‘
Mr Armitage, Mr Berinson, Mr Drury, Mr Duthie, Mr Jarman, Dr Jenkins, Mr Luchetti, Mr Lucock, Mr MacKellar and Mr Martin…….
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave- agreed to:
That, in addition to Mr Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, ex-officio members, the following members be members- of the. Standing Orders Committee, 5 to form a quorum, namely, Mr Whitlam, Mr Bryant, Mr Anthony, Mr Duthie, Mr Fox, Mr Garland and Mr Lucock.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave* - agreed to:
That Mr Whitlam, Mr Crean, Mr Enderby, Mr Donald Cameron; Mr Collard, Mf Drury,. Mr Garland, Mr Lucock and Mr Scholes be members of the Committee of Privileges, 5 to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio, Mr. Cross, Mr Erwin, Dr Forbes, Dr Klugman, Mr Luchetti and Mr O’Keefe be members of the Library Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio Mr Berinson, Mr Bourchier, Mr Cooke, Mr Hansen, Dr Jenkins and Mr Katter be members of the House Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Erwin, Mr Graham, Mr King, Mr Lamb, Mr McKenzie, Mr Mathews and Mr Morris be members of the Publications Committee.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946- 1960. in addition to Mr Speaker, ex-officio, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Coates, Mr Duthie, Mr England and Mr Sherry be members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951-1966, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, namely, Mr Collard, Mr Hurford, Mr Jarman, Mr MacKellar, Mr Martin, Mr Reynolds and Mr Ian Robinson.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to: That, in accordance wilh the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, namely, Mr Corbett, Mr Fulton, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Kelly, Mr Keogh and Mr Whittorn.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964-1966, the House appoints Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Wentworth to be members of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and to continue as members until the dissolution of the twenty-eighth Parliament
– by leave - In speaking this afternoon to my motion regarding the hours of sitting and the adjournment I mentioned that it was proposed as part of the overall arrangements to reduce slightly the periods for meals as was done in the last Budget session of the last Parliament. I now wish to inform the House that the new arrangements for meal breaks will operate from and including Tuesday next, 6th March. I remind honourable members that the new times are as follows: Dinner 6.15 to 8 p.m.; luncheon Thursdays 1 to 2.15 p.m. I thank the House.
Motion (by Mr Enderby) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– In justice to my friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), and to members of the Opposition I believe I should explain the reasoning of honourable members on this side of the House in relation to the difficulty that arose in the last 10 minutes of the Address-in-Reply debate. I say respectfully that measures were foisted on the Opposition this afternoon and there is now an inelastic situation which any government in its right senses would not allow to occur. Tonight we found ourselves in the position as the Opposition that had we put up a member of the Country Party to deliver his maiden speech, prepared as he thought to cover an allotted time of 20 minutes, he would have been denied by the Government the last couple of minutes required to finish that speech. This is the danger resulting from a doctrinaire approach of trying to tie everything in to the precise minute. It is quite a stupid approach,
Honourable members who have been here over the last 3 years know that when an honourable member required an extra 5 minutes to finish a speech he was allowed that time. I regret that I have to say tonight that we would not have one of our colleagues deliver his speech in a partial fashion, particularly a maiden speech. We believe that if the Government wanted that practice adopted it should have put up one of its own speakers for the few minutes remaining. I think all honourable members will agree that we were more or less forced into the position we took in deference to those people wishing to be accorded the courtesy that normally had been handed out to honourable members in Opposition when we were in office. That is enough of that. That is the finish of the argument and I hope I have put our case reasonably objectively.
I rose tonight to remind honourable members, if I might presume to do so, and particularly honourable members who have just been elected into the Parliament on the other side of the House, of their responsibilities as I see them to the Australian community. I do not pretend to be nearly as knowledgeable as some honourable members opposite are on this issue. Every now and again strikes occur. No honourable member on this side will say that all strikes are wrong, but many honourable members on this side, and I believe also many honourable members opposite, will object to some forms of political strikes.
