28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– A petition has been lodged by Mr Nixon as follows and a copy of the petition will be referred to the appropriate Minister:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth:
That the undersigned believe that hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world; that the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist; that to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must bc changed; iba! Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240m; Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries; Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries.
ELECTORAL Mr DALY (Minister for Services and Property) - I give notice of my intention to present al the next sitting a Bill for an Act relating to the distribution of seats into electoral divisions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. In view of his recent public statement that abortion on request was freely available at the Canberra Hospital can he inform the House how many abortions have taken place at the Hospital since this Government has taken office?
– It is not true that 1 said that abortions were freely available. I said that they were virtually available on request, which is something quite different. I have not got the figures but they are available. There has been no change of policy, of course. Indeed it could not be a change of policy. But if the honourable member wishes to have the information I will seek it out for him and let him have it.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that officers of his Department when applying for overseas postings may be at a disadvantage due to the length of their hair and their mode of dress.
– I have not heard that there has been any difficulty in arranging postings for officers of the Department of Immigration on that score. I would not have thought that brightness in dress was a disqualification for either this Parliament or the Department. I will certainly look into the matter and let the honourable member have a reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour. Has the Government decided to intervene in the national wage case to support the request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the minimum wage be made S65 a week? Has the Minister’s Department estimated that this would add over S200m to the national wages bill? ls the object of this exercise to drive up prices and increase the pace of the increased cost of living with a view to making justification for seeking further constitutional powers to control the economy with the idea that then the economy will be put in >a economic straitjacket?
– The answers to the 3-pronged question are yes, yes, no.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the announcement by the Minister that the national wheat delivery quota this year is to be 514 million bushels plus an additional contingency quota of 20 million bushels in association with a first advance of 110c a bushel plus an incentive payment of an additional 10c a bushel. I ask: How are these additional 20 million bushels to bc allocated amongst the States and amongst the growers within a State? What information has been given to growers presently planning their production programs as to how much of these additional 20 million bushels they will be entitled to in the event of their planting an above normal acreage and achieving an above average yield? Does this additional quota make provision for the delivery to the licensed receivers of non-quota wheat as well as overquota wheat as a deterrent to trading outside the Australian Wheat Board? Are the new quota concept and first advance payments a thinly disguised sop to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, designed to disguise the fact that the Government has in effect abandoned quotas for this year, but at the same time protecting the Treasury from an open ended first advance commitment?
-Order! The honourable gentleman should complete his question. It is very long
– Finally, if this is the case, will the Minister arrange for a clear, concise and unequivocal statement to be made to this effect in order that growers may know where they are going before they plant their crops?
– As the honourable member will know, the Australian Agricultural Council considered the question of wheat deliveries for the forthcoming season in relation to domestic and world markets. On the best advice available internationally and domestically, there is a world shortage of particular types of wheat. Because of the relatively high prices of competing grains in Australia it was recognised that there may be problems in Australia of securing even the aggregate that the Agricultural Council and the industry would like to achieve. This is in relation to the 514 million bushels which, as honourable members know, is a considerable increase over the previous quota. For that reason the Government considered that the Agricultural Council’s request was a sound one, and agreed to it. The Government also recognised that, as an additional incentive to growing more wheat because of the competitive position of other grains, it would be sound to increase the first advance from Si. 10 to Si. 20.
As honourable members will appreciate, last year the acreage was about 18.5 million and there will have to be a massive increase in that figure even to secure anything like the 514 million bushels. However, it was recognised that growers would rally and try to achieve this figure in all States. There was the possibility of additions to the 14 million bushels although this is in some doubt. As a consequence, the Minister for Primary Industry recommended and the Government accepted this contingency of 20 million bushels agreed to at the additional 10c a bushel first advance. This will be allocated on the best advice from the States and the Minister himself if any State or States achieve more than their particular quota. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the question and get a detailed answer for the honourable member with respect to the allocation of the additional 20 million bushels if in fact that is achieved.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to the absurd situation which applies to the radio station operated by the University of Adelaide. Is he aware that the station’s transmissions are filtered, which makes the reception from that station comparable with that from a primitive crystal set? Is he also aware that the station is forbidden to play any music including music, say, as a background to a Shakespearean drama? Will he ensure that this station will not have to continue to operate with one hand tied behind its back?
– This matter has been the subject of many representations in the last few weeks, including one from the honourable member for Adelaide. Naturally, I have had some inquiries made as to the position. 1 have been advised that the licence was issued to the university radio station on the strict understanding that music would not be played. I endeavoured to find out why this was so and I learned that it was because of our obligations under an international arrangement dealing with what is termed frequency spectrum. In those circumstances there are some problems at this stage in granting this concession to the university. I might add that it is not granted to any other university, either. The licence was granted to the university on the basis that the station would be used only for lecture material. The PMG’s Department has adhered to its international obligations with regard to the frequency spectrum. However, I understand that there are some solutions to this problem and negotiations are under way which may enable the university to overcome it. I would be very happy to further these negotiations and keep the honourable member informed. I am able to advise him that departmental officers are already seeking further advice from the university on its intentions in this regard and they are at present awaiting further information from the university concerned.
– Does the Minister for Northern Development believe that Queensland coal is being sold overseas at less than its true value?
– As the honourable member for Farrer well knows, the contractual arrangements between the coal companies operating in the Bowen basin and in the areas of Moura and Kianga have been negotiated with overseas interests outside of any export controls, lt is the decision of the Government to obtain more information and details relating to those contracts. This decision was taken for a number of reasons. As the honourable member knows, there has been considerable criticism of the Government by mining companies in relation to the recent currency alignment decision. However, the Government was under some difficulty in trying to obtain from the companies or from anyone else the details of these contracts. One of the basic reasons for the Government’s decision is to obtain more information about the prices received, particularly in relation to the exports of minerals such as coal, which the honourable member mentioned. One of the major objectives is to obtain more information statistically. At this time the information is still being assembled.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Health by referring to the fact that no doubt he is aware of estimates that there will be a shortage of something in excess of 2,600 beds in hospitals in the western suburbs of Sydney by 1980, and that one proposal on which the present Government went before the people was for the establishment of a national hospitals and health services commission with the object of assisting the States to overcome this massive bed shortage, not only in the western suburbs of Sydney but also generally. I therefore ask the Minister how this proposal to establish a national hospitals and health services commission is proceeding. When are we likely to be in a position to assist the States on this very important issue?
– The Hospitals and Health Care Commission, as it has now been termed, will be established I hope, before the end of the year. Meanwhile there will be an interim committee. Several eminent people with expertise in the fields of hospital administration and medical planning have indicated their willingness to serve on this commission, and arrangements are being finalised for the secondment of Dr Sidney Sax, who has been Research and Planning Director with the New South Wales Health Department, to take on the chairmanship of the interim committee. Dr Sax has already been to Canberra and undertaken preliminary organisation for the investigations of this committee. It will be charged with the task of evaluating health care delivery at all levels, not just in hospitals but also in the community outside hospitals, with setting guidelines for the States, denominational hospitals, private hospitals, and, of course, hospitals in federal territories. It will not of itself administer health care except in limited regions for limited periods in pilot projects. It will be concerned rather as a research and resource organisation to coordinate and advise, on request, existing hospital and health care authorities. When it will make reports will depend on how its deliberations proceed, but I hope there will be some substantial report before the end of the year on specific areas needing federal help, particularly grants to States for hospital authorities and for health care delivery.
The States may at any time approach the Commonwealth if they feel there is need for an especially urgent grant, but the Government is not disposed to grant assistance on the basis of projected bed needs on the basis of the sort of health care that has been going on for many years past, that is, on the assumption that the same sort of care - tow-away medicine - will continue. We believe that there must be far more emphasis on community health care, on preventive care and on keeping people out of hospitals. Although this involves a lot more organisation and the engagement of a lot more specialists and ancillary workers it works out cheaper in the long run. We will be encouraging the States to look at this partial solution to the bed shortage rather than making up bed numbers as such.
– Does the Minister for Labour accept that the decisions of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour affect the national jurisdiction and matters that come within his authority. How is it that this body, significantly influenced by overseas shippers, could make a serious decision affecting several decentralised ports without his or his Department’s knowledge? Will the Minister use his undoubted influence to see that the recent decisions concerning the levies to enable port authorities to make up the minimum wages for the waterfront are reversed in the interests of rural communities and decentralisation of transport? If he does not do that, I think he will agree that up to 12 ports around the Australian coast will be very seriously threatened.
– The answer is really quite simple. It is possible for this sort of thing to happen simply because of the arrangements made by the former Government with these employers and of the legislation which protects their rights.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. It arises from the aspect of migrant education which 1 raised with him at question time on Tuesday.
– Another Dorothy Dixer?
– No, not this time. Did the Victorian Director of Education say on Wednesday that no additional teachers would be employed under the Child Migrant Education Program until general teaching requirements had been met? Does he believe that the program can succeed in the face of this indifference to the needs of the migrant child? Will he consider amending the Child Migrant Education Program so that where State governments refuse to employ English language teachers the Commonwealth Teaching Service will do so?
– The honourable member for Casey raised this question earlier this week and I gave him an undertaking that I would call for an urgent report on the situation in Melbourne. I have seen the report to which the honourable member refers and which states that the State Director took the view that until general teaching facilities had reached a standard he wished them to reach no action would be taken in relation to migrant education. If this report is correct the State Director has a very strange attitude because in some classes 75 per cent of the pupils are, in fact, migrant children. I have been advised also that in one case there has been such concern about migrant education that a teacher has given his services without pay for some time in order to help the children. This obviously must give us all a reason for really great concern.
I cannot understand the philosophy which says that, although a class of 75 per cent migrant children needs to be looked after, until the general staffing is adequate the children will just sit. This is an unreasonable attitude and I hope that it is not the official view of the Victorian Department of Education. Representations have been made not only by the honourable member for Casey but also by the Victorian Council of Churches, the Victorian Federation of Mothers Clubs and many people in the community and I share their concern. I hope that the report today, perhaps, will indicate that there is a hope of ending the situation quickly. It must be ended because otherwise children literally will be doing nothing. This was the whole purpose of the Commonwealth entering this sphere. I hope that this action has the support of all sides of the Parliament and that there will be a special effort to help migrant children.
The honourable member suggested that perhaps the Commonwealth should have some sort of special task force to be applied in particular areas where no proper action is being taken. That situation could be considered if the States said: ‘We are not interested in migrant education. We do not want to cooperate. We do not want to help’. If any State says that, the Commonwealth will have to consider moves along the lines of giving special assistance directly from the Commonwealth. I would hope that that situation does not and will not appertain. I share the honourable member’s concern and I will see whether today I can obtain the urgent report I called for and initiate action to resolve the problem of migrant education in schools in Melbourne.
– I refer to the statement made by the Treasurer in December last when he said there would be no difficulty in the Treasury finding funds to finance commitments being announced by the new Government. I ask the Treasurer: What is the total expenditure, additional to the 1972-73 Budget provisions, to which the Government is now committed since taking office?
– I suggest, in the first place, that the honourable gentleman ought to read the most recent issue of the ‘Treasury Information Bulletin’ wherein I deliberately put details of the projection of the Budget until 30th June. I repeat that the previous Government, on 17th August, announced a projected deficit of $63 0m. It had changes of mind and circumstances between 17th August and 2nd December, concerned more about political fortunes than about the destiny of Australia, which increased that deficit from $630m to near enough to $800m. This Government, when it took office, was confronted not with full employment but a large amount of unemployment in both country areas and the metropolitan areas, more disastrous relatively in country areas than in the cities because the job opportunities were not so great. State by State we made money available to the States, insofar as it was sensible, to employ people in socially useful work. To 30th June that will add another $50m or so. In addition, of course, there have been some wage adjustments that would have occurred whichever Party was in office. These also have increased the amount of the deficit. In addition, the Government believes that social service payments are grossly inadequate. As the first step the Government has announced - the legislation passed through this House yesterday - a first increase in the pension rate to be retrospective to 2nd December. When added to the 30th June figure, that will increase the deficit by another $50m or $60m. All that adds up to $960m, the figure that is stated in the ‘Treasury Information Bulletin’.
I mention as a matter of history that I can remember coming into this Parliament when the Budget for the first time reached $ 1,000m. The Budget this year will be for$10,000m and the deficit will be near enough to what was provided by the Budget for 1951. I think one has to be getting used to thinking in these terms. As a proportion of the gross national product the deficit this year will be less than it was in 1967. If the honourable member is to be bamboozled by big numbers he must be well out of his depth. I share with all Treasurers what might be called the odium of being told that in one direction I am spending too much and then being asked questions which imply that I am giving too little. The Government is keeping a sensible balance between both.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. The honourable gentleman will be well aware of the very high cost of the coaxial cable service transmitting television programs from the mainland to Tasmania. I ask the Minister whether his Department will be prepared to make a reassessment of these costs or, even better still, a reduction so that Tasmanian television viewers are not deprived of seeing national and international programs that are freely available at much less cost to people on the mainland.
– It is true that there are variations in price in respect of the use of the coaxial cable. I was not aware until now of the particular problems mentioned by the honourable member. Honourable members are aware that the Government has set up a royal commission to inquire into all aspects of the organisation and administration of the Post Office. The commission will investigate all uses of the coaxial cable, as well as other aspects of the Postmaster-General’s Department. A number of representations have been made for reductions in charges. I should not like to make any specific comment at this stage as to what my view might be. I should think the matter mentioned by the honourable member would be one appropriate for determination by the commission. In any event, I shall have further inquiries made so the honourable member may be more adequately informed.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will the honourable gentleman say that notwithstanding the rejection by the Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive of the committee of inquiry into all aspects of industrial relations which was announced in the Governor-General’s Speech, that committee will be established? Was the purpose of the proposed committee directly stated by the Minister for Labor as being ‘to undertake a thoroughgoing examination into all aspects of industrial relations in Australia to ensure that our policies and procedures for handling industrial relations will be suitable for our needs and development over the next decade or more’? Will it be essential that union practices be investigated and union views ascertained? Will he provide the proposed committee with powers to compel persons to appear before it; otherwise, how will he ensure that information concerning union views and practices is put?
– The committee is almost complete. It will proceed with its business. It will consider all aspects of industrial relations concerning both employees and employers and their respective organisations. It is not a royal commission. It will therefore have no power to compel the attendance of witnesses.
– Has the Treasurer seen a report in the media recently to the effect that this new Government is not committed to taxation reform? Will he lay to rest this red herring?
– It seems to be my day, at last. Taxation is not only a means of raising revenue but also a social instrument. After 23 years of non-Labor government, I would not believe that everything that ought to be taxed is being taxed exactly as it should. I refer particularly to what is supposed to be the crown of the taxation system, that is,, progressive income tax. The progressive income tax schedule has remained virtually unaltered since 1954-55. It has been wrecked by inflation which continued under the administration of the previous government at an annual average of 2i per cent. Honourable members can work out what impact such a rate of inflation has had between 1954-55 and 1973. The progressive income tax schedule has remained virtually unchanged and concessions in respect of dependants have not kept up to date with the fall in the value of money. That is the case with respect to one form of tax only.
I think the previous Government acknowledged deficiencies in the system and set up what is known as the Asprey Committee. My Government has not disturbed that Committee. Its deliberations are continuing. We have already announced one or two changes in sales and excise taxes. We have indicated certain gates in the system that are being abused by clever accountants and shrewder lawyers and we propose to close those gates. As would any new government, we will at the time of the next Budget introduce quite substantial changes in the Australian taxation structure. Those changes will be framed between now and the presentation of that Budget. There are policy matters still to be determined. But I can assure the honourable member for Adelaide that all these matters are under deep discussion by the Government and that documents will be submitted to Cabinet shortly recommending quite substantial changes.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence and Minister for the Army. He will be pleased to hear that it has nothing to do with his credibility or with the confidence we may have in him. Did he say, in answer to a question from the honourable member for Paterson last Wednesday, that the Government whilst in Opposition had expressed the view that the appropriate strength of the Australian Regular Army was 31,000? Did he also say that an interdepartmental inquiry is currently being conducted into the appropriate level of personnel in the Army in years ahead? So that there can be no breath of suspicion that tha Government has prejudged this important matter about the future strength of the Army to, vindicate its decision to abolish the national service scheme, will the Minister make public the advice he receives from the interdepartmental inquiry?
– I will begin in much the same vein as did the honourable member for Barker. I have no intention of referring to the fact that he advocated in Hobart some years ago that there was no need for conscription and shortly afterwards was removed from his then office because conscription was introduced. I hope the honourable gentleman does not mind my making the same kind of reference as he made. As to the question, I indicated during the course of the last election and before it that it was the opinion of the Australian Labor Party that the strength of the Army should be about 31,000. My advice is that the strength of the Army today - I am referring now to those who are serving as regular soldiers and national servicemen who have elected to complete their period of duty - is over 30,000 and that by June of this year it will be over 31,000. As the honourable member has pointed out, there is currently a study being undertaken by officers of my Department not only into the size of the Army and what the strength of the Army should be in the 1970s and beyond but also into other matters relating to the responsibilities and duties of the armed forces. The honourable member and this Parliament may be assured that as soon as I have received the result of that study and considered it and the Government has considered it I will be making a full statement to this Parliament.
– Is the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry aware that cut rate motor vehicle parts sold in Australia but manufactured overseas are in the main suitable only for popular model vehicles manufactured in Australia and not suitable for vehicles manufactured in and imported from the countries which manufacture the cut rate parts which are sent to Australia? Will the Minister investigate the position to ensure protection for Australian workers employed in the Australian parts industry and that the Australian public is not fleeced by the pricing of parts for imported vehicles?
– Ohe of the main concerns of the Government in its consideration of the motor vehicle industry in Australia is naturally to ensure that employment of Austraiian workers in each of the many aspects of this industry is adequately safeguarded, lt is true that parts known as cut rate parts are imported into Australia and that those parts are used fairly widely in the assembly of motor cars except those that are in the high content plan. I am not sure of the proportion of parts that goes in one direction or another and I will have that investigated. However, I would expect that the imported parts would not be especially suitable for cars assembled or produced in Australia. 1 would think that those parts would be used in imported cars unless such cars were imported in a very highly made up form. I think that would be the limitation there. That will be investigated. I assure the honourable member that the first consideration of the Government is to protect employment in Australia and unless it can see a feasible alternative which is readily acceptable to those concerned it will not permit pressures on the industry that would cause unnecessary unemployment.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. One of the most unsavoury aspects of the Minister for Defence and the
Lloyd affair has been the involvement of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange.
– Sit down. Show some respect for a Minister of the Crown.
-Order! Does the Minister wish to take a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that it is well known that a member cannot preface a question with a tirade of abuse or anything at all, and the Leader of the Australian Country Party is doing both.
-Order! The Chair will decide those points.
– I have not made any reflection on the Minister yet. As I was saying, one of the most unsavoury aspects of this affair has been the involvement of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, who is one of Australia’s most experienced and highly regarded public servants. The Minister for Defence, by avoiding taking full and complete responsibility for his portfolio and by making statements outside of this House, has been using the Secretary of his Department as a scapegoat, leaving his integrity in doubt. I ask the Prime Minister, who is the spokesman in this place for the Commonwealth Public Service, whether he has spoken to Sir Arthur Tange to ascertain the full facts of this incident. If so, would he make these facts available to the House so that the good name of this Commonwealth Public Service officer can be cleared and that references and inferences made about him can be repudiated?
– I saw the statement that Sir Arthur Tange gave to the Deputy Prime Minister before the House sat on Tuesday. The Deputy Prime Minister tabled the statement in the House at that time. I have not raised the matter with Sir Arthur Tange myself at all. The statement, which is available to all honourable members, gives his point of view. I merely wish to say this: Sir Arthur Tange, one of the most experienced and competent men in the service of the Commonwealth, is now at last able to pursue a consistent, co-operative attitude with the Minister for Defence instead of the succession of 20 Ministers who proceeded through various Defence portfolios before the Deputy Prime Minister took over the position of Minister for Defence. Over a period of 6 years my Deputy equipped himself for this position during which time 20
Ministers passed through these portfolios. During that period my Deputy was able to gain the experience which has enabled Sir Arthur Tange’s very great talents to be put fruitfully to the service of this country at last.
– I wish to direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Did he note the claim of Mr Alan Hayes, a welfare officer of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, on the “This Day Tonight’ program last night that sheltered workshops employees receiving the invalid pension plus supplementary assistance totalling $24 a week have their benefits reduced by $1 for each $1 earned over $24 weekly? As this is a more savage means test than is generally applied to pensioners, can the Minister state why this practice has been adopted, especially as it is a clear disincentive to physical and mental selfimprovement?
– In reply to the honourable member, I did see the segment on This Day Tonight’ to which he has referred. The matter which was raised by the gentleman mentioned is one about which I have had considerable concern going back for many years. Before replying to the points raised perhaps I ought to point out that the practices which are being applied are ones which we inherited and which have been used for the past 23 years up to the last election by a succession of conservative governments. We are unhappy about such practices and especially the disincentives and the discrimination which are inherent in them. We want to do something about removing them.
I also point out - and this is not without significance - that last night in this House in the course of the debate on the Social Services Bill honourable members who had been members of previous conservative governments until the last election and who are now in the Opposition were particularly vocal in their objections that this Government was being too generous in the provision of social security benefits. This probably explains why previous governments were prepared to persevere with this sort of defective arrangement. I do not believe that the answer to this problem rests merely with tinkering the present system of pensions as it applies to these people working in sheltered workshops. This matter will be dealt with as soon as the national commission on social welfare is established and this should be announced quite soon. I regret the delays but they have occurred because some of the top line people we have approached - and we want only the best quality people to serve on this national commission - have had some difficulties in rearranging their work loads and personal commitments. We hope to make an announcement on this shortly. That commission will be given many tasks, one of which will be to assess the problems of handicapped people in the community in conjunction, of course, with such documents as the Senate report and the Griffith report, and to come down with firm recommendations to help these people. I believe that possibly an approach such as the West German one, where a guaranteed wage is provided for disabled people, would be a more appropriate approach to the problems of disabled people working in sheltered workshops than treating them as pensioners.
There is one final point I want to clear up. There was a tendency in the television segment last night to convey - I am sure it was unintentional - a misapprehension as to how the system of pensions did in fact operate. The total pension income does not reduce $1 for each $1 earned above $24. In fact an invalid pensioner receives $20 a week and is able to earn another $20 free income without affecting his pension level and thereafter the pension rate is reduced SOc in the $1 on the tapered means test basis. What is reduced $1 for $1 is the supplementary or. rent assistance of $4. If we were merely to, tinker with the present system, eliminate this means testing and provide $44 supplementary, assistance for all people paying rent or board the cost to the taxpayers would be $50m. If we were to provide it for all pensioners without any reference to whether they paid board or rent the cost would be $150m. I do not believe this is the approach at all. I regret the present anomalies. They have been with us for over 20 years. We hope to move towards a speedy rectification of them but we do not want to rush into this because our solution to the problem, we trust, will be a constructive and helpful one and will avoid these sorts of anomalies and discriminations in the future.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962-1972, I present the ninth annual report of the Australian Honey Board for the year ended 30th
June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements. The interim report of the Board was presented to the House on 31st August 1972.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Industry Research Act 1971, I present the first annual report of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1968, I present the annual report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30th June 1972. The financial statements of Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30th June 1972 were tabled in the house on 14th September 1972.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953- 1965, 1 present the annual report of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Trust for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– During question time the honourable member for Bennelong asked me a question about abortions performed at the Canberra Hospital. The Minister for Health has supplied me with the following information: For the 12 months period from 12th October 1970 to 12th October 1971 the number of pregnancies terminated - that is really the same expression - was 55. The number of terminations on psychiatric grounds was 36, being 65.4 per cent, and the number on medical grounds was 19, being 34.6 per cent. In the later 12 months period from 12th October 1971 to 12th October 1972 the number of pregnancies terminated increased to 112. The number of terminations on psychiatric grounds was 82, being 73.2 per cent, and on medical grounds the number was 30, being 26.8 per cent.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At question time the statement that has been made by Australian Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) repeated a statement that has been made by Australian Labor Party members for their own political purposes on many occasions and which they continue to repeat despite the fact that I have answered it on many occasions. Because there are many new members in this House I take this opportunity to explain exactly what the position was. Also, and more importantly, the explanation I will give is relevant to the question that I asked the Minister and which he failed to answer. What the Minister said at question time was that at the Returned Services League Congress in Hobart in 1963 I had argued against national service and then 2 months or 6 months later the Government had brought it in. Of course, that was the story that was spread by the Labor Party during the Senate election campaign at that time.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the matter.
– I am explaining the situation which the Minister misrepresented. What I said at the RSL Congress in Hobart was quite clear. I will give the Minister a copy of it if he wants to read it. I said that the military advice available to the Government was opposed to the introduction of a universal national service scheme as advocated by the RSL at that time. The Minister will remember that the scheme brought in by the Government was not a universal national service scheme; it was a selective national service scheme. It was proposed by me as Minister for the Army to the Cabinet and I am proud of it. At the RSL Congress in Hobart I made public the military advice available to the Government. When the Prime Minister of the day introduced the national service scheme or made a statement about it he made public the military advice available to the Government. Today I asked the Minister for Defence to agree to make available to the House the military advice on the future strength of the Army. He avoided that question. I hope he will follow the precedent established by the previous Government.
– Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister for Defence claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Defence has indicated that I failed to answer questions directed to me.
– You said ‘Minister for Defence’. You are the Minister for Defence. Get that in your mind; it is you. You meant the honourable member for Barker.
– I indicated, as Minister for Defence, that I would be making available to this Parliament a statement on the full structure, strength, duties and responsibilities of the armed forces. As I pointed out to the honourable gentleman yesterday, I have no intention of treating members of the Opposition in the same shabby way that they treated the Opposition when they were in government in relation to information that should be conveyed to the shadow Minister for Defence. I advised the honourable gentleman yesterday that if he wished members of the Department of Defence to speak to and advise the Opposition’s defence committee, I would be happy to make the arrangements for him. I went further than that. I told the shadow Minister for Defence that if he wished to speak to the Secretary of the Department of Defence, I would arrange that for him- also.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr SPEAKER - I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s attempt to misuse the allocation of Government contracts in a manner which is open to serious forms of bribery and corruption is an unwarranted attempt to force its will on individual contractors; to circumvent established conciliation and arbitration procedures; to destroy the concept that contracts should only be awarded on the basis of quality, performance and price and is contrary to the national interest.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– This matter of public importance brought forward by the Opposition concerns a critical issue in the Australian community and one which properly calls for debate in this national Parliament. The context of the issue concerns the Government’s policy relating to the allocation of Commonwealth Government contracts, the reported new labour code in the process of preparation by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the new procedures adopted by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) and, in particular, the directive issued by the Minister for Works to the permanent head of his Department. I seek leave of the House to incorporate this directive in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
After notifying the Prime Minister, I now. direct that in future, employment and letting of contracts, the following conditions apply.
In allocating contracts consideration shall be given to -
Union labour as against non-Union labour.
the quota of apprentices the contractor by established awards is entitled to employ and the number employed.- -
Yours sincerely, (Senator J. L. CAVANAGH)
– The proposals contained in this directive make it abundantly clear that the Government is seeking to destroy the long established practice that contracts should be awarded only on the basis of quality, performance and price, and that in future consideration will be given to the industrial policies of the contractor and his relationship with the trade union movement
The Opposition is totally opposed to these proposals for a number of fundamental reasons. The proposals are open to serious abuse and corruption. They are contrary to the public interest since they disregard the principle that the Government should undertake programs at the least cost to the taxpayer. They are a blatant method of seeking to circumvent established procedures laid down by law for obtaining unproved wages and conditions for employees and they are in fact a further attempt to institute policies of compulsory unionism. The proposals are a vehicle for the transfer of public funds to the trade union movement and thence, of course, to the Australian Labor Party. They are totally inconsistent with the terms of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which stated that the Government’s first aim in industrial policy would be to reduce interference and intervention in industrial matters. Finally, they constitute an unwarranted attempt to force the Government’s will on individual contractors. This of course is the technique of the socialist monolith, using the bludgeon of the State, to enforce its will upon the Australian community. There is absolutely no reference to these proposals in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, a document which is becoming increasingly irrelevant as the real thrust of the Labor machine emerges. The real policy document is that developed at the 1971 Launceston Conference. Last week in this House the Prime Minister stated that his Government was bound by that document, but it requires a close examination of the Australian Labor Party industrial relations platform to uncover a passing reference, hi clause 6 (f), to the new concept which the Government is now seeking to pursue. To claim that every obscure clause in this platform is part of the Government’s mandate is not only tenuous in the extreme but also contemptuous of the good and common sense of the Australian electorate.
We say that the Government’s new proposals lend themselves to serious abuse, and by their very nature they are imprecise and vague. One of the major considerations in the allocation of Government contracts will be the relationship of the contractor with the trade union movement. This is a very curious criterion which I believe has no precedent with the exception of the principles which govern the practices of Tammany Hall - the concept of the open drawer’ for favours sought and awarded. Presumably, contracting firms are now to be rated on some scale of approval. The longstanding practice has been to consider tenders for Government contracts on the basis of their commercial merit; that is to say, contracts have been awarded on the basis of quality of work, price and performance. Ministers and officials have been able to take decisions on a well-developed set of objective criteria which left minimal room for subjective judgment or partisan approach. It was a system which was fair and equitable to the tendering and decisionmaking authorities. But in the policy now proposed by the Labor administration the Minister for Works has stated that his DirectorGeneral will no longer operate in his former capacity in the approval of contracts. The Minister clearly indicated that he will personally assess tenders for Commonwealth contracts. In answer to a question on 6th March he said this:
Whereas previously the Director-General of Works had full power in letting contracts, now the approval of contracts will be taken over by myself acting within my ministerial responsibility -
He went on to add: and, I hope, with the advice of my Department.
Perhaps it is fortuitous that the Minister has removed the decision-making responsibility from the Director-General in view of the impossibility of making an objective assessment, given the Government’s new criteria. It would have placed senior public servants in an invidious position. Just how susceptible to the pressure of certain unions or how partial or ruthless the Minister will be is yet to be determined. However, he is already on record as having said that firms with a ‘bad union record’ will have very little chance of getting a Department of Works contract whilst he is the Minister.
The Opposition completely rejects the proposition that a Minister with political bias, political favours to repay and political debts to collect should arbitrate on a vague and highly political set of criteria as to which firms will be the recipients of more than $300m worth of public money. This we believe to be an intolerable situation. The Government has established a procedure whereby firms, by virtue of donations or financial inducement to the trade unions involved, will be able to escalate their credit rating. Unions in their turn will have the capacity to threaten firms with poor credit ratings in return for special conditions. We believe the Government will be forced by powerful unions to award contracts to those firms which for various reasons, are approved by particular unions. The opportunities for unprincipled pressure, graft and corruption are virtually unlimited. The main beneficiaries of the new scheme will be those unions which are able to exert the most pressure and which are the most unscrupulous. Firms which express public disapproval of unions or the Government or which in the public interest of this country are prepared to stand up to trade unions in circumstances in which they believe the claims of those unions are unjustifiable can expect to have a very poor relationship with the trade union movement and consequently limited opportunity to gain contractual work from the Government no matter how well merited their tender is in commercial terms.
The Opposition believes the community has a right to be protected from this blatant misuse of authority. To quote from an editorial in the Melbourne ‘Age’: ‘The concept is as absurd as it is dangerous’. The system of tendering should have only one purpose: To ensure that goods are provided as satisfactorily and cheaply as possible. The opinion reflected by this newspaper is consistent with those expressed by the Australian Press as a whole and consistent with the wide range of representations received by the Opposition from all sections of the Australian electorate.
On the question of cost the public interest is very much involved, to the extent that the community expects the Government to have regard to the cost of its capital works and to use taxpayers’ money in the most economical manner. In view of the Government’s substantial financial commitments, its obvious difficulty in meeting the cost of its election proposals and the inflationary pressures which it has generated, it is inconceivable that it should now initiate procedures which by their very nature will entail wastage of public funds. The level of the funds involved should of course not be under-estimated. The Department of Works alone has an annual expenditure of more than $300m, but this pales into insignificance when the totality of the Government’s purchase of goods and services is considered. It would be quite erroneous to assume that the new labor code being prepared by the Minister for Labour will apply only to contracts let by the Departments of Works and Supply. The new system is a blatant attempt to circumvent the established procedures laid down by law for obtaining improvements in wages and working conditions. The Government is now intent on using tenders as an instrument for enforcing what it cannot or is not prepared to seek by legislation, and for achieving by the back door method industrial concessions which ought more properly to be the subject of examination by established conciliation and arbitration machinery in this country. The simple fact is that most of the proposals which the Government is seeking to advance can be achieved by the process of conciliation and arbitration, but we know that in terms of the whole philosophy of the Government’s approach to industrial relations that that process will go by default. The Government is seeking, as an agent of the trade union movement, to advantage the trade unions in a most unscrupulous manner, demonstrably inconsistent with any reasonable concept of the public interest. If the Government is not prepared to examine trade union proposals in a responsible manner then it is vital that we ensure the continued maintenance of an arbitral system which enables unwarranted trade union demands to be effectively and impartially challenged. The Opposition strongly opposes the Government’s clear intention to support the trade union movement by the unbridled use of public funds. This we believe is a basic abrogation of the Government’s probity and integrity as the sovereign and elected representative of the Australian people.
The Government’s contempt for established arbitral bodies must be seen in the light of recent attempts by the Minister for Labour to coerce and bludgeon the Public Service Board. In his public declamation of the Board the Minister is seeking to convert that body - with its long-established history of independence - to a rubber stamp for union demands and to force the Board to become the pacesetter for wages and conditions throughout the community; this, in spite of a very clear interpretation of intention in the Act that the Public Service should not be used for purposes of political patronage by whatever government happens to be in power. We now have a concerted operation on 2 fronts, both in the public and private sectors of the community, to advantage the trade unions. The dual move is being pursued on a basis of circumvention and abuse of Government authority to provide the trade union movement with a monopoly of interest in a situation where no other groups can appeal or seek redress.
The Government, in concurrence with its other aims, is seeking, through its approach, and application to advance the concept not of preference to trade unionists but, in fact, of compulsory unionism in this country. This, the Opposition parties completely reject. Every individual has a right to obtain and retain employment irrespective of whether he is a member of a trade union and a right to determine whether he will become or remain a member of a particular union. By effectively seeking to assign pre-conditions of union membership in the letting of Government contracts the Government is effectively denying these rights.
We condemn the Government for the opportunities which its new procedures provide for abuse and corruption; for the total disregard it has for the community interest and of the concept that programs should be undertaken at the least cost to the taxpayer; for its complicity in forcing the introduction of compulsory unionism, and for its absolute divergence from the principle in the Prime Minister’s policy speech that the Government would stand aside from interference in industry generally. This is the most blatant attempt in Australia’s history to interfere in the industrial affairs of private contractors in Australia.
-Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– I could congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) on the delivery of his speech but that is about all. It was a very poor sort of speech. It consisted of accusing the Government of-
– Tammany Hall.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was heard in complete silence. I hope that the same courtesy will be extended to the Minister for Labour.
– To reply to the interjection, yes, Tammany Hall. I think another term that he used was ‘open drawer for favours rendered’, which brings me to the point that I should like to raise now. When I took up my office in Canberra some weeks ago, the first message that came through my telex when I pressed the button was addressed to the Hon. P. R. Lynch, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, Canberra. It was a long telex message in which a certain Mr John Michael Downing offered to provide a reasonable fee for time spent. It stated:
A reasonable fee is payable for time spent and if your man wants to ring Hector Ward on 65 5666 in Perth or myself on 21 4225 for more information we will accept reverse charges.
If you can suggest anyone let me know urgently and I will try another talk.
What do honourable members think the person sent the telegram about? The telex continued:
Can you suggest a person in Canberra who can make a contact with some visiting Russians on behalf of a client of mine?
We were hearing about the socialist monolith just a few moments ago. The telex stated further:
My client Geotechnics (Aust) Pty Ltd has State Government permission to commence operations as a manufacturer of electronic equipment for the geological services. They have had discussions with a Russian company Licensingtorg and have reached a stage where they have adapted the Russian equipment to suit Australian conditions. (The original equipment was subject to heat failure). The Russian group are quite prepared to have Geotechnics manufacture in Australia but require a payment of $27,000 together with royalties. This seems a little steep to my client and they feel that this makes it a poor proposition. If a better deal could be negotiated they would be able to make other equipment and market it throughout Australia.
Apparently the contact in Canberra is Mr Velenchi who is a Commercial Consul on 95 9033. Can you suggest someone to talk to Mr Velenchi and make contact with Licensingtorgs representative and find out what is happening and whether they propose to come to Perth for discussions?
The drawer is open! It was rather an ill chosen phrase for the honourable member to talk about the open drawer. I should have thought the last question the Opposition would have wanted to raise was the question of letting contracts. What sort of things happened while that party was in government. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of contracts that were let by the previous Minister for Works during the months of September and October 1972.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. An examination of Hansard will show that the lowest tender was not always accepted by the former Government. I have had cause to raise in the Parliament an example of where the lowest tender was not accepted in a case involving the supply of meat by companies in Adelaide to the Department of Navy and the Department of Air. I was able to establish beyond all doubt that there was something rather fishy about the whole business, sp much so that it was rectified later by the unsuccessful tenderer in the case in which I had some grave doubts being awarded a tender later on.
Let us look at some of the things that have happened during the previous Government’s reign. There is a building at 162-166 Goulburn Street in Sydney. It had to be partitioned so that it could be used as office accommodation by the government. But a condition of the tease was that the Department had to employ the owner’s own contractor. His services were quite unsatisfactory and complaints were made to the owner. The Department of Works had to get an appropriation from Parliament for the work. Its estimate of the cost of the partitioning was $152,000. The accepted tender price of Allen Constructions Pty Ltd was $180,000.
– Have a set of speeches incorporated in Hansard and save yourself the trouble.
– I dare say the honourable member must have had a finger in this pie because he seems to be almost hysterical about the fact that it is now being revealed. I shall have to have a look at some of the other particulars concerning the honourable member and this company to see what is the connection. This is not the only example: The Department of Transport had an office in North Sydney in which alterations and partitioning were carried out for the Department on floors 3 to 9 inclusive. However the lease required that Max Cooper and Sons, who were the contractors nominated by the owners, should be given the work. The Australian Mutual Provident Society was the owner. One selected tender of $125,000 was obtained from the contracting firm. The Department of Works estimated the cost of the work at $87,000. After negotiations the contractor later reduced the price to $107,000. So I could go on. Another example involved die Department of Works. Parliamentary approval was gained for the expenditure. Later an additional expenditure of some $40,000 was required. When the contractor was approached and told that the price was excessive he said: ‘I will take off $20,000 and stick to the other $20,000 for good measure’. This is typical of the sort of thing that happened during the former Government’s reign. I would like to see - I have said this publicly - a system of open government which involves a system of open tendering. Why on earth can we not have the good old English system where every tender is placed in a box and opened on the day that tenders close, when the public can come along and see for themselves what the tender prices are. What is wrong with this good old English system which for so . long was abandoned by the previous Government?
The Labor Party for many years has never advocated compulsory unionism. The only time that compulsory unionism was included in the Party’s platform was during the period when the element within the Labor Party which finally broke away to form what is now called the Democratic Labor Party had control of policy making. It is true that then, for a few years, there was provision for compulsory unionism in the Party platform, but as soon as the Labor Party cleansed itself of this element in the Party it was decided in 1957 at the first conference held after that very happy event that we would alter the policy of compulsory unionism to one of preference to unionism. That is the policy of the Party at the moment. We do not say to anybody that they will not have a job unless they are a member of a union. I do not believe in that. I do not believe in compulsory unionism. The Country Party in Queensland for years had compulsory unionism actually written into its printed platform. It has maintained the principle of compulsory unionism ever since it took office in Queensland following the defeat of the Gair Government. Let us have no more nonsense about this business of compulsory unionism. The Labor Party platform is clear and open. We do have a clear right and mandate to incorporate these conditions in contracts that are let. The Labor Party platform states quite clearly:
All contracts made by the Commonwealth, or by authorities of the Commonwealth, shall provide for preference to unionists, and observance of award rates and conditions (including the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act) by contractors and sub-contractors.
