28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. 3. F. Cope) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Minister:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain members and adherents of the Methodist Church of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they support the plea made to the Commonwealth by their 1972 General Conference and by the Australian Council of Churches for the recognition of the Land Rights of Aborigines and legislation in support thereof.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House in consultation with the Aborigines themselves, take effective legislative and other action along lines such as the following:
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Birrell.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the persons hereunder, the residents of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will
Aboriginal Reserves to give effective priority in prospecting and mineral rights to corporate Aboriginal groups.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Ensure that finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for 78 per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as In duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hallett.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will restore to the Australian people true religious freedom, which can only exist when Church and State are legally separated in form and substance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. To borrow an analogy recently used, when there is a fire in the house it is not necessary to have a computer to tell the occupant what he needs to do about it. Does the honourable gentleman believe that inflation can to many people be just as damaging as a fire in a house, and will the honourable gentleman explain to the Parliament what intentions he has either personally or for the Government to take action to prevent the Australian people being brought to a stage of great discomfort and disadvantage to themselves by the incipient forces of inflation which his Government intends to allow?
– To quote from the same source, one does not need to have a witch doctor to be told that. Legislation is being prepared and will be shortly introduced to establish a prices justification tribunal. A motion will be put before each House, I expect tomorrow, and I would also hope that it would have the support of all parties in both Houses, to establish a joint select committee to review prices. The Government, moreover, is undertaking a deliberate program of consulting with the States to ensure that governmental expenditure in Australia is planned over the appropriate period of time to see that costs are not inflated by stop-go government policies but that there are properly planned and published programs in the public sector. We are intent on seeing that, as far as Commonwealth legislation, administrative actions and parliamentary inquiries are concerned, there will be the same consistent and constant review of prices in Australia as there is for incomes.
– Can the Minister for Education inform the House on a proposal for the training of teachers of the handicapped, known as the Thomas Report? As this proposal was dependent on Commonwealth funds for its approval, is there any likelihood that it will be gone ahead with? If not, could the Minister assure the House that the report will be examined by the Interim Schools Commission or other relevant bodies?
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Minister for Education already is getting a reputation as the greatest Dorothy Dix exponent in this House.
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– The second part of my point of order is this: Will you, Mr Speaker, use your good offices to make sure that time taken up by answers to Dorothy Dixers is added to question time?
– In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, I point out that I should like all questions and prefaces to questions and all answers to questions shortened to give honourable members, particularly backbench members, a better go during question time than they have received in the past.
– In answering the question of the honourable member for Macarthur, I should like to assure the Leader of the Opposition that I never asked that this question be asked which I understand is what is meant by a Dorothy Dixer.
Mr Snedden - Did you have notice of it? (Honourable members interjecting.)
– Order! If the House does not come to order I will have to take appropriate action and I can assure honourable members that one or two of them may find themselves outside the chamber saying farewell to His Royal Highness.
– I am not sure whether the Thomas Report should be handed over to the Interim Schools Committee but I would draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that the Mr Thomas in question who is an expert on education of the handicapped is a member of the Interim Schools Committee and, presumably, would be aware of everything that went into the Thomas Report, considering that he chaired the committee of inquiry into the education of the handicapped in New South Wales. The document that was produced, however, is confidential to the Government of New South Wales. It is not a Commonwealth document and, as far as I know, there has never been any question of the Commonwealth being asked to fund whatever was found in a report which the Government of New South Wales has kept confidential to itself. Certainly no request has come during my time in office.
– My question ‘ is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that officials travelling with the Prime Minister on his recent trip to Indonesia held a briefing with Australian journalists during which Dr Malik, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, was denigrated and described as Indonesia’s Jim Cairns? Did the Prime Minister authorise or know about such a briefing?
– Officials travelling with me on my visit to Indonesia did give briefings to the Press. The Press sought such briefings. There is no truth whatever in any suggestion that any of the officials denigrated the distinguished Foreign Minister of Indonesia. This question-
– Did they say he was a lim Cairns’?
– To say that a person was a ‘Jim Cairns’ of any particular country is not denigration at all. But I am aware, of course, that there have been allegations of this nature in the newspapers. A question was put on notice in the Senate on this matter and I have answered that question. There is no truth whatever in any allegation that officials travelling with me denigrated in any way the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. 1 certainly authorised the briefings which were sought. I certainly would not have authorised or tolerated any denigration of the Indonesian Foreign Minister or any minister or official of the country where we were guests.
– My question directed to the Prime Minister refers to the border dispute between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Before any action is taken, or if no action at all is taken, will the Prime Minister use his personal influence or his constitutional powers to ensure that the people of the Torres Strait Islands have land rights conferred upon them without cost, so that they can decide what they want to do?
– I assure the honourable gentleman that I have no personal interest in the land of the Torres Strait Islands or the adjacent continental shelf. My Government is committed to see that Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders have rights under the law to the land which they and their forebears have used. The Queensland Government has taken the attitude that these lands are Aboriginal reserves. It has not done, as some other States have done, given rights to that land to the Aborigines as individuals or families. One of the first acts that my Government took was to request that Mr Justice -
– Which country will they belong to?
– You have lunched well but I should have thought that -
– I do not blame mv honourable friend - it was on the House.
– Mr Justice E. A. Woodward is inquiring into the land rights of Aborigines, particularly in the Northern Territory. His report, however, will also be made the basis of the Commonwealth’s actions to ensure that Aborigines have land rights in the States as well. My Government is resolved to see, as the Governor-General promised in his Speech opening the Parliament, that the States will no longer thwart the will of the Australian people, expressed overwhelmingly in the referendum of 1967, giving this Parliament, the national Parliament, the opportunity and the responsibility to see that Aborigines have a right to land. The attitude that the occupants of these islands should have title to their land is also shared by the Government of Papua New Guinea, wherever the sea border may be or wherever the seabed border may be, by Australian agreement, or by international action, hereafter set. There is no dispute between the Australian Government and the Papua New Guinea Government that the people who have occupied these lands will have a legal title to them.
I am happy to inform the House that the Premier of Queensland, who had previously rejected the suggestion which I put to him - the same suggestion that had been put by Ministers in the late Government to my immediate predecessor - that there should be consultations between officials from the Commonwealth, State and Territories, has asked me to meet him on Friday of next week when I will be in Brisbane. I have accepted his invitation with alacrity and pleasure and this will be certainly one of the matters which we shall discuss.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Prime Minster. Will the Government only apply its Aboriginal land rights policies to the Aborigines living in the Northern Territory, since the commission that has been set up has been instructed to consider a land rights policy with respect to the Northern Territory? Is he aware that the commission has excluded Jervis Bay, the Australian Capital Territory generally and the States? Do we assume from his answer that the Government will apply the land rights policy not only to the Northern Territory but to all other Territories and the States, including the city of Sydney where Aborigines are living in deplorable circumstances?
– Mr Justice Woodward’s terms of reference have specific relation to the Northern Territory. His findings, however, will be the basis upon which the Commonwealth will act not only in the Northern Territory, not only in the Jervis Bay territory at places such as Wreck Bay, but also in the States where the Aborigines are still exercising traditional land rights. The honourable gentleman might remember that I spoke on this matter about 12 months ago in a debate on a ministerial statement which he made to the last Parliament. We are determined to see that there will be non-alienable nontransferable rights vested in the Aborigines in respect of the land which they have traditionally occupied.
Mr Justice Woodward’s terms of reference bear specific relation to the Northern Territory because there can be, under the present administrative arrangements, no let or hindrance. There is no dispute within the present Australian Government between different departments according to whether the Minister belongs to the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party. Every Minister of the present Government and every department is bound to carry out the party’s policy which was put to the people and for which the people gave the present Government a mandate. It is very likely that when it has to hand Mr Justice Woodward’s report the Commonwealth will exercise its constitutional powers if need be by way of acquisition of these Aboriginal reserves and other relevant lands to which the Aborigines can reasonably claim title.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development. Can the Minister advise what progress has been made on submissions by the Queensland Government for Commonwealth financial aid for stage 2 of the Bundaberg irrigation project, which the Minister will be aware is necessary to complement the work at present under construction - work that will stabilise production of cane sugar, on which the prosperity of Bundaberg and Childers depends?
– I am well aware of the problems of the Bundaberg-Bingera-Gin Gin area in respect of the production of cane sugar. Phase 1 of the present construction program will cost approximately $20m, of which the Commonwealth has contributed $ 12.8m. The Commonwealth’s contribution consists of the construction of the Monduran Dam, a major dam on the Kolan River, the main pumping station and the main Gin Gin channel. With the remaining $8m the State is constructing tidal weirs on the Kolan and the Burnett River systems. The Premier of Queensland has written to the Prime Minister asking for financial assistance for phase 2 of the project. The total cost of this work will be $30m and the Premier has asked for $1 8m in the form of financial assistance. Phase 2 will involve continuation of the project, construction of important weirs on the Kolan and Burnett Rivers and the linking of the main Gin Gin channel with the area of Bingera and then taking the water further towards the Isis area. The overall effect will be to make the very important sugar growing area of the Bundaberg district drought proof in most respects.
It is only a few weeks since the Premier wrote to the Prime Minister. He also asked for financial assistance for 8 other water conservation projects. I am afraid that it will take some time for the evaluation machinery to swing into action to enable priorities to be established with respect to water conservation projects not only in the north but also in the south. I can assure the honourable member that the project to which he has referred is being treated very seriously because the Government is aware of the substantial losses that have occurred in this area over the years. It knows also that the city of Bundaberg and surrounding towns depend greatly on the stability and security of the sugar industry.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Following the marked reduction in unemployment in February, after an improvement in January, for which his Government claims credit, will the honourable gentleman say which three of the major actions that he or his Government took were the ones which contributed most to that reduction? Will the Prime Minister inform the House also of the estimates by the Department of Labour and the Treasury of the number of people who would be provided with employment as a result of each of these 3 selected major acts? In answering the question, will he forgo personal invective, which does not add to the parliamentary system or the public regard for it?
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is completely out of order with that last remark.
– I will be as gentle as I can. It is true enough that there were some specific actions of the new Government which did quite dramatically reduce unemployment. There were very prompt consultations by the Treasurer and me with 4 Premiers, and correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales and the Acting Premier of Queensland, to relieve unemployment, particularly in those areas where the policies of the outgoing government had denied the use of any specific Commonwealth funds. All the amounts we provided were made available earlier in the financial year than supplementary grants had hitherto been made available. But the overall reason that unemployment has declined and employment has picked up is that there is now an Australian Government which is effective and decisive. There is now a breath of fresh air blowing through the land, and the people who have to make decisions in the private sector now have confidence in the Australian Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to Mr Schneider’s article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ today claiming that the Federal Government’s health insurance scheme will cost far more than anticipated, and that rising doctors’ and hospital fees have turned and will continue to turn the Government’s costing of its health scheme into an underestimate? Are these statements correct and is he justified in suggesting that a change in the circumstances surrounding the operation of the proposed scheme will result in the maximum cost per family being higher than his estimate of $135 a year?
– I did note Mr Schneider’s comment in this morning’s newspaper and I thought it an uncharacteristic but mild flight from accuracy. It seems that Mr Schneider conceives the health bill for this nation in static terms. It is far from that, as is the cost burden for any particular cost obligation of this or any other government. I have said consistently that the cost of our scheme which will give universal cover, will be about the same as the total cost of the present system of health insurance which was introduced and maintained by previous governments. The present system of health insurance at best covers about 80 per cent of the population, even allowing for the cover provided from pensioner medical services, pensioner hospital benefits and repatriation local medical officer services. The Government aims at achieving universal cover with the same volume of money, and we will achieve this by a far more efficient system of collecting and distributing the benefits provided by the scheme. For instance, we will not waste money on useless competition or advertising. We will not allow large amounts of money to be sterilised away in reserves. At latest count the amount held in reserve by medical funds is about $120m.
– ‘Did you say $120m?
– Yes, $120m. The point I make is that Mr Schneider seemed to see the estimated cost of the health program conducted by a Federal government as something that is static although this figure was set some considerable time ago. In relation to the maximum money level at which contribution would be struck on a flat rate, that level is set as a multiple of average weekly earnings, that is, about 3 to 3i times average weekly earnings. Quite obviously, that figure will move with average weekly earnings; otherwise it would become completely meaningless over the long term. There is nothing inconsistent with what I said yesterday and what I have said in the past. I repeat that the full details of the Government’s program will be released shortly in a paper which will have been prepared by this Government. A basic working document assessing the fine details and calibrations that must be made to introduce the scheme is being prepared by a planning committee working within the Department of Social Security, to which have been seconded some outside experts. We will produce a document which will be published, lt will be available for the public and it will indicate that what we have said for so long, in fact, can and will be achieved. The target date for the scheme’s introduction will be specified, and it will be much sooner than most people expect.
– The Prime Minister, to whom I address my question, will be aware that the current level of unemployment is 1.8 per cent of the work force. Bearing in mind the statements in his policy speech, will he say what percentage of unemployment, in the present economic circumstances, would be regarded by his Government as genuine full employment? Is he aware that labour shortages are adding to the inflationary spiral by creating a number of production difficulties in a range of important industries? In view of the cutbacks in the level of immigration, what action is his Government taking to overcome these shortages, apart from the proposals in relation to industrial training initiated by the former Government and which are necessarily not short term in their impact?
– The present Government does not regard any level of unemployment as satisfactory or acceptable. We do not try to lull the Australian people by saying that because there has been a higher percentage of unemployment in the United States of America, Canada or Britain therefore unemployment in Australia is comparatively satisfactory at the level it reached last year. We take much more as our model the lower level of unemployment shown last year in Western European countries. We are in fact not content merely with the programs of training that the late Government introduced. We are also introducing programs of retraining. We are particularly concerned with the fact that very great numbers of people are put out of jobs and if they are in the middle years of their lives they cannot get new jobs. We are regarding the whole question of employment for people, not only teenagers leaving school and so on but also those of middle years or later, with a consistent interest. We believe that all men and women in Australia of whatever age are entitled to expect employment if they wish it.
– My question is directed without notice - absolutely no notices - to the Prime Minister. I ask: When he recently visited Indonesia was he correctly reported by a section of the Australian Press which stated that President Suharto was not interested in the concept of a South East Asian regional organisation?
– I am not sure of the nature of all of the reports oh this subject but as the communique to which President Suharto and I subscribed made quite clear, the President does look forward to the time when there can be wider arrangements for consultation between his country and all its neighbours, Australia being one of Indonesia’s neighbours in which the Indonesian Government is very much involved and interested. There has been a very great deal of speculation on this subject so perhaps I should take the opportunity to point out that the Press sought from Mr Malik, who has been mentioned earlier in question time today, an interview which he graciously granted. It took place immediately after I had my first discussions with President Suharto and before Mr Malik had been able to confer with the President or with me. I can assure honourable members that both the President and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia do look forward to further arrangements for consultation between the countries of this area.
– I raise a point of order. I wish to inform you, Mr Speaker, that the Opposition will gladly give leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement on foreign affairs immediately after question time.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– It is about time that members of the Opposition realised that a great number of the international arrangements to which Australia is a party are anachronistic or transitory and that any Australian government today ought to be looking to the future instead of looking to the past.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he can say when the Government will act to give practical effect to the Labor Party’s support for payment to dairy farmers of 40c per lb of commercial butter which was stated to be Labor Party policy in a telegram sent on 6th October 1972 by the honourable member for Wide Bay to the State Secretary of the Queensland Dairymen’s Organisation. It was stated in that telegram on behalf of the Australian Labor Party-
-Order! The honourable member must ask his question.
– It was stated that this price was both fair and reasonable and that the Labor Party would support it.
– One of the first things that the new Government found out when it came into office was the very serious financial problems which existed in some sectors of primary industry as a result of ridiculous policies of the Australian Country Party in refusing to recognise that in some of the dairy areas including the electorate which the honourable member represents there was a need for reconstruction and rehabilitation. For example, the lactation period in some of the dairying areas which the honourable member represents had been quoted by technical people to be as low as 4 months and 5 months. What is needed is a boost in progressive reconstruction to overcome the problems which I am sure the honourable member will recognise. He may rest assured that this Government is awake to these problems and is making an active study of reconstruction in order to assist the dairy farmers to overcome problems which the party he represents repeatedly refused to recognise over a long period when it was the Government.
– Will the Minister for Immigration investigate whether international criminals have slipped into Australia as part of the past immigration program? Have they been involved in recent violence in Brisbane and Sydney? Will he end this situation which brings the great majority of immigrants into disrepute?
– I address myself to the second part of the honourable member’s question. He has raised a query about crime in the community generally and has referred to the concern of many people who have come here since the war - there have been 3 million of them - and who for some peculiar reason still have the title of ‘immigrant’ in many cases. I find that a bit anachronistic. We should be talking about Australians. The great majority of people who have come here since World War II are exemplary citizens. If one analyses crime statistics one will find that the people who have come here since the war, in all their categories and nationalities, have a lower rate of criminality than those who were born here or who were here before World War II. Those are the statistics and that is the position. I am pleased to say that, because it is a tribute to the overwhelming success of a major national enterprise which has involved 3 million people coming here since World War IT.
At the same time the honourable member has expressed just and right concern about violence that has erupted in his city of Sydney and in Brisbane. In relation to the events in Brisbane, I understand that these matters are at present before the courts.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt the honourable gentleman but there are very serious charges pending regarding certain people in Brisbane. They are entitled to a fair trial. Public commentary respecting that matter would very much prejudice a fair trial.
-The point of order is upheld.
– I take the point of order. The honourable member for Moreton is absolutely correct. I was about to say just that to the honourable member. In this instance I do not mind being bracketed with the honourable member for Moreton. I accept the point of order.
– He is the best of them-
– The next matter that was raised-
– I hope be gets them off.
– May I say, Mr Speaker, that when one great advocate acknowledges another advocate that is indeed a compliment. Let me return to the first part of the honourable member’s question. The honourable member very rightly raised the matter of whether our migration program is in any way conducive to the entry of criminals into Australia. All the procedures for which I have been responsible have tightened up every loophole. There is very little opportunity, if any, for anyone with a record and an attachment of violence to come here within the program at the present time. I would hope that that would have the support of all members of the Parliament. If there is a query as to whether there are loopholes in relation to migrants from one or two locations, let me say that it is true that there is room for an examination of the position outside the program and outside our arrangements. We will be looking at that. I hope that we will have the support of the whole of the Parliament in closing any loopholes that may exist because of historic reasons outside the program.
– I ask the Minister for Overseas Trade a question about the terrifying concept of a Cairns bank. I refer to the Minister’s reported statement that where the Government considers that some activity is in the national interest the Government will direct the Australian Industry Development Corporation to assist it - presumably whether or not the industry wants, needs or asks for assistance. Because of the enormous implications that such naked socialism would have for the whole structure of Australian society, will the Minister make a full statement in the House of the Government’s intentions on this matter and on other matters, instead of honourable members and industry leaders having to read of them in leaks from members of the Economic Sub-Committee of Cabinet published in the financial Press?
– Now we know how the honourable gentleman used to perform in the secret enclaves of his Party when discussing the McEwen bank which, of course, is the bank which we are now developing. The hon ourable member may be terrified by the publication in which he read that headline, but I am not. The development of the Australian Industry Development Corporation will meet the prescriptions not only of those who have been very successful and efficient in charge of it but also of the various industry advisory councils and boards set up by the previous Government for the purpose of giving advice on questions such as this. The thing that intrigues me about the advice that has come from those industrial quarters on this matter is that the advice leading to our amendments had been given to the previous Government for at least 4 or 5 years. I refer to advice from industry groups. The fear of close cooperation between government and industry which the right honourable gentleman - I should say ‘the honourable gentleman’ because he did not quite make the right - now calls naked socialism is something that he must have derived from his previous portfolio; obviously he has not derived it from his work as shadow Minister in the. fields of overseas trade and secondary industry. I assure him that the amendments to the AIDC legislation will be brought in with full responsibility to air sections of the community and will make the Corporation into a most effective instrument to serve the interests of the Australian nation.
– Is the Minister for Services and Property aware of statements which have been made outside the House that the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act are the first substantial alterations to that Act since 1902? Is he also aware of claims that by taking the area considerations out of the Act large electorates will be disadvantaged, despite the fact that the electorate of Kalgoorlie has the third largest population of any electorate in Australia?
– I rise on a point of order. The question relates to a Bill before the House.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Corio has not anticipated a debate. There has been only a second reading speech. That is the decision of the Chair.
– Firstly, Mr Speaker, may I thank you for your wise decision. The proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act are not the first changes to the Act since 1902. The honourable member for
Gwydir introduced legislation in this Parliament on 31st March last year in which he proposed changes in the Act which went back to 1902, but he was not prepared to proceed with the legislation. In 1965 the LiberalCountry Party Government introduced into this Parliament legislation changing sections of that Act, which had remained practically unchanged since 1902. In that respect there is nothing new in a change to the Act, except that the Country Party cannot keep up with progress. As to the feeling that this legislation will disadvantage large electorates in the country, let me say that the Australian Labor Party knows a lot about this problem. We represent all the largest country electorates in Australia - Kalgoorlie, Darling and others. I could go on for half an hour naming them. As I said last night, we are the only country party in the Parliament. Far from causing disadvantage, the Labor Party intends to give proper facilities to all members of this Parliament, particularly those in the outlying and far flung districts. The provision of proper facilities was neglected by the previous Government. We will see that members do not have loaded electorates but that they have adequate facilities to service their electorates. The Commonwealth Electoral Bill which I have introduced, if carried, will be of great advantage to members and to the people of Australia and will be a real hallmark of democracy.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. Does he recall that during early November 1972 the then Leader of the Opposition and he authorised the Australian Labor Party candidate for the seat of Herbert in Queensland to announce the major policy declaration that an ALP government would station an extra battalion of the Australian Army in Townsville and thus raise the strength of Laverack Barracks to 4 battalions? Will the Minister assure the House that the much publicised promise was not an unworthy election gimmick and that the Government will not in any circumstances renege on the undertaking? Finally, if the Prime Minister and he are men of their word will he inform the House when the transfer of Army personnel to Townsville is likely to eventuate?
– The honourable member has drawn attention to a statement which apparently appeared during the last election campaign. As the spokesman for defence at that time, I personally gave no such direction myself.
– That is lovely.
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question. The Minister should be allowed to answer it.