Every now and again a strike occurs that inconveniences very considerably big sections of an electorate or a State. That is the exact position that has arisen in South Australia. As many honourable members realise, South Australia is on the end of a vast river. The majority of its population in Adelaide and urban areas depends nowadays on River Murray water. Industries at Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie receive water directly pipelined great distances from the River Murray. Because South Australia is at the end of the great river system of the Murray there are occasions, particularly in times of drought, when it is affected by its water supply. The capacity of man has not yet enabled him to invent a proper method of controlling the quality of water as it affects urban users and industries downstream in South Australia. We have had - it will be no surprise to many, particularly those from, say, Gippsland - drought conditions in the southern half of Australia. To offset this problem in South Australia water supplies nearly always have to be chlorinated and chlorine, its by-products and its allied products are needed for a wide range of industrial uses.
Over the last few days we have seen a strike which threatens the safety of people in South Australia. A rather rare disease has emerged in the Whyalla complex. It is amoebic meningitis. This is a lethal disease and it must be tackled by chemicals. These chemicals are vital to the people who live in such areas. Already a most frightful series of deaths has occurred under certain climatic conditions. The strike by employees of the Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd is creating problems. The reason I mention the strike tonight is that I am hopeful that members on the Government side may have some influence over the men who are striking and not only holding communities to ransom but, in some cases, threatening their lives because of the tack of substances such as chlorine, caustic soda, potash and various other products which are used in these areas to control hygiene. Some members opposite have been elected to this House from the trade union movement. Surely, having led unions, they have some responsibility to the people who elected them and should be able to exercise their influence over members of the unions if they were good enough to be selected to represent them in this national Parliament.
Having made this plea, I refer now to a situation in my own electorate. No doubt a similar situation is affecting the district represented by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and other fruitgrowing areas. The canneries at Berri are in trouble. According to this morning’s Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ Mr Leo Norton, the General Manager of the Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd at Berri yesterday said that the ICI strike was holding up supplies of caustic soda, chlorine and ammonia gas which are vital components in the production of canned fruit. He said that if the strikers did not return to work soon it would stop the cannery and in that case thousands of tons of fruit would be lost. A perishable commodity is involved. It is not like wheat or motor vehicles. If the product perishes the depreciated income this year of hundreds of fruit producers in that area will be affected. As these canneries are cooperatives there will be the double effect that it will tend to make their annual operation extremely difficult and this will be serious for the producers. Another company in my electorate which purchases large quantities of fruit is the Jon Preserving Co-op Ltd. I believe that company has announced that it may have to put off 300 men.
Honourable members undoubtedly will know more than I do about the ICI strike but it is my understanding that when a vote was taken the workmen agreed to return to work - indeed, they wanted to return to work. However one section of the work force - I will not mention the name of the individual concerned because I have not been able to check my information and I could be wrong - is controlled by one shop steward associated with a union allied with the other unions concerned with ICI employees and he pulled out those men. This has effectively stopped the production of chemicals vital not only to my fruit growers but to the top end of the Riverland area in South Australia and to the health of people who rely on chlorinated water supplies. This is a very serious matter and I hope that tonight I have not made wild statements about it or been unduly emotional or hysterical. All that I can do is beseech those who feel that they have some influence, whether it be the current Minister for Labour and National Service, whatever his portfolio is-
– Minister for Labour. You know that.
– The Minister for Labour, my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), and many others, such as the ex-mayor of Collingwood who I expect has some influence somewhere along the line. Even the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) probably has some influence with people who can help in this matter. It is not good enough in this day and age - I say this seriously, not in anger or with rancour - when a very big section of the population has not only its health but also its livelihood held in jeopardy by people who, putting it most generously, have not thought through the complete consequences of their action. I thank honourable members for listening to me put this case on behalf of my constituents. I am most concerned and I hope that those concerned will use their influence to get the ICI workers back to work immediately.
– I want to raise a matter that has concerned me greatly in the last 24 hours or so. I refer firstly to the short address given in this chamber last night by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). He raised a very important subject that I know has been worrying him and many of my colleagues on this side of the House, namely, the upgrading of telephone services and the establishment of automatic telephone exchanges. He pointed out the great problems associated with these things and mentioned the importance of retaining first class telephone services. He referred also to the family unit, isolation and a few other things. I think he went on to comment that the way business is moving today even primary producers could be classified as business men because of their activities. What concerned me was the reply by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). It hit me with nothing short of amazement and great concern.
– You are in for a lot of shocks.