There is a very good reason for that being included in our platform. The Labor Party wants the contractors to observe award rates and conditions. So much for the nonsense talked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about circumventing established conciliation and arbitration procedures. Far from circumventing conciliation and arbitration procedures, the purpose of my Party is to make sure that the procedures are observed. The purpose and object of the Act is to encourage the formation of employee organisations. We want to encourage the formation of employee organisations in accordance with the objects of the Act.
It appals me to think that an honourable member would rise in this Parliament and suggest that Commonwealth Public Service officers are so corrupt that they would allow themselves to be parties to bribery. This is a grave reflection on the integrity of the public servants who are responsible for awarding contracts. A more grave accusation could not possibly be made against them. To take certain aspects of human relations into account when determining the awarding of contracts is no more open to corruption than the past Government’s practice, which has been followed by this Government, of taking into account the suitability of a contractor to complete a contract. The same public servants are awarding contracts now as were awarding them under the previous Government. If the public servants who are working for the present Government are corrupt and subject to bribery, the question immediately is posed that they must have been subject to bribery and corruption in the past. That is obvious; it is axiomatic. It immediately follows that if they are corrupt now they must have been corrupt when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government. My Party throws that accusation back into the teeth of the Opposition and in particular into the teeth of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. A more damaging and less justifiable claim than that could never have been made in this Parliament.
I would like the House, before it involves itself too deeply in this debate, to think about some of the activities of the former Government which led to the sale of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. I remind honourable members of the way the former Government interfered with the private banking system and the way that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd was always able to pull strings, how National Instruments Pty Ltd was able to receive special concessions, how the deal concerning Jetair (Australia) Ltd was brought off without calling for public tenders. I should like the former Prime Minister to explain these things. I am so used to looking at him as the only honourable member opposite who could qualify for that title. I apologise for saying that. Can he explain how it came about that Avis Rent-A-Car System Pty Ltd received the contract to service all the Australian airports with a contract that did not resemble in any way the original specifications? Can he explain to us all the ramifications of the Fill deal? How can the previous Government answer those questions?
I know from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who has authorised me to reveal this to the Parliament for the first time, that there was no control at all over spares for the Fill. What is the good of buying an aeroplane, a motor car, a sewing machine or anything else if there is no right to buy spares or there is no control over the price of the spares? I would sell or give someone a motor car, provided that he guaranteed that he would use no other and would pay for all the spares at the price I decided to make him pay. Members of the Opposition should be the very last ones to talk about things like Tammany Hall, open drawers for favours rendered, concessions to political parties or political preference.
Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Works, has rendered a great service in laying down proper directives concerning the letting of contracts. The directives which Senator Cavanagh has insisted upon are all sustainable. He says that he wants to make certain that the union relationship is good. What is wrong with that? We want good industrial relations. Senator Cavanagh wants to make certain that employees are covered by workmen’s compensation. What is wrong with that? He wants to ensure that award rates will be observed. What is wrong with that? He wants the right for union officials to be able to enter premises and to inspect the books. What is wrong with that? He wants preference to unionists. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has granted that under 1S1 awards.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr LYNCH (Flinders)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. If I recall correctly the detail of what was said at the outset of his address by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), there was a vague insinuation of possible impropriety in relation to correspondence which was sent to me via a telex machine in Parliament House,. Canberra. Mr Michael Downing, who, as I recall it, is the governing director of Michael Downing Associates Pty Ltd of Perth, has sought assistance in relation to a contract with a Russian firm through either the appropriate Government department or, as I vaguely recall it, the Embassy. As it happened, I was informed by my private secretary that the gentleman concerned went ahead with his own inquiry. The matter was handled by my staff. There can be no suggestion whatever of any impropriety. I think it is contemptible of the honourable gentleman to make these insinuations. The honourable gentleman can laugh and smile as much as he likes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman must confine himself to a personal explanation. He must not make a speech.
– What I am saying is well within the context of a personal explanation. I have become very angry with the honourable gentleman.
-Order! The honourable member is making a personal explanation. He may show where he has been misrepresented but he may not introduce fresh matter or debate anything the Minister has said:
– I accept that.
– Do not be so sensitive about it.
-Order! The Minister will not interject.
– If you allow that interjection I will tell the honourable gentleman, I hope with the leave of the Chair- -
– Interjections are out of order.
– That may be, but I am most sensitive about my good name, which is something that he might well consider. What has been said by the honourable gentleman is a nasty insinuation of the type we can expect from him.
– I have a point of order.
– The Minister knows me well enough not to make those accusations.
-Order! A point of order has been taken.
– My point of order is that it is quite clear that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has exceeded the reasonable bounds within which a personal explanation may be presented.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has resumed his seat. I will not take the action I had intended to take.
– A number of us in this House have had experience of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) making speeches when he has arguments in which he believes and he has been able to make a good case. I do not think anybody who has heard him today would not realise that he has no arguments in which he has believed and as a result he has made an extremely bad case. Indeed, he has not tried even to discuss the point of this matter which is before us, except in one way in which he showed the necessity for the proposal of this matter for discussion. He read out a series of contracts which he questioned in. his own mind on the grounds of quality and price. I do not believe that suggested criticism is valid for a moment. But what is keen and what comes out of this is that if what he proposes to bring in is brought in you could not any longer be able to question a contract on the grounds of quality and price because his reply would be: ‘Ah, but the trade union movement has good relationships with the contractor. I say so and that is all that matters.’
Indeed, he brought out in some way the whole point of this discussion. What we are saying now must not and cannot be construed, as he tried to construe it, into an attack on any individual Minister and into an attack on any individual public servant. That is certainly not in our minds. But we do say this: When there is introduced into the awarding of contracts a right of an individual Minister to decide not on quality, not on price, not on ability to supply but on his own judgment of whether a union likes a firm or not, then we say that there is created an opportunity for graft, for bribery and for corruption of a kind we have not seen in Australia since the days of the Rum Rebellion.
Again this is not directed at any individual - certainly not Senator Cavanagh, certainly not the Minister. But all history shows that if an opportunity for corruption is created then sooner or later some man or another, some
Minister or another, some public servant or another will be tempted to take advantage of that opportunity and some will fall into that temptation. That is what is provided in the rules now to be laid down. We are asked to leave the question of deciding contracts on quality and price and have, amongst other things - and this is the really dangerous thing - a decision by the Minister on whether the contractor’s relationship with the trade union movement is good or not.
Let us have a look at what this involves. First of all, what is the trade union movement? Is it the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Is it an organiser for a particular union, a secretary of a particular union, a shop steward? It is not defined. It is clearly any member of a trade union who does not like a firm, who could go to the Minister and say: ‘This firm is unfair to my union. Our relationship with it is not good.’ There is no way in which anybody can question that. Then it becomes a matter for the Minister to form his own judgment, in secret, in his own mind, without giving any reasons - merely saying: ‘I agree that the relationship is not good and therefore this man will not get the contract which on terms of quality, ability, supply and price he should get.’
If any firm in Australia breaks the industrial law, then it ought to be prosecuted under the law and have an opportunity to defend itself before an independent arbitrator or judge in public. If it has broken the law it should well be punished in that way. If it has not broken the law it should not be punished in any way. It should not be subject to financial fines and punitive measures by anybody, by any court, and, more importantly, it should not be subject to punitive measures by one man without charges having been brought, without any chance to defend himself or the firm - indeed, quite possibly unknowing that he is being punished because it is a decision of the Minister sitting in his own office.
What opportunities there are in this innovation. There are opportunities for corruption on many levels. First there is the opportunity for the head of a firm to say to the union organiser with whom he is having some difference of opinion and who might well have said to him: ‘Unless you do what I want I will tell the Minister that our relations are not good and you will not get any more contracts’ - that he-
– Well, this is inherent in this proposal - my word it is. The Minister shakes his head because he does not like us bringing out the actual inherent problems in this whole proposal. Are you, Mr Deputy Speaker, or is anybody else going to say that a head of a firm wanting government contracts now or in the future, threatened in this way by somebody with a position in the trade union movement, will not stop and think and say: ‘Well, it does say that the Minister can decide whether my relationships with the union are good or not. The union representative said he will go to the Minister and say that the relationships are bad. He may well cost me the contract which I would otherwise get on past criteria applied.’ This must affect his judgment. It could well in some cases result in a pecuniary offer so that that complaint would not be made. There could be some employers, and I emphasise some employers, who for some reason that they did not quite understand were not getting the government contracts awarded which they felt they ought to be getting because they knew their prices and quality were good and they knew they had had contracts in the past, who would wonder whether it might not be a good idea to approach not a Minister, not a public servant, but some representative of the Labor Party in their area and say: Look, try to find out what is wrong here, would you? After all, is there a branch in your electorate that would like a good solid contribution from my firm to help with electoral matters?’ The opportunity is there. I would like to think it would be taken advantage of by almost none. But the history of government requires that opportunities for this kind of thing should not ever be there.
There is the final chance of a contractor seeking a contract, not quite understanding why he does not get it, going to inquire of the Minister whether the reason why he did not get it was perhaps because somebody had said his relationships with the union were bad. The opportunity is then there for those relationships to be greatly improved by a donation slipped into an open drawer. I may say at this point that the Minister for Labour was quite wrong in suggesting that there was some attack on public servants in this matter, in the awarding of contracts. If there was any attack it has been made by Senator Cavanagh, the Minister in another place, who has publicly stated that he is going to take over the decision of what contracts should be awarded from the public servants who previously decided what contracts should be or should not be made. This is where, if anywhere, there is this attack. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, in the past before we decided the criteria on which contracts should be let there were bad days when shoddy goods were supplied by contractors, when prices far too high were charged and when the public purse was pillaged. This occurred - and I speak of long ago, quite possibly in England rather than here - as a result of relationships between a Minister and a wealthy employer. It was necessary to see that the public purse was not pillaged, that the quality of work was high and that prices were kept down. For those reasons these criteria were introduced so that nobody would get favouritism. Only those who met that criteria would be. contractors to a government using public money. These criteria have been thrown out the window - not quite thrown out; they are still there certainly - but there is now an overriding matter. Now the Minister in a Star Court can decide whether a contract is awarded or not.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– There has not been such a pathetic, pedantic and puerile discussion of a matter of public importance raised by any Opposition for decades. I suppose that this instance shows the discredited state of the new Opposition, left without a feather to fly with and skirting around on the edge of an issue which does not produce anything of consequence from the standpoint of newsworthiness. The matter is based on pure assumption; it is completely void .of any fact, any happening or reference to any historical event. In every sense it represents a complete figment of the imagination and it is incredible that in these days when there are so many constructive issues on which an Opposition can be effective we should have honourable members .of such considerable status in the Opposition taking up the time of the Parliament on such a pathetic matter. I believe they ought to be disparaged and that the public will identify them as being petty in their approach to the parliamentary affairs of this country. What has happened this morning simply demonstrates the antipathy of leading members of the Opposition to the trade union movement of Australia. Because the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) in another place has indicated that under his administration consideration will be given to those firms which have sensible relations with trade unions we find those leading Opposition members intent on demonstrating their spleen and their hostility. Every step taken and every utterance made by the Minister for Works has been designed to achieve the best results on behalf of the people of this country in relation to public works.
It is true that we are working in a very expensive area in public works - some $3 00m a year is involved, I am told by previous speakers. That is why the Parliament has always upheld the idea that this sphere of activity should be under the scrutiny of a parliamentary public works committee and these days the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is inquiring into 30 to 35 references a year. All public works valued at over $750,000 have to be subjected to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee and there has been no dissent from the proposition that that should be so. This Government when in Opposition faithfully participated in the Public Works Committee process and was intent on ensuring that every possible ventilation and exposure was given to everything associated with public works. Is there anything at all that was inherent in or resulted from the attitude of this Government when in Opposition which would indicate that it would want to clothe in mystery any activities of the Department of Works? Of course not.
This Government wants to make certain that the people and the Government of Australia get value for money. The old-fashioned washed-up attitudes and ideas of the previous Government were not achieving that result. This Government wants to make certain that we get performance from contractors, that we get good workmanship and that jobs are finished on time. It is saying in effect that strife ridden companies need not tender for public works in Australia. We want companies which have good relations with unions participating in public works. We do not want companies to be racing in and out of the Commonwealth Industrial Court or the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission getting determinations in such a way as will cause delays and bring about an aggravation of the cost factor in public works contracts. Of course, the sensible thing, and it is accepted by sensible people but apparently not by some leading members of the Opposition, these days is to effect decent relationships between employees and employers. The days of the master and butler have gone and the sooner it is realised by Opposition members that we will not have trade unionists pushed around any longer the better it will be for everyone concerned. In fact it would be contrary to the national interest for this Government to take the attitude that has been espoused here this morning by the Opposition.
Let me show in a pretty accurate way just how the attitude of the Opposition is out of date with contemporary attitudes. For example, is it realised that the International Labour Organisation convention No. 94 lays down a criterion which subscribing governments are expected to uphold and comply with to the effect that public contracts should have regard to union conditions? Apparently this has not been treated as important by the Opposition, the former Government for 23 years. The ILO convention makes it a requirement on the nations subscribing that proper regard should be had to industrial conditions of the kind which have been laid down by the Minister for Works in respect of the matter which is currently the subject of the debate. Is it realised that 31 countries uphold the idea that the Minister for Works has espoused? Is it realised that it is time the Australian Government followed belatedly, and that is the case, in the footsteps of these 31 countries which have been doing for many years what the Minister has been saying we should be doing? In the United Kingdom as far back as 1912 the House of Commons adopted a resolution upholding convention 94 and the United States of America emulated the United Kingdom example many years ago. Why is it that these matters have been overlooked in Australia?
Of course there are winds of change blowing in respect of this and so many other significant areas of Government activity. This Government will stand firmly on the premise that it believes it is a good thing to set out to get value for money and to have co-operative employees and co-operate employers working together. The Minister for Works has never made the point that he will be heavy handed in respect of this matter. Let me repeat in precise terms what he has said. Maybe previous Opposition speakers have not had a good look at the situation but this is what the Minister said:
As to my intention to replace the Director-General as the approving authority for contracts, even under the previous Minister for Works- that is, Senator Wright- some contracts of a certain value had to be approved by the Minister. That remains the case. Contracts of a greater value win be approved with complete co-operation and agreement between my DirectorGeneral and myself.
Who could quibble with such a co-operative attitude? It is obvious that the Mnister should be prepared to take responsibility. It was interesting to hear the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) say that we have not always upheld the criteria that have been talked about here today by the Opposition. It is interesting to note that in respect of the painting contract at the Army camps in the north of Western Australia a tender of $38,900 was submitted but the tender accepted was for $79,475. It is interesting also to look at the Ludmilla school contract for the erection of additional classrooms. Here the lowest tender was $29,920, yet the previous Government lel the contract for $54,000. When matters like this are raised I hope it is not the intention of the Opposition to shovel all the responsibility for these dubious and controversial actions on to some public servant who will be picked out and left in a vulnerable position.
The Minister for Works in another place has indicated his preparedness to accept responsibility. Firstly he said that the Government will set out in such a way as to ensure that the people who are given contracts for public works will be those who can bring home the bacon and who can get value for money because they have decent relationships with trade unions. After all, the Minister said in effect that he was prepared to accept responsibility but would give an assurance he would have a proper relationship with the head of the Department as had been the case over the years.
The terms of this matter of public importance are framed in such an ambiguous way that I can only say that it is my earnest hope that public servants will not feel that they are now being put in a vulnerable position because of this new talk of bribery and corrup tion. This matter will only make .the public servant feel very very worried, about .his responsibility.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– What we are debating here today are proposals for fundamental changes in the Government’s approach to the letting of contracts for works done for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The House needs to realise therefore that we are dealing with Commonwealth works valued at $300m in the next year. Any fundamental changes affecting programs of this size require proper debate and discussion by this Parliament so that the full implications of those changes can be understood. I submit to this House that what is proposed by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) represents such a marked departure from previous practice as to call for a Government statement, laid down in this House, as a demonstration that the proposals have been given full consideration by the Government and indeed represent Government policy in this area. The reason a proper statement of Government policy should be called for is that there is no reference by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech of such proposals.
Let us clearly understand the difference between present methods and the proposals as put forward as a direction by the Minister for Works to his Director-General. Until now, contracts have been awarded on the basis of the most suitable contractor, having regard to performance, quality of work and price. This method, combined with the tendering system itself, whereby all tenders had to be submitted by a certain date, and were held in sealed envelopes until the official time of opening, guaranteed that there was no room for any suggestion of impropriety. But let us look at the proposals laid down by the Minister for Works. In a minute to the Director-General the Minister said:
After notifying the Prime Minister, I now direct that in future employment and letting of contracts, the following conditions apply.
The Minister- said: ‘After notifying the Prime Minister, I now direct . . .’. This statement demonstrates that there has been no Cabinet discussion of the proposals but rather a direction by a. Minister without regard to
Cabinet, Parliament or any thought to protect the taxpayer. The minute continues: (I.) In accordance with Government policy -
Is one Minister going to blatantly decide Government policy on $300m worth of works in such a way - a practice that can lead to graft and corruption and at the same time end up more expensive to the taxpayer? The minute continues:
In accordance with Government policy in future recruitment of employees preference must be given to official members of bona-fide trade unions.
This is, in effect, a policy of compulsory unionism, despite what the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is sitting at the table, said earlier. The Minister for Works is saying blatantly that if a man is not a unionist he cannot get a job with the Commonwealth Government. What about the rights of the individual? Where are all the civil liberties people now, on the opposite bench?
The Prime Minister has no mandate for this proposal from the people of Australia. Such a fundamental proposition does not rate a mention in his policy speech. All we know is that a tenuous mention of this proposal came out of the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference. So this is a clear case of a Minister implementing an instruction from the outside trade union controlled body. This means that the people of Australia have to study carefully not only what the Prime Minister puts forward as a policy speech but all of the unsuspected policy decisions from an outside body to know what is the total Labor policy.
But there is worse to come - that is only the preamble of the minute from the Minister for Works to the Director-General. The minute continues:
In allocating contracts consideration shall be given to
What imprecision! How can an employer know what the real intention or policy of the Government is in this area? Where a work is complex, requiring a variety of trades and skills, how will a contractor discover what is in the mind of Senator Cavanagh when deciding how best to utilise the work force on a job? Will he use a sub-contractor for electrical work or is it best to use day labour? Which will please Senator Cavanagh most - an efficient job done by an expert at a given price or a day labour job with both timetable and cost hard to estimate? Such an instruction without clear guidelines is ridiculous. It goes on further:
This, of course, represents direct Government interference in an area where the Prime Minister said himself in his policy speech that his aim would be: . . to reduce Government interference and intervention in industrial matters.
We all. know that Senator Cavanagh is no lover of the Prime Minister. But that Senator Cavanagh should so introduce proposals as a demonstration of his dislike without regard to their effect on industry and the community at large calls for the repudiation of these proposals by the Prime Minister.
What business is it of the national Government to interfere in the relations between a contractor and the trade union movement? That is a matter for the employer and the employee . to handle through the established procedures of arbitration and conciliation. This is to be one of the criteria applying when Senator Cavanagh makes his judgment - and remember that Senator Cavanagh has said in the Senate that he will be making the judgment and decision on tenders, not the public servants as suggested by the Minister for Labour. There is no slander against public servants contained in the matter of public importance raised by the Opposition. The judgment will be made by Senator Cavanagh and not by an indepesdent tender board. One can easily see the abuses to which such a system could lead - abuses such as Put $5,000 into the ALP slush fund or else no work*. Further down the line the trade union delegate reporting to Senator Cavanagh can just as easily let it be known that unless he is properly treated by a contractor he will submit an adverse report. These are plainly stand-over tactics of the worst kind and can end up akin to the Mafia methods of collection for protection. Such a proposition should not be tolerated by the Prime Minister, his Cabinet or this Parliament.
This proposal relates at the moment only to contracts let by the Department of* Works. If this Parliament allows the proposal to succeed there is every likelihood that it will be extended to every other form of government purchasing. The purchasing of pencils, motor cars, defence requirements could be subject to similar conditions to what is proposed by Senator Cavanagh. The incredible thing about all of these proposals is the fact that Senator Cavanagh, having issued such instructions to the Director-General, now proceeds to confuse the situation further by saying that he does not mean what he says or the instruction does not say what it says. What absolute humbug. The Minister for Works has issued an instruction to his Director-General setting out absolutely new conditions that will be applied by him and him alone, as he confessed himself in answer to a question in the Senate. It is time the Prime Minister took note of the dangers of these proposals. Not only do they cut directly across the rights of individual workers, but they introduce dangerous practices that can subvert the time honoured system followed in these matters where there have been no allegations of abuse. The Minister has introduced a new system that can only lead to a greater cost, abuse and corruption. I deplore the proposals.
– I stand in this chamber today with a feeling of sadness and disappointment, which I am sure will be shared by the great majority of the members of the House, that prejudice runs so deep, that consideration of this matter by the Opposition has been so superficial and that its eagerness to gain some political advantage is so great that it would irresponsibly bring forward this matter for discussion. The effect of what Opposition supporters are seeking to do is to establish a degree of employer-employee anarchy and to create industrial disorder in this community. What they seek to do is to protect the fly-by-night elements in the construction industry, to protect the charlatans who operate in many parts of this industry and to encourage the organisation of so-called unofficial unions.
What they should do if they are to act responsibly is to look at this matter objectively, not to look at it blinded by prejudice and hatred. They should seriously consider whether they are acting responsibly and whether they are acting in the interests of Australia when they seek to drag industrial relations into the party political arena. As I said before I was elected to this House, and 1 say it now, those who attempt to make industrial relations in this country a party political issue and seek to score party political points out of the resolution of conflicts between employers and employees are doing a grave disservice to Australia as a whole and will impede its development. The fact that the Opposition comes forward at this time with such an irresponsible approach to this matter, sponsored as it is by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), perhaps answers many of the questions of those outside this House who experienced such frustration with the previous Ministers for Labour and National Service. Honourable members opposite illustrated this morning an unfortunate and incredible ignorance of the realities of industrial practices and procedures.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is concerned solely with the letting of contracts on quantity, quality and price. Surely this is an attitude from the Middle Ages. Surely he would be at least remotely concerned with the observance of industrial laws and of the awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which he seeks to uphold only by speech and in a manner which could be interpreted only as double voiced. Surely he is concerned, at least superficially, with the safety of workers in what is a very dangerous industry. It has perhaps the highest injury rate of any industry in the Commonwealth. Surely he even at this stage must have some regard for the observance of minimum labour conditions which have been observed for a quarter of a century in other socially advanced countries. Does he seriously stand in this House and say that he upholds the right for the employment of child labour by sub-contractors who utilise their families, including their children, because of a gap in the arbitration laws whereby families are excluded from those laws? Do not say it cannot happen because it does happen. It happens in this industry; under age children are employed by their families.
What is the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) attempting to do in his statement on employment and the letting of contracts? I think we ought to look at the statement. What he is seeking to do is to overcome a problem which is bedevilling the construction industry. It is dragging down conditions and does not have the support of large and responsible employers. Honourable members opposite should make some inquiries in that regard instead of getting all their information from their political library. The procedures laid down by the Minister in his statement seek to overcome dubious industrial practices, practices which are no more than an improper evasion of statutory responsibility and the responsibility in regard to awards and agreements made within the purview of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Minister’s proposal is not inconsistent with international standards. It is completely consistent with practices in the United Kingdom. It is completely consistent with practices in the United States of America. It is of no use to say that this is an idea with a particular motive thought up by the Minister for Works; it is consistent with international practices. It is not compulsory unionism. Rather is it compulsion to uphold the industrial laws of this country - and who says that is wrong except the most reactionary anti-Labor, anti-trade union voices in this country?
What the Minister has said is that in the letting of contracts a number of considerations are to be taken into account, firstly, that preference be given to unionists over non-unionists. That is a provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is contained in section 47. The Opposition when in government looked at the Act, considered it and amended it a few years ago. Did it take that provision out of the Act? It certainly did not. The Minister also said that in letting contracts consideration should be given to the degree of day labour employed. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) did not understand what that meant. I remind him that what it means is simply this: Whether employees will be employed by that subcontractor or whether the sub-contractor himself will sub-contract to people who are really employees, a device being used to overcome that position. That device was recognised several years ago by the Parliament of New South Wales whereby such persons are deemed under the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales to be employees so that they will have the protection of awards and the industrial laws.
Another factor to be considered will be the policy to employ union labour as against nonunion labour. This is upholding the principle contained in section 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which deals with the relationship of the contractor with the trade union movement. Apparently something is seen by the Opposition to be terribly wrong about that. But again it is a question of overcoming this evasion of the legal responsibility - the evasion of statutory obligation. It is a question of the observance of awards and agreements. This is really a difficult problem, as any responsible employer in the industry will tell honourable members opposite if they have the good sense to go arid ask him. I do not expect honourable members opposite to accept what I say, but it will be completely verified by responsible employers in the building construction industry.
Another consideration in the letting of contracts is the quota of apprentices. Is there anything wrong with this? This is one of the greatest problems confronting the construction industry. The use of sub-contractors and the elimination of apprentices will mean that in 5 years time this industry will be on the point of collapse because there will be no skilled or trained tradesmen. What did the previous Government do about this? The answer is nothing. The Opposition wants to stop this Government by the use of cheap, miserable political propaganda, from attacking what is a grave national issue. It is in the interests of the people of this country to ensure that there are young men trained in this important industry and that there will be skilled labour in it. The previous Government allowed by its neglect a system to develop which would deprive the industry of trained people.
As to the. rest of the propositions set out in the Minister’s statement, clearly they are related to the observance of industrial statutes and the observance of awards and agreements made under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It will not be this Government’s action which will undermine conciliation and arbitration in this country. It will be the stupidity and irresponsibility of the Opposition which will undermine public confidence in conciliation and arbitration proceedings, and for that the Opposition will take responsibility. I ask the House to reject the arguments of the Opposition as being irresponsible and the result of incredible and, I am afraid, invincible ignorance.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 28th February (vide page SO), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would .’ike to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill, the Interim Forces Benefits Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 5 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 5 measures? As there is no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition will not oppose the provisions of the repatriation Bills. I personally would not oppose any benefits proposed for repatriation pensioners. I do not think that the benefits contained in the Bills are over generous. I hope that the Government agrees with me and that a review will take place automatically in the near future. I have studied repatriation matters quite closely. Unfortunately, the memories of people, and governments are far too short when it comes to remembering those people who went to wars and returned physically or mentally handicapped. I refer to the totally and permanently incapacitated and others with highly classified disabilities.
The Second World War has been over for some 27 years and the First World War has been over for 53 years. There are many people still suffering as a result of war injuries who have been suffering for all that period of time. I feel that our memories are far too short in this regard. If the benefits were doubled they would still be far from adequate compensation for those people who suffer. One notices how seldom they complain. It appears that those who suffer most complain the least. It seems to me to be very wrong that organisations such as the Returned Services League, the prisoners of war associations and the disabled soldiers associations have to battle constantly to obtain greater benefits for their members who are incapacitated. As I have mentioned in this House over the years, we should be realistic and honest about this matter. It is the Government’s responsibility. Governments should recognise the great debt that this country owes to these men. Without the servicemen who were prepared to do their job at a time of need we may not have been enjoying the life of freedom we enjoy today.
I realise that the benefits and the pensions payable to ex-servicemen are tax free and that there are other allowances and concessions, but I think that still more could be done. I realise also that the amount of benefits provided is governed by what a country can afford, but it would be wonderful if we could give these people what we think they justly deserve. The increase in the intermediate rate war pension is very welcome to me and to other honourable members on this side of the House. Life is not easy for people who are handicapped to such an extent that they can work only part time. This increase and the increase in the general rate war pension will be of assistance. I believe that the level of 50 per cent of the minimum wage which is aimed at by the Government should be raised to 75 per cent because, in many instances, as the ex-serviceman grows older his disabilities become aggravated or others manifest themselves. Most honourable members who have experience of repatriation cases will know that. An increase to 75 per cent of the minimum wage would give these people a certain measure of financial protection and assistance. I know that there is an avenue of appeal to cover this contingency but I have reservations about the appeal system as it is. It could be reviewed. That matter is not relevant to these Bills and I will have more to submit on it at a later date.
I was pleased to see that the war widows have not been forgotten in these Bills. I doubt whether many people realise what a great number of these women went through prior to the deaths of their husbands. I know of 3 or 4 instances which bring this matter very close to me. Many of these women have nursed their husbands for years before their husbands died. Their social life was nonexistent. In fact their way of living was completely restricted because they were dedicated to comforting and looking after their handicapped husbands. Mention was made in the second reading speech of the removal of certain disadvantages suffered by dependants of ex-servicemen. I point specifically to that portion that allows dependants to have legal representation on appeals after a claimant dies.
This is an excellent move and is to be commended. I have no quarrel with the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill or the Interim Forces Benefits Bill. Benefits such as those contained in the Bills are always welcome.
I must commend the Government for including in the range of benefits, benefits for members of the Australian merchant navy and the widows of members who have died as a result of service. Again we tend to forget that these men did a tremendous job, often with no means of defending themselves or without escorts for protection. Australia owes a lot to these men. Let me refer to a matter which has irritated me for years, and that is. the matter of repatriation funeral benefits. The Government has now grasped the nettle and raised the benefits from $50 to $100. I know that this money is to go towards the cost of funerals, but many families prior to the death of the member have been existing on pensions without any other income. Normal funeral costs are between $200 and $300. In many instances dependants have to borrow money to pay the funeral director. In some cases their local sub-branch of the RSL helps towards the cost. Such an imposition should not be placed on these people. I do not care whether there is a means test on this benefit. I feel that more should be done for those dependants who do not have the ready money to pay for the funeral of the ex-serviceman. Such men were prepared to go away and fight, and possibly to die. I think that we who are living in freedom should be prepared to assist their dependants by being generous with the benefits wherever we can and whenever it is necessary. The Opposition does not wish to delay unnecessarily the passage of these Bills.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) say that the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Bills. From the way he spoke, it could well be that, in another 20 or 30 years when the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party may return to government, he will be the Minister for Repatriation. I intend to address my remarks in this debate more particularly to the Bill to amend the Repatriation Act, the main purpose of which is to provide increases in repatriation pensions. I do not wish to exhaust all of the time that is at my disposal for the simple reason that, as with the Social
Services Bill which was debated yesterday, we are keen to see this Bill disposed of as quickly as possible in order to permit the recipients to have the very earliest opportunity of enjoying the improved benefits that the Bill will provide.
The increases to these repatriation pensions proposed by the Bill, like those provided in the Social Services Bill, are to be paid retrospective to the first pay day following 2nd December last year, which was the date of the election. That pay day, I understand, will occur on 7th December. This of course means that the difference between the amount which recipients have received under the existing Act since 7th December and the amount to be provided by this Bill will be paid to recipients as a lump sum, either at the time the first full increased pension is paid or shortly afterwards. Whenever that time will be will depend upon how long it is before this Bill is passed through both Houses of Parliament. I certainly hope it will not be beyond the end of this month or very early in the next month. However, whenever that should be, the recipients can look forward to a cheque for back payment, something which they had no chance of ever receiving from the previous Government which was always completely opposed to paying benefits retrospectively.
The amendments to the Act proposed by the Bill before the House will implement to a large extent the policies outlined by the Australian Labor Party during the election campaign in relation to repatriation pensions and eligibility for pensions. That policy received the unqualified support of the Returned Services League and, of course, the ballot box showed in no uncertain manner that it also had the approval of the general public. Again, the Government has taken the earliest opportunity of introducing the relevant amendments to the Act. Before proceeding to a brief outline of the improved benefits which are now proposed I should point out that the Government, by way of regulation, has already approved an increase of $50 to a total amount of $100 as the funeral benefit payable upon the death of an ex-serviceman who is qualified to receive such entitlement. While I do not suggest for a moment that the benefit of $100 is sufficient to meet the total cost of burial, it will nevertheless go a long way towards that end and is certainly a substantial - in fact, a 100 per cent - increase on the amount which applied previously.
With regard to other proposed increases, the House will note that they include an increase of $3.10 a week in the special or totally and permanently incapacitated pension which will bring that pension up to $51.10 a week. This is no more than it should be when one remembers that the TPI rate is paid only to men or women who are totally and permanently incapacitated as the result of a condition which has been accepted as having resulted from a war injury or a condition due to war service. We have come to the conclusion that the pension, or rather more correctly, I believe, the compensation paid to such persons should be not less than the Commonwealth minimum wage and we therefore have arrived at the amount of $51.10. Incidentally, I point out that the $51.10 is not taxable, and therefore it has a greater value than the minimum wage which is subject to tax.
I believe that we should always regard such payments as being compensation rather than pension because, after all, the injuries or conditions were initially sustained during or as a result of his or her activities during a conflict, a war being fought to protect our country and the people against an enemy from without. This is a very much different situation from that of normal social service pensioners. I would indeed be surprised if any responsible and fair person would argue against such people being properly compensated for their losses in physical, mental or other condition.
I suppose most if not all honourable members have read that publication titled ‘Be In It Mate’ and have also seen other articles in which the writers have claimed that there are large numbers of returned soldiers receiving pensions to which they are not properly entitled. This may be so to a very minor extent. There may be an odd one whose condition or injury has been wrongly diagnosed as being war caused. Certainly, I am not competent to say whether this is correct but, after all, it must be remembered that it is not the soldier who makes the diagnosis; he only makes the application. I would say that any ex-serviceman or ex-servicewoman whose condition is such as to make that person believe, even if only in a remote way, that it is due to war service, has every right to lodge an application for recognition of that condition. He or she also has the right to lodge an appeal if the application is rejected. That right must never be taken away. In addition, applications must always be regarded as being genuine.
As far as I am concerned, the soldier or ex-soldier should always be given the benefit of any doubt in relation to whether his condition is war caused, and I would hope that all doctors and members of the Repatriation Board would always adopt a similar view. I believe this benefit of doubt should apply par.ticuarly in the case of cancer. It could be that, in some cases, the doctor can say definitely that a carcinoma is in no way related to a man’s war service, but there appear to be large numbers of cases - some have come to my notice - in which the doctors cannot be certain of the cause, particularly where the growth is internal. With cancer, as far as I know, it is absolutely impossible for the sufferer himself unless he is a doctor, and not even then in the majority of cases, to provide any definite evidence to prove its cause. I do not know whether any survey has been undertaken to ascertain, for instance, the incidence of lung cancer among returned soldiers as against civilians but whether it has or not, I would expect such a survey to show some interesting results. Just because a doctor is uncertain of its cause and because the sufferer cannot produce any evidence other than his war service to remove that doubt, it should not be sufficient in my mind for the application to be rejected out of hand. As I see it, an applicant is entitled to know exactly why his claim has been rejected. He should be told that his claim has been rejected because his condition was caused by this or that and not by his war service. Just to say that it is not due to war service is not sufficient.
It is always a matter of concern to me when I hear that an application has been rejected. I am always concerned that perhaps the applicant or his advocate was not able to present the case as well as it could have been presented, and that perhaps some particular matter or incident which could have made a material difference was either overlooked or not sufficiently argued. As a result of this Bill an applicant, except a widow, is not permitted to have as his or her advocate a person who is qualified in legal practice. While I appreciate that this provision could have been included to protect applicants against high legal costs, I believe it should not be so rigid as it is. For instance, as I understand it, the wording of the Act prohibits a member of Parliament who is legally qualified from appearing on behalf of a constituent. If he is not legally qualified he can appear. I believe it is wrong to draw that distinction. After all, the member of Parliament or senator with legal qualifications no doubt played a substantial part in drawing up the Act and is well aware of its intentions. Certainly, in many ways, he would be better qualified to present a case than the ordinary layman. It seems strange to me that our returned soldiers or their widows should be denied that qualification when it is available from their local member. I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) on the amendment relating to widows which is contained in this Bill.
As the Act now stands, any application for a Service pension dies with the applicant and, as a result, several weeks payment of pension which should have been available to the deceased before his death is not paid into the estate of the deceased or to a dependant or to anyone else. I am pleased that the Bill before the House will correct that anomaly or, rather, injustice. I had an experience in this respect a short time ago where a returned soldier had applied for a Service pension on the grounds of being permanently unemployable. The application had been in the hands of the Department for approximately one month but, due to some delay in obtaining a doctor’s certificate in relation to the applicant’s condition, it had not been finally processed prior to the death of the applicant. The Department ruled that the application died with the applicant and the case was closed. I took the matter as high as was possible within the Department without success even though, as I pointed out, had the application been made to the Department of Social Services for an invalid pension, the payments would have been made. Finally I raised it with the Deputy Leader of the Labor Government subsequent to the Federal election, and I am pleased to say that he did not hesitate in arranging to ensure that the payments which would have been made but for the applicant’s death be paid into the estate. This is further evidence of the prompt attention that one can expect from Labor Ministers. I would like to place on record my appreciation of the Minister for Defence, who is sitting at the table, for the action he took, and I am sure that the widow also would like me to place on record her gratitude in that respect.
One of the serious effects of the delay in processing the application to which I just referred was that certain medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits to which the deceased would have been entitled were denied and the widow subsequently was faced with rather substantial accounts that should have been the responsibility of either the Repatriation Department or the Department of Health. It seems to be a completely unjust situation that people should have been subjected to this type of treatment when obviously it resulted from an oversight in the Act. I am pleased that as a result of the election of a Labor Government this undesirable feature of the legislation is being removed.
The Bill before the House will also extend the right of pensions or allowances to certain dependants of ex-servicemen who previously were not included in the Act, even though such people were accepted as dependants under the Social Services Act. I refer to de facto wives and widows who have lived continuously with ex-servicemen on a bona fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status or the member’s death as the case may be. As I have just said, those people are recognised under the Social Services Act and there can be no reason why the same recognition should not be given in the Repatriation Act. As from the royal assent to this Bill they will be recognised, and properly so.
The Bill proposes also to increase the intermediate rate of pension by $2.55 to a total of $34 a week. The maximum general rate will be increased by $2 a week. The war widow’s pension will be increased by $1.50 to a total of $21.50. The Bill also extends the rights in relation to student children engaged in full time education. Service pensions will be increased to $21.50 a week for unmarried pensioners to a total of $37.50 for married couples. As I said at the beginning, we do not wish unnecessarily to delay the passing of this Bill. Therefore I do not intend to say anything more except that, like the Social Services Bill, this Bill also clearly indicates our indication of pressing ahead with the promises that we have made. It further shows our intention of ensuring that the whole of the Australian community and not just a small portion of it can look to the future with confidence. The Bill deserves the full support of this House.
– We in the Opposition are feeling very benevolent this afternoon, because we support this Bill. I am pleased to see that the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Barnard) is present in the chamber, as I know something of his background and the long hours of work he has put in to help repatriation pensioners. The Bill currently before the House is designed to give legislative effect to proposals relating to improvements in pension rates and conditions of eligibility. I support the view that the special or TPI rate payable to a man or woman who has been classified as totally and permanently incapacitated because of war related incapacity should not be less than the adult Commonwealth minimum wage. The Bill provides for an increase of S3. 10 a week in the special or TPI rate, taking it from $48 a week to $51.10 a week. The special rate is also payable to certain tuberculosis sufferers, to the blind, to those suffering from the more serious double amputations and to those who are classified as being temporarily totally incapacitated. In this category there are 21,104 pensioners. Quite recently, because of the means test, TPI wives who were previously on age pensions had their medical entitlement cards taken away from them. I suggest that the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation have a look at this situation with a view to restoring those medical entitlement cards.