– I made no such statement myself, but what I want to point out to the honourable member is that at the moment a full investigation is being made into the strength and structure of the armed forces in Australia and I hope to be in a position to make a statement about this matter in the very near future. In matters relating to the disposition of the armed forces I believe that some changes should be made.
– Such as another battalion for Townsville?
– I am not suggesting at this stage there will be any alteration to the size of the force in Townsville. The matter that the honourable member has raised will certainly be considered along with other matters, as I have indicated to the House on another occasion, and a full statement in relation to these matters will be made as soon as possible.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, very grievously. Yesterday afternoon during the debate on that progressive measure, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) rushed into the House and, in a rather confused statement delivered in somewhat excited tones, made certain claims. At the time. I was not able to understand what he was ranting about and felt that it was as well to wait-
-Order! The honourable member will state where he has been misrepresented.
– I checked in the daily Hansard this afternoon. The honourable member for Griffith claimed that a survey to which I referred that was conducted in the Griffith electorate among 5,321 people was in fact conducted by him and that it was conducted among 1,200 young people. The honourable member for Griffith said: 1 conducted the survey, and the honourable member has told an untruth.
In pointing that out, I feel that it is only just that I should clarify the record this afternoon because his interpretation of what I said was quite wrong. The survey to which I referred was carried out by the Young Labor Association in Queensland. For the benefit of all honourable members, particularly the honourable member for Griffith, I ask leave of the House to have the question and answer in that survey incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– If the opportunity to have that document incorporated in Hansard is to be denied to me, could I seek your permission, Mr Speaker, to clarify the position and to continue my personal explanation and read to the House the facts of the survey? The honourable member for Griffith raised an objection to the incorporation of the document because he does not want to hear the truth.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order. He may not debate the misrepresentation; he may merely state it.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance on the matter. I would have read from the survey but felt that the time of the House would have been saved if I sought permission to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! There can be no further discussion on the matter. No point of order is involved.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The Leader of the Opposition misrepresented me by implying that my question to the Minister for Education was dictated by the Minister. The Minister’s answer gave the lie to this statement. Quite clearly the inferences contained in my question we’re incorrect. I realise that past abuse of question time is still quite clearly in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, but I can assure him that the front bench of the Labor Party sits in alert anticipation-
-Order! The honourable member is now out of order.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955-1965, I present the Seventeenth Annual Report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– by leave - I table a progress report by the Immigration Advisory Council on its inquiry into the departure of settlers from Australia. In tabling this report I wish to express my appreciation to the distinguished members of the Council’s Committee on Social Patterns, which is carrying out the inquiry. Its members are:
Professor Zubrzycki, Head of the Department of Sociology at the Australian National University, who is the chairman of the Committee; Miss Green, Chairman of the Australian Council of Social Service; Mr Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Sir Arthur Lee, President of the Returned Services League, Mr Lippmann, Chairman of the Migrant Welfare Committee of the Australian Council of Social Service; Air Marshal Sir John McCauley, President of the Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales; Mr McRae, President of the National Youth Council; Mr Nicholas, Executive Officer of the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council; Mrs Reader, representing the National Council of Women; and Dr Alan Richardson, Reader in Psychology at the University of Western Australia.
The Committee was also most fortunate in having available to it as its consultant Dr Charles Price, Professorial Fellow in Demography at the Australian National University. The report was presented to my predecessor towards the end of the last Parliament. It has not been published pending presentation to the Parliament. Though the Committee has yet to complete its inquiries, I believe that its findings to date are already of such importance that they warrant the closest consideration. The Committee estimates that the rate of settler loss in Australia lies between 21 per cent and 24 per cent. This estimate is related to arrival and departure movement over the 6 years to 30th June 1972.
In de-fining the level of settler departures, the Committee adopted the concept of ‘settler loss’ as providing the most meaningful indicator of the proportion of migrants who leave Australia permanently. This concept takes into account various factors which are not covered by a simple measure of departures, including those who return to Australia as second time migrants and those who enter as visitors and obtain a change of status. The Committee found that there are many factors influencing departure, some of which may relate to the general economic and social structure not only in the receiving country, which is Australia, but also in the principal source countries. Others are of a personal nature, and relate to the particular needs of individual migrants. Some return because of unforeseen events in the country of origin, such as illness in the family. Others leave because of difficulties encountered in Australia.
In addition to coming to certain interim conclusions in relation to the recommendations of the previous inquiry, the Committee has been concerned to suggest remedial action where new factors leading to departure can be readily identified. It has arranged for a number of studies to provide it with evidence about the importance of individual reasons for departure. The Immigration Advisory Council will be making its final report after these researches into the causes of settler departures have been completed. This, J understand, is likely to be in July this year. The report recommends that there should be- a positive and continuing campaign to inculcate in the present and future generations, a feeling of national pride in the achievements of Australians of many national origins in all fields of human endeavour.
It points out that - those who arrive in this country as settlers would then be encouraged in even greater numbers to remain to share in the nation’s destiny,
I fully support these remarks and emphasise that only when we have fully accepted all migrants into the Australian family, as citizens with equal ranking in all respects, will this desirable goal be achieved. To the extent that the departure rate can be reduced by improved selection procedures and through greater attention to the settlement problems of migrants, no effort will be. spared by this Government. A number of initiatives have already been taken and others are being developed.
We take even this preliminary report as a challenge to end the settler loss. We have taken action to develop fundamental improvements in the procedures for migrant selection and counselling; emergency interpreter services; citizenship centres; and special programs for migrant children in schools. My Department, the Department of Immigration - which I like to think of as the Department of Immigration, Citizenship and Settlement - is already taking action on the progress report. I am sure that honourable members, like myself, will await with interest the Committee’s final report. I commend this report to all honourable members.
– by leave- The Opposition welcomes the statement by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) on the progress report of the Immigration Advisory Council on its inquiry into the departure of settlers. I acknowledge the Minister’s consideration in foreshadowing the tabling of the report and providing me with a copy of the report before it was brought down in this House. This is a practice which obviously leads to a far more effective and better informed debate, and I thank the honourable gentleman for the courtesy which he has extended to me.
The House will recall that the Immigration Advisory Council submitted a similar report to the then Minister for Immigration in 1967. That report provided the basis of a number of policies adopted by the previous Government. In 1971 the Minister called for a further report and the progress report tabled today is the initial result of that request. The major reasons for the departure of migrants from Australia which have emerged from this report are, as I interpret the interim comments of the Committee, similar to many of those reported by the Committee in 1967. They include problems of employment, homesickness, accommodation, language, education, cultural difficulties and, of course, the question of loneliness for those newly arrived in this country.
The problem of settler loss has to be seen against the contemporary background of world wide high mobility of labour and the steady improvement in economic conditions and social services in a number of countries from which the migrants have come. In spite of this, the report concludes that the permanent residence in Australia of four-fifths of all migrant arrivals is a remarkable achievement. As the Minister has stated, a reduction in the rate of settler loss is a major challenge to him as Minister, to his department and to all of those in this Parliament who, of course, recognise the tremendous impact which migration has had on Australia.
The Opposition welcomes the Minister’s recognition of the task before him. We recognise that it is in this country’s interest both for social and economic reasons to reduce the settler loss. The report points out that there are many factors influencing departure, some of which relate to the general economic and social structure of the country as a whole, and others which are of a personal nature and relate to the particular needs of individual migrants. The report clearly advocates that remedial action concerning the factors which influence the departure of migrants should take into account the relative importance of these factors.
The final report of the Committee will provide information which will assist the Minister in assigning priorities so that departmental resources can be more effectively utilised in reducing the major problems associated with departure. The Minister has outlined in his statement a number of proposals which he indicated have been introduced. The Opposition and the Parliament have received no direct information in terms of a parliamentary statement from the Minister as to the details of the proposals which have been adopted. Without knowing the nature and extent of the new proposals it is impossible for the Opposition parties to assess what impact they are likely to have in the solution of the problems associated with migrant departure. I would ask the Minister to consider making a ministerial statement which would set out the full details of the new Government’s approach to immigration, the basic principles which it is following, the determining factors which influence the total number of migrants which the Government intends to seek to bring to Australia this year and their impact upon the whole migrant program.
The courses of action mentioned briefly by the Minister as evidence of his actions to reduce the migrant departure rate are, as I am certain he would acknowledge, not new initiatives although some are extensions of the previous Government’s policies. As the Minister for Immigration, I stated that migrants’ contributions to Australia’s economic growth are important by any standards. But migrants are not just economic units in a program of massive development. They are people with the hopes, aspirations, satisfactions, fears and uncertainties of men and women everywhere. We on this side of the House are deeply conscious of this and of our responsibility to those who seek our counsel concerning migrating to Australia.
Consistent with this philosophy, the previous Government extended and intensified - on a continuing basis - the training of migration officers to better equip them to counsel and advise prospective migrants. We employed specialist officers to develop progressively counselling facilities such as those for wives and single female migrants. We worked towards a fuller recognition of migrants’ professional, technical and trade qualifications by establishing such organisations as the. Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications. The previous administration moved progressively into the fields of pre-arranged employment and considerably improved the standard of initial accommodation. We introduced new methods of language training, reinforced our integration activities and generally broadened and improved our post-arrival services. We paid particular attention to the problems associated with migrant education and we intend as Opposition parties to place a continuing emphasis on the necessity for further developments in this critical area.
Naturally the Opposition welcomes the Minister’s desire to extend the range of migrant welfare services. However, we are at the same time concerned and anxious to examine what in fact is the substance of the Government’s proposals. At this stage, as I mentioned before, we have only been able to examine the Minister’s Press releases which are notable for their frequency - I say this without any sense of offence to the honourable gentleman - rather than for the depth of their content. This may be one of the problems of issuing Press releases. But we invite the Minister, through his Ministry - 1 am sure he will be anxious to do this - to provide the House with an opportunity to debate the whole question of the Government’s immigration program.
In addition, the Opposition parties will be submitting positive and constructive proposals and we hope that those initiatives when put to the House will be seriously examined by the Minister in no sense on party political comment but in the context of what can best be done in this country for migrants and the extension of migrant welfare services.
The Minister’s commendable desire to stem the departure rate of migrants is presumably based on the belief that Australia remains reliant upon a continuing level of migration. The Opposition believes the Government’s reduction in the level of migration to Australia is inconsistent with the Minister’s statement outlining the economic and social benefits of migration. The fact that the migrant program is now to be based upon the sponsorship by migrants already living in Australia is in our judgment a retrograde decision. No responsible government should abrogate its responsibilities by allowing the size and structure of the immigration program to be determined simply by the uncoordinated decisions of thousands of individuals here and abroad. The Government’s policy apparently assumes that the sum total of the individual wishes of relatives of migrants will always equal the sum total of Australia’s migration needs.
The former Government combined 2 processes in its immigration program - sponsorship programs designed to encourage family reunion and actively seeking migrants under government sponsorsip to fulfil those needs not met by family sponsorship. In our judgment the present Government’s program abandons the means of making adjustments to meet the nation’s social and economic needs. This is particularly critical at a time when the economic policies of the former Government have caused an acceleration of business activity and confidence and a substantial reduction in the level of unemployment. As members on both sides of this House would, I am sure, acknowledge, industry in many areas throughout Australia is now facing serious problems of labour shortage. Having regard to the increasing shortages, I call upon the Minister to reconsider the level of migration in order to meet those shortages. Unless such action is taken by the Government there will be serious inflationary difficulties of a type which we believe the Government’s spending programs have already generated. The Government’s failure to continue the process of selective migration at the requisite levels is now seriously exacerbating the problems associated with shortages of labour. The consequent production difficulties can only have the effect of adding to our inflationary pressures at a time when I would hope all honourable members on both sides of the House would be seeking, with a sense of national responsibility, to inhibit and to restrain those particular pressures. The Government’s policy is also a disincentive to migrants from North America, northern Europe and the United Kingdom. It is important, in the context of the findings of the report tabled by the Minister, that migrants from these countries should not be confronted by a number of governmentcreated problems clearly associated with the trend in departure rates of migrants.
It is a matter of some concern to honourable gentlemen on this side of the House to learn from recent Press reports of the major increase in the number of migrants returning home since the election of a Federal Labor Government.
– The honourable gentleman might well make that retort, but it is a matter of fact. The Minister, as I recall it, has described the increase, to use his own term, as Lilliputian. However much I understand his disability in seeking to provide a satisfactory solution, the simple but inescapable fact is that a sharp increase has taken place, presumably as a reaction to the problems created by the inflationary spending pressures of the present Administration. No doubt the concern about inflation which the Government is generating in this country is not just a concern experienced by those migrants who have sought to return home in greater numbers. We on this side of the House believe that the concern is reflected throughout the Australian nation. The irony, of course, is that the inflation generated by the policies of the present Administration adds disproportionately to the problems of those already disadvantaged groups in the Australian community. When a government which has always alleged that it has a monopoly of concern for pensioners, superannuitants and people on fixed incomes, and perhaps marginally those in the rural sector, seeks to exacerbate those problems, this seems to me to indicate that it is really unconcerned about the difficulty and the disabilities which those people are facing and will continue to face unless the present spending spree is inhibited in the short term. In the past Si years half of the settlers in Australia were either Commonwealth or State nominees. Only 38 per cent were privately nominated settlers. The Government’s proposal to require all future British migrants to renounce their British citizenship if they wish-
– That is not true.
– Well, foreshadowed, and undenied by the Minister.
– That is not true.
– It is all very well for the Minister to jabber in this Parliament-
– That is unworthy of you.
– The Minister has had his opportunity. It is all very well for the Minister to jabber in this Parliament in response to statements made.
– The honourable member is not telling the truth. Tell the truth.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, is one required to submit to jabbering of this type?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the Minister for Immigration to restrain himself.
– The point that is simply being reflected here is that if there is any misconception on this side of the House as to the Minister’s intentions and the Government’s intentions, the Minister has a clear responsibility to the Parliament, the Australian people and the migrant community of this country to make his intentions clear through the medium of a ministerial statement. Honourable members on this side of the House are sick and tired of the Press statements which are released from the Minister’s office with tremendous frequency, but, I have said, never noted for the depth of their content. I would welcome a clear statement by the Minister on this matter. If the Minister can arrange with the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) for the courtesy of a full and extended debate, members on this side of the House would be very happy indeed to find out where the Minister stands on so many critical issues which, as I have said, concern the migrant community very much.
The Minister will know from remarks made by many honourable gentlemen on this side of the chamber that there have been many requests from constituents throughout Australia for a clear and definitive statement as to exactly what the Minister’s new-found policy in some areas really means in terms of government administration. We have had difficulty in recent years - I say ‘we’ as a nation - in recruiting the number of British migrants that we have required for our purpose.
– You can say that again.
– Perhaps the honourable gentleman does not really care about the welfare of British migrants. Perhaps he is unconcerned that they happen to be the largest community of migrants in Australia.
– I rise to order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has accused an honourable member on the front bench of not caring about migrants. If the honourable gentleman wants to make a substantive complaint in those terms about a member on the front bench he should name the member and make his charge. He should not make a general charge, which I might say I would be the first to rebut.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had a wide-ranging opportunity to discuss the statement made by the Minister. I suggest to him that if he addresses the Chair he will avoid the problems that he has encountered.
– I am sure the Chair would recognise that I always extend to that office the courtesies which it requires. If I may say so by way of a passing observation, no offence was intended to a front bench member. If the Minister had really been listening he would have recognised that the interjection came from another part of the chamber, but not from this side of the House. The Minister seems to be very sensitive about the points that have been taken.
– On a point of order, as I am the subject of the reference being made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, may I say that the remarks that he heard came from me. They were made as a result of his statement about the problems that have been facing migrants who have come to Australia in the past. I take it that he was referring to a time when his Party was in government.
-I cannot uphold the point of order.
– I say simply, without wishing to be in any sense offensive - honourable members on this side of the House would not really intend to be offensive that we welcome the progress which has resulted from the report on social patterns by the committee of the Immigration Advisory Council. We await the committee’s final statement with considerable interest. The Opposition Parties will support those Government policies which are effectively designed to reduce the departure rate of migrants. On behalf of the Opposition Parties I commend members of the committee for their work in preparing the report. As I interpret what the Minister has indicated across the table, I understand that he will be very happy within a short time to provide the House with a very full and detailed indication of the wide range of new Government policies over the whole field of Australia’s immigration program. That would be a major achievement. We look forward to this. I know from the benign and benevolent appearance of the Leader of the House that he will provide an opportunity to the Minister for this course to be followed.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley Minister for Social
Security) - For the information of honourable members I present a list of homes subsidised under the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954- 1972 as at 31st December 1972.
Mr DALY (Grayndler Leader of the
House) - by leave - The House will meet tomorrow as usual at 10 a.m. At 11.30 a.m. the sitting will be suspended so that honourable members may attend an unveiling ceremony by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh of the Royal Australian Air Force 50th Anniversary Memorial. When the House resumes at 2.15 p.m. the grievance debate will be allowed to continue. This course will be adopted because the Government knows the importance of this debate to private members and has no desire to infringe on their rights. At 4.55 p.m. the sitting will again be suspended to allow honourable members to accompany Mr Speaker when he presents the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral at Government House at 5.15 p.m. The sitting will then resume at 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make a minor amendment to the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Act 1971 in order to enable assistance under the terms of that Act to be provided in relation to works on 3 small creeks near the Tweed River. These creeks were included in the original proposals submitted by the New South Wales Government in 1970 but because of the wording of the Act they were unwittingly excluded from its benefits. Briefly the flood mitigation scheme in New South Wales has been to construct works to mitigate flooding on all of the major coastal rivers in that State. Although there is no intention with this particular measure to increase allocation of Commonwealth funds to the State Government for these works their cost, estimated to be $100,500, was in fact included in the original proposals approved by the Parliament in 1971. The amendment simply varies the description of ‘prescribed rivers’ as contained in the original Act to rectify the omission previously mentioned. There is no intention to vary the Act or its method of operation except to cover the addition of these works. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The amendment contained in the Bill now before the House makes provision for beer produced in the home for noncommercial purposes to be exempt from excise duty. The decision by the Government to allow home brewing will bring Australia into tine with Great Britain and New Zealand where home brewing has been permitted for many years. Home brewing is a genuine and satisfying hobby for many people and the legislation now being considered will permit home brewers to make beer for their own use. The opportunity has also been taken to re-frame the definition of beer to align It more closely with production methods of beer in this age. A summary of the change is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, which is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) I have just introduced, will amend the Excise Act 1901-1972 by providing penal provisions for breaches of the concession permitting the home brewing of beer. The amendments provide for the forfeiture of beer on which duty has not been paid that is sold or offered for sale and for a pecuniary penalty for persons who contravene the concession. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to implement the Government’s decision to extend the payment of bounty on the production of agricultural tractors for a further period of 6 months to 30th June 1973 or until such earlier date as may be fixed by proclamation. The Government’s decision to extend the bounty period was announced on 29th December 1972. Extension of the bounty period will ensure continued assistance to the industry while the Government completes its consideration of the Tariff Board report which has recently been received. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the provision of a guarantee by the Commonwealth for a borrowing in various currencies equivalent to $US9.8m- $A6.9m at ruling rates by the Administration of Papua New Guinea from the Asian Development Bank. The proceeds of the loan will assist in financing a highway project in Papua New Guinea. The project was appraised by a team of experts from the Bank in September 1972 and consists of the upgrading, realignment and sealing of 75 miles of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Waterais; the upgrading and new construction of 62.5 miles of the Hiritano Highway between Port Moresby and Bereina; and the provision of consultancy services for detailed engineering design and construction supervision of both roads.
The Highlands Highway between Lae and Goroka was completed as a gravel surfaced road in 1965 and is the only access road to the Highlands area which contains almost half the total population of Papua New Guinea. By reducing transport costs to the port of Lae the proposed new work on this highway is expected to provide further impetus to the economic development of the area. The Hiritano Highway extends west parallel to the coast from Port Moresby. The project involves the upgrading of 30.5 miles of existing road and new construction of 32 miles of road between the Veimauri River and Bereina, thus providing for the first time road access to Port Moresby from the fertile Mekeo area. The road link will substantially assist the development of the area and facilitate the supply of fresh foods for the Port Moresby market.
The loan is the second which the Asian Development Bank has made to the Administration since the admission of Papua New Guinea to membership of the Bank in April 1971. The first loan of $US4.5m was for re lending to the Papua New Guinea Development Bank and the Commonwealth guarantee for that loan was approved by the Papua New Guinea Loan (Asian Development Bank) Act 1972. The present loan will be made from the special funds resources of the Bank and will be used to finance the foreign exchange costs of the highways project. The loan carries an interest rate of 3 per cent per annum and will be for a period of 24i years with repayments commencing after 41 years.
Borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Administration automatically carry a Commonwealth guarantee by virtue of the operation of section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-1971. In practice, however, this provision is usually supplemented in some way for borrowings other than those in Australia and Papua New Guinea. The guarantee which is required by the Asian Development Bank from the Commonwealth as a precondition for this loan is in the form of a letter of assurances which is shown as the First Schedule to the Bill. I would mention that at the time of Papua New Guinea’s admission to the Asian Development Bank Australia gave an undertaking to the Bank in accordance with Article 3.3 of the agreement establishing the Bank that, until Papua New Guinea itself assumes responsibility for its own international relations, Australia would be responsible for all obligations that may be incurred by Papua New Guinea by reason of its admission to membership in the Bank and enjoyment of the benefits of such membership.
In addition to guaranteeing the repayment of principal and payment of interest and other charges on the loan until such time as Papua New Guinea assumes responsibility for its own international relations, the letter gives certain other customary assurances required by the Bank. Because these assurances go further than the statutory guarantee already provided under section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act it is necessary for specific Commonwealth legislation to be passed in order for the assurances to constitute valid and binding obligations of the Commonwealth as required by the Bank.
This Bill authorises the Treasurer to notify the Asian Development Bank that the Commonwealth approves the terms and conditions of the loan and provides that the undertakings in the letter of assurances shall be valid and binding obligations of the Commonwealth when this notification is given. The Bill also provides that payments of principal and interest and of any other charges on the loan will be free from taxation and from any restrictions imposed under Australian law or laws in effect in its Territories. In addition the Bill includes an appropriation of any moneys that may be required by the Commonwealth to make any payments under the guarantee contained in the letter of assurances. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned I seek the indulgence of the House to ask a question. Will the letter cf assurances be a part of the Bill or is the Bill set out in terms which incorporate all the objectives of the letter of assurances?