– I might add, for the benefit of the honourable member for Robertson, that it is of great concern to those people who understand the situation. I do not want to appear to be personal because I believe that the Postmaster-General is making a sincere effort to get on top of his portfolio. I appreciate that he has held it for only a short time. I have a lot of respect for his ability, and no doubt we can expect better things from him in the not too distant future. I suggest, however, that he lift his sights a little and broaden his view on the problems in areas outside the capita] cities. He will have to do this shortly, otherwise I do not think he will be able to match some of his great predecessors.
I pay a great tribute to some of those predecessors such as Sir Alan Hulme, Sir Charles Davidson and, if honourable members like to think back far enough, Donald Cameron who was a member of the last Labor Government. These men and others have made great contributions. I hope that in a short time we will be able to say the same thing about the present Postmaster-General. However, from what he said last night I am not so sure whether I will be able to follow that point through. This matter concerns not only me but also many of my colleagues on this side of the House, as well as many Australians outside this place. I was very confused indeed by what the Postmaster-General had to say. I do not want to spend a lot of time reiterating what he said and I do not want to take anything he said out of context, but I do think that I should quote some of the things he said. The Postmaster-General said:
He would appreciate that I have inherited a situation of financial disaster after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party influence in the Australian Post Office. I am now facing a loss of$23m in postal operations, and apparently 1 am obliged to increase telephone charges by some 20 per cent next year.
I am not too sure what the Postmaster-General meant by that. One minute he was talking about postal operations and the next minute about increasing telephone charges. He went on to say:
All it means is that existing subscribers in many areas have been fleeced-
He used the word ‘fleeced’ - to try to bolster up a very limited capital outlay to satisfy needs.
I do not think that that is altogether a compliment either to the original PostmasterGeneral or to his Department. Later on, as a result of an interjection by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) - it all happened inside about 30 seconds - the 20 per cent increase mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral jumped to 25 per cent. I am not too sure what it all means. An examination of tables 9 and 10 of the 1971 report of the Post Office will reveal that in 1971 the Post Office showed a loss of some $2m in its operations but that in the previous year it showed a profit of $2m; in other words, the 2 amounts balanced out. Of course, that is excluding interest repayments, capital expenditure and that sort of expenditure, which totalled $324m. Some of the honourable members now on the Government side of the chamber were critical of the Post Office, when they were in Opposition, for making what they considered to be unnecessary profits. Their criticisms may have been valid if it were not . for the figures I have given, which show, firstly, a balancing out of profits and losses and, secondly, a large expenditure on interest on capital equipment. The PostmasterGeneral went on to say that he is now facing a loss of $23m on the postal side. I want him to explain what he means by that statement.
As I have pointed out, he mentioned an obligation to increase telephone charges by 20 per cent next year. Is he serious about that? I would like to know. I am certain that lots of people outside of this chamber also would like to know. The Postmaster-General was also very critical of some of the smaller country exchanges. He referred to some of those in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa. I do not want to quote everything he said on this subject, but I do want to quote a portion of it. I do not think I will be taking his remarks out of context. The Postmaster-General said:
Is it any wonder that Queensland is in a mess when the previous government tried to operate a policy of obtaining funds for new installations out of the contributions of existing subscribers.
I want to know what that means and what it has to do with Queensland. The Post Office is not being run by Queensland. The fact that the honourable member for Maranoa comes from Queensland has no bearing on the matter. The Postmaster-General went on to make a few other remarks about the policy of the previous Government. He said:
It made no contribution of special funds because of the human element involved.
What does he mean by that? I do not know what he means. I am sure that there are not too many people in this chamber who know what that is supposed to mean. The Post Office’s operations hinge largely on the capital invested by the government of the day. If past governments had not made a special contribution towards capital expenditure why is it that there is an interest bill of something like $123m a year? Those are the sorts of things that are worrying lots of people.
The Postmaster-General also mentioned something about insufficient funds or no funds being made available to complement the 15-mile radius programme that was introduced by the former Postmaster-General. He also said that there could be a delay in the connection of telephones and that some of them might not be connected until 1990, which would be 20 years after the introduction of this policy. It is not my understanding that that was the goal of the then PostmasterGeneral, although I appreciate that he could not commit himself to any specific period. The understanding was always that it would take approximately 10 years to complete. If it is not completed in 10 years, we will certainly be looking very strongly to the present PostmasterGeneral or his successor. If the present Government is not prepared to allocate funds, it could be 1990 before the work is completed.