The intermediate rate is one of the different rates of war pension designed to cater for the various degrees of war related incapacity. It is payable to those whose incapacity permits them to work only part time or intermittently and will be increased by $2.25 a week, taking it from $34 a week to $36.55 a week. In this category there are 1,900 pensioners. I support the view that the general rate of war pension should be progressively increased until it has reached the equivalent of 50 per cent nf the adult Commonwealth minimum wage and that it should be maintained at that level. Over 190,000 ex-servicemen receive a war pension within the general rate scale, from 100 per cent down to 10 per cent. This Bill provides an increase of $2 a week to the 100 per cent rate, taking the maximum of this pension from $14 to $16 a week. The general rate presently scales down, as I have said, from 100 per cent to 10 per cent according to the assessed degree of incapacity. All general rate war pensioners will benefit from this increase. There are 190,880 general rate war pensioners. The Opposition as well as the Government is acutely aware of the loss endured by the nation’s war widows and the difficulties they have faced and are still facing in their daily lives without the assistance, comfort and sup port of the breadwinner. The Bill increases the basic war widow’s pension by $1.50 a week, taking it from $20 to $21.50 a week, affecting some 50,500 widows. Additionally, most war widows are eligible for a domestic allowance of $8.50 a week and many may also qualify for a means test pension.
The Opposition supports the policy of war pensions for student children as provided in the Bill and agrees that they should be continued until completion of the full time education of dependent children who are not receiving a maintenance, living allowance or salary from Commonwealth sources that equals or exceeds the allowance payable under the Repatriation Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. The Bill also provides that a child of a service pensioner be recognised for service pension purposes, irrespective of age, for as long as the child continues to undertake full time education.
Those who suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis, or who have served in a theatre of war and are over 60 years of age in the case of men or 55 years of age in the case of women, or permanently unemployable, qualify for a service pension if they satisfy the existing means test. The proposed increases in age and invalid pensions will, under the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1972, apply automatically to service pensions, and there is no necessity to amend the Act to increase immediately means test pensions by $1.50 a week. The increase will take the maximum service pension to $21.50 a week for a single ex-serviceman and up to $18.75 for a married ex-serviceman or an eligible wife.
Several points have been raised by the Minister, and I think some of them are worthy of repeating. In the repatriation legislation as it stands there are certain dependants of ex-servicemen who suffer disadvantages, and the opportunity has now been taken to remove these disadvantages. First, where a claimant for a pension dies after decision on his application has been given by the Repatriation Commission, his legal representative has not been permitted to lodge and prosecute an appeal with an entitlement appeal tribunal or an assessment appeal tribunal. A legal personal representative should be allowed this right, and this is the purpose of clause 5 of the Bill, as the Minister stated. Like the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) I support that wholeheartedly. It should be borne in mind however that action taken under this new provision will be subject to other provisions of the Act that govern and place tune limits on claims and appeals procedures generally. For example, a decision on an appeals tribunal cannot be expressed to operate from a date earlier than 3 months before the date on which the claim for pension was lodged. In certain other limited cases the decision can have effect from a date not earlier than 4 years before the date of decision or determination. There is also a time limit for the lodgment of appeals with an assessment appeal tribunal.
Secondly, where an ex-serviceman lodges an application for service pension but dies before a decision is given, the claim lapses and no pension is payable to his estate in respect of the period up to death, in spite of the fact that, had he lived, the pension would have been paid as from the date of application. Under the Social Services Act payment of arrears of pension can be made in the circumstances described. The Bill currently before the House inserts in the principal Act a provision similar to that which is in the Social Services Act.
Thirdly, at present some de facto wives and some ex-nuptial children are recognised under repatriation legislation. Other Commonwealth Acts, such as the Compensation (Commonwealth Employment) Act, the Social Services Act and the National Health Act recognise additional categories of these dependants. The Bill, therefore, embodies proposals to recognise for war pensions and associated benefits a de facto wife or widow who has lived with an ex-serviceman on a bona fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status, or the member’s death, as the case may be, if she is or was wholly or partly dependent on him, and any ex-nuptial child of an ex-serviceman. The Bill also recognises for service pension purposes a de facto wife who has lived with an exserviceman on a bona fide domestic basis for at least 3 years preceding consideration of her status and any ex-nuptial child, foster child or ward in the custody, care and control of an ex-serviceman.
I congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), for seeing that this area of anomaly between the Department of Social Security and the Repatriation Department has been straightened out. Where dual means test pensions are already being paid no pension will be reduced but only one department will give effect to the proposals and the other will continue its pension at the current rate. I should like the Minister to explain further the situation. I am not quite sure what is involved. The dual means test pension which may presently be received under the Repatriation Act and Social Services Act are those payable to the widow or deserted wife of a service pensioner - such a widow or wife can continue to receive her repatriation service pension at the same time as she is receiving a civilian widow’s pension under the Social Services Act - and a service pensioner suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Such a pensioner can also receive, at the same time, an age or invalid pension under the Social Services Act.
The Bill provides that a service pension now payable to a widow or deserted wife of a service pensioner will not be increased on this or any future occasion. I should like the Minister to explain this provision further. Service pensions payable to persons suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis will be increased under the general provisions relating to service pensions. In future any person who has an eligibility for means test pension under both the Repatriation Act and the Social Services Act will have to elect to receive a pension under one or the other. I support this provision.
Another anomaly which existed in the Repatriation Act prevented a person, otherwise eligible for service pension as an exservicewoman, receiving it if she received a war widow’s pension. Such an ex-servicewoman will now become eligible for a service pension even though receiving a war widow’s pension. A war widow currently in receipt of an age or invalid pension in addition to her war pension may, if she is eligible for a service pension and so wishes, transfer to the Repatriation Department and receive her full entitlement under the Repatriation Act. I congratulate the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation on introducing this legislation. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– As this is my first speech in the new Parliament I take this opportunity of congratulating the Speaker and you, Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Scholes), on your elevation to your new positions. I trust that you both will give long service in these posts in the Parliament. The House is debating cognately 5 Bills which implement the election promises of the Government. They provide for pension increases in line with increases granted to social security pensioners. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) referred to the gazetted increase in funeral benefits from $50 to $100 for war pension exservicemen. The Government recognises that a man or woman who served Australia and has been permanently incapacitated because of such service should not receive less than the Commonwealth adult minimum wage. Honourable members can think of instances - fortunately there are not as many as there might have been - of young national servicemen who have been sent to Vietnam and who have returned to face life as totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. The least Australia, which was responsible for sending these men to Vietnam and at whose bidding they served, can do is to recognise that they should not receive as a pension less than the Commonwealth adult minimum wage. For this reason the TPI rate has been increased by $3.10 a week - from $48 to $51.10. The intermediate rate has been increased by $2.55 a week to $36.55. I understand this will affect some 1,800 pensioners. The war widow’s pension is being increased by $1.50 a week to $21.50. This will affect some 50,500 widows, according to the Minister for Defence. Student children are being recognised as dependants, similarly to the children of persons who are the recipients of social security benefits. It has been a matter of concern to many parents in receipt of sickness or unemployment benefits that student children over the age of 16 years have not been regarded as dependants. Provision will be made for a payment until such time as the child either completes his studies or is able to obtain a position. Children will be recognised as dependants of -war pensioners as are the children of recipients of social security benefits. This will be of great assistance to the war pensioners.
The Government has acted swiftly in recognising de facto wives and ex-nuptial children. I can recall a particularly sad case involving a constituent of mine who was entitled to a service pension. There was no doubt about this. During his service overseas his wife left him. He did not know where, his wife was but he knew she was around somewhere. He could not afford a divorce. Eventually he set up a relationship with a woman and lived with her for 23 years. They reared 6 children. At the time he was speaking to me 2 of the children were still dependent upon him. He was advised that he was elig ible for a single pension only. In his first application to the Department he was advised that because he was receiving an income of $47.40 a week, which was in excess of the amount allowed for a single man, he was not eligible for a Service pension. He had then just turned 60 years of age. When I saw him about 14 months later he was riding a bicycle 8 miles to and from work. I can tell honourable members that he did not carry any excess fat. He had to continue to work for $47.40, or whatever the wage was at that time, to support his de facto wife and his dependent children.
He certainly could not live on the single Service pension and this was having an effect upon his general health. I referred the matter to the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), who was then Minister for Repatriation, and he confirmed the opinion given by the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Queensland. The Minister wrote to me and said that as this gentleman’s de facto wife and dependent children were not eligible for consideration under the Repatriation Act any application for a Service pension he may lodge must be assessed on the basis that he was a single man. The Minister said, however, that if he married his de facto wife or legally adopted his children consideration would be given to granting him a Service pension and the assocated benefits. The Minister regretted that there was no better news to convey. This man was caught in a real scissors. The Department would not recognise his children and he was ineligible for a single pension. Because he was recognised as a single pensioner the amount of money he could earn outside the pension was restricted. I am very pleased to see this sort of anomaly cleared up in regard to repatriation and social service pensions.
One of the cruellest things I have seen is ex-nuptial children not being recognised by the former Department of Social Services. I know that some recognition was . given to this matter during the period when the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was Minister for Social Services. It was agreed that the Commonwealth pay money to the States, to be allocated through the child welfare departments to provide some assistance to women with children born Outside marriage. These children would not normally be recognised as dependants. Even though this assistance was given, a distinction was still being made between members of a family. I know a case of a widow who had 3 children. Some time after her husband died she struck up a relationship and was left with a baby. This child was not considered in any circumstances to be a dependant. The woman had to make separate application to the Queensland Department of Children’s Services to receive money for the child. The whole family was being penalised. I consider this to be totally wrong and I am very pleased to see that this differentiation is not to be continued by either the Repatriation Department or the Department of Social Security.
As the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) has said, it is regrettable that some increases in pensions have resulted in wives, TPI pensioners and others being excluded from their medical benefits. In some cases they have been asked to return their medical entitlement cards. I hope that the negotiations between the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and the Australian Medical Association may achieve some means by which these people can receive their entitlement. If the only answer is national insurance, the sooner it comes into effect the better it will be for those people who have this constant worry of having either to insure against sickness or take the chance of paying large bills for treatment, except in those States which have a free medical and hospital scheme. I commend the measures to the House and congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who represents him in this chamber on introducing this legislation at such an early stage in this new Government.
– I wish to take this opportunity, if the House will permit me, to record officially in Hansard some words of appreciation to various groups for the assistance and co-operation which they extended to me during the 3 years when I was Minister for Repatriation in the last Government. This is the first opportunity I have had to do this. If I fail to record my appreciation for some body or some group, it will not be intentional. First of all I wish to record my appreciation to all officers of the Repatriation Department and particularly those people with whom I had the closest association. Summing it up very briefly, I should like to thank those officers for their willingness to work long hours. Their ability was outstanding. I wish also to express my thanks to the various organisations of exservicemen and women whose members put in a tremendous amount of honorary time and work to help fight the cause of their fellow ex-servicemen and women. The organisations and I did not always agree and the Government did not always meet their requests, but always there existed a spirit of courtesy between us at our various meetings. I was most appreciative of this.
The Australian Country Party will support the passage of these Bills through the House. There is no doubt that the provisions contained in the Bills do offer deserving sections of the clients of the Repatriation Department further assistance. This assistance has no doubt been welcomed by those people who will receive the benefits. Although there are some shortcomings in the Repatriation Bill, some improvements have been proposed. No doubt the people in receipt of increased payments will be very delighted - I shall deal with that matter in detail later - but their feelings of pleasure could easily be dampened by the overall effect on costs, prices and general productivity caused by the Labor Government’s welfare state policies. The extra $21m to be paid out by the taxpayers in a full year - this is in effect what this Bill means - cannot be looked at in isolation. It must be viewed in a total budgetary situation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I had expressed appreciation to certain people who had been of assistance to me during my 3 years as Minister for Repatriation. I had said that the Country Party will support the passage of this Bill and that the recipients of the extra benefits announced in this Bill will be very happy to receive those benefits. But I had also issued a warning to them that the extra $21m payout under the provisions of this Bill must not be viewed in isolation; it must be viewed in a total budgetary context. The funds to provide these increased benefits must come from the taxpayer. Only time will tell what effect the increased expenditure will have. Then some of the recipients of the extra benefits might not be so happy because of taxation measures necessary to provide these benefits.
All the people who will receive these benefits are ex-servicemen or ex-servicewomen. Of course, they are concerned not only about the welfare policies of the Labor Government but also about its defence and security policies. These people fought side by side with others who paid the supreme sacrifice. They fought alongside soldiers from not only Australia but also from the United States of America, our great ally which senior Ministers in the Labor Government, in their short time in office, already have insulted in a very degrading manner. The ex-servicemen and exservicewomen of Australia should be concerned about that also. The other point I should like to make in this respect is that surely anxiety will be expressed by the Returned Services League and the other exservice organisations which are so concerned about repatriation matters, that there is not a compulsory security check or clearance on any member of the staff of the Labor Government Ministers. This seems to me to be a very dangerous gap in our security requirements. But the Bill does not relate to that matter directly; it is about extra repatriation benefits. However, security concerns the RSL and the ex-service organisations which will receive the extra benefits in certain forms. Their members fought for the security of Australia. A lot of people, not only from Australia, I repeat, but also from the United States of America, paid dearly for our security. Everyone in this House should realise that but for the United States we would not be here.
One of the first matters mentioned in the Bill is the increase in the rate for funeral benefits. This is a welcome increase. The total amount provided is nowhere near the cost of a funeral. The benefit is increased from $50 to $100. This increase will not remove the burden on some RSL clubs which must find the finance to give their comrades a decent burial. The proposed increase will assist particularly in country areas where RSL clubs must meet high funeral charges. The increase will provide some assistance in meeting those costs.
I note that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) in this House, in his evidence to the independent inquiry into repatriation conducted by Mr Justice Toose, said that he thought that the proposal by the RSL for a funeral benefit of $200 was reasonable. It will be interesting to see whether the Labor Government eventually increases this benefit from $100 to $200. The Country Party hopes to see further increases in the funeral benefit until it reaches a figure approximating the actual cost of a funeral. One way of tackling this problem may be to apply a stricter means test on the people who qualify for this benefit.
As a former Minister for Repatriation viewing this Bill, I must confess to some feeling of envy of the present Minister for Repatriation who, as a member of a government which apparently places no limit on the amount of money which it is prepared to spend, has a much less onerous task. The previous Government’s action in respect of repatriation matters gave the Labor Party a good base on which to build. In the last 3 years expenditure by the Repatriation Department increased from $3 17m to $4 18m. That is an increase of $101m in 3 years. That was not a bad effort by the previous Liberal Party-Country Party Government. It gave the new Government a good start in this field. Even though, Mr Speaker, you cannot please everybody - all of us in this game know that - it was still a pretty good effort to increase the expenditure by that amount in 3 years.
This Government is spending money as though money was going, out of fashion. On very few occasions we have read in the Press of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) making small noises about Government spending. But it has been obvious to any thinking person that the Treasurer and his advisers are being ignored with complete irresponsibility by the Government. The result and effect of this irresponsibility, I say to the Australian people, will not be apparent for some time. But I am sure that the Australian people will come to realise eventually that there is certainly a wide and undesirable gap between the previous Liberal Party-Country Party Government and the present Labor Government in relation to adopting a responsible attitude towards overall financial policies.
The policy speech delivered by the then Leader of the Opposition in the recent Federal election campaign stated that a Labor Government would be prepared to take the financial aspects of welfare out of budgetary considerations.
– Hear, hear!
– Hear, hear! As I said, in my remarks on the Social Services Bill, how can any responsible person ignore approximately one-fifth of the total expenditure of the Australian Budget - that is nearly $2,000m - when compiling a Budget? How can 20 per cent of the total Budget be ignored? This money has to be found from revenue, from the Australian taxpayers. It is a completely irresponsible and even dishonest approach for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to claim that his Government will ignore the financial considerations of welfare provisions in the national Budget.
The cost of the proposed repatriation benefits now before the House must be taken into consideration when formulating the 1973-74 Budget. Without any further alterations to repatriation benefits, salaries or associated expenses, the payout, after making these proposed benefit increases, for a full year will be $440m in round figures. The section of the Labor Party’s policy speech in relation to repatriation is short and ambiguous. Ambiguity, of course, is the common denominator of much of the 47-page speech containing .at least 91 promises made by the then Leader of the Opposition. He made 91 promises including one in relation to repatriation which I will quote in a moment. Fewer than 10 of these 91 promises could be costed with some semblance of accuracy. As far as I am aware, since the election and particularly since the Parliament resumed, the Australian public or this Parliament have not been told of the total cost of the promises made in the 47 pages of the policy speech. Page 18 of the policy speech of the Prime Minister outlines the repatriation undertakings. It states that there will be a fixed relationship between the Commonealth minimum wage and the TPI pension and that the general rate pension will equal SO per cent of the minimium wage and other pension rates and allowances will be adjusted proportionately. This Bill deals with the TPI and the general rate to a certain extent but it omits at least SO pension rates and allowances payable under the Repatriation Act. They have not been adjusted proportionately, although that was the apparent undertaking in the policy speech.
Time will not permit me to deal with all the ramifications of this policy but let me say to the House and to the Australian people that if this promise in the. policy speech of the Prime Minister is carried out, if the TPI pension is made to equal the Commonwealth minimum wage and if the Commonwealth minimum wage goes to $65, something which this Government will support, the extra payout for the TPI pension will be approximately $14m a year. That is to say, if the minimum wage rises from $51.10 to $65 the Government will be faced with an extra payout of $14m a year for TPI pensions. Further if the minimum wage is increased to $65 and the general rate, pension is increased to 50 per cent of that figure this will mean an extra $16 a week, in round figures. The general rate pension is now $16. For every $1 increase that is granted the total cost of general rate pensions will go up by about $4m.
– .Who worked all that out?
– I did. I worked it out myself.
– I would not believe it.
– That is why it is so correct and you do not like it. The extra cost to the nation of an increase of $16 in the. general rate pension will be $64m a year. If the minimum wage goes to $65, and without any other changes being made, in just 2 areas of repatriation the taxpayers will be faced with the payment of an extra $78m a year.
– You are always asking where the finance is to come from.
– The Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) is interjecting about finance. It is easy to see what his Party thinks of his views on finance. When it revalued the Australian dollar it never even rang him up, let alone had a meeting with him. So he would be well advised not to say too much about finance. There are 50 allowances, in round figures, that have not been adjusted by this Bill and one of the most important of these is the war widow’s domestic allowance. I am appalled to think that the Government could spend this extra $21m and give the war widows only a flat increase of $1.50 a week. It should have also increased the domestic allowance; this was the policy of the previous Government.
The Australian Country Party certainly supports this Bill for it contains some changes that are most persuasive and perhaps should have been introduced before. That is fair enough comment. But the new Ministers will find that they cannot always get their own way in Cabinet. Some Ministers are not even called into Cabinet to discuss matters of concern to them. They will not always get their own way in Cabinet; I can assure them of that. Whilst the Country Party supports the overall provisions of the Bill there are some aspects of Labor’s policy which need to be cleared up and one is that section of the Labor Party’s policy speech dealing with repatriation. This is vague in the extreme and I ask the Minister for Defence, who represents the Minister for Repatriation, to arrange for a clear and detailed statement to be made on the future rates of pensions and other allowances that are referred to in this section of the policy speech. I would like a clear and detailed statement so that some informed analysis and discussion of the meaning of that part of the policy speech can take place. The Country Party will carefully watch the results of these proposals. I will continue to press for clarification of the repatriation section of the policy speech and will be most interested to watch the changes in the expenditure of the Repatriation Department as the Labor Party’s policies are implemented.
– The speech of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) was a typical whingeing speech of a member of the Australian Country Party. Under the old Administration all that they could whinge about were floods and droughts but now there is also this Government’s policy. The honourable member was consistent. He spent half of his time saying that he wanted more money given to the Repatriation Department and the provision of greater benefits but at the same time asked where the money would come from. I rise partly to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) on the legislation that has been introduced as part of the Government’s general legislative programme for social security in respect of repatriation and other pensioners and partly to raise one particular case for the attention of the Minister. I have already written to the Minister who, of course, is in another place, but I hope that what I raise in the House today also will be drawn to his attention. I refer to a sergeant in the Royal Australian Air Force, the son of one of my constituents, who was stationed in Malaysia last year. On 29th October 1972 at Butterworth in Malaysia he was allegedly assaulted by a number of British servicemen. During the assault the sergeant was kicked in the head at least once and possibly several times by one of the soldiers and suffered brain damage which is likely to be permanent. The
British soldier concerned has been charged with assault and will be tried by a British court martial. I will not go into that aspect. But what will now happen to the sergeant from the RAAF? It is apparently accepted all round that there was no provocation on the part of this sergeant. He was the innocent party in the assault. No final medical assessment has been made but the indications are that he will be grossly retarded and must be discharged from the RAAF as permanently medically unfit in due course.
One of the actions which this Government took very early in its administration last December was to make it possible for servicemen or their dependants to elect to take benefits under either the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act or the Repatriation Act. However, as this man was injured at the end of October 1972, some 5 weeks before the election, he is apparently not covered by the new provisions. The Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act was amended in 1971 to cover all servicemen stationed in Malaysia. I must admit that I cannot recall all the dicussion that took place on that occasion.
The Act stipulates that servicemen are covered only for injuries received while on duty. Therefore if a serviceman is on weekend leave he is not covered by the Commonwealth Employees Compensation. Act unless he is injured on the way to or from his barracks. This assault took place in the early hours of Sunday morning when he was on leave. Therefore he is not covered by the Act. I assume that he would have been covered by repatriation legislation if Butterworth had been in a war zone because he would have been on active service at the time. Because Butterworth does not come under that classification this serviceman is not covered under the Repatriation Act. As I have said, he does not seem to be covered by the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act.
It appears that he will be permanently unemployable when he is discharged from the RAAF. At present it appears that unless the Government makes a special decision to make its early December decision retrospective to late October 1972 - this would be a backdating of about 6 weeks - the only possible compensation that he will receive will be under a United Kingdom Act which deals with compensation for victims of crimes. I have taken steps to obtain a copy of this Act But it seems that the total amount involved in compensation from this source will be a maximum of Only about £Stg. 1,000. Obviously this amount will not cover this young man, who has a family, for the rest of his life. The RAAF has been very co-operative and its legal officers have done a lot of work for him. They have helped me in the preparation of the case. The RAAF apparently is prepared to keep this serviceman on for a period of 12 months because he was injured while on overseas service. But when this period expires on 29th October this year he will not be eligible for compensation or benefits under the Repatriation Act. I therefore ask the Minister to make retrospective the amendments to the Act which were proposed in December 1972 soon after the election of the new Government. This man, and his family, should receive some sort of compensation. After all, he would not have been in Butterworth and exposed to the risk of the assault which he suffered if he had not been serving in the Australian forces.
– It was not my intention to take part in this debate this afternoon. However, on a second glance through the second reading speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) I feel that there are one or two things I would like to say. First and foremost I think I can compliment the Minister for Defence, who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) in this chamber, on some of the moves that have been made in the legislation before us. Before the Minister closes the debate I would like him to give some explanation of the reasons why he has introduced certain measures. I think that most of us would go along with the proposed increase of $50 to $100 in the funeral grant. But I would like the Minister to give some thought to the means test which applies to the funeral benefit. As far as I can see from the experience I have had in this matter one has to be almost destitute before one can make a claim for this benefit. We know from experience that there are many widows who perhaps do not qualify for the funeral benefit as such but who literally have very little left over by the time they cover their expenses. So I think that more attention should be given to the means test so far as the $50 increase is concerned.
When speaking of means tests, one immediately thinks of the war widow and her pension. All sorts of increases have been granted in recent days under the Social Services Act in general rate pensions, the total and permanent incapacity pension and so forth. But for a long time I have maintained that the poor war widow is the one who is most deserving because she is the person who seems to have to battle pretty solidly. If a war widow is accepted as what we call a full .D —+, widow she is moderately well situated. But in the case of a husband dying from causes other than those due to war service in many instances the widow suffers great financial hardship.
The other matter which I would like the Minister to explain concerns what he said in his speech about raising the general rate of war pension to 50 per cent of the adult Commonwealth minimum wage. I have not had a chance to ascertain what the minimum wage is, but I think it is somewhere between $60 and $64 a week. So I take it that the goal of the Government at the present time is to raise the base rate of pension to about $30, which would be about 50 per cent of the minimum wage. The question I ask is:. If this is the case, why in the name of fortune has not the Government increased this pension more in keeping with its ultimate goal? At present the base rate is $14. The legislation before us will increase that rate to $16. I do not know when we are likely to see a further increase. But if we just continue to increase the pension at a rate of $2 a week I am absolutely certain that the present Government will be well and truly out of office before it ever reaches its goal, unless it makes a better effort to bring the figure closer to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. I hope that the Minister can give me some form of explanation. I want to know the reason why the Government has set a goal and then has made very little effort to get near that goal.
– The case raised by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) I think demonstrates the great examination of the whole of repatriation system for so many years and the inadequacy of this Parliament’s approach to the entire matter. We all have to accept some responsibility I suppose, but our predecessors in office have been the principal villains over the last 23 years at least. So far as I am concerned, when a person puts on a military uniform he accepts an absolute and unqualified commitment to the community. It may well be that people serve their time in barracks somewhere and they do not sail anywhere. But they are on call 24 hours a day for the term of their service. I believe that we should have adopted the approach which is now before us in regard to the whole repatriation system over the years. The question of demarcation, of where one served and when one served ought not to enter into a consideration of the matter when one is injured while a member of the Services. We did arrange for some changes in the Act for people who were committed to Vietnam. But it is still sad that people sent to such places as Butterworth, as in the case mentioned by the honourable member for Prospect, are excluded from the benefits of the Act. Probably the keynote of all such debates as this is the constant search by the Parliament on behalf of the community to find an answer to the question of what we do for people who took on service in the military forces in time of war and have suffered thereby.
The Schedule of the Act shows, I think, there there have been some 40 to 44 amendments to the Act over the 50-odd years since the Act was introduced. This demonstrates our constant search for means to improve the legislation. None of us on this side of the House are going to say that we have reached perfection on this measure. The legislation before us is a small step along the road to solving some of the problems that have always been there. I find that the most intriguing incident in the last few days in this Parliament is the speech of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), the former Minister for Repatriation. For 3 years those of us who served were the beneficiaries of his benevolence, and we can see what sort of benevolence it was. I thought the 2nd December was a great day of liberation for the people of Australia, and indeed it was. After hearing the honourable member’s speech today I believe that that date is even more significant for the repatriation beneficiaries than I had dreamed it was in the first place. The honourable member talked about the cost of repatriation benefits. He quoted figures. I did not jot them down. His arithmetic is probably fairly accurate. I think he said that the cost of raising the TPI pension to the limit that we have set ourselves or to the objective we have set ourselves would amount to $14m. He seemed to imply that this was a running financial scandal - about the cost of one F111 aircraft without the fuel to fly it. He mentioned the sum of$64m as another extravagance.
One wonders at times what comes over people opposite when they get round to such pettifogging nonsense in debates of this nature. We are discussing the end product - as far as humanity is concerned - of national exercises which cost prodigious sums in treasure, in money and in human suffering. In times of war we give no consideration whatsoever to what the cost will be. In times of peace that ought to be the consideration society gives to those who suffered for it. I believe that the speech of the honourable member for Indi demonstrated a total incapacity to understand what the social objectives of a modern democratic society were.
There was one irrelevancy to which he referred and I should reply to it as one of those people to whom, I suppose, be was referring. I hope the House will forgive me for replying to his irrelevancy and therefore running the risk of myself becoming irrelevant in this debate. The honourable member referred to security clearances for members of ministerial staffs. What on earth is all that about? I have never heard such utter drivel and nonsense in the 17 years I have been in this place. Who is clearing them for what? Nobody ever asked anybody who put on his infantryman’s uniform during the last war for a security clearance. Nobody will ask anybody on my staff for a security clearance either. I live in a country in which there has never been a traitor, in which basically loyalty is a part of the whole social structure. 1 believe it is a continuing insult to the whole community to suggest that any group of people needs security clearances. By whom is the clearing to be done? Before anybody would get my consent to do this I would want to run the rule over the clearers -
– What about–
– Look, we accept you as the honourable member for Ballaarat without let or hindrance. We run no rule over you and it is quite obvious that neither do the people of the electorate of Ballaarat. If it is good enough for this Parliament it is good enough for the rest of us. We have to take people on face value, as I do the honourable member for Ballaarat. It is my deep regret that the people with the spirit of Eureka are represented by such a conservative, reactionary character in this place. But he is a lovable character. As a socialist, of course, I love everybody although a lot of people need a good deal of correction.
This debate on repatriation benefits is another symbol of parliamentary search to give justice to the people who have served this country in war. None of those on this side of the House will say that the pension rate at $51.10 is adequate. It is still pretty poor recompense to a person who has been incapacitated for life. Many of these folk, of course, are now old. It is true that you may well be able to write articles in the newspapers and say: ‘But look at all the fringe benefits’. But look at what life may well have been like for them if they had never served. I recall the particularly poignant situation of the young men who have been totally incapacitated in Vietnam. They were conscripted into a war which most of them did not want to attend. They had their lives destroyed in a cause which could not be defended and having been conscripted into a lifetime of poverty they are finally going to live on these rather meagre allowances. I believe that we should continue this search to give justice to them. We will have to try to find more adequate recompense in these situations.
The objective of those on this side of the House is to raise the standard of living of those who live on community benefits to the standard that they would otherwise have had. We do not believe that there is any question of cost associated with this whatsoever. We have to adjust the rest of the community’s standard of living, taxation schedules and so on to meet it and that is why we are dealing with this legislation today. I have a deep sympathy for all those people who have suffered, including the soldiers’ widows and the soldiers’ children.
I rose this afternoon simply to place on record the continuing interest of those on this side of the .House in the whole matter of repatriation, though for the time being parlia.mentary duties place our interests otherwise. But there are still a few areas which we have to tackle. I believe that we have to do something about the tribunal procedures. My friend the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), who is the Deputy Prime Minister of this country, and myself have participated in innumerable debates in this place on this subject. I think we can give the House our guarantee that the whole system of repatria tion will be reviewed in the light of our past experience and the things that we have said in the past, but that will not happen overnight. I believe that the present repatriation procedures, designed as they have been to produce justice and administrative competence, have perhaps become concerned more with admin’istrative competence than with actual justice.
Another matter to be looked at is continued medical research. I raise in this House this afternoon the situation in which the people who have served in previous wars now find themselves. If honourable members turn to the schedules on war pensions set out in the report of the Repatriation Department and examine the number of people who have received pensions, at various times and compare those who have served in each of the wars in the last 10 or 15 years, they .will see that the closer We get to the present point in time the more chance an ex-serviceman has of obtaining satisfactory repatriation benefits. I turn in particular to those who served in the First World War. That war was. a tremendous assault on humanity. Anybody who served is entitled to some consideration. I believe we have given them meagre consideration in almost half a century or more since they first: served. If honourable members turn to the schedules they will find, I think, that the situation as it is outlined statistically proves that the later the war the more substantial are the repatriation benefits; To take figures from this report, we see that in 1945, 27 years after the First World War there were 70,000 incapacitated servicemen on pensions. But the First World War was disastrous in casualties. There were 58,000 killed and 254,000 wounded. In other words, the actual battle casualties numbered over 300,000. Yet 27. years, after the war some 70,000 had pensions.
Let us look at the figures for the Second World War, the one in which many members of this House participated. Twenty-seven years after that war- that was last year - 183,000 were on pensions of one sort or another. The total number of casualties in that war were 181,000. In other words there were more people receiving pensions than the actual number of battle casualties, during the Second World War if we exclude those who were killed in action. As a result of the Korean War there were 3,400 incapacitated servicemen receiving pensions in 1971-72. In that war according to the figures in this report there were 303 killed and 1,240 wounded which is a ratio of almost 3 to 1. Coming to the Vietnam war, there were 492 killed but we now have 4,800-odd in receipt of incapacity pensions, which is a ratio of about 10 to 1. I do not begrudge that at all. I believe that is probably the way it ought to go.
I hope that we will get round very shortly in the repatriation system to a close examination of those who served in the First and Second World Wars. I believe we ought to take a sample of people, say an infantry battalion, and run the rule over them as far as their medical condition is concerned and find out whether there is any significant difference between their current health and that of the rest of the community. All those people who write articles in the newspapers and books entitled ‘Be In It, Mate’ may say: ‘Ah but there is no significant difference statistically’. But of course when the ex-servicemen enlisted there was a substantial difference statistically because the people who went into, say, the infantry battalions had to be absolutely physically fit and much fitter than the rest of the community. I find amongst those people with whom I served a substantial and distressing number dying in their late forties and early fifties, at an age at which I believe they possibly would not be dying if they had not served. I have no medical evidence to support this. I hope that the Department of Repatriation will get round to some examination of that.
Another matter which we ought to get round to dealing with is an examination of the medical system of the Repatriation Department with a view to ascertaining whether the hospitals under its control could be widened in their scope to accept more people from the community. This would probably be an advantage to the medical service and to the Department itself. But I for one will do my best to preserve the integrity of the Department as a body which provides a social service to a particular group of people in this community no matter what assaults are carried out upon it by those who happen to make some money out of books or those who are dissatisfied because a neighbour down the road seems to be receiving a benefit to which they themselves are not entitled.
- Mr Speaker, 1 will not take up 60 seconds of the time of the House. 1 just want to point out to the House and to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) that members of the armed services stationed at Butterworth near Penang have mentioned to me lately that they feel that their welfare could be improved considerably if on humanitarian grounds the Government were to organise periodic charter flights so that the relations of those people who are up there for a long term could visit the serving personnel in those areas. I will say no more than that. I merely sow the seed and hope that in due course the Minister might treat it as a question on notice and look into the matter.
– in reply - A number of speakers have participated in this debate. Most of them offered some commendation for the Government’s movement on repatriation matters generally. It should be said at the outset that over the years I have spoken at great length in this House on repatriation matters. Clearly, honourable members opposite, who were then Government supporters, had some knowledge of my attitude and of the policy of my Party. That had been clearly spelt out. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) referred to the general rate of pension and said he was not sure what the figure should be but that the Government had not moved to increase it immediately to 50 per cent of the minimum wage paid in this country. Of course, the honourable member had not done his homework in this respect. 1 do not say that in any derogatory sense. Had he looked at the Bill and the second reading speech he would know that today the minimum wage is $51.10.
One of the promises that the Government made when it was in Opposition was that it would immediately increase the special rate of pension to the amount of the minimum wage paid to a worker in this country. That was made quite clear in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It is also a provision in my Party’s platform. So the Government moved immediately to increase the special rate of pension to the equivalent of the minimum wage paid in this country, lt should be pointed out that this was done immediately. There was no suggestion that any increases in repatriation benefits should be made immediately. We were dealing with a program for the next 3 years. Some of these matters may well have been left until the Budget session, But we did not do that. We moved immediately to increase the special rate of pension to the equivalent of the minimum wage.
A second promise was that we would increase the general rate of pension to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. That was to be the ultimate objective. Anyone who cares to read through Hansard will appreciate that it is beyond the financial capacity or ability of any government to restore immediately the general rate of pension to 50 per cent of the minimum wage as the result of one legislative action in this Parliament. It simply can not be done. The record of the previous Government made it difficult in this respect. The honourable member for Indi knows that there have been periods in the history of governments in this country when the general rate of pension has reached a level of 50 per cent of the men basic wage. We said that it ought to be restored to this level. The minimum wage today is $51.10. The honourable member for Indi destroyed his own argument by suggesting that he himself had worked out the figures. Of course, one could not accept that as being the ultimate cost to this country, but that is another question. I shall deal with it in a few moments.
On this occasion we increased the general rate of pension by $2 a week as an immediate step to reach what we propose should be the position in relation to the general rate of pension. One can compare that action with the record of the previous Government. Records and comparisons are not always satisfactory, but I made the point that it has been and will be difficult for this Government to reach that level because under the previous Government the general rate of pension was increased in 1964 to $12 a week and it remained unchanged until 1972 - at the time of the last Budget of the previous Government. For 8 years the previous Government made no change in the general rate of pension and in 1972, as the result of the pressures that had been applied to it, that Government increased it by $2 to $14 a week. That Government had a record of leaving a particular rate of pension under the Repatriation Act unchanged for 8 years. I had spoken about this when I had the responsibility, on behalf of my Party, for repatriation matters in this Parliament. I had drawn attention to the fact that the previous Government had refused to increase the general rate of pensions.
The present Government said that it would increase the general rate of pension to at least 50 per cent of the minimum wage. No-one suggested at any time, my Party’s platform does not suggest and the Prime Minister did not indicate in his speech at the. time of the general election that we expected to increase the general rate of pension or restore its relativity to the minimum wage as a result of one legislative action by this Government. But we did move to do something immediately. We increased the rate by $2 a week and made it retrospective. I do not think that the previous Government can claim to have made a repatriation increase retrospective. Certainly it did not in my time. I think the answer to the honourable member for Indi is that the rate will be increased but it must be done progressively. If the previous Government had accepted its responsibility and had maintained the relativity of the general rate of pension to me minimum wage our task would not have been as difficult as it now is.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) said quite correctly that the Government has a responsibility is this field. I have submitted that to this House on numerous occasions. The. Government is prepared to accept that responsibility. Many things have to be done that cannot be done immediately. Surely the honourable member for Indi does not suggest that the policy is vague. If it is vague it is because he was not able to achieve any of these objectives while he was the Minister for Repatriation. At one stage he said that’ some members of the Cabinet are not invited into the Cabinet when decisions are made. Of course, that is completely untrue. When the honourable member for Indi was the Minister for Repatriation he was not invited into the Cabinet. His decisions and his views were never considered. He was not a member of the Cabinet. I do not believe that there can be any criticism of what the Government has done in relation to these matters. It has increased the funeral benefit from $50 to $100. The question that the honourable member for Indi raised will be examined.
It has worried me too. Again it is not a matter that one can determine immediately but I should point out to the House that, as honourable members know, there is at this time a committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Toose looking into the Repatriation Act. I extended the period in which Mr Justice Toose would have the opportunity to investigate the Repatriation Act. It was one of the first things that I did during the first Whitlam Ministry. I was then the Minister for Repatriation. It was one of my 14 ministries. I extended the terms of reference of that Committee and, for the information of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I point out that I asked Mr Justice Toose to take into consideration, with the other matters at which he would be looking, the question of repatriation hospitals and what extensions should be made to them in terms of the facilities they provide and in other ways. That matter is now under consideration. All of these matters will be dealt with. However, I believe it should be made perfectly clear to those who have offered criticism of certain matters contained in this legislation that the legislation should not be looked at on the basis that this is the only decision that the Government will be taking in relation to repatriation matters. It must be considered over the life of the Parliament. Our policy is clear and we will not equivocate on it. We have inherited some difficulties from the previous Government but it will be our responsibility to deal with what we have put to the people of this country as a responsible policy in relation to repatriation matters.
There are 2 other matters which have been raised on which I should like to comment. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs referred to repatriation tribunals. I can appreciate that difficulties and problems exist in this field. I do not believe that any member in the Federal Parliament has had more experience in this field than have I. I have appeared before repatriation tribunals over a long period. Again, this is one of the matters that the Toose Committee will be examining, and when the report of that inquiry is available to this Parliament the Government will take appropriate action after full consideration of the recommendations of the Committee.
I conclude by referring to the matters raised by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) which I believe was a relevant matter to raise in a debate of this nature. It indicates the difficulties that are associated with ex-servicemen, former members of the Services, and their rights under the Repatriation Act. We have been able to overcome some of the difficulties because the Act will be extended by this Bill to include all serving members of the armed forces. The matter raised by the honourable member for Prospect related to an incident that occurred before the Government was able to make a decision on the matter. But I believe that, under the Repatriation Act and certainly as a result of decisions that we have made in relation to compensation laws, this matter should be examined on an individual basis. No member of the armed forces should be disadvantaged financially, particularly if his condition is one of permanent incapacity as a result of service in the armed forces, whether the incident occurred during the period of his service or, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Prospect, whether it occurred over a weekend. It would, I believe, be completely incorrect for the Government of Australia to adopt the attitude that it has no responsibility in this matter. I believe that it has. This matter should be examined, and I can assure the honourable member for Prospect that I will draw it to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) as indeed I will draw to the Minister’s attention the matter that was referred to me by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) which, again, is a matter worthy of consideration. It probably would be advisable for the Committee to which I have just referred to examine the situation in that area. The Committee will be investigating repatriation systems overseas and I have no doubt that the views of the servicemen referred to by the honourable member for Angas will be taken into consideration at that time.