– I think the Bill contains a schedule but I doubt whether the letter is in it. However, I will make inquiries.
Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Government recently announced its decision to provide an unmatched grant of $3m this year to help students who are experiencing hardship in commencing or continuing their tertiary studies at universities or colleges of advanced education because of financial circumstances. The purpose of this Bill is to provide grants to the States totalling $2.096m to enable universities to assist needy students. The Australian National University will receive $69,000 and the balance of the total of $3m will be made available to colleges of advanced education. Provision for grants to the States in respect of colleges of advanced education will be the subject of another Bill.
The assistance scheme is to be administered by the respective universities and assistance will be given in the form of grants or loans, depending on individual circumstances, and will be available to pay fees, living allowances and other approved educational expenses. It will be a matter for each university to determine who should receive, assistance but I would expect that grants would be made available to students who are in extremely difficult financial circumstances following misfortune outside their control, such as death, injury, serious illness or desertion by breadwinners of families on ordinary incomes; the annihilation of family income in flood, drought or bushfire; seasonal or chronic unemployment of the breadwinner; loss of earning power by the breadwinner for any other reason; unreasonable refusal of financial support by parents; and to the children of age, invalid or widow pensioners.
The funds to be provided for each university are set out in the Bill in the proposed new Eighth Schedule to the Act. In most cases these funds will supplement existing university funds which have been established by university authorities for the purpose of assisting needy students. The allocation of funds between universities has been determined by me in consultation with the Australian Universities Commission, and each university ViceChancellor has been advised of the amount that his university will receive for the purpose of assisting students in needy financial circumstances. I am most gratified by the promptness and willingness with which the ViceChancellors have acted, in anticipation of this legislation, to ensure that consideration was given to cases in which students had declined to enrol or re-enroll because of financial difficulties. This represented a considerable burden on university administrations at a very busy time, and in some cases involved re-opening enrolment procedures. I trust that the Commonwealth’s decision will have made it possible for many students to pursue their studies who might otherwise not have been able to do so.
With the Government’s announcement that tertiary fees are to be abolished as from the 1974 academic year, I do not envisage that the need for assistance of this nature will be as great in the remaining years of the 1973- 75 triennium and, for that reason the Government decided that grants should be made in the 1973 academic year only. However, I would expect that those funds, properly managed, as I am sure they will be, will provide a continuing source of assistance for needy students in future years. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Les Johnson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide funds to the State housing authorities so that they may quickly build more homes for letting to needy families and persons. These are people who have satisfied the authorities that they are in need of housing assistance. This is the first step to give effect to the intention of the Australian Labor Party to reduce the waiting period for housing authority homes. On taking office the Government decided that the State housing situation demanded immediate action. Waiting lists of the State authorities had risen to well in excess of 90,000 but commencements of government dwellings had fallen in the September quarter of 1972 to an annual rate of only 12,000 about 6,000 fewer than in each of the years 1969-70 and 1970-71 and 3,000 fewer than in 1971-72. On being informed that this sharp decline in commencements was due to a shortage of finance, the Government decided to offer immediate financial assistance. It undertook to make advances at a concessional rate of interest to meet expenditure incurred by the States up to 30th June 1973 on dwellings that they would not otherwise have commenced before that date.
A condition of the Government’s offer is that the. additional dwellings to be commenced in this financial year will not be sold. On completion they will be for rental only. Those who seek rental accommodation are usually the more needy. All States have accepted the offer and have agreed to this condition. This Bill will appropriate a total of $6.55m. The amount available to each State, based on estimates by each housing authority of its additional expenditure up to 30th June next, is set out in the schedule to the Bill. In accordance with clause 7, the rate of interest payable on these advances is a very low 4 per cent per annum, and the repayments will be spread over 53 years.
After the Government’s offer was conveyed to the States, it was put to the Government that the States be permitted to spend some of these advances on the purchase and renovation of existing sub-standard but structurally sound houses. In many cases satisfactory, welllocated accommodation can be made available more quickly by this means than by the construction of new dwellings. For this reason, and because the renovation of individual houses in older neighbourhoods assists the rehabilitation of these areas, the Government has agreed to this proposal.
Provision for the expenditure of the advances on the purchase of existing dwellings, as well as on new construction, is included in clause 6 of the Bin. As honourable members will know, I have been discussing with State Housing Ministers proposals for a new housing agreement to apply for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1973. One of the Government’s proposals is that it will make advances to the States at a fixed interest rate of 4 per cent per annum. It is the Government’s intention that the funds needed to complete the additional commencements and renovations begun before 30th June next will be made available to the States early in 1973-74 as part of the advances payable under the new agreement.
I would now like to draw the attention of the House to sub-clause 2 of clause 8 of the Bill. This permits the sale of dwellings with the consent of the Minister. I want to make it perfectly clear that it is not my intention to give consent to the sale of any of these dwellings to prospective home-owners. The States have all agreed to the Government’s condition that they must be reserved for renting to deserving persons. The provision permitting sales with Ministerial consent has been included solely to avoid legal complications that could arise in the long-term future if there were no such provision and the land on which they stand were to be required for other uses. Clause 9 of the Bill contains provisions regarding the furnishing of certificates and information that are normally associated with the payment of moneys to the States for specific purposes.
In conclusion let me emphasise a significant feature of this first civilian housing measure introduced by this Government. Consistent with the principles it adheres to, the Government is directing assistance to the more needy - those who are least able to provide adequate shelter for themselves and their families - those who need decent and reasonably-priced rental accommodation. I also ask the House to co-operate in facilitating early passage of the Bill so that the advances it authorises may be paid to the States to enable them to press ahead as quickly as possible in providing more of this most urgently needed accommodation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 53), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– 1 shall confine my remarks to the abolition of sales tax on contraceptives and the role of women in the community. The Government’s all-male Ministry and all-male Parliamentary Party has shown a degree of realism in relation to the women in the community that I did not expect. Very few men can appreciate the burden which today’s women are expected to carry. The party opposite, although it has claimed for a lengthy period of time both to have the interests of women at heart and to understand them, rarely gives them a role to play in this Parliament. When 1 first came into the Parliament there was a woman member of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate. As a consequence of Machiavellianism at the preselection level, she is not there now. During the period I have served here there have been a woman in the Ministry and a woman member of the House of Representatives, both from the Liberal. Party. There have been 4 other women serving with the Liberal Party in the Senate. I ask the Government: Where are its female members? It does not have any.
– Manning the polling booths.
– Manning the polling booths is where one finds them. That sums up the Labor Party’s attitude towards women. In my party in Victoria women have equal footing with 50-50 representation in the organisation.
– Where are they now in this House on the Opposition side?
– I have just said that my Party has had a 500 per cent greater contribution from women than the Australian Labor Party has had in the period that I have been in the Parliament. Let me borrow the words of the immediate past Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation who said in a declaration made on Human Rights Day in 1966:
The objective of family planning is the enrichment of human life, not its restriction.
This Bill, particularly in relation to the removal of sales tax on contraceptives, will assist that aim. I support it.
However, I cannot accept the erroneous and specious material which leads certain honourable members opposite to support zero population growth. It is axiomatic to observe that different countries have different problems. We should not discuss population policy as if it were one homogenised mass opinion, governed entirely by global forces and global policies. Yet much of what certain Ministers have said, particularly in the last week or so, is predicated on those lines. Nor can I accept that the Government, by introducing this simple measure, can be regarded as filled with understanding of women’s problems.
I want the House to consider a particular group - namely, women - who I believe are under-involved, who are vitally important and who would be able and willing to do more if certain difficulties could be resolved. At the moment in Australia there are slightly more women than men, at any rate of working age, which is taken to be from the age of 15 onwards in the work force figures. Yet about 80 per cent of those not in the work force are women. In the work force itself women numbered 1.7 million in May 1971. The figures that I will be using are based, regrettably, on 1970-71 statistics. That 1.7 million is about one-third of the total number. I make it clear that I realise that the bulk of the women not in the work force are working, and in many cases working very hard, in their homes in caring for their families. I am not denigrating that work in any way. It is absolutely fundamental to our society. I believe that many women feel that at some stages of their lives they can make a greater contribution than they are making to society as a whole. They would feel more personally involved if they were working. Many of these women are not working. If they want to work, they should be given every encouragement. Gone are the times when marriage was a form of sentencing women to the house for the term of their natural life and when vocations were thought to be the preserve of the divorced, the separated or the frustrated.
I feel that there is great room for improvement in the employment figures. There are 2 relevant areas of interest. The figures which I am about to give are, regrettably, statistics from 1970-71. The first figures show the breakdown of the female component in the work force by age and compare that component with the male component. The figures show that when boys and girls leave school the percentages of those working are very nearly equal. In the 15 to 19-year group 59 per cent of girls work and 61 per cent of boys work. As the women reach marriageable age their numbers in the work force decline and the numbers of men in the work force increase. In the 25 to 34-year bracket only 40 per cent of women work, compared with 97 per cent of men. This would be the time when most women are looking after a young family and when most men are supporting one. One would expect that as women got older some would return to work. This is the case. But there is not a large increase. In the 35 to 44-year bracket the number of women working rose from 40 per cent to 47 per cent. The number of men working remained constant at 97 per cent. From this age group onwards the gap between the 2 begins to widen quite dramatically. In the 55 to 59-year bracket only 30 per cent of women work, compared with 90 per cent of men. In the 60 to 64-year bracket the figure for women is 16 per cent, compared with 70 per cent of men. The key difficulty, of course, is the problem that a woman has of being a mother and looking after a home, on the one hand, and working on the other. Many women would like to work, but they feel that the burden would be too great or that they would have forgotten what they knew by the time they went back to a job after an absence of, say, 10 years.
There are things that we can do. I would hope in future to see more child minding centres for daytime care and more experiments on part time work. A woman should be able to spend at least half the day at home.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I would like the honourable member for Kooyong to relate his remarks to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill. He seems to be ranging very wide of the specific points contained in the legislation.
– I would resist the temptation to become too specific on a matter such as this, Mr Deputy Speaker, but if you wish some guidance I shall state what I am driving at. If we can afford opportunities for women to spend more time in the work force as a consequence of their consuming more contraceptives, the points that I am making flow from that. I intended to say - after having said earlier that one of the key difficulties that a woman has is being a mother and looking after a home, on the one hand - that this is where the aspect of abolition of sales tax on contraceptives comes in.
-Order! If the honourable member would link his remarks to the Bill I would appreciate it.
– I think I could go on from the point that I was making and say that a greater flexibility in work patterns and job mobility to allow a woman to leave her work and come back to it at various stages of her life, if she feels she wants to, is most important. There are, of course, government schemes which allow women to do just that.
The second matter for concern is the figures which show the areas in which women are employed and their average wages. I will not go into this matter in great detail, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I may be straying from the matter under discussion, although to my way of thinking it lies at the base of the matters that I was putting to you. The figures show that women are not favoured in managerial positions. Only 2 per cent of women are managers, compared with 8 per cent of men. To meet with your direction, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall leave the figures by saying they reveal an unfortunate picture which is due in part to the problems on which I have already touched. The fact that a woman tends to leave her work, marry, stay away and return to it does not make natural progress through the ranks of an organisation very easy, but I think that the lack of progress is due in part to the reluctance to give a woman responsibility or a particular job just because she is a woman. This is lamentable. We may be conservative in this direction. Women in Australia and around the world have shown that they can do just about anything if they have to and that they can do some surprising things well. I would assume that the passage of this legislation will assist them to a greater extent.
There are areas in which individuals can do something to involve women more closely in the fabric of society as a whole and not just in one area - namely, the home. It mav seem surprising at first, but the first women barristers were a surprise, as were the first women doctors, the first women politicians, the first women taxi drivers, the first women company directors and a host of others who are now regarded as commonplace. I focused on this aspect of the Bill because women in our community are a most conspicuous example of a group in our society which is under-involved. Obviously there are others. There are many young women who are not involved in society and who have so much to offer. I wanted to point out this under-involvement of women. In no way qualifying what I have said, I simply make one point which frequently seems to be overlooked. Progress towards a more equitable social role for women must of necessity involve an altered social role for men. Women deserve equal pay and opportunity. Therefore the role of the male as provider must be changed. So, too, the legal bias which can economically cripple divorced men should be changed, and legal cases should be determined on their merits. I shall not stroll further from the point. In conclusion I say that I support the Bill. I regret that I have had to curtail my remarks - not as a consequence of your direction, Mr Deputy Speaker, but because of the need to meet another commitment.
– The importance of this legislation lies not in its economic implications but in its social promise. Exempting contraceptives from taxation represents an early and quite minor stage in our new Government’s program for enabling Australians to regulate as they choose the fertility with which they are endowed. After listening to the speech of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), which represented a welcome nod in the direction of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, I feel that I should fill in with more care and precision than that honourable member some of the background against which this Bill is set. President Nixon’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future reported last year that 21.1 per cent of America’s unmarried women were sexually active before their seventeenth birthday, 26.6 per cent before their eighteenth birthday, 37.1 per cent before their nineteenth birthday and 46.1 per cent before their twentieth birthday. The Commission pointed out that most of the women concerned seldom or never used birth control techniques. Comparable figures are not available for this country, but there are facts upon which an informed guess can be based. In Australia, as in America, two-fifths of all illegitimate children are born to teenage mothers. Whereas 10 per cent of all Australian births occur out of wedlock, 33 per cent occur out of wedlock where the mother is under 20 years of age. Two-thirds of the first births of wives under 21 years of age occur less than 9 months after marriage. It is significant in the light of the figures I have just quoted that whereas about one in every 10 marriages ends in a divorce court, a symposium sponsored in Brisbane by the Australian Medical Association was told that half of Queensland’s divorces involved women who married under age.
Ninety per cent of Australia’s married women of child-bearing age practise family planning but only 63 per cent of those who do so use reliable methods such as oral contraceptives and intra-uterine devices, or exercise an informed preference for the ovulation method associated with the Catholic faith. One per cent of the married women who practise family planning rely upon douching, which has a failure rate of 31 per cent; 2 per cent upon spermicides, with a failure rate of 20 per cent; 5 per cent upon diaphragms, with a failure rate of 12 per cent; 9 per cent upon condoms, with a failure rate of 14 per cent; and 19 per cent upon withdrawal, with a failure rate of 18 per cent. In all, 37 per cent of these women are dependent for protection against unwanted pregnancies upon techniques which are known to be unreliable. It is interesting to note that the consumer organisation in this city of Canberra found unreliable in tests which it conducted in 1964 2.7 per cent of Durex brand condoms, 8 per cent of Superchecker, 9.3 per cent of Silvertex, 10 per cent of Durex Gossamer and 28.7 per cent of Wet-chek. It will be recalled that the former Minister for the Navy told the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) on 28th September last that condoms to the value of 38,335 issued by his Department over the preceding 5 years had not been for contraceptive purposes. That, it seems, was just as well.
Unwanted pregnancies are occurring in excessive numbers in all sections of the community, and they are occurring most frequently in those sections of the community which can afford them least. Whereas only 7 per cent of married women with 13 or more years of formal education have never practised family planning, 11 per cent of those with 10 to 12 years of education, 13 per cent of those with 7 to 9 years of education, 19 per cent of those with 1 to 6 years of education and 22 per cent of those who are devoid of formal education - they are a significant group within our community - have never done so. Up to 37 per cent of women from professional, managerial or white collar occupational backgrounds use oral contraceptives or intra-uterine devices, but only 15 per cent from unskilled occupations do so. Conversely 36 per cent of women from unskilled occupational backgrounds rely upon withdrawal, but only about 2 per cent of professional, managerial and white collar women do so. Less educated women are more likely to use unreliable family planning methods and to adopt them without the guidance of doctors. Only half a sample of women who were interviewed recently at the Royal Brisbane Hospital had ever consulted a doctor about family planning, although 85 per cent of them thought family planning was a good idea. We are faced not only with women who cannot afford to buy reliable contraceptives but also with women who have no idea which contraceptives to buy.
Ignorance of family planning and failures of family planning, often arising from the economic circumstance with which this Bill in part deals, have created a situation in which doctors estimate that up to half the pregnancies which occur in Australia each year are unwanted. Surveys show that 11 per cent of the mothers of 2-child families, 28 per cent of the mothers of 3-child families, 41 per cent of the mothers of 4-child families and 45 per cent of the mothers of 5-chiId families would rather not have had their last-born child. Estimates of the number of pregnancies which are aborted range as high as 120,000 each year.
– Whose figures are those?
– I will gladly provide the honourable member with a list of references after the debate. Abortion is a repellant practice which remains, in the situation I have described, inevitable. We need better policies to minimise the frequency with which women are aborted and to ensure that abortion is regarded as a last resort. Our present laws have turned out to be a means not of achieving these objectives but of corrupting our police forces and of creating a bonanza for backyard butchers. Abortion has not been prevented, but we have made relative freedom from the pain and risk of death or mutilation associated with it yet another privilege of the rich. The program of which today’s legislation is a part should be seen as seeking through education and pricing policies a reduction in the incidence of abortion which laws have not achieved and can never achieve. It should be seen in a wider sense as an affirmation by our national Government of the basic human right to exercise over reproduction a voluntary, rational and responsible control.
It should be remembered that unwanted pregnancies involve a community not only in familiar moral and social problems, to which I have referred, but also in economic problems which are less well understood. A recent Swedish study reveals that children born after their mothers have been refused abortions were far more likely than other children to become members of broken families, inmates of public institutions and recipients of welfare benefits. Cost benefit studies which were carried out in 1972 by Political and Economic Planning for the British Family Planning Association established that averting the birth of an unwanted child saved in public health and welfare services alone $1,350 in the case of a child born fourth in its family, $1,510 in the case of a child born fifth in its family and $8,728 in the case of the illegitimate child. It is a mark of our backwardness in matters of family planning that comparable studies on the cost of unwanted children to Australia do not exist.
Our former Government increased enormously the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and unloved children by refusing to promote sex education in schools or to assist the States, local government bodies and voluntary agencies such as churches in the establishment of family planning clinics through which information on birth control techniques, Including for those who prefer it the ovulation method, could be disseminated effectively. It hampered family planning by prohibiting the advertising of contraceptives, imposing tariff duties and a ‘luxury’ sales tax of 271 per cent on contraceptives and by excluding prescribed oral contraceptives from the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
You would be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that sales tax is levied under item 62 of the Second Schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act on ‘Potentex Cream, Ortho-Gynol Cream, Rosuvin Tablets, Q.T. Cream, Kareen Cream, Agressit Tablets, Semor Tablets, Controids, condoms, goldpin pessaries, cervical caps and goods used for purposes similar to the purposes for which these goods are used*. It is a mark of the time which has gone by since last the tax was revised that no more than two or three of the preparations named can still be bought. Sales tax was introduced on 30th October 1941 as a wartime measure at the rate of 20 per cent and increased subsequently to 271 per cent. Its effect is exacerbated in the case of imported contraceptives by the imposition of tariff duties. Oral, spermicidal and other contraceptives of a chemical character attract a general rate tariff of 321 per cent and preferential rate tariff of 171 per cent. Rubber contraceptives such as condoms and diaphragms attract a general rate of 371 per cent plus 10 per cent primage and a preferential rate of 171 per cent plus 5 per cent primage. Intrauterine devices attract a general rate of 45 per cent and a preferential rate of 271 per cent. These duties are eased in some instances under by-law, but in each case one and onefifth of the sum of the value of the goods and the duty payable on them attracts sales tax at the rate of 271 per cent.
Whereas the former Government inflated artificially the cost of contraception through its tariff and taxation policies, the present Government has acted through the legislation before us to exempt contraceptives from taxation.
Whereas the former Government excluded prescribed oral contraceptives from the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the present Government has incorporated them in the scheme. Health authorities expect that as a result of that single initiative, the number of women reliably protected against unwanted pregnancy by oral contraceptives will rise from 750,000 to lm. Whereas the former Government subsidised family planning for Aborigines but not for other Australians, the present Government has already made available $300,000 for the development of family planning in all sections of our community, including those whose interest is restricted to the ovulation method.
The increasing frequency with which women are being aborted, unwanted children are being brought into the world and couples are marrying for no other reason than to legitimatise a pregnancy confronts Australians with a challenge. We cannot meet that challenge by remaining inactive like the former Government, nor can we meet it by confining our interest to changing or defending against change the law on abortion. We must provide women who choose to practise family planning with reliable means of doing so at a price they can afford to pay. We must ensure as far as possible that decisions about pregnancy are made before rather than after conception, and that every child born in this country is wanted and loved.
– I support this Bill. Naturally, most of what I say will be directed to the removal of sales tax on contraceptives. It goes without saying that I support the second part of the Bill which deals with the removal of sales tax from certain material used in the metrication process. However, I shall put that aside because I do not think there is any question that that is supported by the House. It was, in fact, a decision which was taken by the Government last year. I am in favour of the Bill on the grounds that families who opt to use contraceptives, and particularly those on low incomes, ought not through economic pressures to find the exercise of their choice constrained. The question of contraception does involve moral and religious questions in the minds of many people and the issue of sales tax on contraception has been improperly confused with philosophical considerations. From what I have heard of the debate today, it is clear that even in this House there is that confusion.
Contraceptives are on the market; there is no sanction against their use. Only grounds of equity, consistency and the question of revenue-raising are relevant to the imposition of sales tax. There are also social considerations - the valid use of the tax power to exempt from certain taxation classifications goods that are otherwise within those classifications and therefore bear tax, in order to achieve social purposes. So, the use of tax for a social purpose must be taken into account. The contribution towards extending choice in family planning for low income families is a proper social consideration and I believe that the removal of sales tax from contraceptives is justified. It is a tax measure and we treat it as a tax measure.
I should like to say, however, that the issue of tax on contraceptives has gained a symbolic significance in the cause of women which it did not deserve. It became a focus for protest and was being represented as being of much more significance to the women’s issue than in fact it was. It is difficult to understand why it should have been seen as such a significant issue when it is brought down to the reality involved, namely, the removal of sales tax from contraceptives.
A far more significant issue exists in relation to women, about which I shall speak in a moment. The lack of any great breakthrough for women by virtue of the removal of the sales tax is testimony to its lack of significance. The removal of the sales tax has not changed that about which women in the community are anxious to achieve for themselves and about which many are campaigning.
Women are fighting a great battle of attitudes in present day social mores. Much has been achieved by women and for women to overthrow patronising and discriminatory attitudes aimed at providing full equality for women in our community. Women are becoming increasingly important in our public and economic life. This is proper because women possess half of this country’s intellect and they have unique contributions to make in the public and the economic field. There is much however that remains to be achieved.