Is it fair to say that the present policy on this question is ‘no hurry, no priority’? If that is the case with this Government, it is certainly not my policy and it is certainly not the policy of my colleagues on this side of the House. I issue a little warning to the Postmaster-General. If he is not prepared to give sympathetic consideration in this area, I am sure that he will get a lot of pressure from this corner of the House. However, having said that, I hope the Minister can assure us that he will not reduce the allocation or that he will continue to increase it commensurately with increases in costs. I suggest that shortly we will need to deal with effects of a 35-hour week. If the Minister is prepared to continue on these lines I am sure he will receive a lot of consideration from this corner of the House.
– I wish to deal with communications in the electorate of Leichhardt. My remarks will be on lines similar to those of my friend from Wimmera (Mr King). Since the reorganisation of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the situation in regard to telephone, radio and television services in my electorate has worsened. One person in Kuranda, who has a very sick wife and a doctor’s certificate stating that the provision of a telephone service to his home should receive priority, applied for the installation of a telephone 2 years ago. This man, Mr- Mason - he will not mind my mentioning his name - has not had a telephone connected as yet. But a community of Aborigines near Redlynch engendered a lot of newspaper publicity and a public telephone was installed in their area immediately. It is not right that people should be required to wait for the connection of telephone services because, after all, revenue is gained from these services which are necessary especially for people living in far flung places.
Kuranda is only 12 miles by road from Cairns. These people have been waiting all these years to have the service connected. A telephone is necessary for them to conduct their business as well as to look after the family when the husband is away from home. The same circumstances apply to a fellow named Christensen who lives at Kings Plain, outside Cooktown. He has a very sick wife. He has a cattle property and he is away from home for long periods. Yet he cannot get a phone connected to his home. Why? I cannot get a satisfactory answer from the Department. I have not yet mentioned this matter to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) but I shall. I have informed him that I will see him about it. But why should I need to see the Minister? Why cannot the officers of the Department rectify these mistakes? They have told me that the reorganisation of the Postmaster-General’s Department has meant that the telephone division in the area is now centred at Townsville rather than Cairns. Cairns is neglected because there are no engineers in the area. Money has not been allotted to Cairns as it was when Cairns was the centre of a telephone division. The money is now allotted to Townsville. This shows a lack of concern for the area north of Cairns - 220,000 square miles of country including Cape York Peninsula - which is crying out for development. It will be developed irrespective of governments and other factors. The area has the natural resources and its development will proceed. Our communications system should be well advanced so that it can assist the prawning industry, the minerals industry and the cattle industry.
Recently a television transmitter . was installed on Mount Bellenden Ker. Each night the television station advertises that 90,000 people are now being serviced by it. They are not. Thirty thousand, people are not; receiving a picture now, whereas when the station operated from the flat land in Cairns they received .a picture. I refer to people in the Babinda, Redlynch, Freshwater and Mossman areas. It is true that outback areas around Herberton and Ravenshoe are receiving a picture for the first time, but people who previously received a picture when it was transmitted from the flat land in Cairns are not receiving a picture now. This matter has to be, investigated. I . ask the Minister to look into -it.; I was assured by the previous PostmasterGeneral that when the transmitter on, Mount. Bellenden Ker was in operation the areas that did not receive a picture would be serviced by translators which would be installed so that the people in those areas could receive a picture. This promise has not been honoured. I hope that the Minister will honour the promise given by the previous government. Except for Mount Bartle Frere near Babinda, Mount Bellenden Ker is the highest mountain in the area.
When the picture was transmitted, from1 Cairns, people in the Babinda area were receiving a clear picture and clear sound.. I do not know the technicalities concerned. Today they are not receiving a picture. People living in the Freshwater, Redlynch and Mossman areas are not receiving a picture either. Quite a number of people live , in these areas. The television station advertises that 90,0.00 people are being serviced by it. This is not correct. Thirty thousand people who previously received a picture are not receiving one at present. They have spent a lot of money on having their antennae extended. Some people have had their antennae turned round. Some experts advise that the antennae should be turned round so that a picture can be received. This is not correct. The desired result has not been achieved. Therefore, I ask the Minister to have an investigation made o£ the position in the Leichhardt electorate so that it will not be too long before these areas are serviced by translators.