I believe that the amendments proposed in the Repatriation Bill, particularly the increased benefits, are in line with the policy expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) back in 1972. The Bill goes a long way towards achieving the Government’s objective of an improved basis for providing for those who have served this country in the First and Second World Wars and in the other wars in which this country has been involved.
Mr KING (Wimmera) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I do not wish to be unkind to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) but I think that for the benefit of the record he should check the green copy of his speech in relation to the subject matter that he has just been discussing. The Minister continually referred to me when answering questions I had raised as ‘the honourable member for Indi’ and when he was answering questions referred to him by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) he referred to him as ‘the honourable member for Wimmera’. I suggest that the Minister make the necessary corrections on the green copy of his speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending the appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28th February (vide page50), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28th February (videpage 50), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February (vide page51), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February (vide page 52), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 March (vide page 268), 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 FitzPATRICK (Darling) (3.16) - When I commenced my speech on the AddressinReply it was my intention to reserve enough time to put forward the views of many people in my electorate who have voiced their concern about whether there is proper regulation of the number of kangaroos in the area. But owing to the suspension of the sitting for lunch and the tactics of the Opposition in calling a quorum and interjecting I now find that I will probably have to make some adjustments to my speech. I find it very hard to understand why the Opposition should take this attitude. I have been approached by many graziers and other people in my electorate who have pointed out that this House on many occasions has had petitions presented to it concerning kangaroos. This matter has also been mentioned in debate several times. These people ask that the other side of the story be presented to the House. If honourable members, particularly members of the Australian Country Party, believe that there is another side to the story they should be prepared to listen to it and give it due consideration, because if I fail to put the full story the only thing I can tell the people when I go back to my electorate is that the Opposition would not let me do this.
When the sitting was suspended I had mentioned that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had said that the kangaroo population had increased many times due to the clearing of the scrub and the extra numbers of sheep in the western division of New South Wales. It is a well known fact that sheep will eat saltbush and that saltbush is very slow to regenerate. It is said that after the saltbush in a particular area is eaten down an estimated four-fifths of the saltbush area is taken over by other grasses and that this has provided an ideal breeding situation for kangaroos. Whether this is right or not, this is the view of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. There can be no doubt that in the late 1950s there was a large number of kangaroos in the area. 1 can remember them quite well because I was closely connected with an organisation that was trying to bring about some control over the slaughter of kangaroos. At the time many kangaroo meat and skin merchants commenced operations in the area and also a lot of new shooters, part-time shooters. Some of these shooters were well equipped and well organised, but unfortunately there were many amateurs, and I would say that some very untidy slaughtering was carried out. Of course shooters nearly always withdraw from an area when shooting becomes uneconomical. This is what happened when the kangaroos thinned out or were driven to other areas. The shooters disappeared and it was generally thought that kangaroo numbers would again increase in the area once the shooting stopped.
In the mid 1960s there was a big drought in the area. It is a well known fact that kangaroos breed in good seasons but that in times of severe drought no breeding takes place. Once the food supply is cut down its replenishment depends upon the amount of rain. I remember one grazier in the area carting water to feed his own limited stock and putting a notice in the paper asking whether animal lovers or someone else would give him a hand to water the kangaroos, so severe was the drought. What normally happens in that area is that isolated thunderstorms are experienced and it is possible to see a nice green paddock in a great acreage of dry and parched earth. Once this happens the kangaroos invade the area by the hundreds. Graziers used to go into the paddocks with their sons on motor bikes and drive them out. They would drive them towards the fence so that they would jump over the fence into somebody else’s paddock - and if nobody was looking they would probably go into the next paddock and drive them further. This was the system for getting rid of kangaroos in isolated areas.
At this time there could be no doubt that there was good reason for some concern about the treatment that kangaroos were getting, but it has to be admitted that the State Government stepped in and applied some regulation to the situation. I believe that it was in the interests of the, kangaroos that it did this. It followed this up by setting up large reserves of many thousands of acres. Only recently it has added to these reserves. So one must surmise that it did this in the interests of the kangaroo population and not the graziers or the meat industry. Since that time I have seen many red and grey kangaroos in my electorate. It seems that they are returning in substantial numbers. However, many people say that there are areas where there are no kangaroos.
I know that it is said that the kangaroo has disappeared from some areas. The position should be examined but people should not be penalised if that is not found to be the case. The Government’s attitude is that the main consideration must be to ensure that no species becomes extinct. Officers of the Wildlife Service believe that even if a complete ban were imposed on the export of kangaroo skins and other kangaroo products it would still be necessary to reduce the number of kangaroos because of the lack of food supplies and in view of recurring drought cycles which affect the western division of New South Wales. They believe it is not humane to let great numbers of kangaroos build up and exhaust the food supplies when insufficient water is available. If thinning out of numbers is not effective under the present system such activity would have to be undertaken by the Wildlife Service. If this happened the public would have to pay for it and many carcasses and skins would be left to rot. It may be in the best interests of conservation as well as of the industry as a whole if the other States were to adopt a system similar to that which applies in New South Wales.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The proposals which the Government has set before this House in the Governor-General’s Speech, which they modestly describe as the most comprehensive program of legislation in the history of the Australian Parliament, are certainly designed to spend a great deal of other people’s money. But they are still promises, not performances. It is necessary for us to examine critically their program to see whether it is economically feasible. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has recently published an impartial expert survey of the Australian economy - the first such survey ever. It is worth quoting some of its conclusions, because these represent the economic start point of the present Government. The OECD concluded, inter alia, that:
Australia entered the 1970s with an economy stronger and more dynamic in many respects than a decade earlier. . .
The OECD survey went on to say:
So immense are the continent’s natural resources, and so well geared to their development appear to be the skills and energies of the people, that the next two decades could well be a period of expansion more vigorous than the two that have passed.
But it added the timely warning that this will demand judgment and skill in national economic management.
This is the crux of the problem. The objectives of many of the Government’s proposals are socially very desirable, although we would often question very seriously the methods by which they are to be implemented. But, if personal consumption is not to be reduced - and this the Government has said it will not do - the only way we can afford increased expenditure on education, social services, health, care of the aged, housing and urban renewal, improved transport and environmental control is through increased productivity. Even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who is certainly no economist, recognises the problem, and in the bill of goods he sold to his public last December he suggested a growth rate of 6 per cent to 7 per cent - but carefully made no mention of how he proposed to achieve this. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) admitted 2 weeks ago that our rate of growth is not enough to support the program on which his Government had been elected. Some confession - and a clear vindication of what members on this side of the House were saying during the election campaign, when trying to bring the Labor Party’s ‘pie in the sky’ promises back to some sort of reality.
Faced with this problem, one would have expected a sane Government to tackle seriously the problem of productivity. Yet what has the Government done? The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is campaigning for - no, demanding - a 35-hour week. This is a 12i per cent reduction in the output of labour. What a way to raise productivity! He also wants another week’s annual leave - a further 2 per cent reduction in the output of labour. What a way to raise productivity! The Minister for Labour has also foreshadowed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which will have the effect of increasing the already excessive monopoly power of the trade unions, and this in turn can only lead to gross maldistribution of our productive resources. What a way to raise productivity! He also wants to encourage the shop steward movement. Shop stewards are an importation from Britain, and are quite foreign to the concept of our system of conciliation and arbitration. The shop steward movement has played a major role in reducing Britain’s industry to a state of near chaos. And this is what the Minister for Labour is encouraging here. What a way to raise productivity!
I suppose, in theory at least, the crass ineptitude of the Minister for Labour could be compensated by a wise capital investment program for industry. What has the Government done here? Investment capital comes either from profits - the source of over half of our manufacturing investment - or from new investment which in turn is heavily influenced by profits. The. policy of the Government - although it is probably inadvertent, like most of the rest of its economic management - is to squeeze profits between the jaws of minimum wages and maximum prices. And between these limits, unions are being encouraged by the Government to use their monopoly power to extract crippling overaward wage increases. The result can only be a sharp drop in new investment from internal sources. Potential investment from external sources, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) proudly says, is told it is not required. What a way to raise productivity! In economic management, the present Government’s right wing may not know what its left wing is doing, but one can always be very sure where its foot is.
It is very noticeable, that there is no mention in the Governor-General’s Speech of any attitude towards wages and salaries. I should have hoped that the Government would have shown some interest in an incomes policy, covering both wage and salary earners. At least its party colleagues in Britain tried to introduce such a policy. Through our arbitration system we have, by world standards, a remarkable system of fair control of wage differentials. Rather than destroy the. arbitration system, a course on which members opposite seem determined, I should like to see us building on and extending the wage and salary system, so that eventually we achieve a proper incomes policy. But the extraordinary thing about the Government’s policy is that while it refuses to tackle an incomes policy, it plans to control prices. At least that is something in which it is unique. No-one else would be so foolish. I am not opposed to prices justification in appropriate circumstances, but these circumstances are very limited, and only appropriate at all if combined with an incomes policy.
The disadvantages of across-the-board price control are well known - a swollen bureaucracy, the impossibility of setting fair prices for new products and misallocation of new capital investment. True competition is a much more, efficient system of price control than is government price control, and it is worth noting that this competition does not necessarily have to be internal. With judicious adjustment of tariffs, external competition can be created to compete with an internal monopoly. I believe that a price fixing or price justification system is only appropriate for industries and products where for some reason the competition is inadequate and, if tariff and restrictive trade practice policies are effective, such inadequate competition should only be temporary. I should like to refer also to the extraordinary action of the Government in announcing the intention to use Government contracts as the vehicle for its political program, rather than weighing the cost and value to the community. This subject was well covered in a debate in the House this morning, so I shall do no more than point out that the Government’s new policy would be a major disincentive to industrial efficiency. What a way to raise productivity. A community cannot have more by working less or less efficiently.
The present muddle-headed policy of the Government is heading us towards inevitable economic crisis. So too in our defence and foreign affairs, this Government, to use the words of the present Prime Minister, lurches from crisis to crisis. In part, of course, it is caused by the fact that the Prime Minister is also, on a part time basis, the Foreign Minister. Insofar as he took this portfolio himself in order to prevent the present Minister for Overseas Trade from claiming the Foreign Ministry I understand his problem and agree with his decision. He has a poor bunch of Ministers to choose from, and he has had obvious difficulty in placing some of ‘them. But Australia is now paying the price for the administrative incompetence of the second Whitlam Ministry. We cannot afford these days a part time foreign policy run by a part time Foreign Minister.
Let us look at some of the things that have been done. The Prime Minister has been trying to peddle a vague, naive scheme for South East Asia as a zone of neutrality. This has been treated with scorn or polite amusement by the countries in the area. They realise that a desire for neutrality - even a guaranteed neutrality - is ridiculous unless they are willing and able to defend themselves. The fates of Laos and Cambodia are well known to all of them. Our Government says that when the neutral zone is introduced we will cease our military commitment to the area - at the very time when it would be most important. No wonder the countries of South East Asia view our present Government with suspicion and concern. I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the examples of Sweden and Switzerland, which have been able to preserve their neutrality for more than a century because they never neglected their defence.
Then there is Thailand. The Prime Minister has outraged that friendly country by picturing it as a potential Vietnam. Reactions in Thailand range from the mild remark of their Foreign Minister saying that Thailand is not Vietnam and that the Prime Minister should have visited Thailand before making such a statement, to a newspaper editorial suggesting that the Prime Minister should mind his own bloody business. What a way to keep friends in South East Asia. Then there is America. There is an almost pathological anti-American strain running through the Labor Party. For many members of the Labor Party America can do no right - and China can do no wrong. Three Cabinet Ministers insulted the President of the United States and were not disowned by the Prime Minister. Our relations with the United States have sunk to the lowest level since the last Labor Government was in power.
Then there was the Prime Minister’s gross indiscretion over the intelligence base in Singapore. I do not know whether the Prime Minister regrets his action, but I am sure he is very, very sorry that he was found out.
And let us look at the gang he was trying to appease by his gaffe - the so-called socialist left of his Party. They are not a negligible group; they still control the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party, and have several sympathisers in the Cabinet. They do not share the Prime Minister’s vision of a neutral South East Asia. They want a communist South East Asia. Do honourable members remember the clamorous applause they gave to the overt communist invasion of South Vietnam? They do not want good relations with America. They want to poison our relations with America, and are delighted at the success the present Government has had in achieving this aim.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the damage that the Prime Minister has done is not limited to the reported drying up of our intelligence exchange with America, very serious though this is. How can any country trust us, if our Prime Minister is likely to blurt out gross indiscretions in order to appease a dissident group of his own party, regardless of the international consequences? International trust is slow to build, but it can be destroyed frighteningly quickly, as the Government is doing. Some of the things the Government has done since 2nd December have been good, but in the key areas of economic management and foreign affairs its actions are being disastrous. It is a ramshackle, sectional party. Honourable members opposite call themselves the political arm of the trade union movement. It is time they realised that, for good or ill - and it seems likely to be mostly for ill - they are the Government of the whole of Australia, and should adjust their policies accordingly.
– After listening to the speech from the prophet of disaster, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), I suggest that we give him a single ticket to the Philippines, for he would be much happier there than he is in Australia. I congratulate the new Speaker on his elevation to that very important responsibility and congratulate him on the way he has carried out his duties so far. I congratulate also the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-iReply which we are debating at the moment. Their maiden speeches were outstanding contributions from 2 new members of the Parliament. As a veteran of this place, and having heard hundreds of maiden speeches since I entered the Parliament, I believe that the standard of speeches I have heard on this occasion has been the highest I have ever listened to from any party in this House. This augurs well for the standard of debate throughout this term of Parliament.
The maiden speeches to which I referred took me, back 26i years to the Address-in-Reply debate of November 1946, the beginning of the Chifley Government’s last term. On that occasion I had the honour of moving the Address-in->Reply after having won the seat of Wilmot for the first time on 28th September that year by 843 votes.
One cannot but feel a surge of emotion at the Labor Party again occupying the Treasury bench. It is 23i years since I spoke from this side of the chamber. Only the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and myself have survived the vicissitudes, crises and electoral swings of the past 231 years. I was surprised to read in the ‘Australian’ of last Friday that Alan Ramsay did not know that I had been a member of this Parliament for all that time, so this afternoon I correct the record for the benefit of the Australian’. Only 3 of the 125 members of this House were here when the last Labor Government was in office. It is a thrilling, satisfying experience to be still a member of. this Parliament when Labour returns to office after all those years in a political Siberia. One of the great realities of parliamentary life is the fact that, as Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 13, verse 14, ‘here we have no continuing city’. He must have had in mind members of Parliament when he wrote those, words. It is a dangerous, exciting, but short life to so many new men who, with high hopes and aspirations, first take their seats in this Parliament. They may be here 3 years, 6 years or 9 years, and then suddenly it is all over. Suddenly the people have spoken with that frightening and ruthless finality which only a ballot box can record, and some members are no longer in this Parliament.
The average length of service in this House since Federation has been just under 10 years. Anyone surviving beyond that length of service is on borrowed political time. But the political demise of individual members is much more frequent than that of governments. A long time has elapsed since there was a change in the Australian government. Who would have thought in 1949 when Ben Chifley lost 12 seats, including the seats of 4 Ministers, that it would be the end of 1972 before another Labor Government was elected. Nobody in Australia could have imagined that it would have been so many years before we regained office. I have sat in Opposition for so long that 5 anti-Labor Prime Ministers have been in office in my time here, namely, Mr Menzies, Mr Holt, Mr McEwen,. Mr Gorton and Mr McMahon. Nothing is more frustrating, more heartbreaking, more chilling or more depressing than to sit in Opposition for 23 years. Although I was Opposition Whip for 17 years, which is a record period for a person to hold the office of Whip of a major Party in the Federal Parliament - when Labor was elected to government I did not desire to contest the position of Government Whip - and although I found myself completely and fully occupied as Opposition Whip, it was maddening sitting in Opposition to see the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition returned to power with monotonous regularity at 9 elections.
– They had some lucky escapes.
– That is very true. They had 3 lucky escapes in 1954, 1961 and in 1969. The previous government remained in office all those years, often thieving Labor’s policies to stay there. To emphasise how long we have been out of Government, let me remind this House that no-ohe under the age of 38 in Australia today remembers the Chifley-Labor Government. Two decades of Australians have grown up within the shaky shadow of a Liberal-Country Party coalition government.
But at last the electorate caught up with that Government. It had to in the end. But the question was whether we would live long enough to be here when it did. The election of 2nd December 1972 will come to be recognised as a turning point in Australia’s history. Twenty-seven new members were elected to the Parliament, mostly men under 45 years of age. There are 16 new Labor members, 8 new Liberal members and 3 new Country Party members elected to the Federal Parliament. This means that 22 per cent of the members have come in for the first time. That is a very big changeover in personnel indeed.
The electorate has trusted Labor, at last, with the huge responsibility of governing this nation. It is both a thrilling and a humbling experience. Brand new Ministers tackle untried tasks and make nation-shaping decisions. They are all on unfamiliar ground. They have to learn about their departments and their personnel. They run head-on into bureaucracy or departmentalism. They find themselves armed with executive power, both exciting and frightening. They suddenly wish each day was twice as long to help them cover the colossal work load involved in the far-reaching scope of a new sphere of action.
It is therefore time for tolerance and a fair go by everybody in Australia. Our Ministers have performed exceptionally well so far, in my opinion. Perhaps it is appropriate to remind the House that Labor has served a record apprenticeship and a record probation period in preparation for government. Perhaps it is not unusual that our Ministers are doing such a good job. The prayers of thousands of Australians are directed at this Parliament and particularly the new Government and its Ministers. But let me add a warning: This is not a time for smart Alec decisions. This is not a time for arrogance. This is not a time for swelled heads. This is not the time for knowallism This is not the time for frothy enthusiasms. This is not the time for intellectual snobbery. This is not the time for youthful superiorities.
– Time is up.
– We have a long time yet. This is the time for a realistic appraisal of what the formidable task of being a Minister involves. It is the time for humility. The greatest in this world are not the most arrogant but the most humble How well I remember what happened in 1949 among some of Chifley’s Ministers who forgot the axiom that true greatness is won through true humility. It is the time for learning about responsibility. It is the time to seek advice. It is not the time to think one knows everything about everything. It is the time to keep physically and mentaly fit, for one needs the constitution of an ox to stand up to the pressures and challenges of long hours of Cabinet responsibility.
I have seen Ministers through the years wilt under the pressure of the long hours imposed on them here. They must work much longer than the ordinary member, trying to keep on top of their correspondence and their responsibilities. I have been a member of this Parliament much longer than 90 per cent of the new Cabinet. I make no apology for expressing these thoughts and warnings at this exciting time in Labor’s history.
When the Australian people elected us to Government, and turned out of office the Liberal-Country Party coalition they accepted a whole new range of ideals and ideas and of policies and objectives. These policies, when implemented by the Whitlam Government, will change the face of Australia. I have no doubt of this at all. I hope and I pray that this will be for the better, and I hope and 1 pray that all the Opposition members will feel that it is for the better too, even though they may doubt this at the moment.
I wish to quote from the new book by Christopher Falkus which is obtainable in the Parliamentary Library. It was published last year and is entitled The Life and Times of Charles II’. At page 202, having described the King’s death, Falkus writes this potent assessment:
With Charles died the age he had created.
I believe that with the defeat of the LiberalCountry Party coalition an age died in Australia. After all, that Government built something into this country. We might not have agreed with everything it did over 23 long years but with its defeat an age has come to an end. An age has been buried and, in some respects, a way of life has been buried.
– It will not be undone though, will it?
– No, but I hope it will be changed here and there for the better. Life is a constant moving onwards and new ideas must continue to pour into the bloodstream of our nation’s life. We are not the only ones who have ideas. The previous Government had a go. It had 23 years of putting its ideas into legislative form in Australia. Now members of the Opposition should give us a chance. I believe that with the implementation of the new ideas that we are putting forward changes for the better in the whole structure of Australian life will occur.
Labor has always been a progressive, goahead, innovating, reforming, renewing, recreating Party. Labor believes that what is physically and economically possible is also financially possible. Labor believes people come before profits. Labor believes that to stand still is to stagnate. I have read the comment about being in a groove and that the only difference between a groove and the grave is the depth. The youth of Australia who helped us to victory will be given the right to vote on attaining the age of 18. The sick, widows, including working widows, the infirm, invalids, children, public servants and people in almost every sector of the nation will be given new hope and security. The old fears, the old bogies, the old conservatism, the old laissez faire philosophy, the old shibboleths, the old monopoly capitalism, the systematic sale of Australian assets overseas, the old pollution of cities, the chaos in transport, the constant downgrading of Australia overseas and the abject subservience of Australia to other countries such as America will all be wiped from the face and heart of Australia under the Whitlam Government. We want to build a new nation which will be strong and secure in its own right and have a clear voice of its own. (Quorum formed.) Tonight after 8 o’clock my colleague, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), will be making his maiden speech in this Parliament. I am sorry that what I have been saying has upset the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) who called for a quorum to be formed. A breath of fresh air is already blowing through the corridors of government reaching out to people and places everywhere.
At this stage I want to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his personal part in Labor’s great victory. His strong leadership, his incredible energy, his courage in dealing with Party problems in some obstreperous States, his clear, direct and frank exposition of our policy in the campaign and his platform and television performances all contributed to the creation of confidence in the electorate towards a Labor Government. It was a lack of confidence and trust in the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition government which helped in its defeat.
The Governor-General’s Speech outlined a massive program of action to be undertaken by the new Whitlam Government. Since I have been in this House I have listened to 11 Governors-General outline government programs for the new Parliament, but I have not listened to such an impressive charter for action and change as that contained in the last Governor-General’s Speech to which -we are replying. I was deeply impressed by a passage of that Speech which states:
My Government believes that its economic, trade, development and industrial policies provide a basis for strong and continuing growth of Australian prosperity. It is, however, deeply conscious that enconomic growth and material well-being no longer reflect the whole aspirations and expectations of the Australian community, and that prosperity alone is no longer exactly equated with true progress.
I could not agree too much with this because man does not live by bread alone.
– Tell us about Lake Pedder.
– I will tell you about Lake Pedder - it is in my electorate - but I will not waste time now. One can give man everything equated with material, scientific and physical progress but man is still poverty stricken unless he finds the answer to selfishness, greed, arrogance and self-love. He is still poverty stricken until he learns the secret of finding happiness, forming friendships, caring for people and having the capacity to serve others. True progress, therefore, is measured not only in financial and physical wellbeing alone. Nor is it measured only in material wealth, economic stability, expanding trade, balanced budgets, annual profits, oil wells, beach homes, cars and boats. Without a matching moral and ethical advancement, without a sense of community responsibility, without respect for others, without personal and government integrity, without a massive caring for others, without a sharing of opportunity, without a love of justice, without a love for the underdog, without a tolerance for opposing viewpoints and without a faith in something beyond ourselves, true progress is impossible. The new Labor Government wants to lift the standards of action in Australia, awaken a new pride in our country, revise our national objectives, expand our vision and horizons and re-list our national priorities.
There are other subjects that will come up for discussion later, subjects such as local government and rural assistance, housing, education and a host of other matters, and I will be speaking on these when the time comes. I did not think it appropriate to raise these matters at this time. We accept the challenge that has been given to us to govern and I feel sure that by adopting the right attitudes we will win much support and get all our programs into operation within the 3 years of this Parliament.
– First of all may I join with other honourable members in congratulating Mr Speaker on his appointment and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on his appointment as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. As one who served a record term in this Parliament as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees I know some of the responsibilities, joys, trials and tribulations of such a position and I am sure that the gentlemen who have been elected to these 2 high offices have the good wishes of all honourable members in this House. I am confident that under their guidance the principles and standards of this House will be sustained.
I also extend my congratulations to honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in this House. This is something which we all experience. Therefore, when a new member makes his maiden speech he knows he has with him the thoughts of all those who have had the experience or are to have it. Having listened to my Australian Country Party colleagues who have made their maiden speeches, I am confident that the Country Party will not suffer politically through the retirement of those members who are not with us in this new Parliament.
The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that the last election was a turning point in the history of Australia. I think we would all agree with that. But perhaps the only difference of opinion between us is as to what that turning point will mean for Australia. I believe it will be a turning point in our history that the people who voted for the present Government will regret. I would remind Government supporters that they did not win the last election; the previous Government lost it. It has been said that it is very seldom that Oppositions win government, but governments lose them, and I think that is perfectly true. Having looked at the political situation, we must confess that the previous Government did everything it could to lose the election. The Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, was an interesting one. It is important, of course, because it conveys the expression of the legislative program of the new Government. A great deal of the Governor-General’s remarks were presented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the election campaign. I think the difficulty and the problems which will confront Australia will be in the implementation of some of these policies and the continuation of policies that are to the benefit not only of certain sections but also of the whole community.
I wish now to comment on the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I hope I misunderstood - I will put it that way - but the PostmasterGeneral seemed to imply when replying to a question from this side of the House and in a statement that he made during the adjournment debate last Thursday that he felt it was not fair to ask people, particularly in the metropolitan area, to contribute to works and development carried out in country areas by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I think that if we look at the situation we will find that people in the metropolitan area surely should be prepared to accept some of the responsibilities for the extension and development of postal and communication services in country areas. I know it is sometimes said that the telephones are essential in metropolitan areas. I do not think anyone would deny that that is fair. But let us face the fact that in some isolated country areas a telephone can mean in many instances the difference between life and death.
I agree with the Postmaster-General that money used for extension work by the Postmaster-General’s Department should be taken out of consolidated revenue. The Postmaster-General may rest assured that this will be one of the things I will continue to advocate, as I did when I was a supporter of the previous Government. As a member of the Opposition I will be interested in this matter, because I believe that more work must be done in country areas and that there must be within the Postmaster-General’s Department a greater concentration of effort for development and progress in these areas. I do not deny that progress and development has gone on. But in some areas, particularly in the northwestern part of my electorate, the situation has arisen where someone who has looked after a post office for many years is now not able to perform these duties and as a result in many instances the area suffers from the lack of telephonic communication. As I have said, in the last Parliament I advocated further financial assistance from consolidated revenue to provide for extensions in this field. I will continue to advocate this proposition.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains many matters that relate to the policies of the Labor Party. I am not quite sure whether I agree with some of the newspapers which express the view that the Opposition made a mistake in bringing forward a motion of no confidence in the Government so early in the life of this Parliament. Surely if something happens, whether it be in the first week, the first year or the last year of the Government’s occupation of the Treasury bench, and the Opposition feels that it is of such moment as to justify a no confidence motion, the time which the Government has occupied the Treasury bench is completely irrelevant. I believe that the motion of no confidence was relevant and important. I believe it was justified, because to my mind the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the sphere of Australia’s international obligations weakened our position internationally. Of course, I believe that that no confidence motion should have been carried.
Another matter I wish to raise concerns compulsory unionism. It appears strange that a government or a party that has been so vehemently opposed to compulsory service in the armed Services should advocate compulsion so far as unionism is concerned. If an individual feels strongly about having to join a union, I believe the fairest Way of dealing with the matter is that he may donate to charity the contribution he would have made to a union. Surely it is a little unreasonable for the Government to pursue a policy of compulsory unionism because, let us face it, in the political situation in which we find ourselves - and I do not object to this - funds from the unions go towards assisting the Labor Party to gain the Treasury bench or to assist the Labor Party in the political field. But, I think it is absolutely wrong to a$k someone who has a particular political point of view to contribute finance that will assist and opposite political view. As I have said, I believe that some way should be found to overcome this situation.
I would now like to make a few comments about the 35-hour week. Honourable members will remember the comments that were made before the election that a 35-hour week would be introduced only in industries that could afford the financial implications and complications of a 35-hour week. I believe that the judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission after its inquiry into a 35-hour week in the Electricity Commission should be carefully considered by all people.. What that judgment really said was that there were certain developments and advances so far as the mechanics of the industry were concerned that gave a benefit to the industry as well as lowering of the production cost. The Commission said that where those improvements in conditions and production did not create redundancy or any difficulties so far as employment was concerned it felt that those benefits should be passed on to the whole of the community rather than merely to that section of industry even though it had contributed to the improvement. I believe that this judgment should be carefully considered not only by unionists but by all people. I think that certain sections within the trade union movement are losing sight of the fact that people work not only for the advantage of their own group but for the advantage of all. If this principle is lost and the values of the arbitration system are lost - and there has been some criticism of the arbitration system - then I believe that the Labor movement and the trade union movement will be put back 100 years. Surely a benefit should be a benefit for all and not only for a few or perhaps even the strong groups within the trade union movement.
I believe that where an industry .does get the advantage of a benefit, that benefit should be passed on for the benefit of all. An exam-, pie of such benefits can be found in the section of industry which employs tanker drivers and members of the Electricity Commission staff. If benefits in these 2 sections of industry were passed on to the whole of the community there would be a reduction iti the price of petrol and, electricity. If this happened those members of the unions employed in these industries would get the benefit as would the whole of the community. As , I have said, I believe the .statement and the decision of the Commission in regard to a 35-hour week in the Electricity Commission should be studied closely! I believe that benefits should flow on to those who are in industries which are facing complexities and difficulties, such as the rural producers in my electorate.
I want to make some comment regarding primary production and rural industry. The rural industries have received some benefit at the moment because of. increased prices and the improved conditions in the marketing abroad of some of our products. But let us also appreciate that those within the sphere of primary industry faced a recession ever many many months. The benefits that they will gain from increased prices will in many cases not overcome the difficulties and the setbacks they had during the period of recession. People should give very careful consideration to this before they start talking about how prosperous are all the primary industries at the present time and- how those engaged in the primary industries have benefited.
The matter of revaluation and devaluation is tied up more importantly with our export industries than perhaps with anything else in this country. To my mind it is most unfortunate that the Government does not appear to appreciate the problems at this given time and seems to have overlooked the situation faced by our export industries although it is not so long ago that our rural industries were suffering from a recession. When my Party and the Liberal Party were in office I recall criticism of certain actions taken by that Government particularly in relation to the wool industry and perhaps to a lesser degree the wheat industry. I point out that the events of today have proved that the actions taken by that Government in respect of those 2 major industries were correct. I believe that we have to face up to the fact that irrespective of industrial progress in Australia we are still vitally dependent upon primary production for our export earnings and for the stability of our economy. Because of this I. regret that it appears that this Government has not given due consideration to assistance to primary industry.
I make one comment in regard to a matter mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe). I refer to the absurdity of the action taken by waterside workers in placing a ban on the export of meat from Australia because the price of meat in metropolitan areas was high. Anybody with any understanding of this matter would appreciate that a ban on the export of meat would have no effect whatsoever on the price of meat and that the only result that such action could achieve would be to set back beef production to a stage from which, in the long term, this section of the industry might never recover.
A lot has been said in regard to Australia’s international relations. I referred to this matter when speaking on the motion of no confidence moved by the Opposition against the Government last week. Several points have already been made on this subject. I feel that unfortunately, because of the irresponsible statements which were made not merely by members of Parliament but by Ministers who hold responsible positions, we have lost a tremendous amount of ground which the previous Government held in its international relations. The statements made were of no advantage to the situation in which Australia finds herself on the international scene. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has learnt something from his recent visit overseas. It is easy to make within the domestic scene pronouncements covering a certain sphere but when you go out into the international sphere you find that the statements which you have made will not be so easy to put into practice. I believe that in his latest visit overseas the Prime Minister learnt a lesson.
I have said in this House before that I do not always agree with decisions of the United States but let us face the fact that this country certainly needs the United States more thanthe United States needs Australia. Whilst I do not agree with everything that the United States has done I believe that we have to admit that the Western World - I do not like using that phrase but perhaps it covers the ground - owes a tremendous amount to the United States for the burden it has accepted as far as economic assistance and assistance in other respects is concerned since the close of the Second World War. To my mind we should have some appreciation of the contribution which has been made by the United States. I was always amazed at the criticism levelled at the previous Government by honourable members opposite when they were on the Opposition benches. They used to say that we were slavishly following United States policy. There is one thing that I think we on this side can say and that is that certainly when the previous Government was in office it did not follow the United States so slavishly and without question as this Government has followed communist China, the communist section in Vietnam and apparently other communist and left wing orientated countries. There has been a subservience to communist China by this present Government far beyond anything which the previous Government might have done in relation to the United States. I hope that this will not continue. I look forward to this Government, having learnt a lesson and with a full appreciation of its responsibility in the international field, enhancing the prestige that Australia gained under the previous Government.
– Order! Before I call the honourable member for Evans I remind the House that this is his maiden speech. I trust that honourable members will extend to him the usual courtesies.
– Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I congratulate you on your appointment to that honoured position. I would like you to relay to the Speaker my congratulations on his appointment. Since the opening of this Parliament he has shown his impartiality and he has been fair to honourable members on both sides of the House. I should also like you to congratulate the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on his appointment as Chairman of Committees.
Tt is traditional that a new member when making his maiden speech should refer to his electorate. In this speech I wish to discuss not only the electorate of Evans which I have the honour to represent in this House but all city electorates in Australia. I would first of all like to thank the electors of Evans for giving me and the Australian Labor Party a mandate to implement a policy to make Australia a truly great and democratic country. I cannot forget all the branch members and friends who worked so tirelessly in the recent campaign.
The electorate of Evans is an inner western suburbs electorate of the city of Sydney. It is much like many other urban electorates in Australia which contain approximately 88 per cent of the whole population of Australia. Since 1949 Sydney has seen an increase in population of over 60 per cent and in Melbourne there has been an increase of over 55 per cent. In the Sydney region alone where the population in 1971 was just under 3 million, the projected population will increase to 3.500,000 in 1980 and by the year 2000 it is anticipated that there will be just under 5 million. The major type of building development or redevelopment in the electorate, as in all urban electorates, is high density, medium density or high rise. This type of development has mushroomed in the past 10 years. Over the last few years the municipalities of Canterbury, Marrickville, Drummoyne and Ashfield have approved of approximately 1,400 applications foi this type of development. These units may not all be in the electorate but those are the municipalities which constitute most of the electorate of Evans. Each council has a different high density code. They differ in their standards and they differ in their ideas of zoning of these areas.
In serving 10 years in local government, on the Canterbury Council - one year as Mayor - I have seen this type of development rise from its infancy with no clear or constructive direction in planning until the present day when much more thought has to be applied in planning as a whole. We hope that this planning will do away with the matchbox type of development and will give those who wish to remain greater privacy. One who purchases a unit in this area finds a variation in price from $12,000 to $40,000. Even for renting a flat one has to pay from $28 upwards. The purchase of land is now left to the developer who buys at prices ranging from $60,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the outer western suburbs prices of residential land begin at over $10,000. A young man with a family has very little chance of raising this amount of money when he is anticipating building.
These developments vary from spacious 4- bedroom units with swimming pools and well appointed extras such as laid out gardens, magnificent views of the city and harbour, to the single apartments, some badly constructed with cracks in foundations and walls, concreted surrounds with not so much as a blade of grass, a flower or a tree - a veritable concrete jungle. Now with large areas completely built out with high density dwellings, roads are beginning to crumble with the added traffic. Insufficient parking facilities are provided at shopping centres. The need for parks, recreation areas and infants playgrounds was never more critical than it is today. The ratepayers pay large yearly amounts that are at present at breaking strain.
The other day the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown) gave the House a very detailed analysis of the inability of local government, the third tier of government, to meet the needs of the public. I too know the inadequacies of local government especially in relation to the financing of large public works. The increase of high density development leads to the over-burdening of all facilities and services such as electricity, water and sewerage, drainage, telephones, garbage collection, libraries, swimming pools, sporting parks, traffic and public transport. These services have been in decay for many years. The only ones to gain from this type of development are the large shopping complexes, the modern type hotels and clubs, and the developers themselves.
It is into these various types of unit development that families move. Children whose mothers as well as fathers have to work to pay the high rents are now referred to as latch key’ children. They have no surveillance, no recreational facilities and no spare time manual art training or opportunities. After school they roam the streets, to join the ranks of the ever rising number of delinquents who daily find their way into the children’s courts. These cruel facts were displayed to me the other day when, in my own residence, 2 youths, one only 15 years of age, were arrested at gunpoint. They were made to lie on the footpath while the arresting officer handcuffed them and charged them with attempting to steal a car.
The provision of pre-school education and facilities has been sorely neglected. Only approximately 6 private pre-school kindergartens are in operation and these are under the direction of a number of authorities. The remaining ones are child minding centres which operate mostly in converted buildings or houses. Deserted wives and husbands and working parents have to pay exorbitant fees to send their children to these centres. Schools both public and private, as in the inner suburbs of Sydney, are usually of the 1930 construction. They lack most of the facilities of their modern counterparts and are distinguished by their patchwork addition of poorly designed classrooms which are usually overcrowded. The ever diminishing playgrounds cause a general lack of recreational and sporting facilities for the ever increasing number of children who attend.
The older people in the community, in many cases pioneers, are forgotten in their home units or flats. They lead a meagre existence. Many of them are unable to look after themselves. They rely on the struggling Meals on Wheels service, which is a voluntary service, to supply the only substantial meal they eat all day. A home nursing service is the only way many of them receive medical care. These sick and bedridden people lead a very lonely and very unhappy existence in the closing stages of their lives. Those pensioners who may have good health also suffer the loneliness of flat living and band together in many organisations to provide companionship and sporting facilities. They learn crafts, they travel and generally enjoy the remaining years of their lives. But these organisations, usually supported by a service organisation, now find it impossible to provide any additional facilities such as mid-day meals because of spiralling costs.
It is time for a change. This Government will revolutionise the community’s approach to the problems of welfare, particularly the problems of the aged, the sick, the handicapped, the retarded and the migrant. The great weakness in Australia’s social services is that we mostly provide cash benefits. We should no longer tolerate the view that, once the Government has decided the level of cash payments, the community has discharged its obligations to those who depend upon the community for their sole or main income and sustenance. Even the most enlightened and equal approach to social welfare can only scratch the surface of the basic problems of equality and wellbeing of most of our citizens. We can double and treble these benefits but we cannot make up by cash payments for what we have taken away in mental and physical wellbeing and social cohesion through the breakdown of community life and community identity.
Whatever benefits employees may secure through negotiation or arbitration will immediately be eroded by the cost of living in their cities. No amount of wealth redistribution through higher wages or lower taxes can really offset the inequalities imposed by the physical nature of the cities. Increasingly, a citizen’s real standard of living, his health and that of his family, his children’s opportunities for education and self-improvement, his access to employment opportunities, his ability to enjoy the nation’s resources for recreation and culture and his ability to participate in the decisions and actions of the community are determined not by his income or by the hours he works but by where he lives. This is why I believe that the national Government is involving itself directly in cities. Practically every major national problem relates to cities. A national government which cuts itself off from the responsibility for the nation’s cities is cutting itself off from the nation’s real life. A national government which has nothing to say about cities has nothing relevant or enduring to say about the nation or the nation’s future. The Australian Labor Party, of which I am a proud member, is not a city based party; it is a people based party. The overwhelming majority of our people live in the cities and towns across the nation. The problems of my street, my municipality and my electorate are the problems of Australia as a whole.
We must not shrink from our responsibility; we must welcome it. When we recall the whole period of the McMahon Government we see that it was marked by one of the lowest rates of development in the world - a paltry 3 per cent a year. The result was the highest unemployment since 1961 and a needless loss of almost $l,000m in production in the past year. We must now achieve a growth rate of 7 per cent in each of the next 3 years. His Excellency, the Governor-General, in his address on which I have much pleasure in speaking, said:
In the first sittings you will be asked to give priority to legislation affecting the immediate welfare of the people, and to matters in which my advisers believe delay would mean damage to the nation or unwarranted neglect of the peoples wishes and mandate.