The question of women in employment is a most complex social issue and still requires the attention of us all when considering these matters. The technological revolution has freed most women from the heaviest of domestic work, and while most - not all - feel they ought still to be home with their families while they are young, many have been well educated for a non-domestic vocation or, in fact, for a career occupation. Five to 10 years spent in a stimulating environment with job satisfaction leads many women to have expectations which did not exist with prior generations. For them, employment is seen as the best means of satisfying those expectations. Government studies have shown that just as many married women give the attainment of personal satisfaction as their reason for working as give the reason of the earning of money. That is quite understandable. The relative boredom of a daytime suburban home has thrown up the serious problem of suburban neurosis among young married women with young families and of women whose families no longer require the full time care which formerly, when they were younger, the mother gave to them. This affects the wives directly but it affects the entire family indirectly. It is a significant community problem of which we must be conscious and which we must tackle as a community.
The boredom and frustration of some housewives give rise to a whole range of other pressures and problems which are not easily identified in relation to family life and general community fulfilment. We need, as a matter of urgency, to more actively consider the status and role of women. We need to consider the problems of women in employment, women in the home, women in relation to their role as mother and women in relation to the community in a broader sense. We need to raise for consideration areas where institutional arrangements, assumptions and practices have not kept pace with the change in community attitudes.
There cannot be a dramatic revolution and few would want one. One of the realities of change in institutions is that the change should occur slowly to enable familiarity with the change and not create issues of conflict between those who rely upon the institutions. The more information we have as a community about these problems, the better we will be able to handle them. Apart from the very lowest income families the removal of sales tax on contraceptives will have very little impact on the status role and quality of life of women and very little impact on the net disposable income that remains. Its removal in no way advances the very basic and serious question of a woman’s role and her rights which must be pursued, and pursued as a matter of urgency. It has been unfortunate that this single and marginal taxation issue has been so confused with the very deep issue surrounding women. I should not like the removal of sales tax from contraceptives to in any way be seen as the end of the process of elevating women to their proper role of equality in our community. It is unfortunate also that it has been confused improperly with the deep moral and religious issues surrounding contraception. 1 wish to speak also about the problem of the less advantaged families in our community. I refer to families which, in many instances, are increasing the number of children within them - families which are aware of the difficulties that they will encounter in giving to their children the care, education and opportunities for the future which they would wish to give. There are other families growing in numbers who do not have a realisation of the proper opportunity and equality that should be made available to their children and, for the objective observer, these families are creating a situation in which there is likely to be a perpetuation of the less advantaged people in the community. I think that in the future we will see in a more real sense the development of community centres probably centred around local government bodies. Already local government bodies have established - I hope I use the correct term - baby health clinics to which all young mothers can take their children. At present there is a very great shortage of trained professional social welfare workers. I hope that in the future there will be professional social welfare, workers whose services will be an ordinary, natural, normal addition to the services which will be available to people living in a community. I hope these professional social welfare workers will be able to do what they can to relieve the pressures that build up which cannot be handled by some people in the complex industrial community that we live in today, and in which the complexity continues to grow. People who have all the attributes of ordinary people often lack judgment to make the right decision in their own interest. These people, I believe, under professional supervision by the professional social welfare workers and a local professionally qualified medical practitioner should involve themselves with advice on family planning.
I give an instance, of which I have personal knowledge, of a mother with, I think, 5 children who feared that she would become pregnant again. It was open to her to go to the Royal Women’s Hospital where there was a family planning clinic. Unfortunately she had no-one to look after her 5 young children while she attended the clinic. A couple of people minded some of the children and she took the remaining children with her. The cost of the fare to Melbourne was a drain upon the family resources but she went. My wife was in contact with her - for reasons which I will not explain but it was related to certain work which my wife does - and it transpired that the lady had been provided with oral contraceptives. Later my wife inquired whether the woman had actually taken the oral contraceptives. My wife was told by the lady that she did not need any more because she still had some left. This raises the question that that particular person, regardless of the fact that she had been advised about it, was incapable of exercising the personal judgment and incapable of having the memory to take the oral contraceptive as prescribed. She for some reason, believed that she had actually saved by keeping some for the following month.
– ‘What was the end of that story?
– I think the honourable member can imagine the end of the story. I do not intend to amuse the House. There were very tragic circumstances, not in the part of the story that I have told but in what followed within a short time. This is not the time to speak about it.
One matter which is very important - the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) spoke about it - is unwanted children. If I heard the honourable member correctly - he is not here at the moment, but he will correct me later, or other honourable members who heard him more directly will correct me if I am wrong - he seemed to attribute a great deal of the blame to single mothers for what he termed ‘unwanted children’. He was referring to young girls in the community who become pregnant and have an unwanted child. The honourable member seemed to imply that it was necessary to provide free oral contraceptives to every young girl in the community so that she would not become pregnant.
– He did not imply that.
– If the honourable member did not imply it, then I will not attribute it to him, but it is implied by a great number of people and I want to deal with this question. The plain fact of the matter is that many of these young girls who become pregnant have not the remotest idea that they are going to submit themselves to the possibility of becoming pregnant and it would not occur to them to take contraceptive action before the event because it was not their intention to have sexual intercourse. To adopt an attitude that In some way we must assume a propensity on the part of young women to do this and to make sure that they do not have unwanted children is totally unreal.
Another aspect is that many of these young women have a natural motherly instinct and want to keep their children. There is no doubt that there is a growing incidence of young unmarried mothers keeping their children. This raises a new problem in our community, namely, that of young people who grow up in single parent families. The single mother is taking the risk that she and the children she bears and keeps will be a less privileged family. It creates a dilemma as to whether it is proper to encourage the natural mother to keep the child or whether the child should be adopted by another family. Families who adopt children are screened by profes sional social welfare workers and in most cases are more adequately equipped for parenthood than the natural mother and father. This is strange, but true.
I take this opportunity to speak about something on which I have not heard a word from the Government, and that is child care centres. A child care centre is a very important area of the development of our social attitudes in our community-
– What did you do about it over 23 years?
– I will tell the Minister what I did about it. When I was Minister for Labour and National Service I initiated the concept of child care centres, a concept which showed our concern for the role of women in the work force. As Treasurer I allocated a sum of money in the last Budget for the purposes of providing child care centres. I know there is still a long way to go in this field. When we were in government we heard a great amount from the then Opposition about child care centres. But we have heard little since.
It is terribly important that we face up to the reality that a quarter of a million children between the ages of 2 and 6 whose mothers are employed need care. We have to examine what will be the pressures of a complex community on these young people, who will be the future generations. Although I responded to the interjection made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) I do not want to make this a party political matter because it is too important for that.
Another matter I would like to mention is the issue of zero population growth. I believe that zero population growth is the ultimate in unacceptable policies for any community like Australia to adopt. Zero population growth involves a very real and unwarranted intrusion into the freedom and self-expression of individuals. Quite apart from that, if we look at this concept in national terms we find that there is too much of a tendency for certain people in politics - especially those people on the other side of the political fence - to believe that if some other country has a problem Australia must have precisely the same problem. It is absurd to suggest that because we may all agree that there is over population in Asia, in some magical way there is overpopulation in Australia. I believe that the Parliament will adopt an attitude of confidence in the future growth of this country. There seems also to be implied in the concept of zero population growth the argument that if we have problems with urban areas in some way those problems have been created by migrants. Honourable members opposite seem to blame migrants for urbanising Australia.
– They would cut them out.
– Cut them out is what they would argue. We need to understand that migrants have contributed a capacity for us to handle the problems which have been created in the past by urbanisation. I do not even like the world ‘urbanisation’ because it has within it almost a premature confession of failure. I think we ought to wipe that word out of our vocabulary and speak only in positives and say that what we want is urban improvement. To cease immigration will not solve the problem.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the subject of this Bill is not migration but sales tax on contraceptives.
– I bow to your ruling, as I must, Mr Deputy Speaker, but perhaps you will permit me to complete that thought. I will not carry it any further. It is wrong to lay the blame for any urban problems upon migrants. It is ridiculously wrong to believe that we will solve this problem by stopping migration. If we have urban problems, we as representatives of the people have to -take decisions to cure them. Then we have to have the willingness and the fortitude to follow through those decisions.
This Bill, small as it is, is of very great importance. Perhaps I could summarise in the following manner. The removal of sales tax on contraceptives was elevated to a significance which was not real but symbolic. But it appeared to many people that if the sales tax was removed an immense number of problems would be solved. In truth the removal has not solved the problems, nor has it satisfied the normal and proper aspirations of women for equality in our community. We need to see the removal of sales tax not as the end of the line but merely as the commencement of the line. We need to continue as vigorously as we can the evolution of policies which will probably take some time but which in the end will answer the aspirations of women in our community who, as I mentioned, possess 50 per cent of our intellect. It is an immense luxury for us, as a growing nation, to believe that we can carelessly not make use of the full capacity which is available there. Making use of that capacity does not in any way mean an attack on the family. The family is the basic unit of our society. It is an institution which must remain, and I do not believe that any member of my Party - and I think I can speak for the Australian Country Party - would want to see the institution that the family, and all that means for cohesiveness and good in our community, in any way weakened.
Mr MATHEWS (Casey)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said that he understood me to advocate a mass distribution of contraceptives so that single women would not have babies. The Leader of the Opposition misunderstood me, as is natural since he was not in the House long enough to hear more than a few of my remarks.
– This Bill proposes amendments in 2 areas to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. The first area relates to the conversion of business and industrial equipment to the metric system and the second to contraceptives. These items are probably in no way connected. But as one of the pharmacists of this country I might add that we have dealt in metrics in regard to contraceptives for many years. I will try to be more relevant than speakers from the other side of the House who in my opinion used their contributions to this debate to rationalise their inactivity in the area of family planning or at least in the role that the Federal Government should play in the field of family planning.
This Bill will remove from the Second Schedule to the Principal Act those classes of goods that are specified as being subject to sales tax at the rate of 27* per cent. The Bill will remove contraceptives from that classification. Amongst those items in the First Schedule which are exempt from sales tax are included various forms of contraceptives. The inclusion of contraceptives in this grouping is irrelevant because this item is grouped along with slot machines, gambling machines, totalisator machines and the like which are strange bed fellows indeed. But one method of birth control, the rhythm method, has been jokingly referred to as Vatican roulette, so maybe this is a proper grouping.
We can say that sales taxes or indirect taxes generally influence patterns of consumption by discouraging or encouraging consumption through the imposition or removal of that tax. If the tax is increased the consumption of non-substituted products goes down. If the tax is reduced consumption generally increases. Also, indirect tax or sales tax can be used as a government policy for expanding or constricting the economy. But this can be used only where the product is in great demand, as is the case with motor cars. Therefore, I say to the House that the sales tax on contraceptives cannot be related to either of these 2 principles of taxation. In fact, in the past the tax on contraceptives has been nothing more than a moral tax.
On 24th August last year the then Prime Minister was asked by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) why the Government did not look at the question of the abolition of sales tax on contraceptives. The then Prime Minister replied:
In forming the Budget we looked at the whole question of a reduction of indirect taxation. We studied the cost involved and the value that might accrue if there is a reduction of the kind that the honourable member mentioned. In this instance we thought it was preferable to devote the money involved to other causes rather than to implement a reduction in indirect taxation.
I think that answer reinforces my argument that in the mind of the previous government it was a moral tax and was not used for other purposes. During that Budget debate Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, the then Federal Minister for Health indicated that removal of the sales tax would cost between $3 .4m and $3. 6m annually - a mere pittance. To the individual the saving would be about $3 per year, but to the community the saving is inestimable. Unwanted pregnancies result in criminal abortions, battered babies, emotionally deprived children who become juvenile delinquents, deserted and neglected children whom the State must support, and children with inadequate education. This matter was brought out well earlier by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). These social problems not only lead to misery for the individual and the family but also increase enormously the cost of community services - social, medical and legal. Facilities to provide cheaper birth control are inexpensive and are negligible when compared with the cost incurred by the failure to make them cheaper. Those people who see all cost benefit approaches in economic terms will be pleased to learn that by reducing tha price of the pill and making it more readily available to those who need it, production in industry should actually increase. In support of this proposition I mention that on 16th October 1971 Dr Margaret Raphel in an article in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ entitled The Role of “the Pill” in the Workforce’ said:
From a study of 825 employed women, it appears that oral contraceptives enable women to work better. The users had fewer menstrual symptoms, and took less time off at work, were less worried about unwanted pregnancy and were less accident-prone.
In any developed country similar to Australia which boasts of an affluent society there always exists an underprivileged group, varying between 10 and 20 per cent of the population. Most of this group cannot afford to see a doctor, the usual source of family planning advice, so that poverty and ignorance are often found together.
In 1971 a preliminary study was carried out to determine the factors influencing the use of family planning by women from a lower social group in Melbourne. By far the most common reason for employing birth control was financial - 2 out of every 3 women in this group gave this reason. I think this should indicate that the group which needs - cheaper contraceptives are precisely those people who are at present discriminated against. Last August in Sydney Lord Caradon, a member of 2 United Nations committees dealing with population, addressed the first Regional Medical and Scientific Congress of the International Planned Parenthood Association. Describing population growth as one of the world’s dominant problems, he said it was tied up with such problems as economic development, the environment, urbanisation - to use that terrible word mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition - and unemployment, and that to solve these problems it was necessary to solve the population problem. Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has reduced this debate to a discussion of zero population growth in this country. It should be seen as an overall policy and attitude, because it is not just the problem of the underdeveloped countries; it is our problem too. Although the Leader of the Opposition cannot understand this argument I shall explain it.
The people in the developed countries consume 20 to 50 times as much per head of the world’s resources as do those people in the underdeveloped countries. In this event, surely we have an obligation not only in the domestic sense but also in the international sense towards population growth. When the importance of birth control is considered in the wider context of the world’s problems, having a tax on contraceptives is like putting a luxury tax on antibiotics or on health. The previous Government has been guilty of enforcing a tax on health items. Let me explain. The oral contraceptive, a form of low dose hormone treatment, has a double function. As well as being an effective contraceptive it is used for period disorders - drysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea and the like. It would be difficult to know exactly how many women have been penalised for following a doctor’s prescription in paying this sales tax because it is classified only as a contraceptive. A study of working women in Sydney in 1969 gives a clue. Of the 43 per cent of married women in the sample, 13.5 per cent were taking the pill for gynaeological reasons, and of the single women 60 per cent were taking the pill for medical reasons. These women were obviously discriminated against by the previous Government. In other words, at that time there was operating a luxury tax on health.
Some persons oppose greater availability of contraceptives because they fear that Australia’s population growth will be lowered. For them, recent figures provide reassuring data. Despite an ever-increasing number of women taking oral contraceptives, now exceeding 30 per cent of women in the reproductive age group, the birth rate has actually risen from 19 per thousand in 1966 to 20 per thousand in 1968 and has continued to increase until just recently. The main reason for removing the sales tax is not its effect on population but the right of the individual woman to choose what her own personal contribution to that population will be, and not have her choice thwarted by any Government.
In Australia birth control is not so much a question of community affluence, as it is in underdeveloped countries, but is consequent upon a pressing need to space children in a society that demands higher education standards and other non-material benefits. Women should have a right to plan a family and space their children. Any tax on or increase in the price of contraceptives works against that choice and that right. Parents should have the right to decide how many children they want and when they want them, and they should be freely given the means to make that decision. Many people do not have that freedom. They do not know that they have a choice. To many people this may seem fantastic, but this ignorance must be tackled. Not only must people be aware of contraceptives, they also need to know how to use them and they need to be able to afford them. Unless this matter is seen in the whole context it is seen in isolation and a role cannot be forged for the Federal Government in family planning.
I return now to the topic of discrimination. To retain the sales tax on contraceptives is an unjustified discrimination and penalty against Australian women wishing to practice responsible methods of family planning. Further, it discriminates more against the poorer people - the very people who, because of our iniquitous economic system, need to be protected most from large unwanted families. It discriminates against those people who employ different contraceptive methods. The previous Government was never able to tax those who used natural methods, such as the rhythm method, but were able to tax those who used more reliable methods. In other words the more efficient the method the more tax.
– I shall quote from Hansard an example of the former Government’s inconsistency so that the honourable member will not think it is nonsense. On page 667 of Hansard of 7th March 1972 a Government spokesman said:
Another factor to he considered is that oral contraception is only one of a number of methods of contraception. Any action to exempt oral contraceptives from sales tax would create a precedent for the removal of the tax from other forms of contraception, such as diaphragms and intra-uterine devices. In terms of the current provisions of the National Health Act, pharmaceutical benefits are confined to drugs and medicinal preparations, and thus diaphragms and intra-uterine devices, which are quite widely used, could not be included in the list of pharmaceutical benefits. If all forms of contraceptives were to be exempted from sales tax the cost to the Commonwealth in revenue foregone may well be as great as the saving to the Commonwealth under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme resulting from the exemption of oral contraceptives from tax.
The nonsense seems to lie on the Opposition side of the House in the inconsistency of its argument.
Objections to this Bill will no doubt be raised by those who anticipate that this legislation will open the floodgates of licentious behaviour and undermine the moral and social fibres of this country. Even the President of the United States of America has said that in his opinion widespread distribution of contraceptives would ‘do nothing to preserve and strengthen close family relations’. The same argument has been called on by the Leader of the Opposition. But this is begging the question and is irrelevant to this Bill. The Bill is designed to make contraceptives cheaper and to remove the discrimination against free choice exercised by women. The part played by modern, effective contraceptives in the so-called sexual revolution cannot be easily separated from many other influences that bear on changes in attitudes and behaviour of following generations. The contraceptive can both stabilise marriage, if the Leader of the Opposition is so concerned for the family unit, by removing fear of unwanted pregnancies or it could encourage infidelity for the same reason. We cannot prove which way it will go because it depends on the individual.
A breakdown of inhibitions against premarital intercourse is also cited as a consequence of better contraceptive methods. But this view is over simplistic. The social mores are bound up in the wider context of culture. On the other hand proponents of cheaper contraceptives argue that so long as girls cannot be prevented from having sexual relations - I hope the Opposition is not intending to introduce legislation to that effect - they might as well be protected against pregnancy and its consequences.
It is certain that young people need protection against unwanted pregnancies. One report on this subject in the United States stated that teenagers bear two-fifths of all illegitimate babies. The divorce rate is approximately 4 times as high for those who marry in their teens as it is for couples who marry later. The same report found:
There was no evidence that teenage extra-marital sexual activity increases in proportion to the availability of prescribed contraception.
With a society which is more conservative in culture than the United States, Australia could expect similar findings. Removing sales tax as this Bill provides goes only part of the way to making contraceptives more readily available. We must realise that removing sales tax from contraceptives is only portion of the whole question of family planning; it is the part that can be played by this Government in providing such a service. Removing that sales tax, luxury tax or entertainment tax, as I have sometimes heard it called, from contraceptives is only one approach that the Labor Party, this Government, is committed to introducing in its overall program to support family planning as the right for all.
We are committed to setting up family planning clinics which could provide facilities in the 3 areas in which we need to improve our family planning services, namely, advice, education and free supplies of contraceptives for those who need them. We have placed oral contraceptives, when prescribed by a registered medical practitioner, on the pharmaceutical benefits list. This has reduced the cost of one month’s supply of the pill from about $2.10 to $1. From 1st April this amount will be further reduced to Si for 2 months supply. It is estimated that a further 824,000 Australian women would use oral contraceptives if they were available completely free.
Undoubtedly prevention is better than cure and education is the best contraceptive of all. This means that the study of reproduction should be an essential part of a child’s schooling and should begin at an early age - not just secondary school, not even primary school, but a natural and gradually developing awareness and understanding right from pre-school days. I believe that with modern contraceptive methods available there would be fewer abortions and much less of the unhappiness and ill-health which results from unplanned pregnancies.
In a report in 1972 the United Nations said that abortion ‘is the single most widely used method of birth control in the world’. But in none of the countries where, abortion is legal is abortion advocated as a desirable method of contraception. Abortion is a horrific experience for most of those involved and is used only as a measure of last resort. It is our responsibility to lessen the need to resort to abortion by making contraceptives cheaper and more readily available. This Bill helps to do just that.
The former Liberal-Country Party Government consistently refused to take a realistic view of family planning techniques and their availability. It refused to make any move to allow contraceptive advertising or to remove the sales tax on them. The removal of restriction on advertising of contraceptives is a policy of my Government. Contraceptive advertising is illegal in all States except South Australia. Yet the Prime Minister announced within a fortnight of the last Federal elections that the ordinance prohibiting the advertising of contraceptives without authority in the Australian Capital Territory would be amended and that soon a similar amendment would be put before the Northern Territory Legislative Council. The legitimate advertising of contraceptives is a natural and proper extension to removing sales tax on contraceptives if they are to be made more available to the public.
To add to the nonsense and counter-productive effect of prohibiting advertising of contraceptives, most States are prevented by law from even advertising the activities and services of government supported family planning clinics. Although the Postmaster-General’s Department has relaxed its vigilance on the detection of contraceptive advertisements and literature under the Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Act, it has a blanket ban in its guide to standards for radio and television which prevents contraceptive advertisements on these media. The main media used for this sort of advertising in Italy is television.
My time has almost expired, In conclusion, the main reason for removing the. sales tax from contraceptives is because the tax discriminates against women and their choice to bear a child. Advertising of contraceptives and family planning clinics are, in general, outside the sphere of this House: They are predominantly State matters. It is in the Territories that the Commonwealth oan sponsor a whole range of family planning initiatives, but Australia-wide we can make a significant contribution to family planning by removing the sales tax on contraceptives. In the current debate, on abortion law reform the subject of family planning and the role of family planning in this is often overlooked.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. (Quorum formed.)
– The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), who has just sat down, referred to some inconsistencies on the part of the former Government. I ask the Treasurer (Mr Crean), who is in charge of this Bill, to clarify some aspects of this legislation which could be inconsistent. I refer to the question as to whether male contraceptives will be exempted from sales tax. I quote from an article in the ‘Australian’ of 1st February in which the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) stated that he wanted to make clear that the Government did not intend to discriminate against buyers of male contraceptives. The article states:
In Gladstone, Queensland, yesterday Dr Everingham assured us that men would not be discriminated against. The luxury tax on the pill had been removed because representations had been made to the Government from this area, he said.