I will see the Postmaster-General later about the matter of telephone services. The position is worse now than it has ever been. More than 800 applicants in Cairns, in the surrounding area and in the Leichhardt electorate are waiting to have a telephone service connected. This should not be so. The Department should be looking for customers. They pay the rental and for their telephone calls. They are helping to develop this country. People in the backblocks are the salt of the earth. They deserve a telephone service at least, or radio communications, so that they can get in touch with a doctor or the ambulance if things go wrong at their homes. That is their right. I think the Parliament should take notice of the plight of these people in the Leichhardt electorate.
– I strongly support the point of view expressed by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), because the problems they have exposed in this House exist in most of the rural areas of this great nation. Knowing the pattern of the man, I feel confident that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) will give very sympathetic consideration to these problems. The 2 major matters I want to speak about may at first glance appear to be somewhat parochial but they most certainly are not. They have a definite impact on the whole of this nation. The first matter is the critical and urgent necessity for the construction and completion of the Julius Dam to supply water to the city of Mount Isa and the huge mining complex there which contributes in so many ways, not the least of which is the employing of many thousands of Australians, to the national economy. One can find in Mount Isa people from all States, most of whom are there permanently although there are many transients. There are ethnic groups, mainly Finns, who have made their residence in the city of Mount Isa.
A most critical stage has been reached in the water supply for the community and to keep in operation what is now the largest rnining complex of its kind in the world. It should not be argued, as has been argued from time to time, that you cannot give special consideration, to this matter and that the granting of the amount necessary, to which I propose to refer in a few moments, could be taken as a precedent for similar grants in other parts of this country. Here is a complex that is contributing vastly to the overseas credits of this nation and, of course, to our own national earnings as well as to the employment of thousands of Australians. There is an urgent need for at least $4m to be provided. This is a very small sum to ensure the security of not just the city of Mount Isa. We are developing various areas up there.
There is the huge concept for the development of phosphate rock in the Yelvertoft area, as we know it up there, and the Lady Annie area. These are terms which are better known domestically. This complex could involve the expenditure of $100m or more, and it does not involve just the operations of another mining complex. We can foresee that with the production of the raw product, phosphate rock, secondary industries will begin to emerge in the area. Highways would be built and there would be a pipeline to the Gulf. Already a port has been planned in that area and this, of course, would lead to the wholesale export of beef cattle and other commodities from that corner of the continent. This would not have a great effect on the port of Townsville. We visualise the growth and development of that area on such a vast scale that both ports would be kept extremely busy. I most earnestly appeal in this matter to the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). He knows the area; he is sympathetic to it. I have no doubt that in him we will have an advocate who will press our case. But the one great doubt I have is how the Cabinet will receive a submission from the Minister for Northern Development. I hope it will be received with greater sympathy than previous submissions he has made.
I again point out that there is a critical urgency about this matter and I am not exaggerating the case at all. The Queensland Government is making a significant contribution; Mount Isa Mines Ltd is making a significant contribution. It is a matter which affects the whole of this nation and I appeal to the national Parliament and to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Cabinet to treat this matter with the utmost urgency and to make a contribution which in the scope of things and in relation to the size of this vast mining complex is not very great, but would be at least $4m.
The other matter 1 want to deal with concerns the completion of roads already planned and the provision of additional funds for another scheme. I am not sure whether the present Government would call it a- beef roads scheme or whether it would call it something else, but here again this is not a parochial matter. The roads that I have in mind link up with the whole of the national highway system. What has brought me to the point of presenting this matter here tonight is the great emergency that arose during the recent wet in Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales. The whole transport system was brought to a standstill because of the poor sealing of the road between Mount Isa and Townsville. There are some ISO miles of very bad dirt road which is bad, particularly in the wet. A truck can get bogged down in a flash. There is an urgent requirement for the completion of the north-south road between Cloncurry or Julia Creek - some place in that area - and either Barcaldine or Longreach to link up with the bitumen surfaced road which then projects down south into New South Wales and Victoria and links up with what will become a great national highway.
– Why did you not do something about it when you were in office?