The Governor-General continued: the dear failure of existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, particularly in relation to education, social security, health, industrial relations and urban and regional development.
Today we legislate to improve the welfare of the people. So, now, let us begin. In our hands rests the future success or failure of our course of democratic socialism. We will not be the judge of this legislation. History will be the final judge of our deeds.
– I should tike to join with other honourable members who have congratulated Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their election to those very important offices. I should also like to congratulate those new members who have made their maiden speeches. I think it is obvious that the Parliament has gained some valuable new members. The Government, through the medium of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, has announced a comprehensive program of legislation but already a number of people who voted on 2nd December for a change of government are becoming apprehensive. In the past couple of weeks I have received many calls from people who have asked me: ‘How long do we have to put up with this present Government? Where are we heading?’ I believe that these are good questions in the light of some of the decisions which have been taken by the Gov ernment since its election and before Parliament had met so that no discussion was possible.
At least 16 fairly important decisions have been taken and I would like to ask why. Was it because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was afraid that some of the decisions would not have received the support of a majority of his Party or even of his Ministry? Or was it because these actions would not have stood up to public scrutiny after the Opposition had dealt with them in Parliament? I think that those are good questions in the light of the information contained in a couple of publications sent to me in the post in the last few weeks. I will quote shortly from some of them and let honourable members draw their own conclusions.
I believe they are very good questions indeed, especially when a number of Government supporters have indicated already that they do not acknowledge the Queen nor do they acknowledge God. If this statement horrifies some of the people in the precincts of this House, let me prove what I have said. I can do so quite easily. It has been stated in the Press on a number of occasions - I have copies of the statements - and it has never been denied by the Government that, at a send off party given in Sydney for the Australian Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, Dr Fitzgerald, at which about 550 guests were present, including some members of the Ministry, when the toast to Her Majesty the Queen was proposed, many remained seated or acted perfunctorily. But, as one newspaper wrote, when the toast to Chairman Mao was proposed, people were on their feet and applauding most vigorously. Only last week in Parliament House after Parliament was opened by His Excellency the Governor-General, who is the Queen’s representative in Australia, honourable members were invited to meet him and pay their respects to him. Quite a number of Government supporters, including some Ministers, refused to shake hands with the Governor-General for a variety of reasons. Some stated that they believed Australia should be a republic. I respect their views but I still believe that even though they hold those views sincerely, it still would have been courteous to acknowledge the Queen’s representative while she remains Queen of Australia. So, I believe I have proved my point that a number of Government supporters do not acknowledge the Queen.
As for some honourable members opposite not acknowledging God, it is somewhat farcical that we open the proceedings of this House every day with a prayer. Mr Speaker says: ‘Almighty God, we humbly beseech thee to vouchsafe Thy blessings upon this Parliament’. I believe this to be farcical when clearly 12 Government supporters or nearly 20 per cent of the Government Party, including some Ministers, do not acknowledge the existence of God. Last week 124 members of this House were sworn in. There were 66 members of the Government Party, 38 members of the Liberal Party and 20 members of the Australian Country Party. Every Liberal member and every Country Party member took the oath on the Bible, but 12 members of the Australian Labor Party, or approximately 20 per cent of that Party’s numbers in this House, refused to take the oath on the Bible and instead made an affirmation. I believe that the public or people should ponder about these things.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the honourable member for Henty in order in placing doubts on the right of honourable members to make an affirmation in preference to taking the oath.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I am not casting any doubts upon their right to do as they like, but I believe the people should ponder on these things and reflect on the type of government they have elected and ask themselves: ‘Is this the type of example which should be set for my children by the supreme authority in this country?’
I should like to refer to the 2 documents which have been sent to me. The first is issued by a group calling themselves the Watervale Advance, Waterville, Minnesota, and I will read to honourable members some of the comments of this paper. The paper begins by saying:
In May of 1919 at Dusseldorp Germany, the Allied Forces obtained a copy of some of the ‘Communist Rules for Revolution’.
Honourable members will recall that the Communist Party was formed in that year. The document continues:
As you read the list, stop after each item and think about the present-day situation where you live. We quote from the Red Rules:
Corrupt the. young, get them away from religion, Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness.
Get people’s minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics* sexy books and plays and other trivialities.
Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters pf no importance.
Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule, obloquy.
By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce fear of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
Foment- unnecessary strikes’ in vital industries, encourage civil disorders and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government towards such disorders.
Let me refer to some of the matters contained in that document, lt referred to corrupting the young and getting people’s minds off their government. I ask honourable members to think of the soft line taken by many people, including some Government supporters, with respect to the laws, relating to drugs. Think of the pressure groups in the community which are advocating abortion on demand, whether the girl happens to be married or single. Think of the pressure groups which want a relaxation of laws relating to sexual behaviour and think of the pressure for the complete abolition of all forms of censorship. I am sure that many well-meaning people who say that no government has the right to tell them what they should read, see or hear have no idea at all of what they are advocating. They just could not imagine some of the types of hard-core pornography that are freely available in some countries overseas. The theory is that this material can be kept away from children and made available only to adults, but I do not believe that in practice this has any hope of working out. When one looks at these matters - abortion on demand, abolition of censorship and relaxation of laws relating to the use of drugs - I believe that they must result in the undermining of traditional human values.
The document says: ‘Divide the people’. There are groups who are constantly trying to divide people and foment trouble. They try to divide them on racial grounds and religious grounds, and there are many people trying to foment unnecessary trouble between employers and employees. Some members of the present Government have openly encouraged radical and militant groups. The document says: ‘Destroy the people’s faith in leaders.’ Again I would like to quote 3 statements made by the present Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns). On 16th September 1970 he was reported in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ as saying that he hoped that authority had had its day. On 28th August 1970 he said in the House of Represenatives that he wanted recognition of what he called the formulation of the will of the people outside Parliament by meetings, by demonstrations, by sit-downs and by civil disturbances. Finally, on 16th April 1970 in the House of Represenatives he said:
I recognise the existence of the law as it is, and if 1 think it is wrong and the issue is strong enough, I will break the law.
Surely any member of the present Government could not object if any member of the public sought to break any law which was introduced by this Government. If we want further evidence of this there is the fact that the present Government endorsed a lawbreaker as one of its candidates in the last election. Finally I mention the stand-over tactics adopted by ALP organisations such as State councils and Federal conferences with regard to the elected members of this Parliament. In other words, they tell the elected members that they will do as they are told.
The document refers to encouraging Government extravagance. When the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was Treasurer in the last Government he said that the Government had gone to the boundary of responsiblity when framing its last Budget, but now the present Government has increased the deficit by approximately $300m. It will further add to this deficit by its advocacy of a 35-hour week, and there will be economic effects from the introduction of 4 weeks annual leave, which we support. We made this quite clear. We recognise that the Government has a mandate in consequence of the Prime Minister’s promise to introduce 4 weeks annual leave, and we do not intend to oppose the legislation providing for its introduction. As honourable members know, the Government was forced to change it attitude yesterday by extending 4 weeks annual leave to all Government servants whether they happen to be members of unions or not. It is rather interesting to note that the Government believes in compulsion where unionism is concerned but does not believe in compulsion where the defence of this country is concerned. The 35-hour week and 4 weeks annual leave must have economic effects. Spokesmen for the Government have clearly indicated that they believe in substantially higher wages. I believe that this must add to costs for 2 reasons. One is that the Government itself is the biggest employer of labour in Australia, and the second is that the Government is committed to achieving an age pension equivalent to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. What I have been talking about must surely and inevitably and substantially increase average weekly male earnings.
I turn to rising prices. The Labor Party claimed that it is able to control prices and that it would perform miracles when it came to office. I quote from the ‘Daily Mirror’ of Tuesday, 6th March, an article headed ‘1,500 Prices Rises’. It states:
Housewives paid higher prices for 1,500 grocery items in February and further rises are expected this month. One manufacturer of canned foods increased prices 3 times in the past 5 weeks.
So much for the ability of the Labor Party to control prices. Let me refer to the document’s statement about fomenting unnecessary strikes and consider the number of demarcation disputes, which are surely unnecessary and of which the victims are the public. Surely the present Government has fostered a lenient attitude to strikes by its stated policy of placing unions above the law and of removing penalties and sanctions from the conciliation and arbitration legislation. Since 2nd December, the date of the election, there have been at least 7 major strikes. So much for Labor’s ability to reduce the incidence of industrial trouble. Even though this document was written more than 50 years ago, I believe that what it states is very applicable today.
The second document which was brought to my attention is much more recent. It was issued just prior to the last election by a group calling itself the Socialist Workers League, which is a communist organisation. It is headed ‘Labor to Power!’ Let me quote briefly from it:
It is vital that a Labor Government be elected in November. . . . The ALP must be forced to take a clear position in support of the following demands: The complete withdrawal of all Australian military forces and material support of any kind from Indo China; and an end to any form of complicity and political support for US policies there. Withdrawal from SEATO, ANZUS and other reactionary pacts and no Australian forces anywhere in Asia. . . . Abortion on demand. . . . Repeal of all anti-abortion laws. . . . The immediate and unconditional self-determination of Papua New
Guinea. … No limitation on the right to strike; an end of all penal powers; legislation for a reduction in working hours with no loss of pay. … A guaranteed wage for all, employed or unemployed.
– Put a bit of ginger into it.
– Yes, I will put a bit of ginger into it for you too. I do it daily. Surely the present Government is following the policies advocated by the Communist Party. In saying that I am not accusing any member of the Government of being a communist or a communist sympathiser. But I believe it is fair comment to say that the Government is unconsciously taking a line which the Communist Party would like it to take consciously. In relation to the immediate and unconditional self-determination of Papua and New Guinea, I want to say that the Opposition believes in the independence of Papua New Guinea, and it made this very clear when in office. But the attitude of the Prime Minister is that big brother knows best and that the Territory will get its independence when he determines, whether the people of Papua New Guinea want it at that time or not. It is clear that substantial sections of the population of Papua New Guinea would like to defer independence beyond December this year, but apparently their wishes are to be entirely disregarded and they will receive their independence when the Prime Minister determines, whether they are ready for it or not. He is also apparently determined to ignore the wishes of the Torres Strait Islanders with respect to the demarcation of boundaries between Australian and Papua New Guinea.
Some weeks ago I was privileged to attend an Australia Day luncheon in the Melbourne Town Hall and to hear a very inspiring address by the Hon. Sir Reginald Sholl. I want to make 2 quotations from what he said. In relation to Communism he said:
I have not forgotten Sharpley, the communist defector, sitting in my chambers in 1949, when the late Sir Charles Lowe . . . was inquiring into his disclosures. He told me: ‘In 1940 we estimated we would be in a position to take over Australia in 20 years; we would get control of the unions handling power, transport and food; and we would move from the unions into the universities, and then into the schools. We would not need numbers, only power. This inquiry will put them back another 20 years, but they will keep at it.’ When one looks at the unions under communism or left-wing control today, and contemplates the potential pincer movement constituted by the Russian progress across the Indian Ocean and the now apparently inevitable communisation of Indo China, one hopes we shall not too brashly thumb our noses at old friends. We could surely too do without the embarrassment, (to use akind term) of communist sympathisers or left-wing politicians emerging from a state of hitherto discreet reticence in Australia, and presenting themselves and us in abject posture in Hanoi.
He also said:
We do not want to find that our only friends are Communist China and East Germany. History shows that there is no future for small nations who genuflect to the bullies of this world. Free peoples despise them, and they, end up in subjection as satellites.
That is What Mr Justice Sholl said about people who genuflect to the bullies of the world. I ask honourable members to note an article written by Douglas Wilkie following the function to farewell the. Australian Ambassador to Communist China. The article appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun Pictorial’. In it he said:
The Sydney episode will arouse nothing but amused contempt among the leaders at Peking, when they hear of it.
The Chinese may be Maoists. But they are also heirs to the Mandarin tradition of propriety and - outside propaganda invective - formal politeness.
They are also fervent nationalists, looking on all foreign devils as their cultural inferiors- but nonetheless ready to measure the quality of other nations by the strength of their respect for their own national institutions and traditions.
Surely it is time that the present Government woke up to the fact that.it is bringing Australia into disrepute in the eyes of the world and that it is not earning the respect of anyone, including the communists. I repeat, it is fair comment to say that the Government is - unconsciously perhaps - following the policies advocated by the Communist Party. For Australia’s sake it is time it Woke up to the facts of life..
Debate (on motion by Dr Gun) adjourned.
MrWHITLAM (Werriwa - Prime Minis terand Minister for Foreign Affairs) - by leave - Honourable members will already be aware of some of the preliminary steps that have been taken by the Government to fulfil our undertaking to establish a national compensation scheme for Australia. I now wish to inform the House that the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme inquiry has been set up to advise the Government on an appropriate scheme for Australia. The terms of reference for the inquiry are:
To inquire into and report on the scope and form of, and the manner of instituting and administering, a national rehabilitation and compensation scheme appropriate to Australia, and which in principle the Australian Government has decided to establish, for the purpose of rehabilitating and compensating every person who at any time or in any place suffers a personal injury (including pre-natal injury) and whether the injury be sustained on the road, at work, in the home, In the school or elsewhere or is an industrial disease with particular reference to:
the circumstances in which an injury should be covered;
the application of the scheme where death results from the injury;
the nature and extent of the benefits that should be provided;
how the scheme should be financed;
the relationship between benefits under the scheme and other social service benefits; (0 whether rights under the scheme should be in substitution for all or any rights now existing;
the encouragement of precautions against accident;
the provision of rehabilitation facilities; and
the manner of administering the scheme.
The committee of inquiry is under the chairmanship of the Hon. Mr Justice Woodhouse, D.S.C., a distinguished judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court who was Chairman of the epoch-making New Zealand Royal Commission on Personal Injury in 1967. The other members of the committee are the Hon. Mr Justice Meares and Professor Patrick Atiyah. Mr Justice Meares, Chairman of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, has been Chairman of the Expert Group on Road Safety which reported to the former Minister for Shipping and Transport last September and a member of the New South Wales Consultative Committee on Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation. Professor Atiyah, Dean of the Faculty of Law within the Australian National University, is a distinguished author of works in this field of law. I refer, in particular, to his authoritative book Accidents, Compensation and the Law’ published in 1970. Many honourable members will remember him as a witness before the Select Committee on Road Safety in the last Parliament.
I have informed the members of the inquiry that the. Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and I shall be happy to arrange for officers of Australian Government departments to be made available to serve and assist the Committee. We shall do all we can to secure the services or advice of other persons whom the Committee wishes to engage. I take this opportunity of publicly thanking, on behalf of my Government, the New Zealand Government and the State Government of New South Wales for their gracious acts in releasing the 2 eminent judges from their other duties in order that they might undertake this most important inquiry. I have already spoken to the New Zealand Prime Minister and Attorney-General and the New South Wales Premier and Attorney General in appreciation of their co-operation. I am also grateful to Sir John Crawford, C.B.E., ViceChancellor of the Australian National University, for agreeing to the participation by Professor Atiyah.
These moves towards the eventual introduction of a national rehabilitation and compensation scheme for personal injuries in Australia mark a significant step forward in a field where hardship and waste have been and still are being experienced in this country. Apart from this fact it gives me great personal satisfaction to see the first steps being taken towards the type of scheme which I first advocated in this Parliament during the debate on the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department as far back as September 1959. 1 present the following paper:
National Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme Inquiry - Ministerial Statement, 8th March 1973
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Opposition has been aware that the Government intended to set up a committee of inquiry into a national rehabilitation and compensation scheme for Australia and has had the opportunity to read the terms of reference and the composition of the inquiry. The Government has the right to establish an inquiry. The Opposition does not contest that right and, in fact, stands ready to consider objectively any recommendations which flow from the inquiry. However the Opposition makes it clear that whatever social and equity benefits the inquiry may be directed to achieve, the Opposition will not be prepared to accept a back door method of nationalisation of insurance companies in Australia. The insurance institutions in Australia have served Australia and Australians well and should continue to do so. In the first answer he gave to a question in this House in the new Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) acknowledged without qualification that he is bound by the Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party as adopted in Launceston in 1971. I direct attention to paragraph 3 of chapter V of that publication. It is headed ‘Economic Planning’ and states:
With the object of achieving Labor’s socialist objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing. .
The Opposition will not stand by and see the insurance companies of Australia nationalised by any indirect method in the name of social equity. Social equity can be achieved without the destruction of the insurance system upon which millions of Australian policy holders rely. The Opposition looks forward with a great deal of interest to the report of the committee of inquiry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 410).
– Prior to the statement to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) some remarks were made by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). I propose to refer briefly to what he said. It was very difficult for me to believe that I was hearing properly when the honourable member criticised some members on the Government side of the chamber for taking an affirmation instead of an oath on the first day the Parliament met. The honourable member went on later to say something about compulsory unionism and compulsory military service. I suppose it is possible that one could have arguments either way, but never before in this place have I heard the proposition that there should be a compulsory adherence to some formal type of religion. I point out to the honourable member that perhaps the most fundamental freedom in this country is freedom of belief. The remarks made by the honourable member for Henty were probably the most offensive remarks I have heard from any honourable member on either side of the chamber. I hope that I shall not hear such remarks again. What the honourable member said reminded me of the biblical tale about the Pharisee and the publican. I suggest that the honourable member has cast himself in the role of the Pharisee. I return now to the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
I refer firstly to our relationship with our ally the United States of America. Frequent references have been made by honourable members opposite to our relationships with our ally. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) spoke on this matter the other night he referred to the ‘unnecessary strains’ that had been put on our relationship with the United States because of various statements that had been made by members of the Labor Government. I invite honourable members to consider the points that the Labor Ministers were criticising. They were criticising the completely unjustified and unwarranted bombing of North Vietnam by the United States, a bombing which had no justification and which should never have been carried out. Surely if we disagree with such a policy we should say so. The Opposition criticised the Labor Government for expressing its views, but the Opposition was very careful not to say what it thought about the bombing.
I believe that the public of Australia have a right to know what the views of the Opposition are when its members criticise the Government. Are we to understand that the Opposition supported the bombing of North Vietnam last December? If so, honourable members opposite should have the courage to stand up and say so. If they did not support the bombing the only other conclusion to be drawn is that it does not matter what our ally does, no matter how bad it is, in no circumstances should we criticise it. What an extraordinary proposition this is. Supposing nuclear weapons had been used by the United States in North Vietnam. Would we still be forbidden to criticise the United States in a case like that? I believe that both conclusions that can be drawn - that we must never criticise our ally or that the bombing should be supported - are unacceptable. It is ridiculous that we should be expected to support uncritically every move of a government to which we are allied. Surely this is not the meaning of an alliance with another country.
What exactly does the ANZUS pact mean? It means that if one signatory country to the pact is attacked there shall be consultations between the 3 member governments with a view to taking appropriate action. This does not commit any country. We know that after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in the United States Senate it has been a very arguable proposition that the United States would automatically come to the rescue of Australia if we were subject to attack. But we have put ourselves into the United States alliance and, as a result, it has cost us very dearly in our involvement in the quagmire of Vietnam. What benefit have we gained from the treaty?
There is the possibility that the United States will come to our aid if we are attacked. I believe that it will do so if it is in its own interest to do so, but in no other circumstances.
I suggest that what we should do is look at the ANZUS Treaty in the same way as the United States Government does, in terms of its own self interest. This is what any government should do. The United States Government has gone into the Treaty to extract from it what it considers to be in its own interest. We should go in to get as much as possible from it and make as few concessions as possible. Under the policy that we inherited from the previous Government the situation was the other way round. I do not think we should scrap the Treaty. I see no purpose in saying to the United States that if we are attacked we do not want that country to defend us. I see no purpose in being unfriendly to the United States, but we must remember that the treaty must serve our national interest and be a means to an end. Unfortunately, under the previous Government, the ANZUS Treaty came to be regarded as an end in itself. When the bombing of North Vietnam occurred last December, surely if we objected to it it was up to us to say so. We must say clearly where we stand. Yet there has been an attempt to apply pressure on the Australian Government.
After the Prime Minister had sent a note to the United States and other Ministers had made statements there was great pressure on the Australian Government to recant. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is now at the table, made a statement attacking the Australian Government. He was among those who were exerting great pressure on the Government. Some people said that we should repudiate the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). Others said that we should repudiate the Seamen’s Union of Australia. It must be appreciated that there was tremendous pressure on the Australian Government at that time to repudiate what had previously been said, in other words, to line up in support of the United States. I believe that we could not have done this in these circumstances, much as we wanted to retain our alliance with the United States. I believe that it was a terrible thing that some people did align themselves with United States policies and tried to exert diplomatic pressure on our Government.
Just imagine what would have happened if the Government had claimed that the Minister for Labour did not mean what he said, that the Americans could go ahead with their bombing with our support. That would have been a diplomatic victory and just what the United States would have wanted in order to justify and gain support for its bombing policy. If we had agreed to that we would have been collaborating with this policy. I believe that the statements made by the honourable member for Wannon and other people put them in the position of collaborating with the bombing policy of the United States. I believe that they should be ashamed of their actions at the time.
I now turn to the domestic front. I believe that the Government is to be congratulated on its program for the next 3 years as announced in the Governor-General’s Speech. The activity and the initiatives of the Government that we have seen already are very commendable. The increases in the age pension, Service pensions and other pensions will soon become manifest and will give very badly needed increases to the pensioners of Australia. Already great initiatives have been taken in the field of school dental services, a matter with which I have been very closely connected and concerned in recent years. I am pleased to see that the Government has acted very rapidly in this area. The proposal is to provide a free school dental service to every primary school child in Australia. I think this is a very important matter on which the Government is to be congratulated. It must be remembered that the Government is not just providing a service for children with bad teeth; it is a preventive program to prevent and completely eradicate dental disease. I believe it is not unreal to expect that within a few years under this scheme dental caries will become a complete rarity in Australia.
I notice that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) is in the House. I should like to say to him that I applaud the decision of the Government to send some girls >to New Zealand for training as dental therapists, but I hope that this is not taken to mean that the New Zealand scheme is the complete answer to everything. I believe that the scheme which has operated in South Australia for some years is the best of all schemes and I hope it will become the prototype for all school dental schemes which are operating throughout
Australia. Rather than follow the New Zealand scheme too closely I hope that the scheme to be introduced throughout Australia will be one of our own and will closely follow that of South Australia.
In the field of housing the Government already has taken some very decisive action in its emergency grant for rental housing to the States. The conditions laid down by the Australian Government that housing be made available for rental purposes are very good and I wholeheartedly support them. Certainly there has been a very severe problem in the shortage of rental housing and perhaps the problem has been at its worst in New South Wales. It certainly has been very severe in South Australia. The problem has been very often that some of the houses with subsidised rentals have been sold by the tenants. The tenants are people on low incomes. They may be approached by speculators who offer to buy their house from them. The speculators buy the house from them in order to re-sell it. They make a handsome profit and what really amounts to a profit out of the public purse because of the subsidised rents. The result is that the number of rental houses available is decreasing.
Because the houses being sold are in the inner metropolitan area low income families have been deprived of low income housing in inner suburban areas, and are being driven to the outer suburban ghettos where they face all the sorts of social problems that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and other members of this Government are now trying to grapple with. This problem must be eliminated. I wholeheartedly endorse the proposition of the Government that these houses should not fall into the hands of speculators. Another problem is created in this respect. Many people living in these houses would like to buy them, if that were possible. There is a traditional view probably becoming increasingly widespread that Australian people want to own their own homes. What can we do to stop people seeking to make a quick buck from profiting out of this? Perhaps the way out of this impasse would be to allow tenants to buy their properties on the condition that they should be resaleable only to the State housing authority. This is a suggestion which I made to the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) a few weeks ago. I am pleased to see that in a recent speech the
Minister made reference to this proposal. I hope that this scheme will be introduced and that it will provide that a person who has been a tenant in and has purchased a State housing commission home will be able to sell that home to the State housing authority only. Another action by this Government from which we have already seen some benefit derived - we will see more improvements in this area - is the move to control spiralling prices. The policies of this Government make an interesting contrast with the policies adopted by the previous Government. When the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd increased its steel prices last year, Liberal Ministers said that the decision in that case was a commercial one for the company concerned to make. So the Government took no action. The contrast between that policy and the policies of the Labor Government is important. When a 7 per cent increase in the price of steel was mooted by BHP this year the Labor Government set up an inquiry under Mr Justice Moore who, after hearing all the evidence, determined that a price increase of 3 per cent was the maximum that could be justified. This inquiry was very important because it demonstrated the completely arbitrary nature of the pricing policies of companies such as BHP. It showed clearly that there was a need for any increases proposed in prices to be justified.
The inquiry of Mr Justice Moore was an important forerunner to an important policy item of this Government, that is, the establishment of a prices justification tribunal. We do not put this proposal forward as the complete panacea to contain prices but we believe it is a very important and essential step. The Commonwealth will be able to use its power to control excessive price increases. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out on a number of occasions, the Commonwealth has great power to take action as it is the main authority letting contracts, granting subsidies and determining tariffs. It can use this power in order to control the pricing policies of the corporations producing basic commodities in our community. Of course, there is nothing original about this method. It was used by former President Kennedy of the United States of America when he acted to contain prices of steel in his country. The Federal Labor Government will take similar action to contain prices so that prices do not rise any higher than can be justified by our prices tribunal. Not only will the Commonwealth use its power to contain price increases, but it will also use its great power - and rightly so - to ensure adequate working conditions for all employees engaged under Government contracts. This matter was given considerable airing in the debate on a matter of public importance this morning. I was most surprised to hear members of the Opposition lining themselves up with employers who have committed breaches of awards in the past and have committed other violations of Acts and so forth. Perhaps nowhere is this type of behaviour more important than in the building industry which is absolutely notorious for these things. I am sure all honourable members have had experience of constituents making representations to them because they have not received their pay or they have been paid short by building companies. Despite resistance from the Opposition on this matter the Commonwealth will take action to protect employees from these sorts of practices. I find it incredible that anybody in this parliament should seek to oppose the enforcement of proper working conditions and the observance of awards for employees working under Government contracts.
It was also remarkable to see the views of a former member of the South Australian judiciary who wrote to an Adelaide newspaper early this week. He argued in the same terms as the Opposition. Apparently he feels that the Government should not be bothered with such mundane matters as whether an employee is paid in accordance with a determination under an arbitration Act or award. With attitudes like that in the judiciary it is timely that industrial matters were removed by this Government from the purview of civil courts. This Government believes that a person taking action to protect and to improve working conditions of employees should not be subject to action in a civil court. Regrettably employers, particularly in my home State of South Australia, have been increasingly using devices such as these which have the effect of denying to workers the right to strike. Nobody likes strikes, least of all the person who is forgoing wages. But the right to withhold one’s labour must be preserved because it is a fundamental right. When that right is lost, slavery results.
The Labor Government does not believe in confrontations with the trade unions. Our relations with the trade unions are necessarily very close. It is not just a matter of ideology; it is a matter of pragmatism. We believe that this is of great benefit to the community. I can give as an example the record of the South Australian Labor Government, which has a very close working relationship with the trade unions in that State. It is interesting to note that although South Australia has 9 per cent of the Australian work force, in the last 3 years only 3.36 per cent of total days lost due to strikes throughout Australia through industrial disputes were in South Australia. The same situation applied in the time of the previous Labor Government in South Australia from 1965 to 1968 when the figure was 3.35 per cent. It is interesting to note also that in the short tenure of office of the Liberal Government in South Australia the figure rose to 5.2 per cent, quite a significant jump.
I think this is a very important factor which people should note. In 2 days time an election will be held in South Australia where the South Australian Liberal Party - that is both factions of it - appears hell bent on trying to get into government to force confrontations with the trade unions. I think that South Australians should note very carefully the industrial record of the South Australian Labor Government because I think if South Australians voted that Government out of office - I do not think they will however - they would learn to their cost that it is much better to have a policy of co-ordination and close co-operation with the trade union movement than to have one of confrontation. This policy of cooperation will be very vigorously pursued also by the Commonwealth Labor Government which I am very proud to support.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is in the House because I intend to say some things in regard to him which I hope he will do me the courtesy of listening to because I think they are relevant. I refer to certain matters which are most important, and in particular to something which I think is of prime importance, although not terribly spectacular and has not received much attention. I refer to the gradual drift of Australia towards the Left since this Government has been in power. This has happened both by action and inaction; both by the things the Government has initiated and by its failure to rebuke its own Ministers for statements which have been clearly prejudicial to the safety and interests of Australia. This Government is gradually taking Australia into the communist orbit. It has no mandate for that. This was not put forward during the election campaign and yet it is happening, not quickly, not dramatically, but with a considerable and massive momentum. This is not something which is academic. It is not something which can be brushed aside because the whole safety and existence of Australia is at stake. In this and other parts of the world there is no automatic safety for those peoples who conduct their foreign policy in an incompetent way.
This drift to the Left has taken place under both the 2-man Government which briefly held office and the Government which succeeded it. What is its explanation? The House would agree with me that neither the Prime Minister nor the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) is a communist or even radically to the Left. Yet under their guidance this process is going on. What is the explanation? I think the explanation derives from 2 things - firstly, from the nature of the Australian Labor Party machine and its control over the Government and, secondly, from weakness of character in the 2 gentlemen whom I have mentioned.
Let me speak of the ALP machine first and I take my material from the official documents of the Party. These speak of the powers and duties of the Federal Conference and Federal Executive. The Australian Labor Party ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ states:
Decisions of the Federal Executive shall be binding upon all sections and members of the ALP subject only to appeal to Federal Conference. The Federal Executive shall:
Be the administrative authority carrying out the decisions of Federal Conference, and in the interpretation of any Conference decision, the Federal Platform and the Constitution and Rules of the Party, and the direction of Federal Members.
This is set out in black and white. Later on in that same document there is a section dealing with the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party which says:
The power of direction, advice and/or guidance is reserved for the Federal Conference and between conferences, the Federal Executive.
Again the Party’s constitution lays down that the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party can have authority to act only within the framework of the directions which it gets.
This was not perhaps of great consequence when the Labor Party was in Opposition be cause the acts of the Opposition do not determine Australian policy. It is of great consequence, however, when the Labor Party is in government because it means that the Government of Australia - this is the incredible fact but it is true - is subject to outside direction.
The Prime Minister acknowledged this in the House only a few days ago, on 28th February, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) asked:
Is he bound in making his policy decisions by all of the platform, constitution and rules of the Labor Party as approved at the Launceston Conference in 1971.
That referred to the document from which I have read. The Prime Minister answered quite simply in one word, ‘yes’. He considers himself bound. That means that the Government of Australia is not in the hands of the Federal Cabinet or this Parliament. While the Federal Cabinet and the Party opposite which has the majority in this House accepts outside direction the Government of Australia is in the hands of the Australian Labour Party Conference and, between conferences, the Federal Executive. I want to refer to what happened in 1966 - and perhaps the Prime Minister will recall these events - because it throws a fairly relevant light upon the course of policy. At that stage the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as he then was, did come into conflict with the Federal Executive and briefly he defied it. But he came to heel and I will quote from an official document, the report of the Special Commonwealth Conference which was printed under the authority of the Labor Party. Mr Whitlam had been summoned before that Federal Conference. At page 36 of that report the following appears:
The Federal Secretary read to Conference the following letter he had been handed from Mr Whitlam:
Since the Federal Executive convened the Special Federal Conference, I sent a letter to the South Australian Branch at its request as follows: “Many members of the Party and its affiliated unions have been angered at the public attack I made on some decisions and members of the Federal Executive.” ‘
– Who wrote that?
- Mr Whitlam. It continued:
I have already given an unreserved apology in writing to the Executive for the personal reference I made.
I am glad a Special Federal Conference has been called. I now undertake to work within the framework of the party and to accept the decisions of its properly constituted authorities.
This letter represents my attitude,
The Prime Minister confirmed on 28th February, only a few days ago, in this House that his attitude was still the same. The following motion was moved at the Conference:
That the letter be received, and, in view of the undertaking given by Mr Whitlam- in the letter dated 26th March that he will now work within the framework of the Party and accept the decisions of its properly constituted authorities, the Conference reprimanded Mr Whitlam for his admitted breach of the rules as contained in the findings of the Federal Executive at its meeting held on 2nd March 1966 and following days.
The report continues:
Does your letter to (his Conference amount to a full and unreserved acceptance of the authority and decisions of the Federal Conference and the Federal Executive, and do you admit that you were completely in error in bringing into question, in a manner not provided for in the rules, the decisions of these Federal authorities?
Mr Whitlam replied: ‘I have nothing to add.’
This is confirmation of the attitude which has been adopted throughout by the Prime Minister. He accepts unreservedly the authority of the other bodies and he will carry out, he says, their instructions. They are the government of Australia, not this Parliament and not the Cabinet. While they can find supporters on the other side of this chamber in sufficient numbers they do what they want. They command. They issue the orders and the policy for Australia, the veering to the Left, is what they command. I think it is clear that the Prime Minister will not stand up under pressure. He has a reputation for not standing up under pressure from the Left. Does he think of Mr Harradine, his friend, and how he abandoned and betrayed him? Does he perhaps have the grace to blush a little when he considers this matter? Perhaps he will brazen it out. And what about the Victorian affair when his leadership was under challenge and he tried to get the moderates and the Right wing to support him and then abandoned and betrayed them. It is a dangerous thing to be a friend of the Prime Minister. I would like to read a newspaper report of something which Mr Courtnay, the late honourable member for Darebin, who lost his pre-selection, had to say. The article stated:
Mr Frank Courtnay, the retiring MHR, today produced letters to support his attack on unionists and Labor Party members.
Mr Courtnay claims he lost preselection because he refused to stab Mr Gough Whitlam in the back.
Mr Courtnay claims he was directed by the Darebin campaign council committee to vote for Dr Jim Cairns against Mr Whitlam when the Labor leadership was at stake in April last year.
He said the resolution came from a meeting that was illegal under Party rules.
He alleges, and J think there is some substance in his allegation, that he lost his preselection because he supported the present Prime Minister against the present Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns). It is a dangerous thing to be the friend of the Prime Minister, because when the pressure comes on from the Left hie gives way to the Left.
Looking at the pledges he gave to the metal unions on only 2nd June last - given to Communists and to left wingers - I see them being translated into legislation or foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Conference of the Party - this almighty government of Australia - will assemble, I believe, in Surfers Paradise in July or August of this year. It was thought that the moderates - the right wing - might have the balance of that Conference. But perhaps the House has not paid sufficient regard to what happened in Tasmania 2 or 3 days ago when the socialist Left exerted its power and the Tasmanian delegates to that Conference are now split 3 - 3, right and left. Because of this it is likely that the Tasmanian delegation will be either neutralised or will throw its lot in with the Left, and this may be sufficient to give to the left wing control of that Conference and control therefore of the Prime Minister and control of the Government of this country.
What I am saying sounds almost incredible. Yet, these things are true. These are facts; they are indisputable. They arc here in the text if only people would read them, if only people would understand what they did on 2nd December and realise whom they put into power. People thought they were voting perhaps for the members that they were electing. But actually they were voting to give power to a Labor Conference and to a Labor Executive. Again I say that what has been happening recently in Tasmania may well throw the balance of power in that Conference on the side of the Left.
The House knows well enough that in Victoria the so-called purge of the Left in the Australian Labor Party machine was a pure sham. Hartley is back; Crawford is there; and the Left is still in control- the corrupt Left which controls the Australian Labor Party machine in Victoria. This has happened, yet people will not look at the signs, and they will not see behind this the reason why, slowly, Australia is being taken to the left and our foreign policy is taking us into the communist orbit to the personal peril of all Australians. You cannot rely on a communist friend; why, his friends cannot even rely on the Prime Minister.
As I have said, there are 2 people concerned. I have already mentioned the Prime Minister. The other person, of course, is the Deputy Prime Minister. I think I should mention that in 1967 the Deputy Prime Minister went to South East Asia and came back with the true story, which was printed in a paper under his own name, that North Vietnam was responsible for massive aggression against South Vietnam. What he said has been published in his name. But once the pressure came on - and, of course, one does not expect a great deal of strength of character from the Deputy Prime Minister - he retreated. There is nobody more vehement now in denouncing those whom he knows are due for support.
What will happen next? We cannot tell. The Prime Minister has forecast that the Labor Conference will not put any great demands on him or call for any great changes. He may well be right, because even though the Left may be in control it may not think it expedient at this time to exert that control. It is very useful to the Left to have a weak front man, because the Australian people would never vote for the extreme Left. They voted for a weak front man, not realising what they were doing. Because of this it may well be that the Left will not at present exert its full strength. Maybe it will be content with the continuation of the present program, the present slow drift to the left, the present slow but quite significant involvement of Australia in the communist orbit. We are abandoning our friends; we are insulting our friends. The new friends we think we may get cannot be trusted. The safety and the survival of Australia can be prejudiced. Mr Prime Minister, I say that you have no mandate for what you and your Government are doing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Before calling the honourable member for Cook I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech and I expect the usual courtesies to be extended to him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I add my congratulations to the many that have already been expressed to you and ask that you convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his appointment to that high office which is a fitting tribute to the years of service that he has given to this Parliament and to his electorate. This new Government comes into office with all the enthusiasm, vigour and expertise that is needed to form the best and most progressive government this country has ever known. It comes in at a time when the nation cries out for change and progress, and no section of this country cries out more than does the section at the local, level. Successive Commonwealth Governments have refused to recognise the relationship that should exist between governments at all levels. They consistently have refused to recognise local government as other than a child of the States and something that should be the responsibility of the States.
This year a convention is to be held to discuss the Constitution of this country. Some progress may be made at that conference but one would not have to be a prophet to realize that the States will protect zealously the sovereignty they have and that in fact not a great deal of change will be achieved irrespective of the necessity for change, but change Will come. It will not come from the inspiration and initiative of government, from where it ought to come. It will come with the assistance of communities - the same communities that elect governments and expect governments to provide for them the initiative to provide change. These communities are fed up with inadequate schools, sewerage systems, housing and hospitals and lack of proper planning. No longer are State and local government boundaries and areas of responsibility, created over a century ago, necessarily satisfactory to meet our modern needs. Not since 1861 has there been any significant change in any State boundary, and this is despite the concerted attempts by groups of people in organisations like the new State movements in New England, the Riverina, and north and central Queensland to effect a change more suitable to the area of responsibility today. There have been moves in some State. Parliaments but these also have failed. Fortunately in New South Wales there is at present an inquiry into local government boundaries. One should not be too critical of other governments unless I suppose one looks at this Parliament. Like culture, tradition certainly has some place in our community. But when tradition impairs the proper functioning of this House then it is time that the House took it upon itself to consider the situation.
An honourable member in his speech yesterday used the words ‘an expensive debate’ but immediately corrected himself and said an extensive debate’. I suggest that he was right in both respects. The time honoured tradition of divisions in this Parliament is a useless waste of time. In an age of electronics and computers we should be looking for something more progressive and more in keeping with the times than our present system. It is an indictment of the Parliament that we have not looked at the ceremonies performed in this place to ascertain whether they can be modernised. I agree with members of the Opposition and Government supporters who have spoken in this debate that more information should be provided to Opposition supporters and that they should be given greater access to information so that we can have in this Parliament a proper forum. Honourable members would then be able to debate intelligently and with conviction the things that come before this House. I hope that this will eventuate under this Government. It certainly did not apply under the previous Government. Some change has been made in this House and I commend Mr Speaker for his leadership. It is possible that he. has shown the way in this regard.
The Cook electorate is situated on the southern perimeter of Sydney. It has a population of some 100,000 people, half of whom are’ under 20 years of age. The electorate has the privilege of having within its boundaries the birthplace of Australia where in 1770 Lieutenant James Cook landed on our shores. In this electorate 2,000 young people leave school every year and seek job opportunities or go on to higher education. Most of the population in the area is in the middle income group. We have all the social problems that a community of this nature would have. Many young families in my area pay $25 to $35 a week in rent and very often they are receiving incomes of less than $65 a week. I think that very few of these people added much to the statistics released yesterday giving the average wage at $104 a week.