I have spoken to the Treasurer about condoms and I expect a favourable decision before long. He is looking at it now’.
I raise this matter not politically but to clear up confusion in the minds of some people as to whether sales tax will still apply to male contraceptives. After all, this form of contraception is just as legitimate as are other forms and in some cases it is the only form of contraception that can be used. I take it that the charge to be laid against the new Government is that by leaving this tax on it was practising sexual discrimination in reverse. Therefore I ask for clarification on this point.
This Bill has 2 distinct purposes. Firstly, it exempts from sales tax parts and accessories for metric conversion equipment. The Country Party supports this. Secondly, it removes the sales tax on contraceptives particularly on oral contraceptives. The Country Party also supports this action. I personally am disappointed that the previous Government did not remove the sales tax from oral contraceptives or, to be consistent, from all types of contraceptives. The removal of the 271 per cent sales tax has reduced the cost per month to an oral contraceptive user by about 20c. I am told that the average cost per month for oral contraceptives was $1.78. This has been reduced to about $1.58. I further understand that negotiations between the Department of Health and manufacturers of contraceptives, in association with the placing of the pill on the pharmaceutical benefits list, have reduced the cost to about $1.38 a month. I also understand that basically the pill is manufactured in Australia and is protected by a 321 per cent general rate tariff and a 171 per cent preferential rate tariff against imported pills.
I ask the Treasurer if he can say whether the chemical components from which the pill is manufactured, that is the oestrogens and progesterones, which are imported into Australia are subject to a customs or import duty. I think those 2 questions are important because the Government has made the point that it intends to make the pill available as cheaply as is possible to the people in Australia, and that was the reason it was placed on the pharmaceutical benefits list. I hope that the Government believes that it has a responsibility to ensure that in making the pill available as cheaply as possible the taxpayers interests also are protected. I ask: Is there a customs import duty? If so, what is to be done about removing it? Would we be better off importing pills from overseas instead of manufacturing them in Australia and thereby having the high level of tariff protection which operates at the present time?
The Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits looked at the question of placing the pill on the pharmaceutical benefits list but it recommended that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee should consider the listing of oral contraceptives where required for certain specific medical reasons. It rejected the general placement of the pill on the list.
– A majority did.
– I always talk about majority decisions when I talk about recommendations. It also recommended that the Commonwealth provide substantial subsidies for the expansion of family planning clinics. I pose this question to the Treasurer: Would not the cost involved in placing the pill on the pharmaceutical benefits list have better served the community, particularly that section of the community which is being discussed in this House today, if the money had been spent on more family planning clinics and child care centres? I have posed that question for 3 reasons. Firstly, in spite of what some people might think, there is no such thing as unlimited or oceans of money available to spend on whatever we might like to spend it on in this country. Secondly, there has been only a small saving to the users of oral contraceptives, because of the $1 prescription fee. Until 1st April it will be $1. I know that from that date there will be an alteration to the amount to be charged. But until 1st April anybody who wishes to obtain 6 months supply of the pill has to pay $6 in prescription fees - $1 for the initial prescription and $1 each for the 5 repeat prescriptions at monthly intervals. That same person could obtain a private prescription to obtain the pill for a period of 6 months at only slightly greater cost. I know that from 1st April only 3 visits to the pharmacist will be required at a cost of $3. However that is not a dramatic saving.
The third reason for posing this question is that the availability of contraceptives has not reduced, according to anything I have read or seen, the number of illegitimate births or abortions in any country. Therefore ignorance continues to be one of the great impediments to a more satisfactory solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies. There is a need for education in this field - and I accept this point - and for family planning clinics. What appears to be far more important in this problem of unwanted pregnancies, unwanted children and abortions, is the moral outlook of the community. I refer to the degree of acceptance and sometimes even applause that is given to moral permissiveness. If we in this Parliament are sincere in our desire for all children to be wanted children and that many young adults, and I presume older adults, and unwanted children are to be spared the miseries of the sort of life that follows some of these mistakes then one of the very important issues must be the moral attitude of the community to the general question of permissiveness. It is not just a simple matter of removing a sales tax. It is not completely a matter of sex education. I would hope that in the removal of this sales tax the members of this Parliament do not overlook the more important question of community attitudes to the matter of moral permissiveness when we are talking about whether or not a particular measure will do away with the miseries of unwanted children, abortions and so on in the future. The Country Party supports the legislation.
– I rise in this debate to discuss both matters which are covered by this Bill. I compliment the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) for raising the point about education. Sex education is one of the important factors to be considered. This Bill is one legislative measure which can be taken by this House to ensure that women are not discriminated against in our society when it comes to the purchase of contraceptives. The whole principle of imposing a sales tax, as I understand it, is that it is a revenue producing measure and it is also used to assist in preventing the purchase of luxury items. I think we have come far from the day when in our society we considered contraceptives and their use as a luxury. They are very important. As a former school teacher I believe that this country ought to be doing a great deal more than it is at the moment in educating young people and in this respect I support the remarks made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb).
It seems quite ridiculous that we expect people in our society to act with a proper respect towards one another when we do not give them the education that is necessary. Moral education does not just mean preventing people from stealing, cheating and murdering; it means educating the whole personality. How can we educate the whole personality, how can we make sure that our people are properly educated if we do not consider something so important and so basic as sex education? This does not need to be done in an underhand way, as it is often done now. It does not need to be ancillary to the rest of our education. What we should be thinking about is giving children a fully rounded education.
– And in the home first.
– I agree with the honourable member for Wilmot that this education should be given in the home first. In this respect it is most important that parents be given the right sort of education and encouragement so that they can pass their knowledge on to their children. I think most honourable members will agree with me that it is not easy for parents to give their own children a fully rounded sex education. This is something very important and basic to us. Most people have a certain degree of reserve where this subject is concerned. One of the things we must consider and one of the things that this Government can do through its education policy is to use the Commonwealth Department of Education to give a lead to the States, to provide the finance and the facilities to give children and parents a fully rounded sex education.
I was interested to hear some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). He seemed to indicate that zero population growth, when related to Australia, should be considered as a separate matter. I do not believe that is the case. I believe that when we consider zero population growth we are considering a world problem. The population of the world has increased enormously since the Industrial Revolution and since medical science has managed to control diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis which once wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. Even such illnesses as pneumonia have been almost completely controlled, particularly when contracted by younger people. Because of the controls of medical science we have reached the stage where even comparatively small modern families contribute to a very rapid growth in the world’s population.
I do not think I am speaking like a latter day Malthus when I say that unless we control our population, the world’s resources will not be adequate. I know there are economists who disagree with that view. Dr Colin Clark of Melbourne has written a number of papers on the subject. When one looks at the figures - it is a matter only of looking at a simple graph - one sees that the world population is increasing at a much faster rate than our ability to provide resources. After all, we do not want to live in a world in the future of 20 or 30 times the present population - that was the figure Dr Clark mentioned the other day - even if it were possible to produce the food that would be required for that sort of population. Living in that sort of a world would be like chooks living in a battery cage. I am not saying this is what the Leader of the Opposition or any other members of the Opposition have suggested, but when we come to consider zero population growth I think it is quite futile and useless to consider it merely as a question of what we are going to do in this country. We are part of the world. What we do in this country contributes significantly to what goes on overseas. When the honourable member for La Trobe mentioned this fact I considered that he was quite correct.
The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of child care centres. The previous Government did not do nearly enough in this field. There is much more to be done. I will be most desperately disappointed if this Government does not do a great deal more about child care centres in the future.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the need for more child care centres and the remarks made previously in the debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). Although the previous Government took some useful action in this field, on which it should be complimented, I believe that this Government will do much more. It is pleasing to note that we on this side of the House will be able to count on the support of the Opposition. I believe that this matter is one in which the Parliament as a whole can make a real contribution to the welfare of the Australian people. It is important that, in considering child care centres, we think of them as providing a service not only to those women who work but to the whole community. In my mind there is no reason why women who care for children at home should not, on occasions on which it can be justified - that would be on many occasions, I would imagine - leave the children in a properly staffed child care centre so that they can do some shopping, visit an art gallery, go to the pictures or do any of the other things which many women, because they have to care for their children on a 24-hour basis, find it difficult to do. I find completely untenable the argument which was put by the Leader of the Opposition that government action in promoting population control as an unwarranted intrusion into the freedom of the individual. Are we to allow the old and discredited economic concepts of complete freedom to operate in this day in relation to social affairs? If we are, those members of the community who are less competitive in society will suffer. Any decent society would not allow this to happen. Of necessity, some controls and regulations are necessary. When considering controls and regulations, the important factor is to see that basic rights and reasonable freedom of action are not infringed unduly. In short, the matter is one of balance.
In mentioning matters of sex education, 1 did not mention what I believe to be a very important factor, and that is the regard which we should have for one another as individuals. This should be emphasised more than it is. Boys and men should be taught that girls and women are not sex objects to be exploited for their pleasure. Girls and women should be taught that boys and men are not there just to provide them with a succession of escorts. Real consideration for people as human beings, each with his or her contribution to make to society on a free and equal basis and unhindered by past discrimination, should be a basic aim in our society. Of course, population control is not only a matter of providing good sex education and of making contraceptives available at a reasonable price to men and women who wish to use them; it is a matter of quality of life as much as a matter of birth control. It is pleasing to see that the Commonwealth Government is taking decisive steps to improve the quality of life in our cities and to build more pleasant urban areas. Through full and proper co-operation with the States we can build a much more pleasant and satisfying urban environment at no more expense than our present expense.
I believe that the contribution made by this Bill in removing the sales tax from contraceptives, thus making them generally more easily available, will improve the quality of family life. Parents should be assisted with the free choice, which they have in theory, to regulate the size of their family. Family planning clinics should be available much more readily. In the municipality of Diamond Valley, of which I am still a councillor, the Council recently established a family planning clinic. The Council was assisted to a considerable extent by the State Government. The field is one in which I believe further CommonwealthState co-operation is possible and desirable. Family planning clinics should give advice not only on contraceptive techniques but also on the proper spacing of children, how to manage a budget - especially in the case of young parents where the wife can no longer work - and family organisational problems. These clinics should be staffed by people who have wide practical experience, extensive training and a sympathetic and understanding approach. Ideally the staff should be drawn from the community in which the clinic is situated. I believe that the Commonwealth can make a very valuable contribution in this field.
The Leader of the Opposition criticised also an attitude which he believes the Government has to migrants. We on this side of the House welcome migrants. We will do everything we can to see that they are integrated into the Australian community. Successive Liberal-Country Party governments in previous years have a lot to answer for because of the way in which they treated migrants. Far too many children of migrants were given their schooling in areas where facilities and accommodation were inadequate and, in some cases, deplorable. The classic argument was that education was a State responsibility. Previous governments overlooked the responsibility that they had to migrant children. Despite the serious situation which now confronts the Labor Party as a government, I believe that resolute steps should be taken to see that migrant children receive education which is equal to the best, not the worst.
I have been impressed by some of the things that have been said by honourable members opposite. Happily we now live in a society in which this Parliament is not being urged by any of its members to reject the Bill. 1 believe that this is a healthy, sensible and humane attitude. Only if we continue to act in this way when we are confronted with social matter such as this will we be able to assist as well as is desired those people whom we represent. Unwanted pregnancies are the principal factor in abortions. If we are to control the number of abortions we must do everything possible to see that all children are wanted and that all pregnancies are desired. This is the ideal. The matter is a complex one which I do not wish to go into in detail at this time, but 1 believe that the measure to remove the sales tax on contraceptives, as proposed in the Bill, is only one of a wide variety of family support, counselling, education and other social welfare programs which this Parliament should consider and support. We can prevent a great deal of misery and unhappiness if we are prepared to assist people to make the right decisions and if we face up to the difficult and complex questions which we will be called upon to discuss. Closing our eyes to important social and moral questions will not make them go away. Action is required.
I believe that the principle of removing sales tax on both categories of goods mentioned in the Bill is sound. Sales tax is a flat tax and, as such, has no regard to the ability to pay. I believe that we should look at the complete range of sales tax with a view to considering other measures which might be more equitable and efficient. It would be interesting to calculate the cost to the Commonwealth of the actual collection of the tax and to the sellers of the goods in making their individual calculations. I do not know whether information of this sort is available, but I think that it would prove most instructive. Many people have complained to me about the time it takes them to calculate the sales tax on the goods they sell. The cost probably runs into very many millions of dollars. The whole question of equity and rationalisation of taxes should have the early attention of this Parliament.
Previously I mentioned the provisions in the Bill to exempt the payment of sales tax on goods used in the conversion to the metric system of weights and measures. One point I make is that the provisions will reduce the price to the consumer. I think the Government should be congratulated on that. The Bill will have the effect of reducing the cost to manufacturers and others affected by the decision, which has been taken already, to convert to the metric system of weights and measures. One would hope that this cost saving would be passed on to the consumers. Already there are disturbing signs that some people will use the understandable confusion in the minds of many people to make exorbitant and unjustified profits. I have a newspaper cutting from which I wish to quote. It is from the ‘Australian’ dated 14th August 1972. It states:
Complaints that manufacturers are using the conversion to metric measure packaging to increase prices are being investigated by the South Australian Prices Commissioner. . . .
The article went on to say that he was examining price movements which could occur with changes in container sizes and product weights during the metric conversion. The article continued:
It is not possible to make an exact conversion to the equivalent metric weight of a product, and some products will be a fraction lighter and some a fraction heavier.
But unfortunately there are some people who are blatantly charging the same price and altering the packet size. Of course there is a price control commission in South Australia. It seems to me that the proposed legislation to set up a Commonwealth prices justification tribunal cannot come too quickly. I think that we ought to be addressing our minds to what other measures this Parliament can take to control prices. The House will remember that in 1948 the people of Australia rejected, among other things, a proposal to give the Commonwealth power to control prices. I do not know whether it is possible to consider this matter again, but I think that honourable members ought to consider it because there are so many people who are suffering. I believe that the Australian people would support any move to give the Commonwealth power to regulate prices. I do not see how we can properly control our economy if we do not control all the factors that operate within it.
I notice that my time has just about finished, so I wind off by saying that I believe the Government is to be congratulated for making provision in this Bill to assist consumers by reducing the price of goods by the removal of sales tax on goods which are the subject of metric conversion. I particularly commend not only the steps which are set out in this Bill to remove sales tax from certain goods but also the very quick and decisive action which the first Whitlam Government took in making it clear that tax on contraceptives was to be removed. They are both important measures. One is mainly of economic significance; the other is of economic significance and very wide social significance. I commend both aspects of the Bill to the House.
– We are debating the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1973 and in particular that part of the Bill dealing with the abolition of sales tax on oral contraceptives. Because of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has already indicated to the House I know that I can say that the Opposition supports the measure. Like the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), who spoke just before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I personally support it strongly and I wish that the Opposition had done it when we were in Government. However we cannot always be all things to all people, even to private members. I think that if we had been in Government we might have gone about this a little differently. Although I agree with the Bill and what will happen as a result of it, I think our job in Opposition is to draw attention to some anomalies which will be created. Contrary to the view of my Leader, I believe that perhaps there should be a little bit of politics in this debate, because in my view the Australian Labor Party in the election campaign promised to remove the sales tax on contraceptives to appeal for the vote of women in the electorate. It surrendered to pressure groups such as the Women’s Electoral Lobby and Zero Population Growth and sought by doing that to obtain support from women voters who thought that that was all that was involved.
The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) mentioned the movement,
Zero Population Growth, and I think he said something to the effect that it is important for Australia to have a look at this group’s new philosophy. He used the expression that we are part of the world and that because we are part of the world presumably we should now look at the philosophy of not increasing our population in accordance with what is advocated by ZPG. I remind him that whatever we do will not make any difference in the world. We have something like 0.02 per cent of the world’s population. I reject the philosophy of Zero Population Growth. In my view the Labor Party has no real interest in women’s causes. It has real interest only in women’s votes.
I would like to list very quickly 4 examples of the anomalies which have been created by this legislation and other legislation and of what I claim to be the double standards of the Labor Party. Perhaps they have not been intentional but they have been created. In the first place, the contraceptive pill is designed to prevent the creation of life. The Government has removed sales tax from it. I applaud that step. But life jackets and life belts under some circumstances are still subject to 15 per cent sales tax, and obviously life jackets and life belts are used to save lives. So here is an example of the double standards under which the Labor Party is operating. On the one hand it is removing sales tax from something that will prevent the creation of life, but on the other hand it is charging 15 per cent tax on articles which save life.
– We have not got around to that. We have been here only a week or two.
– If the parents of the honourable gentleman were as interested in contraceptives as he is we would not have a problem with him in the House, tonight.
– You are not sure of that either. You might not have been here either.
– I happen to be the eldest child. The second double standard, if I may use that expression, under which the Labor Party is operating may be seen from a comparison of the so-called health policy of the Labor Party with its immigration policy. No matter what any honourable member opposite says, the health policy of the Labor Party is to seek ultimately to control the natural increase of the Australian population. I refer to some papers which were used at the Labor Party Conference in Launceston in 1971 as the background upon which the Labor Party your Party, Mr Deputy Speaker based its health policy. I refer to the recommendations that contraceptives be supplied on the free pharmaceutical benefits list, that the advertising of contraceptives should be legal and that there should be a vigorous Government sponsored education campaign aimed at explaining the population crisis I would say that there is no population crisis in this country; quite the opposite and the means of solving it. Other recommendations in the paper were that the national attitude must be changed so that women are encouraged to educate and retrain themselves for occupations outside the home and that it is important to stress the selfishness of having another baby. This is the philosophy upon which the Labor Party is basing its health policy the control of the natural increase of Australian children. At the same time the Labor Party has a new policy on immigration. I would like to quote from one of the many statements made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), and so far as I can see the only clear statement he has ever made. On 27th December he was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as having said:
The emphasisin future immigration programs will be on sponsorship, and family reunion will be given a high priority.
So, on the one hand, the Australian Labor Party wishes to control the natural increase of Australian born children while on the other hand allowing the uncontrolled immigration of people into Australia, irrespective of their country of origin and including nonEuropeans, merely on a family basis. So, we will stop the increase of Australian born children and encourage the increase of foreign born children. That is another of the double standards under whichI believe the Government is operating.
Let me give a third example of this Government’s double standards. While we may accept that there should be no tax, or a reduced tax, on the contraceptive pill, as I do, it is quite a different matter to put the contraceptive pill on the subsidised pharmaceutical benefits list. This means that all taxpayers who do not use the pill I am one who does not are subsidising those who do. Those who oppose its use on religious or conscience grounds are subsidising those who do use it. Those women who aresuited on medical grounds to the use of the pill, and companies which pay tax, and other taxpayers, are all required under Commonwealth law to pay a portion of their taxes for this purpose. Why should I and why should they have to pay extra tax to subsidise the pill takers? They are not compelled to take the pill but I am compelled to pay the tax.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Premier of my own State of South Australia all say that it is perfectly proper, if one does not believe in a law, to break that law. But what would they and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), who is sitting at the table, say if I decided that I was not going to pay all my taxes because it was against my belief that part of my tax should pay for the contraceptive pill? That is my next point. The cost to the taxpayer of providing this subsidy is enormous. The pill costs a patient $1 for a full cycle pack, or will cost 50c from next April.
– You sound pretty experienced.
– I have done a lot of research on this subject. The sales tax which is to be removed is a shade under 20c. Each prescription costs the Government and the Government is the taxpayer 38c; so 38c is the taxpayer’s subsidy to the pill taker. It has been estimated by, I think, honourable members opposite, that this will cost over $5m this year and, after 1st April, over $8m for a full year. I wonder what will happen when they produce a male contraceptive pill. I suppose that will be on the free list and will be exempt from sales tax.
I should like to quote from the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits. This Committee sat during the last Parliament and made recommendations to the Government which, I think, were distributed yesterday. There were 3 members of the Australian Labor Party on that Committee Mr Berinson, Dr Gun and Mr Hayden who is now the Minister for Social Security. For anybody who cares to read the report, I am quoting from page 45. On this subject the Committee made the following recommendation:
The Committee recommended that:
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee consider the listing of oral contraceptives where required for certain specific medical reasons;
The Committee recommended that, under certain conditions, oral contraceptives should go on the national health scheme. The report continued:
The point is that this Committee, which was a Select Committee, did not recommend that the pill should go on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for all. In addition to these amounts of money, the new Government is allocating over $250,000 to family planning agencies. I agree with that and applaud it.
– It is chicken feed.
– As my friend, the honourable member for Angas said, it is chicken feed. It is ironical to learn that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) shortly proposes to double child endownment. I am opposed to the pill being on the free list and I would prefer to see these funds of $5m, or S8m from next year, allocated to family planning agencies rather than the present system of subsidising the use of the pill and other devices - and they are being subsidised - because family planning agencies provide counselling and advice across the whole range of family welfare problems.
In the same way, I would like to see some of this money and other money being used to establish child minding centres and for the expansion of such organisations as the Mothers and Babies Health Association Incorporated of South Australia. There are, no doubt, equivalent organisations and other local community organisations in other States. In talking to social workers - and I have talked to many of them over the years - the message comes through, to me at any rate, consistently and clearly that the hangups and problems are not due only to ignorance in regard to sexual practices but rather to the inability of husband and wife to communicate. In my view, this is the basis of so many problems within the community. We would get value from expenditure on family planning, counselling advice and child minding centres. Perhaps if we spend money in this area, these problems will decline with future generations. In my view, simply making the contraceptive pill available for next to nothing is not in any way treating the cause of a lot of the unhappiness that exists within our society, and I regard it as a hollow gesture by the Australian Labor Party to the electors.
The fourth example of what I regard as this Government’s double standards concerns the comparison between a woman who takes the contraceptive pill to prevent conception and the woman who undertakes treatment to promote fertility or to prevent a threatened miscarriage or who seeks that sort of treatment. Honourable members will find that the position is that the woman who wishes to prevent conception is at a financial advantage against those who desire to protect the life of the foetus or to promote fertility. Preparations to promote conception include such drugs as Clomid and the hormone preparation Primantron. Clomid does not attract sales tax, but it is not available on the pharmaceutical benefits list and is available through pharmacists only in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. In those States and that Territory the patient must pay $10 for this drug. Duphaston. which is also a hormone preparation and is sometimes used to promote fertility or to prevent abortion - I trust that the medical men in the chamber will not disagree with that because I have a friend who has undergone this treatmentcosts $19 for 100 tablets. So, the position is that the protection of the foetus is subject to financial penalty, quite apart from the cost of rearing a child, while prevention of conception and, therefore, prevention of the natural increase of Australian born children is subsidised by the taxpayer. 1 put it to the House that that is a double standard.