– I will accept that interjection. I quote the Prime Minister today. We spent tens of millions. Maybe the honourable member who is interjecting will start throwing some of his dirty vitriolic mud, as he did today, because he is like a didgeridoo; he makes a lot of noise; he is full of emptiness; all he can do is throw mud. I return to this matter of what in effect will be a national highway. When the matter of bringing troops back from Singapore was before us today the Prime Minister made a very significant comment. He said that we do not want our combat troops in other countries; we want them back in Australia. This is a matter I would love to debate with him for some time, but at least that is the concept of this Government. In other words, it says that the whole focus of the defence system must be in this country. I would say that there is a serious missing link in our roads system for the transport of troops, commodities, weapons and so on. As long as this link is missing, that is all that is required to create chaos in a national emergency. Our roads are a most strategic part of this nation. So, forgetting the absolute importance of this matter from an economic point of view to the Northern Territory, to Queensland and to the whole of this nation, we can argue on the basis of defence, alone that this road should be completed, with national finance. I refer to the road link between Townsville, which has become .our most important national military complex :and another great highway, which comes down to the south to link up with what is already a bitumen surfaced road. The distance is not that far. We could get down into that central western area and link up with the bitumen surfaced road. These matters are of great national importance. I appeal to the Minister for Northern Development to look into this matter. He knows the areas concerned. He is a great believer in the north. I feel that he will put our case most effectively. I hope that Cabinet receives it with the same consideration.
– I am very pleased to have the opportunity to reply to some of the remarks that have been made this evening, and in particular those made by my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton): I would be very anxious to investigate the matters about which he so rightly complains. I assure him that I will have some information for him next week.
The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) says that he is confused, that he is not so sure as to what the position is in respect of the telecommunications aspects and the postal aspects of the Australian Post Office. That surprises me, because the honourable member was a member of this Parliament when the last Budget was drawn up and he was a member of the then Government at that time. When I said last evening that I inherited the position, I meant that I inherited the Budget arrangements of the Liberal-Country Party coalition. That Budget, as he would know, provides for a loss on postal services of $23m. So that the honourable member will not be confused as to the meaning of the word ‘postal’, I point out that it means letters. This was the loss budgeted for by the LiberalCountry Party Government. The honourable member will understand that I cannot alter the Budget; I cannot . interfere with a tariff. This was the policy I inherited.
Further, the Budget provided that there would ostensibly be a profit or surplus of some $70m on the telecommunications side. If we substract from the profits of the tele- communications operations the losses incurred by the postal services we get what appears to be a net profit. But capital expenditure, which involves also the matters about which the honourable member for Maranoa was anxious to know - that is, in regard to a country lines policy - involves much more capital than we have in the way of surplus income. So there is no real profit. Any profit is put back into the capital works programme, which amounted in the last Budget to some $288m. That is the Budget that I inherited.
When I was given the responsibility of being Postmaster-General I naturally inquired what this meant in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I was very surprised to learn that there is a plan which the previous Government had prepared which provides - I will spell it out simply so that honourable members opposite will understand what the previous Government intended - for an increase of 20 per cent to 25 per cent in telephone tariffs on 1st October 1974 so that the Department could get more money. But the Department in fact would not have made a profit because this money would have been put into its capital works programme. This is what the former Government intended to do. Further, it intended to increase the basic postage rate from 7c to 10c within 3 years. So that there is no confusion, I point out that this was a Liberal-Country Party plan. I am stuck with it at this stage.
As I said last night, what a financial mess the previous Government created. How could anybody expect staff morale in this business? Why is it that the previous Government created such a mess in Queensland? I have selected Queensland because that is where the problems of the Postmaster-General’s Department are the greatest. The greatest growth centre in Queensland is around Brisbane. Those honourable members who are interested in Brisbane would be horrified to know that the growth of 35 per cent in the 12 months period from December 1971 to December 1972 is not being met by this capital which is being taken from subscribers. Members of the previous Government are honourable men and they would not have dared to exploit subscribers if they had thought there was an alternative. But their whole policy has been to make all subscribers pay more than necessary so as to get capital to put into other works programmes.
I cited to honourable members last evening some of those programmes. I am not singling out for criticism the honourable member for Maranoa; he is entitled to do the best he can by his constituents. But no responsible government could say that it will spend $250,000 to provide 11 services or another $200,000 to provide 19 services and then - and I again use the expression - continue to fleece subscribers to make those services still a financially viable proposition.
– Is that what your Government intends to do with subscribers’ funds?