We do not know just what are the social implications for those people who are affected by the inadequate housing in the States. Today some 400,000 people are urgently in need of housing. This represents a housing need of approximately 93,000 homes. The States over the years - and the Commonwealth must accept its responsibility - have failed to meet the needs of housing especially for the low income groups. I think there is a definite need for a type of housing for young married couples such as a low rental type of housing suitable to accommodate young married couples over the first years of marriage. These people cannot possibly accrue any savings while they are paying the enormous rents that they have to pay in the competitive housing market today.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) say yesterday that the State governments have taken some initiative in freezing land prices in the areas that are going to be developed for housing by this Government in co-operation with State governments. Too many fortunes have been made in the past by the stroke of a pen changing the planning provisions pf an area. Unfortunately the people, who have made the fortunes have not always been the original owners of the land. The land has been purchased by development companies and then when rezoned for housing vast fortunes have been made, forcing up the price of land and the price of housing generally.
In the field of urban and regional development this Government will show the way. Our cities are choked, our streams are polluted and our public transport system is a schemozzle. Yet governments have not shown initiative by doing something about decentralisation. I am sure that under this new Government we will see - and we will see it in the first 3 years - some reasonable progress made in the field of urban and regional development. Decentralisation will no longer be a catchery but a reality. People will be able to move from the cities into country areas which are not only well planned and desirable but which will provide everything they need for their living. Over recent years governments have failed consistently to show initiative and it is very apparent in the building industry today that there is a grave lack of tradesmen and a grave lack of recruitment of apprentices to service this industry. Yet nobody seems to know how bad the position is or how serious it will be in the future as we strive to build houses which the people urgently need.
In the field of social welfare nothing significant has been achieved in the 23 years the previous Government held office. We have already indicated our intentions - and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had tabled a statement today - in regard to one of the great needs of this country. I refer to the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme. I commend that scheme to the House. There is no more urgent need than a compensation scheme for people who in the prime of their life for some reason are stricken down, whether it be bv a heart attack or some other illness, and their families left destitute in a short space of time. This area of social welfare was neglected by the previous Government. No attempt was made to overcome this enormous problem. Frequently these people are rehabilitated within a reasonable period only to find that they are totally incapable of meeting the enormous debts which they incurred during the period of their incapacity. There is a very great need in this area. I hope that this scheme is expedited so that the people of Australia can rest easy knowing that there is a scheme to provide for them in time of illness or injury.
It has been very obvious in recent years that the existing health schemes will not be able to cope and that people, particularly in the lower income groups, will not be able to afford the necessary insurance to provide them with the benefits of a proper health and hospitals scheme. I am quite sure that in a very short space of time this Government will again show leadership in this regard and will be in a position to provide an alternative scheme to the people so that they will be able to get proper health services. Also, by showing the initiative and the enterprise it will be able to reduce the enormous need for people to be hospitalised. Health services in the home will be made available to people who previously would have had to go into hospital.
I commend the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) on the work that he has done so far. I can think of no other area which needs greater activity. Already the Minister has been able to achieve a great deal. He has had numerous conferences with the State Ministers. I am quite sure that within the next 12 months we will see a rejuvenation in this field and possibly a reduction rather than an annual increase in the waiting list of people for this urgently needed accommodation. I am proud to represent the people of Cook in this Parliament. I look forward to participating in the debates and deliberations. I hope that they will be upgraded over the period in which Labor is in office. I offer honourable members my co-operation at all times.
– I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Cook (Mr Thorburn) on his contribution to this debate. I know that making a maiden speech is a very trying experience, but I think he impressed all of us with his sincerity and his concern for humanity. I would also like to take the opportunity of congratulating other honourable members who have made their maiden speeches. Last year in this House I accused the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of a political crime in telling the world that he, a prospective Prime Minister, believed that the Australian dollar should be upvalued. Today I take a further charge against him for an economic crime against the exporting industries and against the Australian people by his clumsy, damaging handling of the Australia dollar. Today the nation is paying the cost of the Prime Minister’s wilfulness. It is paying the penalty for his contempt for the productive industries and for private enterprise. It is suffering the consequences of the Prime Minister’s failure to consult those Ministers whom one would expect to be able to exercise a wiser and restraining influence on him.
On 22nd February the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) said that Australia’s growth rate was not sufficient to support the program on which the Labor Government was elected. In that one sentence the Minister exposed the sham of the Prime Minister’s claim just before the election that the Labor Party’s grandiose proposals would be financed from an increasing national rate of growth. But one could almost be forgiven for thinking that the Government that has pledged to transform the nation on a program financed by the products of this increased growth has made a declaration of war on the productive and export industries. After the 3 Labor Ministers engaged in an exercise of hurling insults at our friend, ally and customer - the United States . of America - one of the first things the Prime Minister did .was to make certain that his prophecy was fulfilled by revaluing the Australian dollar. He revalued it unilaterally at a time when no other country was moving its exchange rates but when he knew that other currencies were likely to move in the near future. He could not wait till then, but rushed in and gave the export industries a backhanded Christmas present of a 7.05 per cent revaluation. This is the only occasion on which Australia has adjusted its currency rates independently of international changes and pressures.
Why did this happen? It happened because of the Prime Minister’s stubborn refusal to admit to even the slightest possibility that he could have been wrong. Having made one mistake, he insisted on compounding it rather than admitting the error. Having told the world that he believed the Australian dollar should be revalued, he could not be diverted from the course he had set. The hot money poured in, and the speculators have now taken their pay-off. But the Prime Minister took the astonishing action, as I have already said, of a unilateral revaluation of the currency. He had to do it, not because it was the correct thing to do but because earlier he had committed himself to it and, having done that, nothing in the world would persuade him that he might be wrong. Having blundered into one decision, when he was faced with another decision he blundered again in failing to devalue the Australian dollar with the United States dollar. As a result, we have seen a revaluation of over 18 per cent against the United States dollar in 2 months - a degree of realignment which even the Prime Minister could not have had in mind when he first made his incredible statement of last August.
This whole series of events must go down in our history as a series of blunders by a Prime Minister whose egotism has caused and will cause unprecedented damage to Australian industry. Not only did this decision damage the competitive position of our export industries but it also damaged the competitive position of our domestic industries. In many cases these industries are one and the same, so they suffered a 2-pronged attack by the Government. In the case of secondary industry and mining in particular, the people who stand to suffer are the very people - the employees - whom the Labor Party claims to represent.
These decisions were damaging for a number of reasons. They caused direct dam age to Australian industry - primary, secondary and mining - in relation to both export and domestic markets. They caused serious damage to industrial confidence, the confidence that industry must have if it is to survive and grow. They were based on insufficient information and were made in ignorance of the views of departments other than the Treasury. They were made without the benefit of views which would have been put by Ministers who, unlike the Prime Minister, understand the damage and the repercussions of revaluation. They were symptomatic of the Prime Minister’s dangerous impetuosity. He was peeved by the exposure of his original mistake and refused to admit it or to correct it.
It would be extremely interesting to hear what the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) or the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry think of these decisions. Not even the Prime Minister knows what they think because they were not given the chance to tell him. To add to the injury caused by the revaluation, the Government has rejected the idea of compensating exporters for losses they will suffer as a direct result of the Government’s ill-advised currency decision. What is even more deserving of criticism is the deceptive way in which the Government has approached the question of compensation. A series of statements has been made about adjustment assistance. This built up the hopes of industry that the Government might after all be prepared to offer at least some help in offsetting the losses it had caused to Australian industry. But, as I have pointed out on a number of occasions, the Government has not the slightest intention of offering any such help. With its talk of adjustment assistance, it has fooled a lot of people into believing that it will provide revaluation compensation. But there will be no compensation. Even with adjustment assistance, the Government has laid down such stringent criteria that it will be virtually impossible for any industry, except the fruit industry, to qualify and that is virtually a once only welfare payment. Even the Treasurer (Mr Crean), of whom I expected more, continued the perpetration of this fiction in this House on Tuesday when he spoke at question time about an interdepartmental committee to look into the question of compensation. The recommendations of that committee and the Government’s decision on the question had nothing whatever to do with compensation for losses resulting from revaluation.
Australian exporters should by now know and understand that, in contrast to the $111m in devaluation compensation provided by the Liberal-Country Party Government, the Labor Government will provide nothing. Not one cent will be paid in revaluation compensation. With its offer of some ephemeral and unattainable thing such as adjustment assistance the Government is trying to pull the wool over the people’s eyes. It is nothing more than a confidence trick. What is the end result of the new Government’s currency decisions, added to the changes in exchange rates that have taken place in recent years? It is that the Australian dollar is one of the most over-valued currencies in the world; perhaps the most overvalued currency in the world. Exchange rates, in a free market, tend to reflect the differences in the internal purchasing powers of various currencies. The value of any currency can be seen in its internal purchasing power, purchasing power being dependent upon national productivity; in other words, how a country manages its manpower and resources. But when a country’s currency is pegged like ours, we can have a situation in which there is more inflation in one country than in another but this does not show up in the exchange rate. That is what has happened to us. We have experienced higher inflation than has the United States, but our artificially high pegging of our currency prevents the exchange rate reflecting the real situation.
Since November 1967 our dollar has appreciated by over 45 per cent against sterling, and by 26 per cent against the United States dollar in the last 14 months. There has even been an effective appreciation against the yen since December. Can anyone really claim mat Australia’s real .gross national product has been growing faster than that of all other countries in recent years? The report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that our growth has been sluggish at 3 per cent to 4 per cent. Much of our growth has been eroded by inflation. Inflation has been far worse in this country than in the United States. The United States dollar today retains 59 per cent of its 1949 purchasing power but the Australian dollar retains only 37 per cent of its 1949 purchasing power.
The United States dollar is worth much more than is our dollar. Yet we have created the ludicrous situation in which we have artificially tried to make the Australian dollar worth more than the American dollar. Since 1971, we have appreciated 26 per cent against the American dollar, cutting the returns to our exporters by a net 21 per cent. We have done this while our costs have increased by about 10 per cent, far more than costs have increased in the United States. We have appreciated against sterling by 45 per cent while the pound is holding its purchasing power. What we have done by pegging the exchange rate at an artificially high level is to put a tax on our export industries and to give a subsidy to our importers and remitters of capital.
Why has all this happened? It seems to me that we have become obsessed with our high overseas reserves and balance of payments situation, and we are allowing this to become the dominating factor in our whole approach to the management of the economy. There are ways of dealing with balance of payments problems, but this is not one which will apply equitably right across the community. Do not let us get so hung up about balance of payments that it causes an imbalance in our economic judgment. I am afraid that is what is happening. What will be the cost to primary industry of these deliberate Government decisions? It has been estimated that the cost to primary exporters of the Government’s unilateral revaluation on 23rd December will be between $150m and S200m in one year. Since then, of course, there has been a further Government decision not to revalue with the United States dollar which has greatly accentuated the difficulties. Estimates made by various industries indicate possible losses for the second revaluation of SI 8.5m on wheat, with annual losses for other commodities likely to run into $45m on meat, $5m on cotton, $4m on fisheries and losses on sugar rising to somewhere between SI 7m and $23m in 1973 and up to $29m in 1974. Of course, the impact on some of these industries has been masked by the present world shortage of these goods and the very high prices prevailing.
What has been the effect on our foreign reserves in the last 3 weeks? The foreign reserves of the Reserve Bank of Australia have fallen by $600m, not to mention the payments by the Bank for forward exchange cover commitments, amounting to at least $100m, and probably a good deal more. I am sure that no-one in his wildest dreams ever expected the Australian dollar to be revalued against the United States dollar by more than 18 per cent in 2 months or by 26 per cent in less than 14 months, or against sterling by 45 per cent since 1967. Not only are these revaluations making the task of exporting extremely hard by their direct effect on returns, but they are also making the competitive position of our exporters impossible. For example, over the period in which the Australian dollar has appreciated by 45 per cent against sterling, the South African rand has appreciated against sterling by only 25 per cent. How can our exporters, especially our fruit industry, compete against South African exporters under conditions like that?
Look at minerals. The Labor Premier of Western Australia has appealed to the Prime Minister to devalue the Australian dollar. He says projects worth $700m in his State are in jeopardy as a result of this Government’s hotheaded actions. Some $ 1,000m have been slashed from the value of iron ore export contracts by this Government. Mr Lang Hancock has said that this Government has cost Western Australia a $ 1,500m steel mill and a $200m alumina refinery. He has said that this Government, through revaluation, has made at least one giant iron mine uneconomic, as well as the famous crayfishing industry of Western Australia. Mr Hancock, using words very much in fashion in the Labor Party these days, has said that revaluation has ‘aborted a golden future for Western Australia - a future which would have made the recent mineral boom pale into insignificance’.
It is hard to escape the feeling that one of the major underlying motives of the Government in its currency decisions is to achieve by stealth a redirection of resources away from the primary and export sectors towards the consumer sector. It is certainly being successful in taking income and resources away from the export sector, but I am yet to be convinced that the promised benefits to the consumer will eventuate in the form of cheaper imported goods and a slowing down of the rate of inflation. If there were any chance of revaluation helping to reduce the rate of inflation, which I do not accept, then it is being cancelled out by the Government’s unbridled spending and its unwillingness to resist cost- increasing wage pressures. But there seem to be very strong grounds for believing that the Government’s objective is to benefit the great mass of its own supporters in the capital cities, and to make the primary, secondary and minerals exporters pay for it. If we look at the figures for exports by States, we will find that the Government is trying to divert resources away from the big export surplus States of Queensland and Western Australia - and to a lesser extent South Australia and Tasmania - to the import surplus States of New South Wales and Victoria. In other words, the Government is trying to give benefits to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne which put it into office, at the expense of the States which have much smaller populations.
But then the war on industry is being waged on other fronts. We have seen another round of the old Australian pastime of putting the boot into the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. It experienced a 14 per cent drop in profit in the last half year - over 22 per cent on iron, steel and minerals - yet it cannot increase its prices to an adequate level to cover rising wage and material costs. This was the worst profit setback in the company’s history. Yet the Prime Minister accepts the finding of an incomplete inquiry and tells BHP to accept it. What is the result? BHP postpones $l,300m worth of expansion. What a way to inspire confidence in industry! So this is the way the Government is treating industry - hurting it with revaluation, preventing it from expanding and clamping down on its freedom to earn adequate profit, and leaving in the dark the possibility of export incentives and the reintroduction of the investment allowance.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.
– Order! Before calling the next speaker I remind the House that this is a maiden speech. I ask honourable members to extend the normal courtesies to the honourable member for Macarthur.
– I am privileged to represent the people of the ruralurban seat of Macarthur. Macarthur is an electorate of 4 distinct parts, each with its own problems and prospects. All parts have a potential to make a greater contribution to our nation, given an aware, efficient and tolerant government. It is an electorate of incredible beauty, where the grass is green, the soil is rich and the cows are contented. There is a positive correlation between basalt soils and conservative voting. Fortunately, the larger number of astute voters live in the sandstone and shale areas.
Macarthur was named after one of the betterdescribed rogues in Australia’s history and was represented for the 23 years since its creation by one of Parliament’s greatest characters. The former honourable member was a man who passed through this place often but spoke little. He was a man who loved the land and was happiest with farming people. The history of the United Australia Party and the Liberal Party on the south coast of New South Wales is a history of the Bate family. Father and son served their parties well, and Jeff Bate represented parts of the present-day Macarthur in the New South Wales State seat of Wollondilly since 1937 - before I was born. It was a heartless action by the young Turks in his party to depasture him prior to the recent elections. His attainment of more than 11,000 votes, standing as an Independent, gives credence to the claim that those who scrapped him, including the present New South Wales Minister for Lands, had not lived long enough in the electorate to understand the importance of his service or the fidelity of his supporters.
Mr Bate, along with his colleagues in the Liberal Party, believed in subsidised, protected and privileged free enterprise, but was consistent enough to oppose the socialist legislation of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act when it was introduced in 1965. I have inherited the former honourable member’s office. It still has a faint tang of Tilba cheese about it, but I do not like using the word tang’ in this House. Unlike my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Whan). I cannot claim to have received the advantage of advice and encouragement from my predecessor. This is not to say that he did not help. However I should like to pay my respects to Mr Alan Fraser who represented parts of the present-day Macarthur in earlier years. Alan’s wisdom, his independence and his constant consistent concern for the rights of the individual will be remembered by all. He will be missed in this Parliament.
Each Federal electorate generates problems of a national character. With the change of Government on 2nd December a mandate was given for reform and for the national Parliament to act in the interests of all Australians, quite apart from the parochial demands of each electorate, each State, each particular industry, each Government department and each pressure group. I do not wish to infer that politics is not about the articulation of demands many of which are parochial, nor that politics is about the resolution of conflicting interests, but I do infer that we must identify the national interest in so many areas of so many needs and act to create institutions flexible enough to survive and adapt to change. A 10c subsidy for Meals on Wheels is no answer to poverty. A little more state aid is no answer to educational need. An increase in the Commonwealth Aid Roads appropriation does not exactly solve our transport problems.
We must be aware of overall social and economic climates. An increasing proportion of the population is aged under 35. The selfish individualism of the post-war years has been replaced by a more confident individualism based on mutual concern for others. The younger people demand that they make up their own minds on matters affecting them personally. They do not see that it is holier to consume than it is to think for themselves. They reject hypocrisy and are concerned with wider issues, such as the quality of life, and they are more aware of the sciences, technology and sociology.
The major economic problem facing Australia is an excessive rate of inflation. Few policies can be implemented without taking it into consideration. One of the current myths of .politics is that the Government has inherited an economy without the massive problems that dogged previous Federal Labor governments. The simple truth is that we face a plethora of crises instead of one readily identifiable crisis, such as the World Wars or the depression, that faced past Labor governments. The fact that our balance of payments can be described by some as healthy - though it could be said that our reserves are so high that they invite retaliation - or that unemployment is starting to drop is insufficient to guarantee continued prosperity and only reflects limited thinking. Inflation is the worst distributor of income. The second rate certainties of the 1950s are no answer to urban Australia’s problems.
We live in a capitalist, semi-planned economy. For such an economy to perform best, there is a need for market forces to operate in many sectors. In other sectors there is a need for governments to act for social reasons. Above all there is a need for government to be more actively engaged in planning. Just as wages are incidental to the problem of the control of inflation, so ownership is incidental to the working of the economic system we have or create. To attribute socialism to the ownership of some utilities or r industries is to engage in sterile debate and confuse the real strength of our overall political and economic system. Sweden has a large and sensible range of nationalised industries yet 90 per cent of the gross national product of that country is derived from free enterprise.
The core paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to which I address myself is where he so rightly points to the clear failure of existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, particularly in relation to education, social security, health, industrial relations and urban and regional development. The rapidly growing areas of Macarthur - Campbelltown, Dapto and Nowra - face every problem in this regard. These have been expounded eloquently by my colleague, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), who represents a similar electorate. But the same failure of economic structure and decision-making machinery is evident in most other areas of our crisis-ridden economy. I wish to relate this failure and my earlier remarks to 3 areas of national importance which have a direct bearing on my electorate. They are primary production, coal, and defence.
I assure honourable members opposite that I was bom and bred on a farm but instead of inheriting grass I inherited bush. However my credentials are impeccable because I actually cleared my land and gained great moral fibre in the process. I planted 17 acres of orchard when I was 18 years old. My form of farming was prosperous so long as I worked 80 to 90 hours a week, but unfortunately chook farmers and small orchardists do not have many votes. I raise these points because after 23 years of government, when there was a specialist party looking after country interests, we now find members of the same Party opposite crying for immediate action in almost every rural field. This surely is the greatest indictment of the Country Party and its lackadaisical approach - the compromises, the confusions of the late coalition and the failure ever to act in other than a short-term, short-sighted manner.
It has been said that the Government is acting slowly with respect to rural reconstruction. The previous Government gave an undertaking that $18m would be available for rural reconstruction in 1973-74 to finance approvals during the latter part of 1972-73. The Labor Government is not going back on this undertaking. The Government is now engaged in a review of rural debt and rural reconstruction which was initiated by the previous Government. As honourable members know full well, a meeting will be held this month to announce the conditions and the financing of the furtherance of the scheme. The immediate need, of course, is for carry on finance, but the Commonwealth Government has never been equipped to allocate funds on an individual basis. One State government - New South Wales - did not adhere to assurances given to the previous Government on rural reconstruction so it is a little hypocritical for people to criticise the new Government for laxity when it has a problem that the current Opposition clearly could not handle when in office.
It has been said that there is deception on the question of revaluation compensation. In December 1971 Australia appreciated 6.32 per cent against the United States dollar. In a wide movement of currencies Australia effected an overall depreciation in relation to the parities of our trading partners of approximately 1.75 per cent. In a Press statement of 22nd December 1971 the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), said:
The changes in international exchange rates will adversely affect some of the rural industries already experiencing difficult times. The Government is therefore prepared to examine and consider the position of those rural industries which are seriously affected.
Note the change of policy. There was no mention of compensation but merely a promise to examine and consider cases of industries already in trouble. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), who attacked the new Government for not providing compensation for currency alterations, has conveniently forgotten the 1971 decision of the government of which he was a member. Indeed, he was a leading member - the tail that wagged the dog so to speak. A number of rural industries indicated to the Department of Primary Industry that they had been harmed by the appreciation of the Australian dollar, but the Budget figures last August showed that nothing had been paid to those industries. During 1972 the Treasury made it clear that the Prime Minister’s statement stood and that assistance to industries in difficulties had replaced loss compensation as the policy of the McMahon Government.
We are presently faced with far more wideranging movements in world currency valuations. After the December 1972 revaluation of .the Australian dollar the Labor Government established an interdepartmental committee to examine the impact on rural industries. Provisions were laid down on which to base adjustment assistance. In brief, they were, firstly, where difficulties and problems of adjustment were already being faced at the time of adjustment, and, secondly, where the industry would experience difficulty in bearing the consequences of appreciation. As a consequence a welfare grant of up to $1,500 is available to growers producing export apples and pears and canning fruits. In addition a supplementary grant is available for growers eligible for clear fall assistance under the fruit growing reconstruction scheme. The submissions of other industries will be examined by the committee. In addition, following the February 1973 devaluation of the United States dollar, it was announced that the interdepartmental committee would examine submissions on the same conditions as applied to the revaluation decision of December. Not only did the Labor Government act quickly on currency changes but also it adopted a position not altogether dissimilar from that of the previous Government. Unlike its predecessor. Labor has actually made funds available for rural industries.
The compensation issue can only be approached on an examination of each industry. This Government recognises the very important aspect of the principle of identifying the welfare need. But even in these early days of government some attempt must be made to formulate a national approach to rural policy and the approach must be in depth and apart from the ad hocery of the past. I have a profound sympathy for the problems of the rural sector and do not go along with some of the ideas of city journalists. However, the traditional Country Party approach that only those who produce a commodity should decide how to market it might have been a popular catchery in the country, but it clearly has not worked. As an exfarmer I would be the first to agree with it if it had. I might add that if the ALP adopted the same approach to its relationship with the trade unions you would be able to hear the Country Party bellowing in Outer Mongolia. The recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report shows that Commonwealth financial assistance has risen from 12.3 per cent of gross farm product in 1969 to 18.4 per cent in 1972. Yet the problems have become no easier in the long term.
The current high prices for many of our rural commodities lead me to believe that there are no problems for the future of our trade. Although arguments for and against devaluation can be sustained, there does seem to be evidence that both revaluation and devaluation do little to change a country’s relative trading position. While trade balances may not respond predictably to exchange rate changes, they do appear to be quite closely related to differential growth rates. If a government acts only at the behest of rural organisations, a person can find himself in a position where he is, for example, for the acquisition of the wool clip one year and against it the next, or he is using organisations such as the Australian Wool Industry Conference to forestall decisions.
The reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to a protection commission provides the basis for a more considered rational approach. It is roughly in accord with that suggested by a committee of the Liberal Party chaired by the honourable member for
Corangamite (Mr Street), The goodsproducing sectors of our economy need special consideration. However, 1 trust that confusion between economic and social problems will cease. It seems to me to be far more sensible to subsidise farm income by means such as a negative income tax than it does to subsidise farm inputs. In social terms the need for retraining and education in the rural sector is just as essential as in secondary industry.
The ALP accepts responsibility for its decisions, but we are not going to act along the lines of more of the same when clearly the approach has not worked. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech made reference to the fact that for the first time this country will have a Minister for Minerals and Energy. This move is long overdue as we have previously possessed a Ministry for National Development which had no charter to identify our national interest in this growing and vital area. The work of the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who is the Minister for Minerals and Energy, has been immediate in areas requiring action and has been long overdue. He has been accused of acting parochially with respect to Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations due to the fact that his is an industrial electorate concerned with mining. This is nonsense as it is in my electorate and the electorates of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) that the crunch is now on. Unions and employers have been fighting to preserve the employment of some 600 men in the electorate of Macarthur who, for a 2-month period, have worked on virtually a week to week basis. One hundred and fifty men have lost their jobs and uncertainty hangs over the jobs of the 1,300 miners and the 700 or so other workers and contractors in the Burragorang Valley. There was a possibility that the last Government was prepared to sacrifice all these jobs.
Let us look at this question from a national point of view without the emotional response of ‘destroying Queensland to gain Queensland’s markets for the high priced mines of the south’. Those are despicable words. The
Joint Coal Board’s annual report for 1971-72 shows that 465 men had lost their jobs in New South Wales. Many more have lost them since. It also shows that over S50m was invested in mines last year in New South Wales. Due to the fact that coal in the Bowen Basin is more easily extracted, does it make sense nationally to wipe out this investment overnight? Does it make sense to throw away a 3-foot seam of coal in Queensland because it is not up to standard? Does it make sense to forsake revenue by selling coal too cheaply overseas? The Minister has made it perfectly clear that he is not acting to help Clutha v. Utah - they are, after all, both overseas companies. But let us consider this from a nationalistic point of view. Do honourable members honestly consider that if Australian companies were mining California for the Japanese market, the United States Government would allow our firms to cut each others throats and give the United States a pittance in royalties? It is not the fault of United States companies in Australia that absurdities abound, lt is ours, as Australians, and that of the previous Government. The principal culprit is the federal system.
I am not particularly concerned about the diatribes of an individual State Premier or about an individual Premier. That Premiers have been placed in a position of giving our resources away is more a reflection on problems of Commonwealth and State financial relations than anything else. However, it must be pointed out that there is evidence that the Queensland Government refused increased royalties, preferring increased rail freights so that they could bargain harder with the Commonwealth at the Australian Loan Council. We need to look closely at the whole royalty question. Little economics has so far been applied. I seek leave to include a table which is part of an unpublished master’s thesis by Mr Alan Henderson of Monash University which shows that the royalty revenue per head of population in Queensland was 37c in 1968- 69. I doubt that the proportion has increased since.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– There are at least 6 areas on which a national minerals and energy policy should centre. They include: Foreign ownership and control; legislative needs, taxation, royalties, subsidies and incentives; export control; decentralisation and infrastructural assistance; and further processing.. I could go on with these matters but I hope to have a chance to speak on this at a later occasion. I could point out that it has recently been calculated that the benefits to Australia of the mineral sector are not quite of the magnitude expounded by some. The change in capital per man in Australia has raised national income by one-fiftieth of one per cent; consumer surplus accruing through price reductions has been outweighed by adverse changes in terms of trade; taxation gain has been onequarter of one per cent of national income; indirect gains via linkage effects have been negligible; and rapid capital inflow has been a major cause of inflation. It may be that in the long run our mineral sector will reduce national income. I cannot expound on these claims but I am very glad that our Minister is acting quickly in the area of natural gas. He does not believe in the virtues of a 2-pipeline policy and neither do I.
One of the most significant changes the Government will effect will be the combination of the 5 former defence departments into one for administrative purposes. It is essential to do this so that unnecessary duplication will not take place and so that one-service optimisation in procurement programs will be avoided. Whether or not we have 10 years of low threat, as stated by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), may be debatable but it is certain that we have a chance to integrate our equipment and manpower programs. Given the nature of defence heirarchies and the implications of Nixon’s Guam Doctrine, it seems to me that we should also review our procedure for the collection and assessment of intelligence so that it assumes a more relevant aspect. Defence is too important to be left entirely to defence personnel and decision makers, who by the very nature of defence planning must be less informed than they should. At the same time it is beyond the ability of mere politicians to make detailed decisions about procurement programs. But we should be able to define goals, ask relevant questions and be able to define the constraints. Given these factors planners should then be able to put up a range of alternatives.
The defence Budget is the resources constraint. But the defence Budget is really the way in which a multitude of economic political and social factors manifest themselves in the defence planning process. Many of these other political and social factors have to be identified. This is where politicians can help or at least throw up some flak. I have profound doubts as to the construction of the 3 DDL destroyers for $355m at 1972 prices. This well may limit options for re-equipment of the Fleet Air Arm or for other naval equipment. As there is a naval air power study under way I believe that no decision should be made on the DDLs until that time. Even more importantly, given our resource limitations, we need to examine total naval requirements. If we are concerned with the defence of Australia - and I doubt that such a study has ever been done in modern times - it may well prove that our Navy needs to go increasingly under water or that we need more small ships and attack through deck cruisers with vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Having the Fleet Air Arm in my electorate has given me some bias in this direction. Robert Macnamara once said:
You cannot make decisions simply by asking yourself whether something might be nice to have, you have to make a judgment on how much is enough.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very pleased to join in this debate to make my first speech in the Parliament as an Opposition member. I have had the pleasure of serving with you, Mr Speaker, on the Public Accounts Committee and 1 have travelled overseas with you on a delegation to Asia. I feel that I have, been as closely associated with you as 1 have been with any other member of the former opposition. I have grown to respect and to like you, and 1 am sure that you will do a fine job as Speaker of this House.
You hold the office of Speaker of this House for the very reason that Australia has had a change of government for the first time in 23 years. In the election campaign of 1972 we were told by the Labor Party that it was time for a change and, for better or for worse, a change it is. The election of a Labor Government was a personal victory for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and one must congratulate him and his Parry on the win that they have had. One cannot deny that if democracy is to work it is proper that there should be a change of government from time to time. Probably one of the reasons why the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, Dr Cairns, led the mobs to demonstrate in the streets was a certain frustration at not being able to get his point of view accepted at the ballot box.
In December last the Labor Party presented the Australian people with a campaign of soft sell. We were given a campaign of gimmicks, T-shirts, slogans and singing commercials^ - and it worked. The Australian Labor Party knew it was selling itself on a slogan. Many voters now feel, however, that they may have been sold a pup. The climb to power by the Labor Party started in 1966, the year in which Harold Holt led the Liberal and Country Parties to the greatest victory of any Australian government since Federation. In the aftermath of that devastating defeat, the Labor Party chose as its leader the present Prime Minister, and a good choice he appeared to be at that time. He was a man of no mean talent; he was educated; he was presentable; and apparently be was quite moderate in his views. In short, he could be sold to the Australian people much more easily than some of his more traditional Labor Party contemporaries. From the outset he realised that the Labor Party had been kept from office, by the fears of the Australian people of the left wing elements of his Party and left wing unions, particularly in Victoria. So he set out to put his house in order.
To do this he gathered around htm an expert team of architects, comprising a federal secretary, top public relations and advertising men and, of course, a first class speech writer. Between them they set about redesigning and re-structuring the house so as to give it a more modern and contemporary look - one which would appeal. But there were hazards and problems associated with the reconstruction, especially in relation to the many demarcation disputes between his sub-contractors in general and those from Victoria in particular.
He found it particularly difficult to deal with the Hartley-Crawford partnership in the south. He and his Deputy, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), are still having the same problems today. Nonetheless, after many modifications the reconstruction was completed and the house was advertised for rent in December 1972. Indeed, it looked a fair proposition by comparison with the longestablished, somewhat older, Liberal PartyCountry Party home across the street.
So the tenants, feeling that they were exercising sound judgment, called in the removalists and installed a Labor Government. The present Prime Minister became what we might call the new landlord. That was only 3 months ago and already ominous signs are beginning to appear. In Victoria in particular, where most of the papering over was done, cracks are beginning to show through. The Left is no longer prepared to be silent as it was prior to the election. Television viewers only last week saw the attempt by Mr Hartley of the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party to depict the Deputy Prime Minister and his Deputy Leader as weak because he would not bow to the left wing of the ALP Victorian Executive on the issue of United States bases in Australia. That battle is still to be fought out finally at the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party this year.
But back in December when the Australian Labor Party was seeking to become the Government it made a promise of 4 weeks annual leave for public servants. It failed, however, to emphasise what we are now told is Labor’s policy, namely, that a Labor Government would show preference to unionists. In other words, if public servants want the extra week’s leave they must join a union, whether they like it or not. This, of course, is only an extension of the policy of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, who some time ago blackmailed retailers into employing only union labour. So, to keep his job, the shop assistant was forced to join a union. Now it is the public servant’s turn.
The unions consequently grow more powerful and more wealthy and at election time they have more money to donate to the ALP to keep a Labor Government in power. One can well understand the feelings of a conscripted unionist who belongs to and works for some other Party, knowing that part of his wages is going to support and to keep the ALP in office. It is a strange reversal for a Party which opposes conscription for the defence of Australia to seek to justify conscription of wage earners into unions. The latest announcement is that Federal Government contracts will be restricted to firms that are on good terms with the unions. What kind of blackmail is this?
The Government is in fact saying to the industry: ‘If you upset the unions we will see to it that you will not continue to receive Government contracts’. In other words industry must bow to the unions or go bankrupt. No firm will dare to stand up to the unions, however unjust the demands made upon it. This means in effect that the unions will allocate all Federal Government contracts. What a sorry state of affairs we have reached. The Government contracts should be awarded to firms which can do the most satisfactory job at the cheapest price. The allocation of contracts should have absolutely nothing to do with a firm’s attitude to unionism, compulsory or otherwise. For some time the Labor Party has promoted the idea that it has thrown off its blue collar image. The electorate was assured that the Party was no longer just a sectional party and that we had nothing to fear from militant unionism. The fact is that the Government intends to elevate the trade union movement to a unique position in the community. This is the result of the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act foreshadowed by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron).
This legislation will provide that unions will be free of sanctions, free from action for tort and free from prosecutions for breaches of contract or conspiracy which may arise in connection with an industrial dispute. The dry rot which is evident in the Labor house is the result of a long term sickness in 2 major areas - the trade union movement’s influence on the political wing of the Party and the Party’s attitude to defence and foreign policy. It is of interest that both issues have played a prominent part in the Government’s performance since it took office. If ever it was suggested that the major parties were basically the same, certainly the Government’s actions on defence and foreign policy must explode that myth.
In just 3 months we have witnessed a retreat towards isolationism, an attempt by a section of the Labor Party to destroy the American alliance, and the intensification of a campaign to terminate the Five Power Defence Arrangements. If there is one consistent thread running through the present Government’s foreign and defence policies it has been its actions to embrace the communist countries of the world, whilst maintaining a distinct move away from our former friends and allies. It has been a policy of thumbs to the nose to Britain and the United States. As far as Britain is concerned, the oath of allegiance to the Queen is to be scrapped and a search is to be made for a national anthem to replace ‘God Save The Queen’. I suppose the next step by this Government could well be the removal of the Union Jack from the Australian flag. But the attitude of this Government to Britain is nothing compared to the bitter and vindictive attacks made by some of its senior Ministers upon the United States. Ignoring the principle of Cabinet Government whereby only the Minister responsible for foreign affairs, in this case the Prime Minister, expresses the Government’s view on that subject, 3 senior Ministers saw fit to have their say. Criticism of the United States policy is one thing but the hysterical nature of the outbursts deeply shocked not only the Australian people but friendly nations around the world.
Let us take a look at what these Ministers had to say. In the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) called on Australian unions to boycott the United States and referred to the United States Government as maniacs. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) called the United States President arrogant and a hypocrite and referred to the policy of the United States Government as thuggery. Of course, the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. P. Cairns) declared his distrust of the United States President and issued a statement in conjunction with Senator Brown of Victoria saying that President Nixon was insensible to world opinion and contemptuous of world leaders. At the same time as these outbursts were being made the left wing Australian maritime unions were busy banning the loading and unloading of United States ships in Australian ports but they were soon forced to back down when the United States unions used the same tactics on Australian ships, lt is also of some concern to read in the Sydney Morning Herald’ an article by Roy McCartney, who is the newspaper’s staff correspondent in Washington, in which he said that Australia’s relations with the United States were disturbed and the Government’s words and actions were blamed. The Washington correspondent of the Melbourne Sun’, Peter Costigan, wrote an article which appeared under a big photograph of the Minister for Overseas Trade and the heading The President Is Not Amused’. I would like to read from this article because it is so true of what this Government has done to wreck Australia’s relations with the United States and friendships which have existed for many years. Peter Costigan in his article said:
The lifting of the Australian maritime unions ban on American shipping ended the worst week ever in U.S.-Australian diplomatic relations.
That is, President Nixon - has already acted angrily against the Australian Government . . .
The maritime unions’ ban did not bother the President personally. Whether he directed it or just sat by while it happened, he regarded the counter ban by American East coast watersiders as a satisfactory tit for tat.
Nor was he that much bothered by the strong criticism of him by men such as Dr Cairns, Mr Cameron and Mr Uren. What did bother him was that they were Australian Cabinet ministers.
Mr Nixon took swift and, symbolically, impressive revenge on his first critic - Trade Minister Dr Cairns.
At the time Dr Cairns attacked the U.S. bombing of Hanoi and declared that he did not trust this American President, Australian negotiators were trying to win a $6m trade deal from the U.S. They lost.
Costigan goes on to say:
In the Jong term, meaning the next four years, Australia - for good or bad - has lost its ‘very favoured nation’ treatment in trade as far as Richard Nixon is concerned.
He could not and still does not understand . . . how three senior Australian Cabinet ministers could have attacked American policy and the U.S. President’s personal integrity without speaking for the Australian Government.
Such a thing has rarely happened in American history without the offending Cabinet Minister being sacked without ceremony.
I might add that it has not happened in Australia before either. Costigan goes on to say:
The White House has abandoned plans for Mr Whitlam to visit Washington early, this year. Also abandoned are tentative plans for Mr Nixon to visit Australia this year.
And it’s goodbye to those powerful nudges from the White House that helped Australia in trade matters in recent years.
There is now no chance that we can persuade the U.S. to lower or eliminate its punitive tariffs on our wool. We needed White House support for that.
Our valuable share of the American sugar quota is in jeopardy, because the White House is not likely to argue on our behalf with the powerful men in the Congress who decide these things.
Costigan ends by saying:
And so this Government has brought AustralianUnited States relations to their lowest ebb ever. When one thinks of those days back in 1942 when young American servicemen crossed the Pacific in their hordes to become our comrades in arms to defend Australia from the Japanese, one feels very sad indeed. Since this Government took office we have experienced the most indecent rush to recognise the 3 communist countries of China, East Germany and North Vietnam, with communist North Korea soon to be added to the happy throng. There is no doubt that recognition of these countries had to come - no one will dispute that. I have always been one who has believed that it is better to talk out problems rather than try to ignore them. As Churchill once said: ‘It is better to jaw jaw than war war’, and this is, of course, true. But a more astute statesman would have found a more astute formula for the recognition of Communist China. Instead of capitulating completely to the Chinese demands, as our Prime Minister did even before he reached office, a wiser Prime Minister would have found an accommodation similar to that which President Nixon has negotiated, that is, the setting up of a trade mission in the initial stages to fulfil much the same functions as an embassy. The United States still enjoys excellent relations with Taiwan, but the way in which our Taiwanese friends were booted out of Australia at a moment’s notice after years of friendship and trade will leave a dark blot on the moral integrity of the foreign policy of this country for many years to come.