In addition, the pill has been in general use in Australia for over 10 years. Those who advocate its wider use - there are honourable members opposite who have done that tonight - say that it prevents the social distress of unwanted pregnancies. However, unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate births continue to rise at an accelerating rate. A survey conducted by a Brisbane medical group and reported in the ‘Australian’ last October shows that, of the 60 per cent of married women who have unplanned babies and who approve the pill, only 6 per cent found it too costly. Its subsidy by the taxpayer cannot even be justified on the grounds of control of the population growth. At a growth rate of 1.2 per cent, Australia is at the upper limit of population control in the developed countries of the world. I am not at all sure that future generations - this has been with us for only 10 years - will decide that the introduction of the contraceptive pill was beneficial to our society. Only last week there was a brief report in the
Australian Press concerning the staggering increase of venereal disease patients in Britain. I refer members to the report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 5th March which states:
Treatment clinics in Central Southern England had 13,090 new patients last year, more than 2,000 higher than in 1971 and including more teenagers. In the 4 years to 1971, the national incidence of VD rose by 70.04 per cent.
On the same day details of the position in Western Australia were published by the Department of Health in that State. Time will not permit me to read the whole article but I will read the important parts. The Acting Deputy Commissioner of Health in Western Australia stated:
Venereal disease is out of control. We have a big and serious problem. It is going to cost a lot of money and a long time to control.
He also said:
Changes in the chemistry of a woman taking the pill make her more receptive to the disease. A woman’s chance of catching VD if she is not taking the pill is reduced by about 40 per cent.
The point I am making is that perhaps future generations may not thank governments like ours for encouraging the use of the pill. My purpose in taking part in the debate has been simply to draw attention to the anomalies which are created in this legislation and which always are created when governments make decisions quickly without thinking out the consequences but simply to gain votes. We could have done it to gain votes but we did not. I wish we had, but I should have liked to have spent more time sorting out the anomalies. I agree with the abolition of this tax on contraceptives but I recommend that the Government look at the sales tax schedule thoroughly and eliminate some of the other anomalies I have mentioned. I also ask the Government to look at the other anomalies which exist in the treatment of women, which I have also mentioned.
The present policy is one of selective subsidising and is beneficial to only one section of the female population. If the Government is sincere in its expressed intention to improve the lot of women, it should ensure that it helps all and not just some. It should begin by considering the ways in which women are disadvantaged when competing with men. It should recognise the financial disability caused by basic female biological functions. In my view it should subsidise, for example, essential pharmaceutical items which all women are obliged to use rather than just subsidise the contraceptive pill. The pill is not yet compulsory medication in Australia. Under the ‘Big Brother’ socialist philosophy of the Australian Labor Party - spelt out by some honourable members tonight - some day I suppose it will be compulsory.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I start by reassuring any females who may have been listening to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) that one does not catch venereal disease only from taking the pill; there are other ways. I was interested to observe that the honourable member for Boothby noticed that the clock had stopped. He apparently takes some interest in the time but is not aware that it is 1973. The proposition put forward by the honourable member for Boothby seemed extremely confused. He trotted out all of the arguments against including oral contraceptives and other contraceptives in the pharmaceutical free list and for removing the sales tax on contraceptives and concluded by saying: ‘I support the measure. I wish we had introduced it earlier.’ That is certainly an interesting way of arguing. However I do not intend to deal with the arguments of the honourable member for Boothby because they were almost nonexistent.
I shall take only a few minutes in debating this Bill; I will not take up the 20 minutes available to me. This afternoon, interestingly, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), probably in his capacity as shadow Treasurer, spoke on this measure. I was impressed by the new speech writer who had written the first part of his speech because I certainly agree with the general proposition as expressed to that stage, namely, that the question of the abolition of the sales tax and the inclusion of oral contraceptives in the list of items available under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme was, of course, a focus of symbolical significance to women. There is no doubt about that even though sometimes, I must admit, as one who supported the abolition of sales tax and so forth, that I was somewhat depressed by reasonably intelligent women arguing the way the previous Government had argued, namely, that many people in the community who became pregnant were unable to take the pill because of the cost I do not accept that argument. The previous Government, of course, did accept that proposition and having accepted it decided not to include the pill on the pharmaceutical list. I find that rather remarkable. 1 draw attention to the costing by the previous Government of the Labor Party’s health scheme. This appeared in an answer by Dr Forbes to a question on notice last year. He was talking about the estimated cost of the Labor Party’s proposal to make oral contraceptives free as a pharmaceutical benefit. He claimed this would cost between $26m and $3 6m a year. Apparently the estimated cost has now dropped to $5m. To illustrate the main argument used then I quote from the answer of Dr Forbes as follows:
The estimate of the number of women who might use oral contraceptives if they were listed as benefits is based on a total population of women, 18 years to 45 years of age, at 31st December 1970 of 2,346,614.
It is estimated that at present between 700,000 and 725,000 women are using oral contraceptives.
It has been assumed that 50 per cent of women in the 18 to 45 years age group who do not at present use oral contraceptives would use them if they were free and that those at present using them would continue to use them.
On this basis it is estimated that a total of 1,536,000 women would use oral contraceptives if they were free.
This is a remarkable argument. The argument is that there were, according to the previous Government, about 815,000 women who were unable to use oral contraceptives even though they wanted to use them, because they did not have the money for them. The total cost of oral contraceptives, of course, is not exceedingly great. It was, as the Leader of the Opposition put it this afternoon, of symbolic significance only, though, as I said, I was rather depressed that some women seemed really to believe the facts as put by the then Government. The cost to women was somewhere between $1.25 and SI. 50 per month, or approximately 30c to 40c a week. I find it difficult to believe that there were about 815,000 women in Australia who wanted to use the pill and were unable to afford that amount. In fact, when I asked the then Minister in a follow up question the basis of the reasoned estimate, as he described it, given in an earlier answer which enabled him to say that an additional 824,000 Australian women would use oral contraceptives if they were available free as pharmaceutical benefits, the then Minister replied:
The estimate was based on an assessment of information provided … by the pharmaceutical industry on the number of women using oral contraceptives, statistics on the population of females . . . and Departmental experience related to the listing of new items as benefits and the removal of restrictions on existing benefits.
So the previous Government calculated the number of women who would use oral contraceptives, if they were included in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, on the same basis as it might calculate if aspirin or any other sort of tablet were included on the list Obviously it is a ridiculous method of calculating. I should like briefly to mention one other topic. I want to attack honourable members on this side of the House and on the other side, as well as the people who are not in the House at all, who are rabid supporters of the zero population growth movement. I do not attack them so much on the basis of what they argue. I think one can argue for or against their belief. Rather, I am concerned about the almost hysterical attitude that is developing among them. They now argue - to some extent one can support this sort of argument - that we might change the legislation dealing with abortion on the basis that a woman is entitled to say whether she wants to have babies. I think that is a reasonable argument. I do not accept it completely but at the same time I see it as a reasonable argument oh the part of women that they should have control and should be able to decide whether they are to be mothers, even at a stage when they have conceived. But I do not accept the proposition put up now that anyone who opposes ZPG is in fact attacking women’s rights.
I do not think women, or even men, in our society have any more right to tell other women that they should have children than they have to tell them that they should not have children. I strongly objected to the proposition which was current in this country and which certainly was current in places such as pre-war Germany where the state itself encouraged women to have children and where it insisted that it was in the national interest for them to do so. In countries such as Germany women were told that they should have children for the sake of the state. I strongly objected to that proposition. But on the same basis I also object to the proposition that to oppose the principle of ZPG is somehow an attack on the rights of women. This type of thinking comes into exactly the same category as telling women to have children. I think it is purely a personal matter for a woman to decide whether she is to have a child.
I think it is almost impossible to advance any reasonable argument in Australia to support the contention that a woman who has more than 2 children is harming this country. In any case, even if families with more than 2 children were harming this country I think that a woman is perfectly entitled to weigh the pluses and minuses and to come to her own decision. I wanted to raise the point in the House tonight that there are quite reasonable and intelligent people - and I am therefore surprised at their attitude - who will argue that there is some right on the part of the state to tell women not to have children, but will accept the proposition that there is no right on the part of a state to tell women to have children.
I commend the legislation before us to the House, if on no other basis than on the basis that sales tax on oral contraceptives and other contraceptives is a regressive form of taxation and I am therefore opposed to it. I believe that taxation as far as possible should be raised by the progressive method and that people such as the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) should pay more than people who are not so well off. I think that is a proposition which is terribly important. I support the proposition that we remove sales tax on contraceptives, as on most other items in our society.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and other speakers from this side of the House for the contributions they have made during the debate on this very important social question. The only fault that I can see with the legislation is that it should have been passed in this Parliament a long time ago. I was prompted to make a minor contribution in this debate by a recent visit I made to the Morisset Mental Hospital. I think it would be of benefit to all of us if we could find time occasionally to visit some of our mental institutions. I recently visited one of the State’s largest mental institutions-
– Some people say that this Parliament is one of the largest.
– I think the honourable member could make better interjections than that; he is capable of making more intelligent interjections; he is belittling himself by making such an unwise interjection. I think humour should be introduced at the right time and I do not think this is the appropriate time, when we are debating a matter of such importance to the Australian people and particularly to the low income group, for the honourable member to make such remarks. I venture to say that if this legislation had been on the statute book a lot earlier there probably would not have been so many tragic cases in the mental hospital that I recently visited. It was pointed out to me in conversations with senior members of the staff at this mental hospital that there are 2 or 3 sisters and 2 or 3 brothers who are inmates of the institution who probably would not have been there had their parents received family planning advice or been able to obtain contraceptives at a reasonable price. If legislation of this type had been in operation at that time the country would not have been burdened with the tragic mental cases that I saw in this hospital.
I regret to say that in all mental hospitals at times imbecile patients become pregnant to other patients. This legislation may remind those responsible for the administration of our mental hospitals of the great necessity to make contraceptives readily available to women who do not want to become mothers. Only last year I read in a document available to honourable members in the Parliamentary Library of a survey which was conducted by Swedish authorities into the cause of child delinquency. I believe that the findings which apply in Sweden could well apply to the same set of circumstances that exist in Australia or in any other Western democratic country. The Swedish research into child delinquency showed that 80 per cent of child delinquents in Sweden had been unwanted babies. As I said earlier, this legislation is long overdue. It was not introduced earlier because of the lethargic attitude of the previous Government, which did not apply its legislative programming to the needs of the poorer section of the community. The Liberal and Country Parties, as they generally are, were concerned about the wealthy section of the community and not the poorer section.
I know from experience in my previous calling that a tremendous number of delinquents who ultimately become professional criminals come from large families and in all probability were unwanted children who did not receive warmth or affection. I believe that whilst this measure will be of great benefit at this time in our history I certainly would not like to see a decline in the family unit in Australia because I believe that the family unit, with devoted parents showing proper and true affection to the number of children that they want, is the richest asset any country can possess. I do not think this measure will have the effect of reducing the family unit in Australia. My experience is that married couples who are childless, perhaps through no fault of their own, sometimes develop a form of selfishness and are more concerned with leading a poodle along the street than showing affection to young children. Many women in our society suffer mental disturbances or breakdowns because they cannot have a child.
I commend this legislation to the House. I believe that it is long overdue and that it will make a great contribution to people in the community who have played their part in bearing children, educating them, showing them loving warmth and training them in citizenship. It is appropriate that reasonably priced contraceptives should be within the means of people who, having done their duty to the nation, feel that they do not want more children. The Bill will achieve this.
– It is not only very encouraging but also I think very significant that the Opposition on this occasion is supporting the Bill. I think all Government supporters can agree with many of the Opposition speakers, particularly the honourable member for Boothy (Mr McLeay), that the legislation should have been introduced before now. It was the Government’s intention that the legislation should be brought before the Parliament with the most urgent haste and this has been done. I may now be able to answer a couple of points which were raised in the course of the debate. I shall certainly try to supply answers to honourable members who raised questions that cannot be answered at the moment.
The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) asked whether an exemption from sales tax would apply to male contraceptives. I am delighted to inform him that the answer is yes, the exemption will apply to all types of contraceptives. The honourable member also asked whether the basic chemical components, oestrogen and progesterone, from which the oral contraceptives are made, are subject to import duty. I have not been able to ascertain that but I will ensure that the answer is supplied to him. As the items are on the pharmaceutical benefits list the prices to consumers will not be affected one way or the other, whether or not they are subject to import duty.
The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) referred to the possibility of profit being made from metric conversion. There is an understandable concern in the community about possibilities of malpractice and there are misgivings and fears. There certainly have been reports of dubious practices. The honourable member quoted from some of these reports. As the Minister in charge of the Metric Conversion Board I can assure honourable members that every effort is being made to ensure that there are no malpractices. In fact a number of reports have been investigated very carefully and the investigations have not revealed any malpractices. That is not to say that the misgivings and fears that the community may have should be wiped aside. The community may be quite justifiably concerned. I appeal to honourable members who hear of any reports of malpractice or become aware of it to report it to me. I shall then give the matter my personal attention.
I think the metric conversion arrangements are proceeding very well. I compliment the former government for undertaking the program and for making the arrangements that are now working very efficiently. The Government hopes that the arrangements will continue in this way. Marked advances have been made. I think the conversion to the metric system in Australia is being carried out with the minimum of interference and dislocation.
I think that winds up the debate on this issue. Again I thank the Opposition for joining with the Government in support of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 53), on motion by Dr Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On any occasion when a measure is before the
House to relieve an obligation of a section of the community for the payment of excise, tariffs or taxes of any kind, it would be strange if most honourable members did not support it. It would be strange because the responsibility for financial management falls with the Government and in particular with the Treasury. It is their responsibility to determine where the funds are to be raised and where they will be allocated in the Budget. The Parliament debates programs which a government submits and the government normally listens to, approves or modifies the program which the Treasury submits to it. In this instance the Bill is not quite so clear cut. The legislation has been put forward because of an undertaking given during the election campaign by the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). A promise was made that the excise which was applied by the previous Government to wine would be totally removed.
When we were in government we did modify the wine tax as a result of our consideration of a report that was prepared by Professor J. McB. Grant and submitted to the then government in April 1972. There are, however, very real problems that the community needs to be conscious of when considering the implications of this Bill. First of all there is no doubt that the wine industry has been going through a process of change which affects it in many ways. I shall speak on some aspects of that change during my few words to the House tonight. I regard it as no more than political expediency on the part of the present Government to lift the excise in this way without at the same time looking at the fundamental problems which face the wine industry. I am afraid that it seems to me in respect of many sectors of our rural industries that there is a change of attitude by the present Government which seems to hold the view that because a measure is introduced into the House there is no need to worry about more significant problems that might affect the rural industries, directly or indirectly. In no industry is this comment more pertinent than it is in relation to wine. This Bill is, largely, a political exercise. I invite honourable members to compare the net worth of this exise with the duty that is collected on what one would see as the working man’s drink, that is the drink that most of us like in many circumstances in Australia. If we had a national drink I suppose it could be said to be more of that character than wine. I am referring to the excise on beer.
I am told that in the course of 1971-72 excise collections totalled S398.829m. That is a very significant sum of money. By comparison, under the 50c per gallon levy which initially was charged as excise on wine from 25th May 1972, about $ 11.5m was collected. After the reduction in excise from 50c a gallon to 25c a gallon Commonwealth revenue dropped approximately to half a million dollars in the period to its abolition.
In terms of the actual financial returns to the Government, there is no doubt that the excise on wine was nowhere near as significant as the excise charged on beer. I think that from that fact alone can be seen the political motivation which no doubt was in the mind of the then Leader of the Opposition when he gave the undertaking, during the course of his policy speech, to abolish the wine excise. To me this action reflects the concern which was then felt by the Labor Party as to its prospects in a couple of electorates in South Australia and one in southern New South Wales. I think that there is little doubt that the change that was introduced was a product of the Labor Party’s electoral concern that if it did not lift the wine excise it would not succeed in winning the seat of Riverina and possibly other seats which it was contesting.
At the same time, I think that it needs to be said that in our community there are groups of luxury items which traditionally have been turned to as areas from which revenues can be raised for the purpose of running the Government. I personally do not see why, if, for example, the tobacco industry, is regarded as an industry on which a levy should be charged for the purpose of raising funds for administering the Government, or if policy is that beer consumers should be taxed for their consumption of beer, other sectors of the community should be exempt. Indeed, I find it somewhat paradoxical that the Labor Party, which claims to represent the working classes, has ignored the claims of beer drinkers and has concentrated on the claims of the wine growers.
Nonetheless, I believe that irrespective of these changes we need to be conscious of some of the problems which exist in the wine industry. I should like now to turn for a few moments to the conclusions which Professor Grant reached in his examination of the circumstances affecting the Australian wine industry. His report essentially related to the impact of the excise tariff on the wine industry.
For some years wine grape producers have been expressing concern at the significant increase in the area of annual plantings. Of course, in some States the increase has been more spectacular than in others. In the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, for example, there has been a very significant introduction of new acreage. The increased plantings have brought with them quite new concepts in wine growing and wine marketing. In the period from December 1967 to December 1971 the number of acres of vineyard planted increased from 1,497 acres to 7,265 acres. That is a significant increase. Similarly, in other States where increases have occurred, the growth has reflected something of the changing pattern of the industry. But I think it is important to recognise that, because of the time lag between the planting of new vines and maturity of the crop when the grapes are, ready to come into full production, in looking only at the increase in acreage we do not see the full story. For example, in the whole of Australia’s wine producing areas - that is covering South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria- in 1969-70 the bearing acreage was 68,900 acres; the not yet bearing area was 17,800 acres. In 1970-71 the bearing area was 74,000 acres and the not yet bearing area was 21,700 acres. A very significant increase occurred in the acreage sown in Australia. This is part of the problem that has been affecting the small wine grape growers who have been spread through many of the more intensely settled areas of Australia. These growers have grown dual purpose grapes which are suitable for the wine industry or for the dried fruits industry or have produced grapes exclusively for the wineries. The wine excise caused them real concern as to where they were heading. 1 can recall that some 7 or 8 years ago representatives of wine grape growers came to me in my position as Minister assisting the then Minister for Trade and Industry to express concern at the direction in which their industry was heading. It is not just the matter, however, of increased acreage which creates difficulties in the wine industry. There have been particular problems arising from what is known as the vertical integration of the industry. It is in this area that some of the most notable changes are coming. I regard the vertical integration scheme in many respects as a healthy factor in the industry as long as it in no way prejudices the opportunity for continued sales by those small wine grape growers who are efficient producers. The difficulty in vertical integration is that the production of a large number of smaller growers traditionally has been sold through co-operatives by way of bulk wines to proprietary wineries. The proprietary wineries, because of the changing tastes for wine, the changing types of wine which have been produced and the increase in consumption, have, found that there was a distinct advantage for them in not only buying bulk wines but preferably in producing their own wines. Most of the proprietary wineries increasingly have moved into the field of producing thenown wine grapes and having been purchasing only that residual amount which they could not produce. This, of course, has created for the co-operatives and the bulk wine producers the problem of finding alternative outlets for their product. At a time when acreage was increasing, it was important that the annual level of sales was able to accommodate the additional annual pickings. When there was for any reason a cut back in the level of increase of sales immediately the pressure affected the co-operatives more acutely and, of course, the small wine grape growers who supplied to them.
I think one of the fundamental observations that comes out of the Grant Report was that it was true at the time of the levying of the excise that many of these factors were just falling into something of a balance. The increased price that resulted from the application of the excise did mean a slowing down in the rate of increase of wine sales. But let me assure the House that if honourable members care to look at the actual figures for sales they will see that in fact there was not a falling off in the volume of sales to the degree to which some honourable members have suggested. In table 1.5 in the Grant Report - I will read some but not all of the figures to the House - it can be seen in the field of both fortified wines and unfortified wines that the consequences were rather a falling off in the rate of increase than an actual reduction in the volume of sales. Coming as this did at the time when acreage was increasing and when the vertical integration program and the proprietary wineries were creating greater problems for the bulk wineries in selling their products, it created acute problems, particularly for the Murray River co-operatives.
It is interesting to look also at some of the consequences of the increase in acreage in terms of the additional storage facilities which wineries had to install. The natural result of an expansion of the industry was that the wineries found that it was absolutely essential for them to have greater storage capacities in order to be able to handle the increased acreage and increased gallonage which they would handle. In his figures Professor Grant gives an estimate of the increased storage capacity of the industry as a whole for the 1971-72 period as approximately 4.75 million gallons. Professor Grant points out that this figure is significantly below the 6 million gallons per annum that the industry was finding it necessary to provide to meet the rate of increase prior to the introduction of the excise.
The problem of additional storage was twofold. First of all it meant that in a good season there would be the problem of trying to dispose of a surplus crop. In addition there was the problem of the capital expenditure in providing the storage and the pressures which came on the wineries, if they were unable to meet the level of sales and so keep their cash turnover, in order to meet their commitments on capital expenditure. All these things took place at a time when the excise was levied and as a result the Murray River co-operatives were particularly affected.
Looking at the circumstances one needs to see the difficulties that these wineries suffered and try to see where we should go in the future. From an examination of the Grant report one fact which does emerge is that whilst it is true that at the time of the increase in price as a result of the excise and the application of the retail price markup onto the excise itself there was a falling off in the volume of domestic sales. It is also true that this progressively began to disappear. In other words, the rate of increase of sales was improving right throughout last year and by the time the 25c reduction was made by the previous Government the volume of sales was in fact very much back to normal. If one looks at the actual statistics of sales today I have no doubt that the customs clearances will demonstrate that since the December period when the 25c reduction was made until the consideration of this Bill today there has been a further stimulus in sales. However, the price today is higher than after the excise was introduced.
It is interesting to note the prices on a range of products. I do not want to specify the proprietary brands. I will give the recommended retail prices for wines selected at random. At the time the excise was introduced in August 1970 the price level for one company’s dry red was $4.07. When the excise was halved in May 1972 the price fell to $4.02. When the excise was removed, after Labor came to office, the price fell but there has since been an increase to $4.50. Let me take another product, a dry white. At the time of the introduction of the excise the price was $1.14 a bottle. When the excise was introduced the price rose to $1.20 but fell to $1.15 when the excise was halved. But the price fell again immediately after the removal of the excise when the Labor Party took over government in December. When the excise was removed the price was $1.10 but today the price is up to $1.20. The price for a bottle of champagne was $3.60 when the excise was introduced. When the excise was halved the price fell to $3.55. When the excise was removed the price fell to $3.50 but the price of that champagne today has gone up to $3.60. Another product is fortified tourney brandy. When the excise was introduced the price was increased to $1.90 and when the excise was halved it fell to $1.85. Today the price is again $1.85.