-I want the honourable member to have a look at what we intend to do and what his Government failed to do if I have the time to explain it. I invite the honourable member to take part in any debate we have on this subject. What I was pointing out was that the former Government aimed to provide $250,000 out of subscribers’ funds - not Treasury funds - for a proposition which could not possibly be economic. Such an investment might return 4 per cent, but I have not taken into account maintenance or operating costs.
The policy which the honourable member is so worried about was introduced into Cabinet in Cabinet minute 155 of 1970. That Cabinet minute, which was composed by the Government of honourable members opposite encouraged that Government to do something for this special area. I would have thought that any responsible government when dealing with a special area would have made special provisions. The advice that the Minister took to Cabinet said: ‘Look, unless you make special provision for this, unless you get Treasury assistance for this, this policy will have the most severe financial repercussions for the entire Post Office structure’. I told honourable members last night that the previous Government has spent already $30m in that section alone. As a result of the expenditure of that $30m in that section alone, it is now running at an annual loss of $5m which obviously has to be made up from some other source within the subscriber income. Further, the whole policy of the previous Government, as explained to it, was that it will cost $200m by 1980 or 1984- nobody is certain when it will be finished - and would then be running at an annual loss of $30m. This is the record of the previous Government.
What does the Liberal Party think of this policy from the point of view of what it meant? It meant this: The previous Government intended to come before the Parliament in 1974 and again jack up the cost to telephone subscribers by 20 to 25 per cent. Already, the previous Government increased telephone charges in 1970 and 1971 for the sole purpose not of meeting operating costs but of extracting enough millions of dollars to throw into this sort of venture. I am not arguing the social merits of telephones. They are essential; I understand that. But I would have thought that a responsible government able to provide millions of dollars for espen >diture in other fields would have been able to think of the poor unfortunate family in the outback and to give it some special consideration. But no, that was not applicable. The money had to come from the existing telephone subscriber. Do not honourable members opposite think that the existing subscriber has a right to say to them: ‘Gentlemen, do you mean to say that I have to provide from my own funds, limited as they are, pensioner as I am, small business man as ! I want to be, enough money to finance a programme when in some instances you are budgeting for surpluses of $530m?’ Is that fair? Is that what was intended?
– I rise to order. I do not want to be rude to the Minister, but I do not know how flexible the Government intends to be on the question of the time that we have available.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I have not raised the point of order yet. I am apologising to the Minister for interrupting him. The point of order I want to raise refers to standing order 321. It deals with the production of documents quoted from by Ministers in debates. I refer in particular to the adjournment debate last night when the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) quoted from Cabinet documents. This is the matter to which I wish to refer.
– There is no point of order involved. That is a matter that should have been raised at the time.
– I quote-
– Order! The honourable member may not debate the ruling of the Chair. He would need to move a substantive motion in order to do so. There is no point of order. I call the Postmaster-General.
– I do not wish to disagree with you, Mr Speaker, so early in the session. But last night we were gagged-
-Order! The honourable member may not debate the question. I call the Postmaster-General.
-I think that the honourable member just wanted to use up a little time. He has been successful. We might continue the debate some time next week.
– Can you table the document?
– There is no document. I spoke of the advice to Cabinet.
– You quoted from a Cabinet document last night.
– No, I did not quote from Cabinet document 155 last night.
– Mr Speaker, have you ruled on the point of order? I take it that the Postmaster-General has finished speaking.
– Is . the honourable member rising to speak in the debate on the motion that the House do now adjourn?
-The ‘ honourable member is not shown on the list. The honourable member for Murray is on the list. However, I’ call the honourable member for Boothby.’
– I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the exercise qf this democratic process, . ;
-Order. That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw the reflection on the Chair. I wish to direct the attention of honourable members to the speech >of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) last night and the fact that there was no opportunity for anyone else to speak after he finished. So it is nonsense to say that I had an opportunity to bring this matter before the House before now. For the benefit of honourable members, I will read standing order 321. It states:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister - :
I interpolate here to point out that this is the very reason why we on this side of the House oppose the restriction on the Act.
– Order! It being 11 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the House, the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Are all Commonwealth public servants entitled to 4 weeks’ annual leave.
– I refer the honourable member to my reply to his Question without Notice to me on 28th February (Hansard pages 32-3).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730301_reps_28_hor82/>.