And we should add to all this the immense step which this Government has taken towards centralisation in the spheres of housing, health, education and urban development, to name only a few, and we have a very unhappy picture indeed. But what sort of men make up the Government that is controlling Australia today? I suppose a man’s religion or lack of it is his own affair, but it did not go unnoticed in the Press and elsewhere that 12 Labor members, approximately 20 per cent of their number in this Chamber, refused to swear on the Bible when being sworn into Parliament. There was not one Liberal or Country Party member who adopted that attitude. Perhaps it was also indicative of the newer breed of Labor men that a number of its members were reported by the Press to have refused to shake the hand of the Governor-General, a former colleague and the Queen’s representative in this country-
– I rise to a point of order. Is it proper for an honourable member to reflect on the religion and personality of individual members? There was a reference made by the honourable member in the course of his address to religion and the use of the Bible, which, of course, is a particular Christian custom. If the honourable member is making an anti-semitic reference, for example-
– Jewish people swear on the Bible.
– I would suggest that it is a reflection upon honourable members and that the honourable member for Deakin should apologise.
-Order! There is no point of order, unless the honourable member reflected on a member by naming his electorate.
– I was stating only what has already been openly commented upon in the Press. The Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry has expressed concern that decisions of the present Government are not Cabinet oriented. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) found it necessary to go to the Press about the export prices of north Queensland minerals, a situation which put him on a collision course with the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). This, together with the outbursts of the other Ministers, only points to the fact that they do not understand the concept of ministerial responsibility. It also emphasises the underlying tensions which exist in the Labor Party and which will grow bigger as time goes on.
There is no doubt that ‘landlord’ Whitlam will very soon need to make an on site inspection of his house. However, he will at best be able to make only superficial repairs because the basic problems lie within the existing framework. The landlord’s problem is not only that he will have to contend with a structure that is falling apart slowly and surely but also that somehow he must find the money to finance the extensions that he has promised the tenants. Already he is faced with a record deficit. He knows that increasing the rent will prove fatal. Across the street, the older, more stable home of the Liberal and Country Parties has undergone a major restructure. Plans to incorporate ideas and materials which are right for the 1970s are being implemented. At least the Liberals have the benefit of a framework which is sound yet flexible enough to adjust to the new look. The electorate is realising that its decision to change homes because of the promise of a few optional extras was not a wise one. Let us all hope that the electorate will be intelligent enough not to renew the lease when it expires in 1975.
-Order! I remind honourable members that the next speech is a maiden speech and I ask them to extend the usual courtesies.
– It is with a great deal of pleasure that 1 rise for the first time to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate on the Governor-General’s Speech. I would like to take this opportunity to wish the former member for Denison, Dr Bob Solomon, good luck in his new career and to say to each honourable member opposite who may have been his friend that I am sorry to have caused his departure from your midst. However, I can assure those honourable members that I am not sorry to have won the seat of Denison for the Australian Labor Party.
I understand that I am the youngest member of the current Parliament, though, of course, by no means the youngest member ever. I imagine that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) is probably glad to have the title taken from him. I do not underestimate the responsibility I have been given by the electors of Denison. Tasmania certainly gave all of us who represent the electorates in that State an overwhelming endorsement. I hope that neither I nor my Party gives them reason to be disappointed or to feel that their confidence in us was unwarranted.
It was certainly very satisfying to have won Denison for the Australian Labor Party so decisively and, by that, to have played a part in enabling this Government to come into office, and so to allow the reforms to commence. We lost Denison in 1949 when we lost government; we have now regained it as we return to office. If this is significant, I do not mind having my personal political fortunes linked to those of the Party as a whole, because this Government, by its actions and achievements, is going to remain in office for a long time. There was a lot of personal satisfaction involved in winning the election after all the sacrifices which my wife and family cheerfully put up with during the campaign. And it meant that all those faithful people, young and old, who worked so hard to help, had their reward. It was their victory and the Party’s victory. It was immensely gratifying to see the pleasure it gave to so many staunch supporters of the Australian Labor Party - those who are young and were able to see a dynamic, progressive government come into power - a government which was obviously prepared to represent their hopes and aspirations and which was to be attuned to the direction they wanted this nation to go.
But perhaps even more so was 1 glad for the older supporters of Labor who had waited so long for this victory. These people had suffered the frustration of opposition just as much as Labor members of this House and it was very moving to have so many such people ring me up, choked with emotion, to express their pleasure at the victory. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever voted for a winning candidate. However, the election has been run and won and the affairs of this nation are now being handled with a zeal and purpose never before seen.
The initiatives already taken in the fields of education, housing and social security alone are the beginning, to use the GovernorGeneral’s own words, of a program designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society. Perhaps I could give the House some examples. The Schools Commission and the Pre-Schools Commission have already been set up. Extra finance has been provided to universities and colleges of advanced education so that needy students can continue their courses pending the abolition of tertiary education fees next year. Promised social security and repatriation pension increases backdated to early December will soon be paid. Inquiries have been set up into national superannuation, national compensation and other welfare matters so that a thorough review of these areas can be made. Grants to the States have been made for the building of more houses for rental. The list goes on and on.
An amazingly large number of Australians are genuinely surprised to find that it is possible to have a government which keeps its promises. The reaction to this realisation has been a surge of pride and nationalism and a revitalisation of people’s belief in democracy, Parliament and politics as means by which reforms can be achieved. Even the most cynical and apathetic in our community have been impressed. And there are a few for whom I feel rather sorry, who are - or feign to be - appalled and frightened that changes have in fact been made and that more are to come. These are the people who still believe the ranting and raving of the Opposition about socialism, about peace and about having a democratically based party in power. Honourable members opposite keep on pushing the idea that these are dirty words. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), in his usual lovable way, did so today.
I think I should warn the members of the Opposition that, if they are not careful, their actions and words in this regard will only backfire on them and, because of the progress made by the Government reinforce the views of those who believe in justice and equity, and convince many of those who have been led to believe they should be opposed to the word socialism that, in fact, it is in the best interests of the nation - because this is what we are about - the establishment of a fair society. We are a socialist party and we should not be ashamed to say so. I think that the Party is itself partly to blame for the past success of the Liberal Party, so called, and the Australian Country Party, and others whom I will not name, in their blackening of the word ‘socialism’. We have, to a certain extent, ignored the misrepresentations instead of reacting positively and explaning to the people what a modern democratic socialist thinks, and how our policies fit in wilh that.
The Opposition makes much of the democratic structure of the Labor Party and this has been particularly so in the last few days. However, our system is perfectly justifiable and in fact gives desirable safeguards to the public, because the electors are fully aware of the basic platform of the Party within the framework of which we work. The platform is a public document, resulting from debate at open conferences which are representative of the tens of thousands of Australians who make up the Australian Labor Party, and which anyone who subscribes to the Party’s principles can join, and join in that decision-making process. The public knows that the policy they voted for when they supported Labor candidates cannot be changed at the drop of a hat by a handful of people, unlike the policies of the Parties opposite when they are in government.
The other word that, to its everlasting disgrace, the present Opposition has tried to make out to be a dirty word is ‘peace’. It still makes me sick to think of how the Opposition, when in government, got this nation involved in the Indo-China war. Vietnam is a blot on this country for which we can never fully atone - neither for the 500 young Australians who needlessly lost their lives and the thousands of others who had their lives interrupted and their minds damaged by what went on there, nor for the millions of Vietnamese in whose country Australia interfered and aided and abetted the United States of America to interfere. I am certain that the previous Government’s so-called ‘moral’ support for the war helped to prolong it. If, instead, it had exercised some truly moral influence on the United States, there might have been a chance that much of the waste of lives would not have occurred.
Mr Speaker, 1 am an environmentalist. 1 believe in conservation of our national heritage. Being from Tasmania where there are so many natural assets worth preserving, 1 am perhaps more aware than most of the need for conservation. And there are major pollution problems all over Australia. But I believe the greatest pollution has occurred in Vietnam, helped along by the previous Government. In Vietnam there has been an incredible tonnage of bombs dropped, causing massive destruction of the Vietnamese environment and causing untold pollution, as well as the appalling destruction of lives. What is just as bad is the pollution in Vietnam which has yet to have its violent effect. I am referring to the millions of tiny, nasty, anti-personnel weapons which have been scattered in Vietnam, with the details of which most honourable members are familiar. These insidious weapons are lying undetectable in the jungle, waiting for some unsuspecting Vietnamese, perhaps as yet unborn, to tread on or activate by passing nearby. And this will still be able to happen, even a decade from now. Surely this is the ultimate in pollution. This is part of the legacy that has been left behind after the war has finished and for which those sitting opposite must bear part of the responsibility and blame.
Thank goodness we now have a Government which has ‘peace’ as its objective and which believes in having peaceful relationships with other nations. We now have a
Government which has a balanced foreign policy and which believes that our defence forces should be made up of volunteers. The ending of conscription is one of the major results of the election by which Australia has gained in self respect and in international respect.
I now want to refer to Tasmania and my electorate of Denison. Denison takes in most of the western shore of Hobart, including the central city area, the near city suburbs, Sandy Bay to Blackman’s Bay to the south, and New Town, Moonah and Glenorchy to the north. Those who are familiar with Hobart will know that Denison thus takes in a complete range of suburbs.
Hobart, as the capital of Tasmania, shares the whole State’s special problems due to size and geographical isolation. The major problem relates to transport, both passenger and freight, and the shipping costs involved which affect the whole State’s economy. Because of our small population we have less flexibility in withstanding the cost of freight on goods being moved in and out of the State. I believe that this Government has a responsibility to ensure that Tasmania is not at a disadvantage compared to other parts of Australia in the matter of transport costs. We are an island which means we have an almost complete reliance on shipping. We should not be penalised for that. The Commonwealth has the constitutional power, through the Interstate Commission, to ensure that this disadvantage is reduced. I am pleased that the Commission is to be revived. It is unlikely that rt will completely solve all of Tasmania’s problems but it is my hope that the Interstate Commission will go a long way towards improving the situation.
Another related matter which I will be pushing for is the removal of the shackles which have bound the Australian National Line in the past, so that the ANL does not have to have the irreconcilable dual role of making a profit and of providing its essential service at reasonable rates to areas which need it. The previous Government grossly neglected Tasmania. The percentage of Commonwealth departmental spending in Tasmania was minute compared to what it should have been on a population basis. This situation must be improved by our new Government. We have a duty to do so, and I have a duty to do all I can to ensure that the Government does increase its spending in Tasmania, for employ ment reasons and for the economy in general. It is neither necessary nor desirable for Commonwealth activities to be centred in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne. Decentralised location of Commonwealth departments and parts of departments is in the national interest and in the interests of the development of specific cities and regions. Hobart is the suitable location for several government industries and I have already taken up with some of the Ministers involved some suggestions for certain sections of Commonwealth departments.
This Parliament has a great challenge before it to improve Australian society and its quality of life. This will be a momentous Parliament. We have a duty to implement all the policies for which we have a mandate. It is a great honour to be a part of the Government Party which has this mandate and to be a member of this Parliament. I support the AddressinReply.
– I regret that Mr Speaker is not in the chair at the moment but I would ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey to him my congratulations on his being elevated to such a distinguished post. I have always believed that it would have been a good thing in this Parliament if we had followed the practice of the House of Commons by way of consultation between both sides of the House in regard to the appointment of a Speaker. But I wish to pay him this compliment, that had there been such consultation I believe that he would have been the unanimous choice of both sides of the House. I also wish lo congratulate the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) who has just delivered his maiden speech. I cannot compete with him in being the youngest member of the House but I recall that the great William Pitt on making his first speech at the age of 21 said: ‘The atrocious crime of being young I shall seek neither to palliate nor deny’. The honourable member for Denison may be assured that the years will soon remedy this defect if he believes it to be so. I wish him, of course, a short but also a happy period in this House.
We are now engaged in a debate on the Governor-General’s Speech, that is to say, the program of the Government. There has been a great deal of talk ever since the House met about the mandate that the Government has to put into effect its various election promises. I want to say a few words about the concept of mandate. Does a majority of, say, 2i per cent of the total electorate justify - and I quote the words used in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech - ‘a program . . . designed to achieve basic changes in . . . -the structure of Australian society in the lifetime of this Parliament’. It took a war and a defeat in war for the basic social structure of Russia to be changed. Are we to be told that a majority of 2i per cent of the Australian electorate justifies basic changes in the structure of the Australian society? I hope that this is mere rhetoric because if it is meant seriously there will be a great deal of trouble before such a mandate is put into effect.
I come down to more practical aspects. Does it justify the implementation of every item in a policy speech? If it does, does it justify every detail in a Bill giving effect to a particular item stated in general terms? Such a proposition is, of course, patent!*- absurd because people vote not on the basis of several scores of promises on a whole variety of subjects; they vote for a party perhaps because they believe in its general philosophy, perhaps because they think it has the best leader available or perhaps because they believe in some particular part or parts of its policies or on the more vague and general ground that ‘it’s time’ or something of this kind. But to say that they vote for every item - scores of items - that are put out in a policy speech is manifest nonsense. Secondly, I say - because that speaks for itself - that such a concept is completely undemocratic because the program emerges from a body - in this case the Labor Party - which represents perhaps half or even less than half of the electorate. How can it be said that it is democratic that a program that proceeds from half the people of Australia has the sanction of the whole of the people of Australia?
– What is the solution?
– Be patient. In fact, Parliament is the only democratic body in this nation, not the Conference of the Labor Party or any conference of the Liberal Party or any other conference. The only democratic body in this country that stands for the whole of the people of Australia is this Parliament because it represents not half but all of the people. Every member on this side of the House has a mandate just as every member on the other side has. My mandate is rather different from the mandate that others may have. It is the electors who give us our mandate. Again, because it is the only body whose members are elected and can have their mandates withdrawn by all the people, so it is the Parliament which is the only democratic body. When I listened to honourable members opposite telling us that the Labor Party is democratic and therefore it has a mandate from the people of Australia, this is manifest nonsense. I would like to quote a few words uttered by Edmund Burke some time ago, on 3rd November 1774, but they still state the principle quite authoritatively. He said:
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.
If Parliament is not a deliberative assembly it is nothing. Is there any member in this House who has not at some time or another held some view and then gone to a conference, taken part in a discussion and modified that view by reason of the arguments that he has heard? He has been guided by reason. If that is not so, debates in this House are a sheer mockery. But this is a deliberative assembly and it represents the whole of the nation. It is the only democratic body in this country. So let us have no more of this nonsense about a mandate for every one of scores of items in the Government’s program. Let us have no more nonsense along the lines that because the Labor Party is said to be democratic therefore it has a mandate from the people of Australia. It has no such thing. Whether it is democratic in its own organisation 1 do not know and cannot accept. It may be; it may not be. That is quite immaterial to my argument.
Now I want to underline 4 points in Burke’s statement. He says that Parliament is not just a meeting - he used the word ‘congress’ of course - of hostile interests. He says that it is not just a meeting of tied delegates - ‘agents’ he calls them - deaf to reason, but it is a deliberative assembly where arguments are heard and if they are good arguments they should prevail. There is no reason why a Minister should not accept, for example, amendments that obviously commend themselves to reason and common sense and which seek the general or common good. What we have is not this at all. It is beyond all this, lt is above this, lt is superior to it. We have advanced. Progress has taken place.
What we have is not, as Abraham Lincoln put it, government of the people by the people and for the people. We have government of the whole people by a section of the people for that section of the people, and that is not democracy.
Perhaps we have advanced beyond those old-fashioned notions, but the people at large are a little old-fashioned in this respect. They think that Parliament still matters and that it should be a deliberative assembly. Honourable members opposite fly in the face of these oldfashioned notions at their peril. This truth remains as solid as a rock. When a party forgets the other half of the nation it soon loses office. That is always in the background. Even if the Government chooses to say in this House: ‘We will do this’ because the Opposition does not have the numbers to prevent it, when it goes back to the electorate it will be told where to get off if, in doing what it had the numbers to do, it has ignored one half of the whole people. The basis of parliamentary democracy is that there is concern for the interests of all the people, that minorities really matter. It is not a matter of the dictatorship by the proletariat, dictatorship by the Labor Party or dictatorship by anybody else. The whole essence of parliamentary government is that it is government of the people by the people’s elected representatives.
I now turn from the concept of mandate to the style of the government since it came into office. To put it in a phrase, since this Government came into office we have had a presidential style of government. I want to examine that concept briefly in the time available to me. First we began with a duumvirate - 2 men - like a president and a vice-president. They were in no hurry to meet congress - that is, the Parliament. This is typical of the American style of government. The President can do things without bothering about Congress. That is part of the new style in this country. We have seen communication direct between the Prime Minister and the people through Press conferences and other media, this by the new President of the republic of Australia. He was in no hurry to summon Parliament together, and questions were put to him, not by gentlemen sitting in this House - oh no - but by Pressmen. And it was a splendid performance. Why? Because they were able to follow up their questions in depth, whereas in this place it is impossible to do so. Our question time is a farce. It permits of no supplementary questions. Nothing can be pursued in depth. The first question may relate to Aborigines, the next to the state of the economy and the third one to immigration. There is no examination in depth. Of course, this is very different in the presidential system where Ministers or officials as they call them may be summoned before Senate committees and really cross-examined as they would be cross-examined in court. At any rate this is an improvement as far as Press conferences are concerned. But if honourable members can see one yard in front of their noses, which I sometimes doubt, they will realise that the forum is moving from this place to another part of the building. If the Government is happy about that, let it rejoice but the people will have reason to sorrow.
We have also seen the burgeoning of a kind of White House staff. The President in America may choose his own assistants, and we have seen the beginning of this with the appointment not of permanent public servants but of people brought in from the outside. It may be good; it may be bad. In many respects I think it is bad. But at any rate it is another part of the presidential system. Also we have a White House in Canberra, the Lodge, where a little while ago a Jackie Kennedy kind of performance was held with concert singers and delightful dinky-di comedy, ending in a thoroughly Australian fashion with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions playing ‘The Red Flag’. That was a real dink-di touch. Let me refer now to the San Clemente in Sydney. The’ Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has taken over Kirribilli House which was intended for VIP visitors to Australia. I am not particularly stressing these last 2 matters. I am not unduly concerned about the White House here or San Clemente in Sydney. What I am saying is that they are part and parcel of, and illustrate, the development of a presidential style of government - these in a very small way; the other things in a very big way.
The point I want to make concerns the danger of having a president without congress as a brake. The whole constitutional system of the United States of America rests on the fact that the American people, not without the best of reasons, have the utmost suspicion of people who wield power. Therefore, when they constructed their Constitution they provided checks and balances. The President could veto a Bill coming from Congress and Congress could refuse money to the President to carry out some proposal or other. I will not go into all this beyond saying that a very dangerous situation arises if a presidential system is developed in Australia without a countervailing congress. When there is slavish support for a leader - this is our dinky-di Australian system, God help us - and that leader assumes the position of an American president, then a very dangerous situation arises, leading in the long run to some kind of autocracy. Let there be no mistake about that. And it is the more dangerous when, Parliament having been thrown entirely into the background and regarded as a rubber stamp or something that does not matter, that president is told what he shall do by a Labor Conference outside this House. There is a conjunction of circumstances, with this power in the hands of one man, a front man to deal directly with the people, and his being told what he shall do by somebody unelected, outside this House. I do not propose to enlarge upon this matter. It was done very well late this afternoon by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and by other honourable members.
– Are you frightened to go to bed in case you find a communist under it?
– lt is very easy to laugh at this point of time but the people of Australia may ultimately cry. Some good things have been done by the Government. It has placed some emphasis on our emerging national spirit and sense of national identity. If I am not one of the youngest members at least I am a sixth generation Australian and I applaud this attitude. But the principles upon which one acts and the way in which one acts upon the principles may be very different things.
Let me turn for a moment to the field of our foreign relations. It may well be desirable, and I believe it is, that we should establish diplomatic relations with China. But as soon as the Government got into office, it was in a tremendous hurry and flurry to recognise China. Very often the right things are done in the wrong way. The recognition took place on terms unfavourable to us compared with the terms that were given by Peking to Canada, for example. This decision was made without consulting our neighbours in South East Asia. They had reason to delay their recognition. ‘
Then the Prime Minister proceeded to permit senior Ministers to insult the Americans. This astonishes me because the Prime Minister is not an ignorant man and he must, therefore, take the more blame for this. He knows or he should know - I do not know how naive or ignorant he is - that the President of the United States combines in his person the sovereign, as we have our King or Queen, and the Prime Minister. He is not just a Prime Minister and, as some American remarked at the time: ‘If you insult the President of the United States, you will certainly get on to the front page of the “New York Times” ‘. There is a certain feeling regarding insults to the President that would be regarded as lese majeste if applied to the Queen, lt is almost treasonable in a sense to insult the President of the United States. He is much more than a Prime Minister. The Australian Prime Minister should have known that. Either he is ignorant or naive - I do not know which - but it was not like attacking the Premier of Victoria.
We suffered for this, and these personal things are not readily forgotten. We are all human. Do not let it be thought for a moment, as honourable gentlemen opposite think, that nations always consider national interest in the abstract and that is all. People are human and they have feelings and these things come through in international relations as they do in relations between parties and between individuals. Let there be no mistake about this.
Then, the United Kingdom was insulted. I think the honourable gentleman who is now at the table, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) had things to say about the admission of British migrants to Australia. They were to be put in the same category as people who came from Hong Kong or somewhere else.
– That is possible. They are in the same position. They are members of the Commonwealth of nations.
– Well, perhaps it was some non-British country.
– Make up your mind.
– Of course, this is extraordinarily amusing to honourable members opposite. Shakespeare was an amusing man too. Let honourable members opposite laugh now. In some very good advice that an old gentleman in one of his plays gave, Shakespeare said: ‘The friends thou hast and their_?ic2 tion tried, Grapple them to thy heart with hoops of steel’. So, what have we done? We have rebuffed the friends with whom we have fought two great wars.
– He also said in that same piece: ‘Neither borrower nor lender be’.
– That is totally irrelevant. Then the Prime Minister went to Indonesia to construct a great new alliance. Again, he was either ignorant or naive. He should have known that Indonesia, with its 120 million people, regards itself as the premier nation in this region and for the Australian Prime Minister to go to Indonesia and suggest that Australia should construct some other organisation - Australia, of course, being the originator and the king pin in the organisation - and think that this would be acceptable to Indonesia is idiotic. Furthermore, to suggest that that new combination of nations should include Peking when the Indonesians had had a rather sad experience with the Chinese Communists was, as I have said, either naive or ignorant.
So, the Prime Minister has insulted all our good friends. He has tried to be a great man in South East Asia and has fallen flat on his face. He even tried to mislead journalists as to what in fact happened in Indonesia. But that is another story for another time. Unfortunately, I do not have time to deal with a number of other matters. But this is sufficient.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I remind honourable members that the next speaker is making his maiden speech and I ask them to extend to him the usual courtesies.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I want firstly to take this opportunity of conveying my congratulations to both Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their unanimous election to the high offices they hold. I feel sure that they have already indicated their impartiality, and I feel equally sure that they will carry out their responsibilities with dignity and a realisation of the true meaning of parliamentary democracy. On 2nd December last year the Australian people exercised their periodic prerogative to change the political complexion of the national government. There were, of course, many changes and one of the changes that occurred resulted in my coming into this House to represent the electors of Hume. I am deeply conscious of both the honour and the responsibility bestowed upon me by their decision and I pledge myself to carry out the representation of those people to the best of my ability.
I believe that I would be remiss in my responsibility to the electors of Hume if I did not also take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the former member for this electorate. Mr Pettitt sat in this House as the honourable member for Hume for 9 years from 1963 until 1972, and I feel sure that all those who know Ian Pettitt will agree that, during his stay in the Federal Parliament, he gave his contituents the type and the quality of representation to which they were entitled. He was a conscientious, hard working member who gave unstintingly of his time and energies. His efforts really deserve the appreciation of all his former constituents, irrespective of what their political beliefs might be. and I am pleased to have this oppotunity to record that appreciation.
Ian Pettitt and I were, of course,^ of different political persuasion, yet whilst we attacked each other on matters of policy during 2 election campaigns, and between those campaigns, we were able at all times to maintain a cordial personal relationship. In fact, even in the matter of policy there are substantial areas of agreement between the policies of the Australian Labor Party and the stated policies of the Australian Country Party. So much of our policy is subsequently adopted by the Country Party that I have often wondered in the past why the Country Party did not seek an alliance with the Labor Party years ago rather than form their coalition with the Liberal Party. Of course, now members of the Country Party find themselves with nowhere to go and their Leader wants a VIP aircraft to get there.
For many years the Australian people have witnessed the performance of a government that was prepared to take legislative action and to make concessions to important national commitments purely and simply to win elections. Concession to education by way of grants for science laboratories and libraries, increases in pension rates, the allocation of finance for home savings grants and many other pre-election moves, whilst good in themselves, were not designed to overcome a particular deficiency, to correct a specific wrong or to make any radical change in existing policies. They were designed to give the government of the day an electoral advantage. To cite an instance of the iniquities built into some of these policies, either by accident or design, I refer to the home savings grant scheme and mention the experience of 2 young couples whom I knew quite well, and who married at about the time the scheme was introduced. In one instance, the wife continued to work and so they were able to enjoy the benefits of a double income. They had no family worries or responsibilities and they had no difficulty in saving enough money to qualify for the maximum home savings grant.
The second couple had 4 children after 6 years of marriage. They had no chance to save for a home and consequently received no government assistance. These people will probably live in rented premises, at least until the children are grown up and able to fend for themselves, by which time of course the parents will be barred from any home savings grant assistance by the age limit. Now whilst 1 do not deny the right of people to make their own decision on how they should live their lives and, obviously, these people made their decisions, I cannot believe that the Australian people will accept the position where government policies will favour those who least need assistance and discriminate against those who most need help. Nobody can convince me that the young couple who deprived themselves of some of the better things in life so that they might rear a family did not make a contribution to our society at least equal to that of those who both continued in employment. Certainly their need is far greater. If we consider also the cost of bringing migrants to Australia, surely we must recognise the value to this country in the long term of the natural born Australian. Yet we have discriminated against these people by Government policies because they were in a lower income group and because they had families. I believe that this is an ideal example of the way in which the previous government of Australia used its position to legislate not to eliminate inequalities, not to make any radical change in social structure for the benefit of our people but simply to improve its own chance of electoral victory. By contrast, we in the Australian Labor Party have striven over the years to win elections so that we might implement policies which are designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and in the structure of Australian society.
In his opening address to the new Parliamest His Excellency the Governor-General outlined the Government’s plan to effect these changes - a blueprint for the future of Australia and for the future of the Australian people. In the electorate that I represent we can see so clearly and in so many different ways need for plans for the future, the need to depart from the sterile policies of the past and to involve ourselves in building a new Australia. Possibly the most glaring example of a need for change can be seen in the area of development. For so many years now we have heard talk of decentralisation and regional development; yet the previous government allowed private investment capital to dictate completely the pattern and the pace of development in Australia. We have witnessed countless millions of dollars being spent to tear down perfectly good buildings in our cities so that bigger and better buildings might be erected. In doing so, of course, we have added to the problems of the people who live in the cities - the problem of pollution, the problem of providing essential services such as electricity, gas, water and sewerage, and the problem of providing transport facilities. Yet in the past no money has been available for development away from existing cities.
The new Government’s policy of providing for the promotion and growth of inland cities such as that proposed for the AlburyWodonga area is, T believe, an essential ingredient for the continued growth and balanced development of this country. However, I believe that for any program of regional development to be really effective it must not only look at the establishment and growth of regional centres but have regard also to the development of the whole area surrounding the centre and which makes up the complete region. I believe that an ideal example of what I am suggesting can be seen in the development of this city of Canberra - truly a beautiful city, well planned and designed to provide a quality of life that does not exist in our major cities. Both Canberra itself and the surroundings or the market area for Canberra would have enjoyed additional benefits if the functions of the National Capita] Development Commission had been expanded years ago to those of a regional development commission so that it might have planned the growth and development of the whole region and not Canbera in isolation.
I venture to suggest that had this been the case I would not today be making representations to the appropriate Ministers for the urgent construction of a direct road between Canberra and Tumut. This road will provide not only quick access from the national capital to the recreation areas on the Tumut side of the Snowy Mountains scheme, and a desirable tourist road for those travelling west and south west from Canberra, but also ready access to the ever expanding markets of Canberra for fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, building materials and so on that are produced in the area which centres on Tumut and Batlow. Had Canberra been planned as the centre of a region, with the acceptance of the financial problem of surrounding shires in maintaining rural roads that are used primarily for the cartage by heavy vehicles of road building materials into the capital, certainly those shires would have been in a position to provide better services and at a lower cost to the ratepayers than is currently the position. With adequate planning and acceptance of responsibility for the increased demand on the road system surrounding Canberra, I would not today be flooded with complaints from daily commuters and casual travellers alike about the shocking conditions of the so-called Barton Highway which links Canberra with the major road system near Yass.
Regional development can succeed not simply by the promotion of centres like Albury-Wodonga but by the planned development of regions and by encouraging the establishment in other parts of these regions of industries which properly belong in country areas - industries which can operate efficiently and competitively away from the larger cities. A few years ago people in the Canberra area were arguing about the future of the Canberra abattoir. Those living in Cootamundra and Goulburn, where abattoirs existed and could improve efficiency by increasing their daily kill, argued that the Canberra abattoir should be closed. Those living in Yass, where there was no abattoir but where the saleyards catered to a large extent for buyers killing at Canberra, wanted the Canberra works to remain open. Whilst the arguments that were put forward were valid and in the interests of the respective communities, I believe that the real point was missed. We should then have been united, not divided, and we should have been arguing the case for closure of the killing works at
Homebush and the transfer of the operations from that centre to country areas where the industry properly belongs. Killing close to the city was the logical move when the Homebush abattoir commenced its operations, but with the provision of refrigerated transport so that carcasses can be shipped to the city areas without deterioration this industry can operate more efficiently where the meat is produced in our country areas.
Throughout the 1972 election campaign and again in His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s address at the opening of this Parliament the present Government has strongly emphasised the needs of social welfare, and in this field possibly one of the greatest needs .s the need to provide adequate care for aged people. The problems of looking after the aged are increasing as life expectancy increases and patterns of behaviour change. I believe that this problem is a responsibility on society as a whole. I would like this evening to speak briefly of one institution in the Hume electorate that has been involved in the care of aged people for more than half a century. The Mount St Joseph’s home at Young commenced operations as an old persons’ home with 25 inmates in 1921, and with the support of the citizens of Young and unaided by any government grant continued to cater for the aged and to expand the home to reach a capacity of 122 patients before the first New South Wales Government grant towards the provision of a new kitchen was made in 1966. A further grant of $35,000 from the New South Wales State Government together with $14,000 raised locally was used to provide central heating for the home. In the 1971-72 period $27,000 raised locally was added to a State Government grant of $168,000 to provide the home with a modern geriatric clinic.
In the Budget last year the previous government made provision to meet the cost of hostel type accommodation and should be congratulated for its move in this direction. In his Budget Speech the former Treasurer said:
To encourage the provision of hostel accommodation for the aged we will, as a special arrangement limited to 3 years, grant organisations that are eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act special assistance. The Commonwealth will meet the cost of 2 hostel beds for every one unsubsidised bed operated by the organisation or one bed for 2 where the accommodation was previously subsidised on a dollar for dollar basis.
A condition will be that the beds are allocated without donation and in accordance with need. These additional hostel beds will be provided up to a cost not exceeding $7,800 per single unit which is the amount presently allowable for maximum subsidy purposes. In addition, a grant of $250 per unit will be made towards the furnishing of these additional hostel units.
Under this legislation the Mount St Joseph’s Home attracts to the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese an allocation of finance for 232 beds. It is desirous, subject to suitable arrangements with the Archdiocesan authorities, of taking up an allocation for 100 beds in new quarters to be built adjacent to the existing home at Young. Unfortunately preliminary studies carried out at Young and elsewhere indicate that the minimum cost of providing the type of accommodation considered desirable, together with common rooms and dining rooms, to cater for aged people would exceed the available grant by approximately $1,200 per bed. It would be impossible, and certainly an unfair imposition on the people of Young who have given so generously over the years, to raise the $120,000 necessary to proceed with the project at present cost. It seems certain from the experience of the past that considerable further increases in costs would be effective before the project was completed in possibly 2 years time. I am hopeful that the present Government will give sympathetic consideration, at the appropriate time, to the requests of people who have given generously of their time and effort over the years in providing a facility which is, basically, a responsibility of society generally.
In addressing myself to this debate I have attempted to look at some of those matters which relate to or directly affect specific groups of people in the Hume electorate. Some of the matters I have referred to are peculiar to that electorate whilst others are common to country areas. However, the contents of the Governor-General’s address as a whole constitute a fine document which reiterates the promises made by the Australian Labor Party prior to the elections of 2nd December. It sets out an exciting program for implementation by this Parliament and, I believe, is worthy of careful consideration by all honourable members.
– Firstly, 1 take the opportunity of congratulating you, Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Duthie), on reaching the high office you are holding at this moment. It has taken you some 26 or 27 years but, fully appreciating that you are an old resident of the famous Wimmera area in Victoria, I am sure you have a strong fighting spirit and no doubt that is why you are now occupying the Speaker’s chair. I would ask you to pass on my congratulations to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. I think it is proper, too, that at this stage I should congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his election to office, an office that has evaded him for so many years as has government evaded his Party. I would agree with you, Sir, when you spoke during this debate this afternoon and said that you had heard some outstanding speeches from new members. I would refer to some of the new members on this side of the House particularly my closest colleague, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher). A lot of people will hear a lot from him over a lot of years. 1 am sure he will be with us for a long time. I am not decrying - some of the new members on the Government benches. We have heard some good speeches from them but I would offer a small piece of advice to them. I would suggest that in some instances they keep away from the academic line and address themselves more to the practical side of politics, because it is the practical side of politics which keeps them here.
– Is that what keeps you here?
– The honourable gentleman seems to be interjecting a lot. He may be one of those honourable members to whom I am referring, but I am not sure. However, we will deal with him at some future time. Most of the older members will agree that it is the aim of most candidates when they stand for election to be elected. Once they get into this place they say that they do not want people to think their election was a fluke so they seek re-election for another term. If re-elected the process continues. They find many inducements to being a member. If a member is in the Government benches he is looking for office; if in Opposition he is seeking some position. Incentive is present.
I challenge some of the statements that have been made by honourable members opposite not only in this House but also prior to the elections. Members of the Government have claimed that they have been given a mandate to do this and that. True, they have a mandate to govern but as my colleague, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), rightly pointed out they have been given only a narrow mandate. How do they know that all the things for which they fought are what the people want? Members on this side have been fighting for different issues and these could be the things the people want. After all, when we examine the numbers in this chamber there is not a great difference between the Government and the Opposition - a total of some 8 or 9 seats. If honourable members examine the final results of a number of seats occupied by members sitting on the Government benches they will find that those members would not now be occupying those seats if there had been a small swing in the votes. So I do not think it is correct to say that the Government has been given a full mandate to go ahead with all the programs with which it would like to proceed. 1 am sure that if a blunt question were, put to the people: Do you believe in socialism? Do you want to socialise the whole of industry? The answer would be no. The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) referred to gimmicks and I am sure he was right on the ball.
I would suggest to those people who did not have the opportunity of listening to this debate late this afternoon that they take a little time to read the Hansard record of it, particularly the address of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) on the question of revaluation and devaluation.
– The Minister is laughing and is interjecting from outside of his seat. He is laughing at this important matter. There are many answers to this question which many members opposite do not seem to appreciate. If I have time and do not answer too many interjections 1 may try to provide the answers. What is worrying me and what is worrying many people is not the question of the Government doing too little but rather its doing too much, too hurriedly and too indecently in some areas. The Government’s actions will have a big effect on the economy and on many people throughout the nation. Various Ministers, including the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), have allocated many millions to various projects, including railways, housing, social security and a host of other things. However, they overlook one factor, namely, that one does not simply spend money and expect to see houses pop up or a new railway line appear. One must take into consideration many factors. It is not merely a case of money. One must have the materials and the right sort of labour - specialist labour. Naturally if one does not have all these things one gets an unbalanced situation. Members opposite seem to have forgotten that the first requirement is to secure a balance. That was the aim of the previous Government and I believe that despite all the problem areas it passed through in recent years it was getting on top. That is why we have seen a big fall in the unemployment figures.
Outside the chamber this evening I was talking to some people who referred to a television interview which took place tonight. The persons to whom I refer were certainly unbiased politically. They said that there was no race so far as that argument was concerned and that the former Minister for Labour virtually ate the present Minister for Labour. I think that would be a reasonable result because, after all, the former Minister was working on facts whereas the present Minister was trying to argue that because of decisions and actions by the present Government the employment situation has been eased. Do not let us kid ourselves. The employment position will not be eased by a stroke of the pen. nor can it be expected that any action taken will be effective within a matter of a few days. That suggestion is just not on.
A while ago I was talking about expenditure. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has outlined that the increase in social benefits will cost $126m in a full year. That does not sound much when one says it quickly, but let us consider the position. The Government’s policy is to increase the social service benefit every half year. If one projects the figures to the point at which the Government reaches its goal, bearing in mind the proposal to do away with the means test, the cost to the economy will be in the vicinity of an additional $ 1.000m. If that cost is added to the present figure the amount will be almost doubled. Only one group of people will have to answer for this, that is, the taxpayers. I think it will be found that they will tell the Government quite frankly at the next election where they stand on this question. We have almost reached the stage where, in view of what has happened in the last 3 months, taxpayers will be approaching the Government within the next 3 years and asking for a subsidy to help them pay their taxes. That is how silly the position is becoming. If the proposals are not financed in that way, eventually they will have to be paid for through inflation. I can see already a tread towards a rapid increase in inflation. I invite honourable members to consider some of the recent indices which show what has happened in recent weeks. The situation worries me, it worries other members of the Opposition and it worries the people on the streets - many of them. As I have said, at the next election they will certainly let the present Government know their views on the matter.
I regret to see that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has left the chamber. I thought he would have been here for a while. 1 propose to mention some of the things that have been confusing people. In recent weeks the Minister for Immigration has made an untold number of statements. I am becoming sick of opening my mail and finding another 2 or 3 statements on immigration. They are all so confusing. One minute we hear the Minister talking about Australia reducing the intake of migrants, the next minute we find that the Government does not intend to interfere with the present policy, but then we hear that the Minister proposes that young attractive girls and non-Europeans shall be brought in on certain grounds. Where are we going on this issue? One area in which I can agree with the former right honourable member for Melbourne and the present Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is in their immigration policy. Unfortunately for the welfare of Australia as a whole, the Labor Party does not appear to agree with the Minister for Services and Property in regard to this matter. I certainly agree with him.
Our goal is a homogeneous population. It is for the Government to decide what its future policy will be. But, please, will it tell members of the public where they stand. The Government cannot have a quid each way on this issue, yet that is exactly what the Minister for Immigration is trying to do. I do not know what our immigration policy is. Migrants come to me and ask what the position is. They ask whether they can bring someone into Australia, but I do not know. I am sure that many other people outside this place do not know what the position is. The Minister’s latest contribution relates to the admission of New Zealand residents, other than the white population. I have no great argument against this, but, believe me, I would like to see a definite policy laid down in this respect. Does this mean that anyone can migrate to New Zealand and then remigrate to Australia? This seems to be a little like the embargo on the export of merino rams. The Australian Labor Party has been saying that it did not want to export merino rams, yet if any other country wants to buy them it can get them out through New Zealand. This has been the case for 30 years.
– Do you have to see Gough to get them out?
– That might help. If one were to be on side with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) one might be able to get them out of Australia. I understand that merino rams have been exported from Australia to Ceylon since this Government took office, but not a great deal of mention has been made of this. We know also that it was intended to send some merino rams to Mainland China until some outside force said that this must not be done.
Because the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is at the table I shall raise a matter that concerns him. Much publicity has been given to the question of a Commonwealth grant to the various States for housing. As a Victorian I am, naturally, looking at this from Victoria’s point of view to see how much my State will receive. I understand that the allocation to Victoria was to be $1.5m. There has been some disturbance about this. The Minister for Housing in Victoria has said that he does not like the scheme proposed by the Commonwealth Government. I congratulate him for trying to get an improvement in the conditions attaching to the allocation. I believe that he is standing on very firm ground in taking this attitude. The Victorian Minister has said, quite rightly, that the Government of his State has over-ridden his decision and said that it intends to accept the money. Of course it wants the money, but the Victorian Minister is putting up a fight for certain rights. He wishes to retain the principle that individuals have the right to purchase a home.