It is apparent that consequent upon those price changes costs in the industry have caused wineries some difficulties in maintaining continually the price level at which they were originally offering wines. But it is equally true that if we look at the volume of sales and say that the price of wines sold in bottles or flagons is a significant factor in determining the volume of sales then prices today are generally above those which prevailed immediately after the introduction of excise, yet the level of sales today is significantly greater. So I submit that price alone is not the only factor that we need to look at in terms of the level of sales or the volume of sales.
A problem which comes out of an examination of the Grant report with respect to the Murray River co-operatives is that they are very heavily dependent on the domestic market. Because they sell such a large percentage of their product in the form of flagons and bulk wines, it is quite apparent that they need to look at ways and means by which they can expand their local sales. Many of them have been in some difficulty in financing adequately the level of sales which is necessary if they are not going to be able to supply bulk wines to proprietary wineries. I think it would be Interesting for this House to bear what program the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has. Perhaps his representative in this House or the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is seated at the table, may be able to find out whether there has been any examination of the current circumstances facing wine co-operatives in the Murray region. This might determine whether they are adequately financed in terms of the necessity for them to increase direct selling and to ascertain whether there is a need for the Government to assist these co-operatives to obtain the necessary capital to provide them with the facilities to enable them to compete with the proprietary wineries in the marketing of wine not only in Australia but also overseas.
It is true that in recent months some cooperatives have been perhaps more successful than others. In one area I believe there is still a co-operative which is in real difficulties in terms of its future capacity to finance improved direct selling. Yet it is only by improved direct selling that the fundamental problems of the industry will be solved. It is not just by removing a wine excise. This wine excise measure is a device for political purposes and will not fundamentally change the circumstances of the wine grape growers or of these co-operative wineries. It seems to me that in dealing with a measure such as this we need to be told, concurrently with our examination of what is being done in this measure, what efforts are going to be made to help those co-operatives in other ways.
The other area in which I believe there is a necessity for some consideration is the general implications in the changed structure of the industry and of the problems in marketing abroad. There is an extremely interesting chart set out at page 73 of the Grant report. It sets out the brief record of the takeovers and major share acquisitions in the wine industry. It shows that there has been a lot of new capital invested in the industry in recent years. I think a lot of this new capital is good for the industry. It has brought new knowhow and it has certainly brought new marketing techniques into the industry. It has helped a lot of the under-capitalised wineries to pay a higher price for their wine grapes and to increase their volume of production and generally to improve the product. This is an important area of consumer preference. It is a product of the migration program of postwar years that the consumtpion of wine domestically is a more and more important part of our daily diet. For that reason it is important that the wine we produce is of as high a standard as is possible. But of course with increased volume of production the old personalised techniques of the early wine makers cannot be afforded and if the new mechanised techniques are to be applied then they should be capable of still producing a high quality product.
One of the things that has happened m the structural changes in the proprietary companies is that there has been a great deal of finance invested in companies which previously were to a considerable degree locked in because families were involved over a successive number of generations and as a result of the death of one or another of the early members of the family it was not possible to apply large amounts of capital to develop or to change the basic operation of the former family based company. In his report Professor Grant refers to 3 implications of changes in the production and marketing structure of the industry. He speaks of the rapid increase in new plantings of vines, to which I have referred, particularly from 1968 to 1969, much of this being undertaken by wineries, by companies associated with wineries and by companies which plan to establish wineries. So there was that emphasis on the vertical integration to which I referred. Secondly, since 1970 there have been many takeovers of wine makers by companies established in other fields. In other words, merchandising and marketing techniques from outside were being applied to an industry which in the past had been largely family orientated. The third change referred to was that a number of Australian States have revised their licensing laws. In New South Wales and Victoria there have been relative increases in the number of licensed retail stores. So the character of the market and the industry has changed in those significant ways.
In the domestic field the industry is still faced with real problems. From an examination of the statistics in the grant report I do not believe that those problems can be solved just by the lifting of the excise. Similarly there are problems in exports. Without going into the full detail of them let me say that in recent years there has been a significant decline in the volume of our exports to the United Kingdom. The table on page 94 of the Grant report shows that over the course of the years the volume of exports has been pretty static. It has declined from a peak of 1,997,000 gallons in 1964-65 to 1,296,000 gallons in 1969-70, with a slight increase in 1970-71 and an approximately static position in 1971-72. So with those figures going down and with the implications of the decline in the British market we are faced with very real problems.
There is no doubt that Australian wines on the British market were generally low priced wines, many of them not being of as high a quality as those consumed on the domestic market. As a result, Spain, Cyprus and other countries benefiting from the devaluation of their currencies were able to gain improved access. The combination of currency adjustment and entry into the European Economic Community has meant very real problems for the wine industry in relation to its ability to sell the same quantity of wine in the United Kingdom as it used to sell. Of course, there are opportunities for market sales. I was interested to read in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ that Mr G. S. Hargrave, the export manager of Thomas Hardy and Sons Pty Ltd spoke of what he saw as an apparent wine boom in the North American market. He said that the American market is a huge one in area and in population, and probably it would be better to market in pockets rather than attempt a national compaign. He spoke of Australian wine companies’ domestic labels requiring modification to meet requirements in the United States and Canada. He spoke of varietal grape names being favoured rather than the better known generic or geographical names used in Australia. He said:
It is incorrect to assume that it is a complete sellers’ market.
Then he continued:
Other governments support their wine industry in foreign markets - Australia must be prepared to do the same thing and not rely on individual exporting companies to carry the entire burden.
When I, on behalf of the previous Government, lifted half the then excise on wine I gave an undertaking to the industry that the Government would look at ways in which market development assistance could be given in an added measure to the wine industry. We in the Liberal and Country Parties recognised the difficulties which the industry was going to face in marketing its product abroad. We gave an undertaking that we would try to find ways and means by which we could increase the assistance the Government was giving so that the industry would be able to take better opportunities in the overseas market than it had up to that date. Individual companies have been doing an excellent job.
Let me hark back to the problem of the bulk wine producers such as the Murray River co-operatives. The ability of those companies to take advantage of the American market is very limited. Their ability to do so without some access to additional capital is almost nil. This measure will in no way assist those companies to overcome their fundamental problems. It will not assist them to increase their share of the domestic market, to improve their technique of sale on the domestic market, to improve their opportunity for access to markets abroad or give them a chance to get in on the American market. If one looks at the statistics - which also come from the Grant report - of the constant increase in the imports of wine from all sources, one sees that the future for the industry is not without its very dark clouds. I believe that a political device such as this Bill is not the only way in which the industry can be helped. On the other hand, this measure is one which has for a long time clouded the whole of the field of the problems of the industry.
Many people, particularly those who are now in government, have gone around and preached to wine grape growers that the excise alone was the source of their problems. They have said that, because of the application of the excise by the earlier Government, their industry was in difficulties. They failed to look ahead and see the consequences of change on the industry and of the vertical integration of which I have spoken. On behalf of the Opposition, while supporting this Bill, I urge the Government to look more closely at the fundamental difficulties which this industry, among other primary industries, faces in the future. If the Government continues to ignore those real needs, I believe that the problems of the future for this industry will be very grave indeed.
– I listened with great interest to the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). I agree substantially with his submissions. From his experience as Minister for Primary Industry in the previous Government no doubt he learned a lot about the problems of the wine industry in Australia, which he was able to relate to the House. In his concluding remarks he foreshadowed a very dark future for the wine industry. I hope he is incorrect in that forecast because in the Hunter electorate, which I represent, there has been an upsurge in grape growing and there has been almost a 200 per cent increase in vine planting in the last 2 or 3 years. This vine planting has taken place on the border of the Hunter electorate and the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), in the Branxton region. Both of our electorates - the Hunter electorate in particular - are suffering economically because of the uncertainty in the coal mining industry in that region concerning exports of coking coal to Japan.
I and many others have been hoping that the wine industry, particularly in the Hunter Valley, will grow with increasing strength and create more employment in the region. Some 5 or 10 years ago there were about 1,300 acres of grapes under cultivation in the Hunter Valley. In recent times this has increased to nearly 13,000 acres. It is true, as was said by the honourable member for New England, that in the early times of grape growing in Australia - and in the Hunter Valley - mainly family combinations followed the profession. But in recent times in my electorate and in other parts of Australia there has been an intrusion by gigantic companies into the wine industry. I am unable to say whether in the long term this will be a good thing. It is probably true, as the honourable member for New England said, that the substantial wealth of the big companies interesting themselves in the wine growing industry has enabled the promotion of wine sales in this country and overseas. An article in today’s Sydney ‘Daily Mirror* appears under the headline: ‘Aussie wine exports will double this year’. It reads as follows:
Australian wine exports to the US were expected to double this year, the export manager of Kaiser Stuhl, Mr H. Palmer, said today.
– How old is that statement?
– It is in today’s ‘Daily Mirror’. That statement seems to be in conflict with the dark shadows cast on the future of the industry by the honourable member for New England. The article also stated:
Mr Palmer said Australia exported from 5,000 to 15,000 gallons of wine to the US every year from 1960 to 1970.
Earlier it had stated:
Americans bought only $50,000 worth of Australian wines during 1971, but sales increased to $250,000 last year.
That is a remarkable upsurge in purchases of Australian wines by the United States. Apparently the United States agrees that Australian wines are equal in quality to but cheaper than the best European wines. I was gratified to read that statement because it could bring about a stimulus in the wine producing areas of the nation, particularly in the Hunter Valley area of New South Wales. The history of wine growing in Australia shows that New South Wales was the first State to produce wine. That was in the Parramatta region. From knowledge of wine growing in the Hunter Valley, it was not looked upon as a lucrative profession, amazing as it may sound, until 10 or 15 years ago when there was an upsurge in wine consumption by Australians. In my view this was brought about by new Australians from European countries introducing one of their customs. The number of Australians drinking wine with their meals has increased gradually. While I have not the figures on hand, there has been a remarkable upsurge, I think all honourable members would agree, in the consumption of Australian wines by Australians.
As I said, wine growing was not looked upon as a lucrative profession until 10 or 15 years ago, but it must have been a lucrative profession in the early days. Two of the names that are synonymous with the industry are Lindeman and Penfold. Dr Penfold and Dr Lindeman arrived here from England in the early part of the 19th century - about 1830 - and abandoned the medical profession to produce wine. That is different from what members of the medical profession would do today. Doctors would not leave their professions to grow grapes for wine production. That is the history. The Hunter Valley area has some of the old established names that have been in the wine industry for years. The product of one of them - Lindemans - received royal patronage today at the luncheon for the Duke of Edinburgh.
– The first cab off the rank.
– The first cab off the rank, as the honourable member for Braddon said. Frequently Hunter Valley wines receive patronage when a member of the royal family is entertained in Canberra by the Parliament. I do not intend to dwell much longer on the subject, apart from mentioning some of the long established family names in the wine industry in the Hunter Valley. I refer to the Lindemans, Tullochs, Mcwilliams, Tyrells Draytons and Elliotts. Whilst I agree substantially with the submissions of the honourable member for New England, I hope that his forecast that the future of the wine industry is shadowed by dark clouds is incorrect, for the benefit of those people in my electorate who depend so much on the wine industry for employment at a time when the future of the coal industry is gloomy or dark and appears to be getting darker. I support the Government’s proposal to abolish the excise duty on Australian wines. It was with deep regret that we learnt that when the Government was showing some consideration for the industry the wine producers increased the prices of their products. That is not a mark of gratitude or appreciation by the wine producers for the attitude of members of the Parliament.
– I was most interested to hear the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) say that he agreed substantially with the submissions of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). I thought that the honourable member for New England made a very good and very penetrating speech. The essence of what the honourable member for New England said - I share his view - was that the removal of the wine excise was a shallow political trick by the Australian Labor Party and that that Party had ignored completely the really important and fundamental problems of the industry. The honourable member for Hunter said that he agreed substantially with those submissions. I do not know whether he understood what the honourable member for New England said, but I think it is good to have it on record that he agreed substantially with those submissions. I certainly agree with them. I do not oppose the legislation; indeed, I support it.
I take this opportunity- one of the first I have had, I might say - to refer to the Australian Labor Party’s approach to this general matter because over a number of years now I have had to sit in silence and listen to the sheer hypocrisy uttered by honourable gentlemen opposite on this matter. Their approach to it is typical of their approach to any matter affecting the well-being of an Australian rural industry. If political capital cannot be gained out of it, they are not interested. Because of the understandable reaction of the industry to the imposition of the excise, members of the Labor Party saw the whole problem, from the beginning to this moment, purely in terms of votes. That point was made by my friend, the honourable member for New England. I cannot remember members of the Labor Party ever exhibiting the slightest interest in or knowledge of the industry during any of the debates which took place in the previous Parliament. The wellbeing of the industry was the last thing that ever entered their heads. What analysis of the problems of the industry did they make before committing themselves to the removal of the excise? I submit none whatsoever. Not a single glimmer appears in the second reading speech of an indication that here is an industry with problems. I hold in my hand a copy of the second reading speech. I have never in my time in this Parliament read a second reading speech with such a disgraceful paucity of detail and with no recognition that here is a great and important industry in relation to which any government should have framed constructive policies and announced them to the House. But instead of this the Government gave us a speech of about 10 lines doing nothing more than announcing its intention to remove the excise.
If the second reading speech and the blatant political tactics of the Australian Labor Party in Opposition are not enough to drive home the point that I am making, let me instance the activities of the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, in the period prior to the last Federal election. Let me instance what this gentleman - I will not call him honourable - did. Incidentally, my friend the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has done more for the benefit of this industry than the whole of the honourable gentleman on the other side put together. The Premier of South Australia engaged in the most blatant act of political bribery that I have ever encountered. He wrote to the wineries and grape growers in South Australia and others connected with the industry, saying, in effect: ‘You contribute to the Labor Party’s funds and we will use our influence to get the excise removed’. These are the precise terms of his letter.
– You are completely objectionable.
– He said ‘If you don’t believe me’ - and he had some grounds for feeling that these people would not believe it-
– Say it outside the House.
– He said: If you don’t believe me send a cheque for Labor Party funds payable if the policy speech delivers the goods, if the undertaking to remove the wine excise is in the policy speech’. I am delighted to find that some of the honourable gentlemen opposite, including new members of this House, have decent enough basic instincts to indicate by their interjections that they do not believe what I have just said. By implication the indication that they do not believe it is an indication that they disapprove of these sorts of tactics as much as I do.
– Say it outside the House.
– I have not got the letter with me but I would be glad to put into the honourable gentleman’s hands a copy of it. The honourable member for Angas has actually published it, so it is on public record. I can assure the Government that these contemptible tactics by the Premier of South Australia left a very sour taste in the mouths of most of the people in the wine industry whom I have encountered, and of course they were completely counter productive from their point of view. There are 3 wine growing areas in South Australia, the principal one being in the electorate of Angas and the others being in the electorate of Wakefield and the electorate represented by myself. All the members representing these electorates are back in this Parliament, having retained our majorities, if not increased them.
– Do not forget some of the urban electorates.
– Yes, but you do not grow wine. By contrast to this sort of approach to the wine industry, the approach of the Liberal and Country Parties while in office was different. When the industry indicated that imposition of the excise was causing problems the Government responded, as the honourable member for New England said, by setting up the Grant inquiry. It did this because advice available to us indicated that many of the difficulties facing the industry sprang from causes other than the excise, and the Grant Committee confirmed this view, as anybody who has read the report knows. It indicated that rate of plantings, vertical integration and problems of overseas marketing, to mention only a few, all of which were dealt with in some detail by the honourable member for New England tonight, were affecting various sectors of the industry and that all of this had created real difficulties. When the former Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for New England, announced the halving of the excise he announced also a series of constructive inquiries and endeavours designed to meet the industry’s problems. Some of these foreshadowed expenditure probably a great deal in excess of that foregone in excise. The point I make is that these problems remain. They still overshadow the prosperity of the industry to a much greater extent than the excise ever did. What is the Government going to do about it? If it is to do anything, it has not said anything about it. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is sitting at the table looking as if he will give forth. Perhaps he will tell us. Perhaps he will give us the wine equivalent of the $500m at 3 per cent. Will he give us tonight the wine equivalent of the $500m at 3 per cent? This was officially denied by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in question time the other day.
Those of us on this side of the House who represent wine producing electorates - the honourable member for Angas, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and others - will be doing everything in our power to force the Government to go beyond the politically motivated froth and bubble of the excise as contained in the second reading speech to this Bill and get down to the hard yakka of the really important problems of the industry. Let it tell us what it is going to do. I would like to conclude by saying something about the completely unjustified attacks on the industry by the Attorney-General in another place, Senator Murphy, in accusing the industry of not passing on excise reductions, and about the deliberate and malicious attempt by him and other people to relate general price increases based on cost pressures to the actions of the Government in reducing excise. It is typical of the Australian Labor Party and it was typical of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) to poke the finger of scorn tonight at the wine industry and say: They are not behaving like good boys and they are not grateful for all we have done for them in removing the excise’. This is typical of the attitude of the Labor Party. But it encourages and promotes all sorts of actions affecting the economy as a whole, such as unlimited wage increases, the 35hour week, 4 weeks annual leave and many others.
– Yes, revaluation, which produces enormous cost pressures on the industry. Then honourable members opposite turn around, on the grounds that they have made a paltry gesture in relation to the excise, and berate the industry because it is forced to increase its prices.
I want to put the record straight about what has been the situation in the wine industry. I quote the manager of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers’ Council. Mr G. M. Nettelbeck who said on 4th March:
The whole of the Australian wine industry is now paying$3. 1m a year more in wages than in 1970, $2.9m more for grapes, and $2.lm more for bottle! a total of $8.lm.
Mr Nettelbeck said:
Wage rates in the industry since 1970 had risen by from 24 per cent to 37 per cent.
In his statement, he also made the point that all makers had reduced prices when the excise was halved and again when it was wiped out. But. in relation to cost increases of that order, gestures promoted by the Government of the Order contained in this Bill are tiny. How can the industry be expected to hold its prices indefinitely in some cases, for almost as long as the period since members of this Parliament have bad a salary increase? They cannot be expected to do it indefinitely.
To drive this point home, rather than making a general statement about the wine industry as a whole, I should like to quote to the House a letter I received from an independent wine grower in my electorate. I will not mention the name of the company which, although it is small, is a household name in Australia for the quality of its wines. In writing to me the managing director of the winery said:
In our own case, except for one or two lines, our main sellers have remained at $8.60 per dozen (plus duty when applicable) to distributors for reds and 87.70 for whites since 1968.
He goes on to say:
Since 1968 the standard wage for a cellarhand and a vineyard worker has risen from $41 to $59.80 (or 46 per cent) and we are faced with further increases in the national wage this month and again in our industry at the end of June. Bottles and cartons have risen approximately 20 per cent in the last 3 years.
Yet people in this Government the Attorney General, to mention one have had the hide to criticise the wine industry. The honourable member for Hunter tonight had the hide to criticise the wine industry and to accuse it of ingratitude when, in an environment of cost increases of that magnitude, the industry increased its prices, despite the fact that the present Government had made this gesture in relation to the removal of the excise.
This sort of criticism is almost as irrelevant and as damaging as the action of the Premier of South Australia the other day when, wanting to make a headline in the atmosphere of an impending State election, he said: ‘My Government will legislate to stop the small wineries in this State being taken over’. Just let me analyse that statement. The wineries about which Mr Dunstan was speaking are all privately owned. They can be taken over only by the voluntary action of the people concerned.
– Economic squeeze.
– They will be pushed out by the actions of the honourable member’s Government and the actions of Mr Dunstan’s Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armifage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This measure has come before the House of Representatives to implement a promise that was given by this Government. I remind the House, particularly members of the Opposition, that we are removing a tax or an impost on an industry which the industry resisted in every way possible which impost was actually put on by the members of the present Opposition when they were in government. They had the power and they imposed it. What we have heard tonight has been an incredible alibi by 2 ex- ministers of the previous Government which imposed this measure.
Let us note what these honourable members said about this measure tonight in trying to cover up their sins of omission and commission. If there were a prize for red herrings dipped in sour wine from sour grapes, the honourable members opposite who spoke tonight deserve that prize. The honourable members for New England (Mr Sinclair) and Barker (Dr Forbes) said that the removal of the wine tax was a shabby political trick. These were the people who represented the industry which they themselves hurt by the actions of their government. They defied every section of the industry. They ignored the advice that was tendered to them by their own advisers. They ignored every plea that was made in this Parliament by members of the then Opposition who now are in Government. We were ignored and ridiculed and, of course, the honourable member for Barker then sat monumentally silent. But tonight he comes in like a roaring lion to criticise an action of this Government to fulfil the wishes of an industry that he represents. He ignored every appeal that was made by this industry and yet he came in to the chamber tonight, having ignored the Australian Wine Board, the Federal Grape Growers Council and the members of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which gave him and his government expert advice.
The former Government, of course, recognising that it had created difficulties in the industry and succumbing to the pressure of the then Opposition, decided to halve the excise. It could not quite find it in its heart to set the entire excise to one side because that would have been an admission that the Government of the day had been wrong in the first place. Honourable members opposite know very well tonight that they were wrong and all of this humbug - that is what it is; absolute humbug - that they have been trotting out for the last hour is to disguise the fact that they made a mistake and that they were guilty. Honourable members opposite have come into this chamber not to oppose this Bill; they are not going to follow through their criticism of what they have been pleased to call a shabby political trick. They will sit quietly and accept the benefits conferred by the Government on the industries they claim to represent. That is what they will do. 1 think it is worth while analysing some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). He said that this tax was not a very important one. When he said that, of course, he went back on every piece of advice that had been tendered by the industry and by the former Government’s own experts at that time. He said that it did not yield very much in revenue. He sounded like members of the
Opposition of last year who were telling him that in a Budget of $ 10,000m the miserable amount of money that was represented by this tax did not make very much difference to the revenues of the Commonwealth but made a great deal of difference to the viability of an industry which, up to that time, was not in trouble. But the then Government imposed the tax and the industry was in trouble.