The Commonwealth Government has stipulated that the funds provided to the States shall be for rental housing only. This is the Government’s policy. This is true socialism coming out, very slowly and in a limited sort of way. I congratulate the Victorian Minister for Housing on his stand and I hope that he has some success. At the moment I want to be sure that Victoria will still receive the $1.5m, or whatever the figure may be, but certainly I do not want the funds to be earmarked in such a way that they must be used for rental housing only. The effect of this would be to take away any encouragement to a person to have pride in his own premises. It will create as an attitude: Just spend the money, fellow. There is plenty more to come. Do not worry about it. We can get some more. I repeat my congratulations to the Victorian Minister for Housing for the stand he has taken.
My time is limited and there are many other matters with which I should like to deal. No doubt I shall have plenty of opportunity at some time in the near future to raise those matters. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) made great play of the question of revaluation and devaluation. He, with the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), has said what is tantamount to a statement that the revaluation decisions will have no effect. I agree with some parts of the honourable member’s statement, but when it comes to the sale of commodities there must be an effect. They should not try to pull the wool over people’s eyes by suggesting that revaluation will have no effect. The leader of the Australian Country Party spelt this out very clearly just before the suspension of the sitting and there is no need for me to repeat what he said. One has only to read his remarks in Hansard to see the real story. When it comes to other exports - that is what concerns me - the first statement I saw was that made by the Minister for Primary Industry who said that Australia’s revaluation and the United States’ devaluation would have no effect on meat prices. I regret that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is not in the chamber because during this debate he said much the same thing. He said the price of meat is higher today, despite the revaluation and devaluation. I think he included also wheat and wool m his remarks. But it is not a matter of the price being increased as a result of our decision or, as has happened in one instance, through lack of a decision, but rather the reason why the prices have increased. I do not have time to go into detail about that, lt is just crazy to think that 2 variations in currency bringing about an effective appreciation of about 18 per cent in the value of the Australian dollar will not affect our imports. The real reason why the price of meat has increased is to be found in the law of supply and demand. That fact cannot be denied. I do not recall the people who now complain about these prices making any comments 2 or 3 years ago at the height of the drought when graziers were disposing of their stock at give-away prices. There was no comment then. Prices today must be viewed in relation to the present situation. But I do agree with the Minister when he says that revaluation will not have an effect on some of our imports.
I should like the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr Cairns) to indicate any item he likes which has fallen in price as a result of devaluation. I cannot find any imported goods which have been reduced in price since the alteration of the Australian currency. I wish to cite a matter which was brought to my attention in a letter that I received dated 28th February. I have not the authority to mention the author’s name or the name of the company mentioned. Briefly, the facts are that the gentleman concerned had ordered a tractor worth $11,000. He calculated that as a result of currency alterations the price reduction on the tractor should have been $1,980. He approached the agents for the tractor and said: ‘Are you going to reduce the price of the tractor?’ The interesting point is the answer which he received. The dealer’s answer was along these lines: There will be no alteration in price because the tractors which we export today have been reduced in value’. I should like Labor members to analyse that answer closely because this is the effect that these currency movements will have. The point is that those who export are not always engaged in importing. A balance is not necessarily achieved in these matters when one man loses and the other man gains.
In conclusion, I warn the people of this great nation that we have had it very good for 23 years. Honourable members on the Government side who are trying to interject do not like to hear these facts. In the not too distant future we will see an inflationary spiral in Australia that we have never seen before. It will result from quick decisions, the implications of which have not been thought out. Sooner or later this country will pay for them. But I have sufficient confidence in the people of this great nation to feel sure that, after they have had a little taste of what true socialism means they will wake up to what they have done and they will change the
Government. It certainly will be time 3 years from now for that change.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in concluding the AddressinReply debate, may I make the observation that the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), and indeed many of his colleagues on that side of the House have become dull with care and melancholy since they have been transposed to Opposition. I think that feeling may be with them for many years. Mr Deputy Speaker, will you please convey to the Speaker on my behalf my best wishes on his election to the office which he has achieved. He is well equipped to discharge the difficult and responsible duties which lie before him. He has earned the reputation over the years as a devoted Parliamentarian, a loyal member of this House and the Party which he represents. He has a capacity for dignity without pomposity. I wish you, Sir, my congratulations on your elevation to the office that you hold.
I congratulate also those new members from this side of the House and the other side of the House who have made their maiden speeches. They are now making a contribution to the democratic process, and that is as it should be. I do not wish to particularise, but I feel that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), who had the unenviable task of moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, should be congratulated on his fine speech. It was a speech of substance and sinew.
It is not yet 100 days since this Government took office, but in that short time its record is most impressive, as the former Minister for External Territories, who seeks to interject, would no doubt agree. The legislative program that it has formulated is broad, challenging, imaginative, humane and long overdue. It is a program designed to fulfil the needs and the aspiration’s of the Australian people. It is a program of change and of challenge. The changes have already occurred and the challenges will most certainly be met. Already initiatives have been taken in foreign affairs. The recognition of the People’s Republic of China has already occurred. Prior to this Government’s election to office the 800 million people of that nation were ignored by successive Liberal PartyCountry Party coalitions. One is reminded of the paranoia that seems to develop on the
Opposition side whenever one refers to the People’s Republic of China. Yet I find it fascinating and indeed interesting that the first official visit to China from Australia should in fact be by a Liberal Minister in the Victorian State Government. He is the first Australian Government representative to visit the country which members of the Liberal Party and Country Party have abused and maligned over the years. He became the first official recipient of that country’s hospitality following recognition of that country. What a manifestation of change that demonstrated.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has already indicated great initiatives with great lucidity. He has visited New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia since coming to office. Decisions have been made in relation to Indo-China and the East German Republic. There is a feeling of action abroad and initiative at home. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on his initiatives. On domestic issues, the Government’s record is equally impressive. The new and enlightened Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has brought a new dimension in the all-important field of social security. Pensions have been increased and anomalies that irritated and retarded have been removed.
Let me relate briefly what has already been achieved. The Government has moved to increase all pensions. The retrospective payment of pension increases is to be applauded. It is a move which I have long advocated. I am delighted to see it implemented by this Government. The increases in sectors of unemployment benefits will be most significant for a great many people in our community. It is simply not true to say, as many members of the Opposition have said, that our enlightened legislative social security program will encourage people not to work. Indeed, this is a cynical and offensive observation which reflects on many thousands of good Australian people. I reject it. The benefits which will be available have been detailed precisely in another debate as has the date from which they will be paid. I will not trespass on the patience of the House by repeating them. Suffice it to say that a critical area of social welfare has now been comprehensively examined and flowing from that examination decisive actions have been taken accordingly by a decisive Government.
The decision to provide aid for aged relatives is a real and positive break-through in social security. For example, any person who provides continuous care for an aged relative in that person’s home can now receive a benefit provided that that patient meets certain medical criteria. This benefit may be received, for example, by a woman caring for her husband, a husband caring for his wife, or a daughter and a son caring for sick and aged parents. This is an area of social welfare that has needed attention and it has now received that attention. National superannuation and the means test are being dealt with by a devoted, capable and very energetic Minister for Social Security.
In the field of education the schools commission and the pre-schools commission, the announced aid for technical education, all highlight the thrust and purpose of this new Government. In these early days there is a thrust, a purpose and a decisiveness that was noticeably absent in previous governments which simply refused to see or could not see that change and new directions were necessary for this nation. They refused to accept this simple fact and that refusal contributed in my view to the previous Government’s electoral defeat on 2nd December. The Minister for Defence (Mr .Barnard) has come in for a great deal of criticism and personal vilification in this House over the past week. He is an honourable and dedicated man who recognised that many facets of the repatriation system were highly unsatisfactory and in need of change. Steps which have been taken in this regard have been accepted by servicemen with a great deal of delight. These are positive actions from a positive government.
I want to turn now to one or two matters that affect my State of Tasmania and in particular my electorate of Franklin. The Minister for Transport (Mr Jones) has indicated that he will make public the results of the study of the Bureau of Transport Economics, a matter which was referred to earlier by my colleague, the newly elected honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates). I hope that these conclusions will soon be tabled in this Parliament because they are of vital importance to Tasmania. I have pointed out in this House on a number of occasions the disadvantages suffered by Tasmania due to its geographic isolation. It affects every facet of the Tasmanian economy. The increased freight charges to the apple and pear industry is one case in point. The import charges on goods from the mainland affect Tasmania’s economy to a terrifying degree. It can be said that
Tasmania’s economy is largely dependent upon one single factor, the ever increasing and escalating freight factor. The previous Government, despite the many proposals and cases put to it. totally ignored the situation but it can be ignored no longer. I have raised this matter on a number of occasions and until a satisfactory solution is arrived at I will continue to raise it. T consider this issue to be one of the most important and vital to the future economic growth and development of Tasmania. I remind the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in this House that it is of the utmost importance to establish a national marketing authority for the export of fruit and, if it is not possible constitutionally to establish a national authority. I would like the Commonwealth Government to provide the necessary finance for the State to go it alone.
The generosity of this new Government in its early days to Tasmania can be quite clearly demonstrated by the positive action of providing $3m for projects throughout the State and the relief of the unemployment situation. The Government’s proposal to acknowledge the existence of local government, hitherio shockingly neglected, is one that will be welcomed. The decision to provide local government with a voice and vote at the deliberations of the Australian Loan Council is imaginative and will be welcomed by those organisations and instrumentalities. The decisive measures announced with regard to housing are a tribute to the Minister tor Housing (Mr Les Johnson). They are vet another example of the Government’s determination to come to grips with the enormous problem brought about by the passive and piecemeal approach of the previous Governmeat. The broad canvas of the Government’s legislation is in response to the needs and the awakening of the Australian people. The people made their decision clear on 2nd December. We have responded as a government to that decision of the people and no other course is possible. The impetus and initiatives we have established must be sustained and cannot be diverted by trivia from the other side of the House. The path of change that the people have decided upon must continue.
There is one facet of Government policy about which I am not convinced at this time. However, I will refrain from making any great comment upon it until I have looked at the matter in detail. I refer to the restructuring of the Council for the Arts. I have not had an opportunity yet to look at the fine print or to examine the restructured Council but I will pursue this matter because I am not completely satisfied with what has been done. I have been asked to restrict my speech to 10 or 15 minutes and that I intend to do. I endorse and enthusiastically welcome the thrust and purpose of this new Government because the wide ranging, radical and imaginative program announced in the Governor-General’s Speech clearly illustrates this Government’s determination to create a society where initiative will be encouraged and energies harnessed. The native genius of our people will be given full play to bring about a society, an environment and a forward looking nationalism that is our birthright and our destiny.
- Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply
-I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the AddressinReply and will notify honourable members accordingly.
Telephone Services - Political PartiesRevaluation of Currency - Regional Development
Motion (by Mr Morrison) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Standing order 142 refers to questions in this chamber. As a result of the change of government and certain alterations to the Standing Orders, honourable members on this side of the House are finding great difficulty in being able to ask sufficient questions. Like many honourable members on this side I have been endeavouring to raise certain issues. I will give an illustration, though this is not unusual; it has happened before. This is the sixth sitting day and I have been rising in my place seeking to ask a question but time has run out and I have not been able to do so. Therefore, I would like to raise that question tonight and I hope that it will be recorded in Hansard and in turn looked at by the Minister concerned who might then be good enough to give me a reply. My question is directed to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and concerns the expenditure of his Department on the upgrading of certain telephone lines in various areas. The question I had intended to ask is this:
In view of the Postmaster-General’s statement to the effect that he was opposed to using departmental revenue for the development of his Department’s services, will he take steps to see that sufficient money is made available from funds outside his Department to make sure that the line policy laid down by the previous Government continues and will be completed in a reasonable time.
I am not asking the Postmaster-General to spell out exactly when this project will be completed because it is never ending. But at least I would like the Postmaster-General to endeavour to make a clear-cut statement on where he expects to get the funds to go ahead with this project. The Postmaster-General has stated clearly that he is opposed to using departmental revenue for the purpose and naturally enough he will either have to get outside money or the work will stop. I want the Postmaster-General to make a very clear statement on this issue so as to enlighten people outside of this House.
The next matter I wish to raise is my concern as to where we are going in some of our primary industries. I refer in particular to the wheat industry.
– The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is not a member of this House.
– Yes, that is the trouble. As the honourable member for Balaclava has pointed out, unfortunately the Minister is not in this chamber and we cannot direct anything to him. As a result we get a second hand answer from someone who represents the Minister in this chamber but cannot give us a clear cut yes or no to our questions. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) decided to give this portfolio to a Minister in the other place. After all, the gentleman concerned is not a man who has a great knowledge of primary industry. Rather, the Prime Minister seems to have selected someone who is lacking in this field.
The present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Riverina, when his Party was in Opposition made great play about what the Labor Party would do as far as primary industries were concerned if it were in government. The wheat industry is one of those primary industries. He promised us the world. I have vivid recollections of the time when the Minister said that a Labor government would make $500m available for primary producers at an interest rate of 3 per cent. The Prime Minister has been pretty good; he has been flying into all sorts of other decisions. But nothing has happened in relation to this matter. Why did the honourable member for Riverina make this statement? I understand that what he said was backed up by other candidates who were running under the Labor Party flag. But nothing has happened since.
The Government has taken certain actions on the wheat industry. Some people now are suggesting that the new Government has increased the first advance from $1.10 to $1.20 a bushel. This, of course, is very misleading, because the Minister for Primary Industry has said - and I give him the credit - that the Government would pay a first advance of $1.10 and 10c incentive, which brings the figure up to $1.20. Some people on the Government side today are saying: ‘Well we are increasing it and you didn’t’. This is fair enough; it is true. The first advance on wheat has been $1.10 with the exception of one year, for 17 years. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation wants the advance increased. The previous Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) rightly told the Federation leaders that just prior to the election it would not be right for him to commit a government in advance. Honourable members opposite are laughing; they do not even know what it means. The previous Minister said: ‘My suggestion to you is that if we are returned I will meet the Federation straight after the election if I happen to be the Minister’. Today, of course, the new Minister has taken all this time - since 2nd December until two or three weeks ago - to indicate what the price will be.
It was correct for the honourable member for Riverina when in opposition to say that we should have an increase of $1.10 for a first advance payment because of certain reasons, which he spelt out, what I want to say this evening is this: If it was good enough for the previous Government to pay $1.10 at a time when Australia had huge supplies of wheat, a lot more than we could sell, and we guaranteed this price as a first advance - now the situation is altogether different. Previously we sold wheat for as low as $1,25 a bushel but we still paid $1.10 as a first advance. Today we are selling wheat at $2.25 a bushel. Bearing this in mind it would seem that the amount of the first advance should be about $2 and not $1.10 plus 10c.
In conclusion I want to say that I am a little surprised at the Minister making a statement to the effect that he is urging and encouraging wheat growers to grow more wheat. Older honourable members will recall that many years ago growers were urged to grow more wheat in the interests of the economy of Australia. They grew more wheat. Then under a Labor government the growers were told to either burn their wheat or plough it in. 1 do not want to be associated with any instructions from this place that growers grow more wheat. Encourage them, yes; but there is a very big difference between asking them to do it and encouraging them. If the growers want to grow more wheat, let them grow more wheat. 1 appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry, and to the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), who represents him in this place, to refrain from saying: ‘We want you to grow more wheat’. If we looked at the quantity of wheat that is grown in Australia and the quantity that is produced throughout the world and worked out the percentage of export wheat that comes from Australian in comparison with that of other wheat exporting countries we would find that the little bit that we grew is infinitesimal. This country could run out of wheat and yet there would be a world surplus. Honourable members will appreciate what I am saying if they look at the percentages. 1 urge the Minister for Primary Industry and his representatives in this House to make sure that they do not demand that growers grow more wheat. If they act on that line they will be the ones who will be responsible when we possibly see a crash in wheat sales because of over-production. Theirs will be the responsibility if we then have to reduce production.
– I rise just to say a few words to the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) in relation to his query concerning questions in this House. The present practice, as honourable members know, is not new. It is a relic of that dim and dark 23 years of Liberal Party-Country Party Government. We on this side of the House sat until recently on the other side. When we were the Opposition we were not only denied the right to ask questions more than once every 3 weeks but also, when we did receive a reply, we w:re given mostly stupid answers. Honourable members on the other side are a very fortunate Opposition. They not only get the opportunity to ask questions but also they get magnificently intelligent and informative answers. Rarely has an opposition been able to ask such talented Ministers questions from time to time. So the honourable member ought to count his blessings and think how fortunate he is.
But members of the Opposition have their own problems on this matter. They have 2 deputy leaders and 2 general leaders. They have a couple of deputy deputy leaders. If they could sort themselves out and they did not jump so often they would all be able to ask twice as many questions. How can members of the Opposition expect the Government to answer questions on primary industry? The Opposition has 2 spokesmen on primary industry. I suppose that to be fair we would have to let both spokesmen ask the same question each and every day. Then we would see a stand-up fight because the answer to the Liberal question would not coincide with Country Party policy. So we can see what a mess the Opposition would put us in on this side of the Parliament in trying to answer the honourable member. I suggest though that honourable gentlemen opposite should use the notice paper extensively. All private members have this opportunity. The honourable member for Wimmera could benefit from a lot more knowledge and information. 1 know this from his speeches. He could improve considerably by using the notice paper much more.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition uses it.
– Yes, the deputy deputy uses it. Ho will tell us that himself. And he is getting really brief and to the point answers. All honourable members can do the same. We on this side of the Parliament do not want to suppress information. We would be delighted if every member opposite could ask question after question because we know that we would be in government still longer provided we were given the opportunity to supply answers to those questions. Opposition supporters seem to think that we on this side of the
House are responsible for ail the ills of this country. 1 wonder how many honourable members opposite have read the results of the last elections. One would think that they do not know what side of the House they arc sitting on. They are blaming us because of a shortage of telephones in country districts.
The Opposition was in office for 24 years and its supporters now tell us that within 24 days or so of coming to office the Labor Party is responsible for all these sorts of things. It is the old story - when in opposition they are roaring lions but when in government they are worn out old tom cats. It is as simple as that. Most of those members of the Country Party who sat on this side of the House before the last election were as quiet as rabbits suffering from myxomatosis. But today in their new pasture in the Parliament they are a vibrant fighting force and when they think they have the time to stop saying what they think of the Liberals they think about attacking us because of a shortage of telephones or insufficient time to ask a question of two. For instance, let us take the wheat growers. A member of the Country Party has tonight complained about their situation. Honourable members opposite were in office for 24 years and they left the country and the wheat growers in the biggest mess in the history of this country. The other day the Labor Party gave to the wheat growers an advance that excelled anything that the Country Party ever thought of in its time on this side of the House. This Government is to undertake an inquiry into long term low interest rates for farmers and we will certainly see that they get their returns. On top of that they know that on this side of the Parliament they are represented by real country men like the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
The people in the country districts know that they now have in this Parliament spokesmen who will speak on their behalf. If honourable members opposite do not think I am right they should read the results of the last elections. Another record majority was achieved by the honourable member for Dawson. Everybody knows that it was not until Labor came to office in the war years that primary producers received any return for their labour. We gave them guaranteed markets, we stabilised prices and we put the farmers on top of the world. Instead of owing money to the banks the banks were borrowing from the farmers. Honourable members opposite are now telling us what they did for the farmers. One would think that they were not reponsible for the things that went wrong, but make no mistake about it, the full responsibility for a shortage of telephones, shortcomings in conditions for farmers and in primary industry, and everything else that has gone wrong in this country, rests with honourable members opposite. They are the guilty men because they were in office for so long. I am interested to note that after 24 years in the lush pasture on this side of the House they have to be at least a little vocal in order to let the people know that they exist in the Parliament.
– Sit down.
– Now I can see the wine growers friend. One night in this House the honourable member moved a resolution to support the wine growers but ended up voting against his motion. You would not read about it.
– He voted to gag himself.
– He voted to gag himself. I recall one honourable member moving that the question be put and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who was on his feet, sat down. He, in effect, gagged himself. So if he would not listen to himself why should we put up with him? It is fascinating to look from this side of the House at honourable members opposite. They look so much better on that side. They look so comfortable. I know they are settling in because it will be a long long time before there is a change. I also know that the members of the Country Party cannot wait until next Tuesday. They are dying to hear a speech of mine, I can see the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). They have the light of battle in their eves because their citadel may be assailed on Tuesday. Their quiet friends in this House are looking at them sympathetically but when they are in the Liberal Party room they are laughing their heads off.
On a serious note, I place on record tonight the fact that this Government in 24 days has uplifted the dignity of this Parliament. Whoever heard during the last 24 years of an adjournment debate taking place at 10.25 p.m.? We generally started such a debate at about 11.25 p.m. If honourable members are unable to ask questions because of lack of time they at least have the opportunity to express themselves during the adjournment debate, so be thankful for the opportunity. Be thankful for what the Labor Party is bringing to this Parliament - democracy, free speech and the right to say your piece and to put your point of view. I am sorry to have taken up so much time but I thought, Mr Speaker, that the reference to questions was somewhat of a reflection on the way in which you were running this House. Therefore I desired to put the record straight and to inform Opposition supporters that if they are not sure on which side they are sitting they ought to read the results of the last elections. As far as primary production, the running of this Parliament and the welfare of this country are concerned, they are in good hands. We will endeavour to remedy in the many years ahead of us the ills and shortcomings that were caused by the administration of the last Government. I am hopeful that we will be able to do that with a minimum of inconvenience to the public and with great benefit to the nation.
– We have just heard the kind of speech to which we have become accustomed from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is also Leader of the House. The honourable member has called this a democracy. He spoke of freedom, free speech and the right to say one’s piece. I came into the House tonight to say my piece on a most important subject, the Address-in-Reply. However, even though the time set aside for the debate had not expired - it was not 10.15 p.m. - I was gagged when I rose to speak. I understand this was done on the instructions of the Leader of the House. If that is not undemocratic I would like to know what is. After all, perhaps it would have been better for honourable members to have heard a few wise words from me than to witness the clowning of the Leader of the House. You know, Mr Speaker, that we get this sort of thing all the time. I wish the people of Australia could have heard tonight that somebody who had something important to say was gagged by this Government although we had to listen to 10 minutes of clowning by the honourable member for Grayndler. He said nothing. He was being personal in his remarks about some people and he tried to insult others. He calls this democracy. Well, I just do not understand it.
I would have liked to say something in the debate on the Address-in-Reply because I suppose it is the most important AddressinReply debate since I have been in this place. I approach the Governor-General’s Speech much more in sorrow than in anger because if honourable members refer to the opening remarks of the Speech they will see that he talks about a mandate for change. He said that the Government wanted to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society in the lifetime of this Parliament. In other words, within 3 years the whole structure of Australia and the society to which we have been accustomed is to be changed and, of course, this is a terrible thing. What do we have to change? I have not time in this debate to deal with all the matters 1 wish to raise but I want to refer to one important matter. What do we have to change? The Liberal Party of Australia and, I believe, the Australian Country Party stand for certain principles and they have stood by those principles in the last 23 years of this Parliament. The main principle is the freedom and rights of the individual which they consider to be superior to the rights of the state. The Labor Party has stood for the superiority of the state over the individual under a socialist system, and that is the difference between the Opposition and the Government. But there has been no fundamental change. A leopard does not change its spots. The Labor Party has not changed its principles. It still stands for a change of our society into a socialist state. There is no question about this and no-one will deny it.
I have not time in this debate to deal with what has been done in the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government but the results of its policies have produced an era of the greatest development and prosperity this country has ever known. That has been done by this Parliament. Let us turn to the new look of the Labor Party. I say that it stands for the same thing now; it has not altered. Mr Chifley lost government because he wanted to nationalise and socialise everything. That was when the Liberals came to power. Dr Evatt’s Party had the same new look idea that the Government has, except perhaps that it was flirting even more with communism than is the case today. The Calwell Party made excessive promises in the same way as the Whitlam Party is doing today, with the same conclusion - a socialist society. The Whitlam Party was not trusted by the people either. This time we had the great subterfuge. They softened on the socialist theme. Therefore they are trying to deceive the people about what can happen.
The election campaign was, I suppose, the most lavish in Australia’s history and the cost was astronomical. I would like to know where the money came from. I know that a lot of my friends who were supposed to have money received personal letters signed by Mr Whitlam. Such letters went out all over Australia by the millions. The unions, under the Hawke influence at. that time, were forced to pay. But was there any overseas money that helped the Labor Party? It is strange that several overseas trips were made at that time by the present Prime Minister and by Mr Hawke, the Vice-President of the Party. They went to Israel and to other countries which were very anxious to see a Labor Party Government in Australia. So I ask whether overseas money was involved in that election.
Promises know no bounds with the Labor Party. It has promised social welfare schemes and improvements in housing, urban development and transport. No-one can deny that all the cranks, odd bods, drug addicts, homosexuals, abortionists, pornographers, Women’s Liberation supporters and all the demonstrators in the world were brought together in one unified force to get the Labor Party into power. Another significant thing was that on this occasion, as distinct from any other occasion in our history, very few communists stood for election. The communists themselves lay down and supported the Labor Party because it was essential for the Labor Party to get into office. It is true to say that the people were lulled into a false sense of security. If they had had the chance 24 hours later they would not have made the same decision. There is no question or doubt about that. The people were horrified when this Government came to power. In the first week after the elections they were horrified. In that first week we had only 2 men controlling this country. That was the first taste of possible dictatorship in this country. Those 2 men handled 26 or 27 portfolios.
With unseemly haste the Government insulted our greatest friends and allies, the United States of America. Three Ministers joined the left wing Labor supporters and the communists in all the vile epithets they could think of, and the Prime Minister said nothing. He did not make one remark. All our British tradition was trampled underfoot by the Prime Minister. Royalty was given a slap in the face. Honourable members know what happened about the Queen’s Honours and about the Prime Minister’s refusal to accept the Privy Council appointment. Even the poor old Bentley car and its flag were ignored. But quick as a flash we embraced China. Hanoi and East Germany. Our close friend, Taiwan, was unceremoniously ejected within a matter of hours. One had only to be a good communist or a follower to get a job with the Labor Party. That has happened all over the place. We do not seem to realise it, but now we are actually living in Australia under a communist umbrella. We have deserted all our friends. The Government’s intention is quite clear. The Prime Minister sees himself as a man of great destiny, and God help the state if he stays there long.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the last 10 minutes we have had absolute proof of the reasons why the Australian people felt that this nation could survive only with a change of government. I thank the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) for the great assistance he obviously rendered to the Australian Labor Party during the election campaign. I hope that in any future election campaign he will be prepared to make that type of speech in public everywhere that we can possibly get him on a platform for us, because no self respecting Australian would vote for a party that had the type of philosophy we just heard in that speech. The honourable member commenced his speech with a complaint about the lack of time provided in the Address-in-Reply debate. There were 57 speakers on the Address-in-Reply and the debate lasted for 17i hours. As late as an hour ago the honourable member’s name was not on the speakers list. That may not have been his fault. I do not know. The fact is that it was not on the list.
– That is not your business.
– He was down to speak.
-Order! I warn the House that if there are any more of these interruptions and rowdy demonstrations I will adjourn the House.
– The honourable member for Bennelong claimed that he was denied the democratic right to speak in the House.
I am merely pointing out that there were 57 speakers and 174 hours of debate on the Address-in-Reply, which is probably one of the longest debates to have taken place in this House for a number of years. The honourable member’s name was not on the list on the table an hour ago. That is by the way. The point is that it is always the practice of honourable members to complain about being gagged. The honourable member for Bennelong did not once express sympathy for the honourable member for Wills, who is now the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and who was gagged possibly more times than any man in the history of Parliament.
– What about Foster?
– I do not think that the former honourable member for Sturt was here long enough to acquire the record that the honourable member for Wills has on this subject. I rose initially to speak on what I consider to be a very serious matter which reflects on the dignity and standing of this Parliament. It is not a matter which I treat lightly. In the last few days attacks have been made on honourable members because they exercised the right to make an affirmation instead of swearing an oath on the Bible. This is a right which was established for members of Parliament after one of the longest and most bitter struggles in the history of parliamentary democracy. Yet men are being vilified because they have exercised their religious freedom in this country to do what they consider to be right. It would be dishonest for a person to swear an oath if he did not place any credence in that oath.
– It is all right if it is done by honourable members opposite.
– This is a very serious matter and should be treated as such. I hope that this practice of trying to whip up religious hatreds within the Parliament does not continue and that those honourable members who have adopted this practice will realise that this is not the manner in which to conduct themselves in the national Parliament. I point out for the information of those honourable members who are not aware of it that, when a person will not swear an oath on the bible, it is not always a sign that that person is an atheist. In the previous Parliament one honourable member who is a minister of religion refused to swear an oath on the Bible because he had a deep religious conviction that it was a sacrilegious thing to misuse the Bible by swearing an oath on it. He took an affirmation because of his religious beliefs. I hope that no one will suggest that that gentleman was not a Christian.
We have a perfect example of the results of the pursuit of religious division for political or any other purposes. 1 hope that the honourable members concerned will not appear in this Parliament as they have done in the last few days. If any political party - I do nol exempt any political party - tries to develop support for itself by religious vilification, it will suffer the same fate as that suffered by a political candidate in a by-election in 1967 when a major spokesman for a political party tried to raise religious issues in the election campaign.
This is a serious matter, and I ask the leaders of those parties involved to speak to the honourable members concerned and request them to refrain from making this type of attack. They gain no political mileage whatsoever from such attacks and they do this Parliament and the nation a serious disservice.
– Last night I spoke of the effect on the Australian economy if the present Government should, on 30th June, do away with the export incentive scheme. Tonight I desire to bring to the notice of this House and of the people of Australia the tremendous effect that revalution has had on Australia’s secondary industries. We have already heard much talk about the effect of revaluation on our great primary industries. We have been told that it will cost them about $300m or $400m. Our wool, wheat, meat, sugar, coarse grains and other primary industries as well as our mining industries will be affected. 1 should like to bring to the notice of this House tonight the effect of revaluation on our secondary industries. This has not been fully appreciated by most Australians, and by this Government in particular. The effect of Australia’s 7 per cent revaluation last December as well as the further revaluation of 11 per cent against the United States dollar in February has created a most serious problem for secondary industry in Australia, particularly for employment in secondary industry, and the future economic growth of this country.
Let us examine the basic facts. Under revaluation, United States dollar imports become 15 per cent cheaper in terms of Australian dollars and Australian exports in United
States dollars give a return of 15 per cent less in terms of Australian dollars. In the case of the pound sterling, imports are now 21 per cent less, taking into account also the effect of British devaluation which has been going on since July 1972. The figures for other European countries are not quite as significant, but in most cases they exceed 10 per cent. The effect of these currency changes on local manufacture has been the equivalent of an erosion in our tariff protection of somewhere between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. lt can readily be seen that this state of affairs must show a big increase in imports which must be at the expense of local manufacturers. As local manufacturers’ net profit margins on sales are usually considerably less, the end effect on import competing industries must be either to put them out of business and thereby create much unemployment or, at the very best, to have them continue in business without sufficient profitability to justify plans for any growth or new capital investment. This would also lead to stagnation and to the eventual closure of such industries.
The effect on industries presently exporting is worse. Nearly all secondary industry exports from Australia are marginal and cannot afford a price drop of this magnitude. Most companies with reasonable export performances gain a considerable cost benefit from their export activities which is reflected in their local pricing. If such companies have to cease exports, their cost of production for the local market only will increase considerably which, at best, would lead to inflationary cost increases to the Australian public, but more likely would make such companies incapable of meeting import competition and ultimately force them out of production. The effect of revaluation therefore must lead to stagnation in industry and considerable increase in unemployment. That is the underlying principle - the effect that revaluation will have on the work force in our secondary industries.
Whilst this state of affairs will most certainly take place, the effect on employment figures and run down on business may not be noticeable for at least 6 months. This delay in effect will be brought about by industry production on existing contracts taking 6 months or 12 months to take effect. If action is delayed until these effects show up in statistics, then such action would take at least as long to reverse this unfavourable trend.
The Government must look at this situation immediately to ascertain the best steps to take to protect Australian secondary industries. Our secondary industries have been built up over many years and employ hundreds of thousands of good Australians. The situation is serious. No doubt, industry leaders have already been to see the Government and pointed out the problems to which I have referred. Surely this Government will tackle these problems without delay.
– I rise a little later in the evening than I would have wished to comment on the fact that the Government has gagged approximately 16 Opposition speakers in the debate on the AddressinReply. I do not suppose that anybody on this side of the House is naive enough to expect that we will receive anything like equal treatment from bully boys and bosses, who probably have been trained at a lot tougher school than we have, in relation to giving adequate chances for people to put their views. However, I think it is only proper to stand at this time and, if I can, objectively explain to the House the attitude that has been adopted by the Whip’s office over the last 3 years when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government, and compare it with what has happened tonight. It may well be - I have not been able to check my facts in regard to hours of debate allowed - that the performance of the Government tonight or over the last fortnight has been adequate.
– It has not.
– I have it on the authority of my friend that even on an hourly basis the amounts of time allocated to members on both sides of the House do not bear comparison.
But I wanted to make another point tonight and I will continue to make it. We do not want sympathy; we do not want anything other than our rights as Her Majesty’s Opposition to express a point of view, and we intend to fight for these rights if we feel that we have been treated in an inadequate fashion. In the last 3 years, when we were in government, during the debates on either the Budget or the Address-in-Reply, I hope the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) will back me op in what I am about to say - someone from the Whip’s office on the Government side has always gone across to the Opposition side and said - I hope my memory is accurate - ‘What are the numbers of members you wish to debate the Budget or the Address-in-Reply?’ As a rule this request went across half-way through the debate, not at the beginning and certainly not at the end. I hasten to admit that. If the answer was that the Opposition had 23 speakers or 26 speakers we on the Government side pruned our list according to the number requested by the Opposition. There is nothing in the rules of the House governing the number of speakers. All that is involved is the capacity for a Government and an Opposition to co-operate. I say with sorrow that such co-operation was not evident in the recent Address-in-Reply debate. Sixteen people on this side of the House were prevented from speaking in that debate. As people will hasten to remind us, this is the first time we have been in opposition for 23 years, and 1 think that members, including newcomers on both the Government side and on our side, deserve the maximum of consideration. I am talking about Her Majesty’s Opposition, not about a rabble, not about 3 parties, but about Her Majesty’s Opposition. Sixteen people were gagged by the Government in the Address-in-Reply debate. As luck would have it no member who wished to make his maiden speech was gagged. A lot of other fairly important people who have had a lot to do with the progress of Australia during the last 23 years have been gagged. I want to register my disappointment at the gagging of members in the Address-in-Reply debate.
I can only repeat that we on this side of the House feel that we will not get from the Government treatment equal to the treatment that we as a Government gave to it in Opposition, but we hope to have the opportunity to fight for the percentage of the Australian people whom we represent, and if the. opportunity is given to us we will continue to do so. If the opportunity is not given we will have to fight in some other fashion. I presume that there are members on the opposite side who felt they had to do the same thing when they were in Opposition. I do not think it would be right if 1 did not take advantage of this occasion to point out what I sincerely believe to be an error of judgment by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). 1 might just make a comment on the Leader of the House, because his performance in that office is becoming an important issue. I am sorry that he has left the chamber, but I was unable to get the call while he was present. More and more this person, who 1 think is respected on both sides of the House, is becoming known by the population of Australia for his comic and buffoon acts over the air. He is becoming known as someone who is not seriousi n his determination to produce good government for the people of Australia. The average person in the street - I hand this out as a pleasant warning at this stage - wonders who he is, why he has been elected to the position he holds and what his job is when he treats the Parliament of the nation in such a flippant fashion. I hope that in the future he will do his job properly without seeing a necessity to buffoon and try to ridicule and belittle people, some of whom are perhaps not as adequately equipped as he is to stand up for their rights but simply are people sincerely trying to do a job which they have been sent by the people who have elected them to this Parliament to do.
– It must be hurting.
– I can tell you one thing. It does not hurt me one bit. The more often he gets back to wine excise the happier I will be because one thing that happened from it was that my vote on a single preferred result went up by 2 per cent. If what he said had any meat to it at all I can only invite him to keep trying me out on wine excise, because the result from my wine growers was perfectly superb and I shall everlastingly be grateful for their attitude. Before I sit down let me mention one matter, which, if I may become parochial for one minute, perturbed me as a South Australian very much. I sat and watched a television show not long ago in which 1 saw the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren)-
– He is the Minister for the cities.
– Yes, because the regional side of his functions has become defunct. To my absolute amazement as a South Australian I heard the interviewer ask him what studies had been carried out as a lead-up to the inauguration of Albury-Wodonga as a regional centre. To my complete horror the Minister said that this was completely a political decision. The interviewer, quick smart, said:
Where are the feasibility studies?’ I can remember the former Opposition asking the same question over the years about a certain dam in Queensland. The Minister was asked: Where are the feasibility studies?’ He said: But there are not any feasibility studies. I have told you that it was a political decision.’ That may or may not be valid. It may or may not be a terrible damnation of the present Government, that they would chuck away and squander taxpayers money on something not thought out, despite the magnificent concept of regional development. What worried me so much as a South Australian was that we had thought that the previous Liberal -Country League Premier of South Australia had succeeded in negotiating certain water rights for South Australia.
– Which one?
– I did not mention his name. That is up to you. We thought that he had negotiated and obtained greater water rights for South Australia from the yield of the River Murray. We thought in South Australia that the Dartmouth Dam was to be the alternative to Chowilla Dam to give us an increased yield in water. I just ask the Government this question: If the decision to establish AlburyWodonga as a growth centre is a political decision, if no feasibility studies on the development are available and if no economists have given an opinion on this matter, who has had a look at the water yield? I also heard the same Minister on the same television program say that there would be no water problem in Albury-Wodonga, that Dartmouth Dam was being constructed for this purpose. People up and down the Murray below that area who heard that statement will be horrified, and that is being modest. I remind the Government that many honourable members will do what the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has done in the past. They will ask where the feasibility studies are and where is the background information to show that the correct decision has been made. If they are told that this information is not available they will ask why the decision is being made and whether it is capricious and in the best interests of the nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 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:
The program for the development of universities during the 1973-75 triennium was determined by the previous Government last year on the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission, which included recommendations for both recurrent and capital expenditure for Murdoch University to enable the University to open in 1975 wilh a range of arts and science disciplines. The Minister for Education has advised me that he has replied to representations for Commonwealth assistance for the establishment of a Chair of Peace at Murdoch University by explaining that any allocation of moneys for this purpose would be a matter for the University itself to determine and that the necessary funds would need to be found from the University’s normal recurrent funds.
King Island Shipping Service
– On 7th March the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) asked me a question without notice concerning the King Island Shipping Service. My reply is recorded in Hansard at page 282. I have received further advice on the decisions taken by the previous Government and I believe the situation would be better represented if my answer had read as follows:
The Government will be receiving a report on this matter from the Minister for Transport. He is considering it as a result of a telegram sent to me last week by the Premier of Tasmania. On coming to office we found that the matter had been considered by an interdepartmental committee which reported to the late Government in August against giving assistance to a shipping service to King Island. The previous Government had offered to the Tasmanian Government $I.355m for the development of a port at Grassy on King Island but this matter was not finalised before the Elections. The Australian and Tasmanian Governments, however, are about to complete an agreement for this port assistance. Arrangements are being made for Parliamentary Counsel to draft legislation with a view to its introduction and passage in the current sittings of the Parliament so that payments may be made to the State. The matter of assistance for the shipping service conducted previously by a company which has since gone into receivership is, as I said, at present under consideration by the Minister for Transport and he will be making a report to Cabinet on it.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730308_reps_28_hor82/>.