The Government is being criticised tonight for listening to the voices of the industry. Of course it listened to them and it did what it was requested to do and as it agreed to do. That was the honourable course the Government took. It took it quickly and is implementing it in the Parliament tonight.
It has been suggested, of course, that there are other problems to be tackled in the industry but it has also been suggested that we should ignore the fact that the last Government, by its action, opened the doors to price racketeers. There has been no mention of them tonight by Opposition members. Presumably they approve of price racketeering and yet one of the most distinguished wine makers in our country went to one of these places, sat down and ordered a bottle of his own product and was charged 3) times its cost. He was indignant and protested. He said that the then Government should look at the situation. I might say that the present Government will do so. It has organs to have a look at these price racketeers. It will have a prices justification tribunal. It will have a select committee on prices and will be looking carefully at price racketeers in the future. Perhaps we will hurt the friends of Opposition members who have not made any criticisms at all of advantage being taken of an industry and a product.
I remind honourable members opposite that it was members of the present Government in the House of Representatives who constantly raised this matter in the Parliament and as long ago as 1970, when the impost was first introduced. We opposed it and we voted against it on every single occasion that we had the opportunity to do so and we presented evidence in detail. It is with great pride that members of the Government who are assembled here can come forward and say: ‘This is our measure - a measure that is wanted by the industry’. It is also common sense in relation to the industry’s needs. We have no need to apologise for our action as does the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) who retreats in disorder, perhaps to pick up his prize as the herring stewed in sour grapes.
– You would drive anybody out.
– The honourable member for Wimmera interjects the voice of the countryside; the man who voted 3 times for an impost on his own fellow primary producers. He is an historical hangover of a defeated and discredited government. I might say that when one heard the intemperance of the language used by the former ministers one could appreciate that what they were trying to do was to find an alibi for their own actions. I seem to recall a reference to the fact that the industry has other problems. Of course the industry has other problems, but they were stimulated by the actions of the previous Government, now the Opposition. I sum up by saying that honourable members on this side of the House have a clear conscience in this matter. We have heeded the voice of an industry that was in trouble. We have heeded the common sense of the people who had advised the previous Government and who now advise us. They said to the previous Government: ‘Do not do it’, but it did it and the only alibi given by the honourable member for New England was that the brewers were suffering the poor suffering brewers. That is a very interesting new axis that we are hearing about from the present Opposition and I look forward to hearing more of it in the future.
It is with pride that I say on behalf of all supporters of the Government who fought this impost that one of the first measures we, as a Government, were pledged to bring in was to do away with the tax. I am delighted to have the opportunity on behalf of the people I represent in Riverina the largest wine district in New South Wales of supporting the Bill with great enthusiasm.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . ..13
– Order! The honourable member will not address the Chair during a division.
– If I put my hand on my head I will.
– Order! The honourable member has no right to address the Chair during a division.
– I want to draw your attention-
-Order! If the honourable member does not desist I will have to deal with him.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! The question now is that the Bill be now read a second time. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. Is a division required? Ring the bells. (The Bells being rung)
– I ask that the division be called off. The Opposition member in charge of the House did not ask for a division.
– Any 2 members may call for a division. Two members called for a division. The division may be called off with leave of the House. I ask those who wish to have a division to rise in their places. If 2 members rise the division will continue. As no members who are in the minority rose requesting a division, no division is required. I have given a ruling and if any member wishes to dissent from it he is free to do so. I repeat that no division is required.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Order! It being past 10.15 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to talk about a matter which I believe is very important to many people in the rural areas of this country who would look to this Government to give some support to them in the position in which they find themselves. I refer to workers engaged in the kangaroo industry. I would like to draw this matter to the attention of supporters of the Government who represent areas where the kangaroo is a problem. I hope that these honourable members will have the honesty and courage of their convictions to support the arguments that I will make in connection with the ban which has been imposed by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) in another place on the export of kangaroo skins. He said that the ban could have been implemented much sooner, but the fact is that a ban has not been in force. The Minister spoke of this ban as though it had just been adopted and he has fixed the date from which the ban will apply. There has been a meeting of State Ministers on this subject, but I believe that it was almost farcical to hold the meeting because the decision was taken before the meeting was held. I do not think that whatever happened at that meeting would have made any difference to the decision that was made by the Government. I say that with some degree of certainty in my mind. However, the meeting was called and it was decided to oppose the uncontrolled harvesting of kangaroos and related species. Everybody wanted that. There has been no argument about that. The meeting recognised that for conservation purposes selective culling or harvesting of certain species of macropods may be a legitimate management practice. I agree that it is a legitimate management practice.
The meeting agreed that a scientifically acceptable range of data gathering and control measures be drawn up to regulate culling or harvesting throughout Australia in the interests of conservation of the species and the general environment. The House appointed a select committee composed of Government and Opposition members to inquire into that matter under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). Full opportunity was given for evidence to be taken and a very worthwhile report was tabled. 1 pay tribute to .ill members of that committee for the sincerity of purpose with which they faced up to the task that was entrusted to them.
Now we find that a Minister in another place who certainly knows nothing about kangaroos has stepped in, taken the matter into his own hands and made a decision which is in direct contradiction to the best evidence that was available to him. He prefers to take the advice of some academic who knows as little about the kangaroo problem as the Minister himself does. The Minister had advice from the House of Representatives Select Committee, the membership of which included a number of members of his own Party who put in a great deal of time and made a very thorough examination. The matter was dealt with very effectively by that Committee.
Members of the last Parliament will recall the very conscientious way in which the honourable member for Henty brought forward, day after day, representations from people in his own area calling for a restriction on the export of kangaroos and kangaroo products. As Chairman he travelled with the committee and concurred with its very sensible findings. One finding of the committee stated:
That the imposition of a Commonwealth ban on the export of kangaroo products would not of itself ensure the conservation of kangaroos. Reduction of numbers would still be necessary. If not carried out by the industry this would need to be done by property owners, or by State wildlife authorities at public expense.
Do members of that Committee still subscribe to that finding? 1 feel sure that they do. The Committee further stated:
That although repugnant to some sections of the community, spotlight shooting wilh rifles equipped with telescopic sights is the most effective and humane method of killing kangaroos.
There is no question on that point. The committee further stated:
That areas where overharvesting appears to be occurring should be zoned and spelled until trends in the local kangaroo population can be assessed.
We all agree with that finding; there is no argument about it. Another finding of the committee was:
That much confusion exists about the degree of competition between kangaroos and domestic stock for feed. Wildlife scientists made it clear that in good conditions kangaroos and sheep can co-exist as their diets overlap to the extent of only about 40 per cent. Unfortunately many conservationists have extended this rinding to all conditions. The committee accepts that complaints by pastoralists and graziers of the effect of kangaroos on pastures have some justification. In adverse conditions competition increases for scarce fodder resources. It is most serious when kangaroos eat out pastures being spelled for stock.
Another point 1 wish to make is that between 600,000 and 700,000 kangaroos were harvested in Queensland last year. Yet we are told that this species is in danger of extinction. I hope that the House takes some notice of that. The wildlife conservation authorities in Queensland, who are charged with the responsibility of preserving these species and ensuring that they are not brought to extinction, have claimed that one million kangaroos could be harvested in Queensland alone without necessarily endangering the species. The State government has the responsibility of ensuring that kangaroos are kept to reasonable numbers in that State. A harvest of between 600,000 and 700,000 has enabled the species to survive in large numbers.
I should say also that the people engaged in the industry - in fact the whole industry - might have expected some support from hon ourable members opposite as they are anxious to maintain their industry on a continuing basis. Sufficient kangaroos are available for the industry to continue. St George, which is one of the towns where the kangaroo industry operates, is receiving no less than Sim annually as a result of this industry. This is a tremendous help to an area which has suffered severely from drought and previously low wool prices. A completely absurd restriction has been placed on these people. It is a hasty, ill-considered, unnecessary and unwarranted decision. 1 hope that some reasonable common sense will emanate from the decisions that were made by the committee. I do not blame all people, or al] Ministers, who are involved in this matter. Some have a more sensible approach than that of Senator Murphy, the Minister for Customs and Excise. 1 believe that perhaps some common sense will prevail aDd I hope that the Australian Labor Party will not allow Senator Murphy to take advice from academics only and ride roughshod over the representatives of people engaged in the kangaroo industry.
-! speak tonight because I feel it is time that the wool industry in Australia realised that decisions are made in this Parliament in respect of that industry and that the Government will not follow the traditional practice of allow’ ng policy decisions to be made outside this place. Within the last few weeks a report produced by the wool industry on the subject of the objective measurement of wool in Australia has been released. 1 do not think many honourable members have seen the report which involved the expenditure of $1.5m of Commonwealth funds. The report was paid for with Commonwealth money, but apparently the Australian Wool Corporation did not consider it necessary to release the report to members of this House.
In view of the inquiry into wool marketing that is now being conducted by the Australian Wool Corporation, I believe that the Parliament should take a very active role in wresting the initiative away from people whom the Country Party, in its practical way, has left in office to make decisions for the industry over the last 15 years. Their term of office has resulted in one disaster after another. But this seems to be the major qualification that the Country Party looks for in selecting members for organisations such as the Wool Corporation. That Party seems to want people whose only claim to notoriety is that they have been associated with one disaster after another. Apparently the more tragedies that one can be associated with the more likely one is to be selected by the Country Party to lead an organisation within the wool industry. The situation in the wool industry today is that wool prices are determined in a fashion market. The result is that wool growers these days find that their income is subject to violent fluctuations. There are only 2 ways that I can see to remedy this situation. I see from the behaviour of Country Party members opposite that kindergarten is out again. They cannot even take time to show interest in a matter that presumably their supporters have close to their hearts.
I repeat that the wool industry is subject to violent price fluctuations. These can be moderated in 2 ways. The first is by introducing some insurance into the market system. I believe that, now that we have had the experience of a season of very low wool prices, we should have great confidence in supporting the Australian Wool Corporation to the tune of 2 million bales in a businesslike proposition in which capital is provided for the Corporation to buy wool. This is preferable to adopting a policy of subsidising growers through deficiency payments. Our recent experiences show that if the Corporation had purchased 2 million bales of wool it would now have accumulated a considerable amount of capital from the profits on the resale of that wool. But, more importantly - and this is an area on which the wool industry has not concentrated very seriously in the past - we need to keep our options open right through the pipeline. We need to be able to say to the manufacturer who makes his own choice to produce a product out of alternative fibres that we intend to keep our options open. We have a marketing organisation which will now commission processing and which will ensure that we have wool tops and not just synthetic tops, wool yarn and not just synthetic yarn and that wool products will go across the counters of the retail shops in the world rather than synthetic fibres alone.
The reason why options have been closed to consumers is that the Corporation has restricted its activities to the greasy wool market. We have not been able to say to the world: Here is the wool product; we are in the business of selling it; we are going to make it if nobody else does’. It is not necessary to acquire capital investment to do this. We can commission the people who have already invested capital to carry out the job. For example, it might be necessary for the Wool Corporation to commission work behind a tariff barrier in order to maintain the competitive position of wool. This is a far more positive approach, I submit, than the ones to which we have been subjected because in this way the actual competitive mechanism can be stimulated and wool can be sold at all points. At the moment we control only the greasy wool end of the pipeline.
Other changes have taken place which have gone right past the organisation of the industry. I should like to concentrate tonight on one in particular which stems from this report, which the Wool Corporation has failed to distribute to members of this Parliament. That is the radical changes which are taking place in clip preparation and the hand-: ling of wool. Not one attempt has been made to bring the people whose livelihoods will be threatened most into these considerations. I refer to the wool classers and other people employed in the business of marketing wool. Today they are naturally very concerned. I would not be at all surprised if we find a great deal of industrial unrest in this area of primary industry, simply because the Country Party and the Liberal Party have failed to keep these people briefed on the developments which affect their very livelihoods. The whole professional justification of some people will be swept aside by these new technological developments. Yet not one step was taken by the former Government to keep these people informed of these developments. The greatest barrier to technical change in the wool industry will be the legitimate barrier of people whose personal interests have been jeopardised by a lack of consultation. This is the spirit of the industrial relations policy of those who are now in Opposition. Consultation in this area has been vital for so long that the debt that remains now will represent a major barrier to reforming the wool industry.
Another problem which plagues the wool industry and which needs very close attention is the confusion of functions that exist in the present Corporation. At once this Corporation is empowered to collect cost data from enterprises which compete with commercial enterprises under the jurisdiction of the Corporation. How, for example, can a private enterprise wool testing organisation - presumably,
Opposition members are wedded to the view that private enterprise is very good - be expected to hand over its costings to the Wool Corporation when the Wool Corporation is also responsible for the commercial operations of the Australian Wool Testing Authority. This would immediately give the Australian Wool Testing Authority a very strong commercial advantage. While ever we have this situation the conflt between the rule-making function of the Corporation and its commercial operation is irresolvable. This should have been recognised by the people who established the Wool Corporation. They were warned about this. They were warned about many other aspects of the Wool Corporation which will come back to plague the wool industry for the many years, until they are changed.
– Why did not the Labor Party warn them?
– I warned them and I was their adviser. I warned those people who established the Corporation. The situation now exists where there is a legacy from the Country Party of people whose justification for being on the Corporation is that they have the right connections. They do not make a contribution to the activity of the Wool Corporation in any positive way. There are one or two notable exceptions to this rule but their voices are very much muted by the overwhelming weight of traditional associations which exist between these people, and the interests they represent. One could spell them out. The dominant role that Dalgety Australia Ltd, has played in the last 4 or 5 years in wool marketing bears close examination. The interests that this company represent go right into the heart of the organisation. The man who was supposed to represent wool manufacturers on the Wool Corporation belonged to a firm which went bankrupt. So much for his management. His position was saved by the Dalgety organisation. So this firm exercised its influence through the Corporation in many ways.
One could spell out the same sorts of associations with all sorts of companies which have a vested interest in no change taking place in wool marketing. Today the Corporation has to be badgered into realising that, having spent $1.5m of Commonwealth money, it has the responsibility to produce reports and provide them to members of this Parliament. The Corporation has spent Com monwealth money like water in the past without any accountability. It has made decisions which have a fundamental impact on the Australian wool industry. It made those decisions in isolation from this Parliament. I am very pleased to belong to a Government which will see an end to this sort of decision making outside this place.
– I wish to raise a matter which concerns the future well being of literally thousands of children in New South Wales. 1 refer to the educational opportunities which are being denied to them because of the attitude of the present Federal Government. I am sorry to have to say that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who has built up a reputation in this House for fairness and for speaking his mind has, however unwittingly, misled the Parliament in my view in some way.
I wish to quote his reply to a question which was asked him on 28th February 1973 by one of the members on his own side of the chamber. ] refer first to the question which was asked as this demonstrates the point that the Minister did not answer the question as it was asked. As reported at page 38 of Hansard of that date, the Minister was asked:
Did the New South Wales Government make a specific application to the Commonwealth for additional funds to employ qualified teachers currently available for but unable to gain employment in New South Wales.
That is a fairly straightforward question. The Minister for Education chose not to be straightforward in his response. This is what he said:
Here is the let out, I guess - in specific terms for Commonwealth finance to assist the New South Wales Government with unemployed teachers.
The Minister went on to say:
The form of submission which came to me from Mr Willis and was subsequently sent to the Prime Minister . , .
He admits that there was a submission. But he gave the undeniable impression to anybody reading that reply that the submission from Mr Willis, which he admits he received, did not deal with the teachers who were available and which he chose to call unemployed.
I would like to take the House through some of the aspects of this case, the chronological order of events. Let us look at the facts behind this statement and the answer given by the Minister for Education. Firstly, on 27th December 1972 there was a public statement by the Minister for Education in New South Wales in which he said that he had written to Mr Beazley seeking a meeting at the earliest possible time to talk over with the new Minister for Education at Commonwealth level some of the problems facing the Education Department of New South Wales. That was on 27th December. The conference which be sought was granted to him on 4th January and following that conference a Press statement was issued by the Minister for Education in New South Wales in which he said, amongst other things, that discussions ranged over all the aspects of education, from pre-school to tertiary school in all its forms. Following that a letter was sent by the Minister for Education in New South Wales to the Commonwealth Minister for Education at about the end of January and he released a Press statement about the contents of that letter. He did not give the specific terms of the letter but he did release a Press statement about the contents of it. Part of that Press statement reads:
In all I have asked for an allocation of $4 .4m which would involve the employment of over 1,100 additional class teachers, remedial teachers, teacherlibrarians, etc.
If the Commonwealth grants the State’s total request, the current over supply of trained teachers will be quickly absorbed.
In my request to Mr Beazley f have pointed out thai at this stage I am essentially concerned with the employment-
I emphasise that phrase - of teachers in a manner that will increase significantly the quality of education, while avoiding any further expenditure on capital cost items which would delay employment opportunities.
Again I emphasise the phrase ‘Employment opportunities’. On 1 6th February 1973 the Minister for Education in New South Wales released another statement in which he elaborated on the 1,100 teachers who were seeking employment in New South Wales and for which funds to employ them were not available. He spoke about them in some detail. He said:
Many of the 1,100 teachers seeking employment have placed such restrictions on the districts in which they are prepared to teach as to make early appointment extremely difficult, if not impossible.
He spoke about the various categories of these teachers who are seeking employment. He mentioned the fact that:
Another 260 married women will teach only in their own or adjacent suburbs in the metropolitan area.
Only 40 of the married women teachers living in Sydney are prepared to consider an appointment anywhere in the metropolitan area itself.
I mention this because in all this there is very clear emphasis on the fact that teachers were available for employment and there should have been no doubt in the Minister’s mind that this was the case.
– You do not seriously think that the Minister regarded himself as under an obligation to employ married teachers?
– He mentioned these teachers who were seeking employment. This is what he said:
Obviously here was a Minister for Education seeking to do the best not only for his teaching staff by endeavouring to employ these additional teachers but also, and much more importantly in my view, to bring about extra quality of teaching for the children of New South Wales. On 22nd February this year the New South Wales Minister for Education issued another news release which stated:
The Minister for Education expressed his extreme disappointment at the Prime Minister’s rejection of a request by the New South Wales Government for funds to employ immediately an additional 1,100 teachers in departmental schools.
That was on 22nd February, yet on 28th February the Federal Minister for Education can say that he has had no specific request dealing with employment. What nonsense is this. It is complete semantics, in my view. The educational opportunities for literally thousands of New South Wales children are being shoved aside by this Minister - this socalled bastion of the people who alleges to bring educational opportunities to children throughout Australia. He is just ruthlessly shoving them aside and using semantics in answer to questions put to him in this House by members of his own Party. It is simply not good enough that people, particularly this Minister for Education, can fob off what is obviously a genuine request for additional funds to employ 1,100 additional teachers in New South Wales to do highly necessary jobs. If he rejects this application then he is depriving the children of New South Wales of quality teaching and depriving them of the facilities and the opportunity to make something of their lives. He could be damning them for the rest of their lives.
– I thank the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) for drawing my attention to the competence of the Government of New South Wales which alone has this problem. I would like the honourable gentleman to notice the statistics he himself has used. He spoke of 1,000 teachers, then 260 married women, another 260 married women and another 40 married women, 300 of whom, apparently would not go and teach anywhere. I do not know of any Australian government which regards a married woman who may have training as a teacher but who will not regard herself as under an obligation to go and move anywhere, as somebody whom the government has an obligation to employ other than casually. When the New South Wales Minister for Education came to see me and there was a wide ranging discussion he made no request whatever for money for unemployed teachers. The Commonwealth Government has granted many millions of dollars to the State of New South Wales for the unemployed. Other States have had no difficulty apparently in applying this to teachers but apparently this has not been done by the Government of New South Wales. I am not prepared to vouch that it has not spent any of its unemployment grants from the Commonwealth on unemployed teachers but I understand that of the $13m that was given to Victoria for unemployment an amount of $5m was spent in one way or another on education.
As to the question of these teachers, the honourable gentleman apparently knows the correspondence that has been submitted to me?
– I do not.
– If Mr Willis had released it to you I would be prepared to make it public but as it is I am not. His letters and the enclosures did not mention the subject of unemployment of teachers. There are items in the series which I will mention.
– I was quoting-
– You will listen to me for a change. There are items in the series which I will mention which spoke for instance of training for 75 teachers for children with disabilities, training for so many teachers to be librarians. Every State could make the same recurring request. In my answer to the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) I stressed that the request did not lock off claims for anything special to New South Wales. I have always said that if there was a specific request about unemployed teachers then I would sponsor that request with the Prime Minister but if a request comes couched in, terms that every other State might equally make a just claim upon - the training of teachers for children suffering from disabilities - then that is clearly a matter that ought to go to the Interim Schools Committee which is recommending to the Commonwealth Government the grants that it should make in &11 these categories. Nowhere does Mr Willis’ correspondence mention the subject of unemployed teachers.
– Will you make available the correspondence?
– No, I am not free to make Mr Willis’s corespondence available.
– You are quoting from it.
– I am not quoting from it. I am giving a general indication of the nature of some of the requests that were made to show that they relate to the question of training specialist teachers, and other recurrent requests which any State could make. It seems to me to be clear that other States have used unemployment grants from the Commonwealth in relation to education. It is far from clear that New South Wales has done so. But the amount of money that was granted to New South Wales for unemployment relief is far in excess of $4.47m. If other States have found no difficulty in this field I do not know why New South Wales has, especially as unemployment is falling spectacularly. Whatever claims there are on the fund, I think it might be possible for New South Wales to use unemployment grants in the field of education. I do not know whether New South Wales wants to do it that way or whether it requires special permission. I am not prejudging the Government of New South Wales but the honourable gentleman has spoken of 1,000 unemployed and he mentioned 560 married women among them.
– I will read out all the figures if you like.
– That does not matter. The question of the employment of married women teachers is not an obligation that any State government takes on itself, especially if they are not free to move.
– There are hundreds of teachers there waiting to be employed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member has made his speech. I suggest that he listen to the Minister’s reply and ceases his continual cross-talking, otherwise I will be forced to take some action.
– The Commonwealth cannot be held responsible for the recruitment policies of the New South Wales Department of Education. It may well be justified or alternatively running itself into a major crisis. It has 38,000 teachers in employment and 20,000 in training. It must be just about a world record to have in training more than half as many as it has in employment. It must have made some kind of intelligent forecast of its needs. No other State seems to have recruited on such a grand scale. New South Wales may well be building up a future problem. I do not regard New South Wales uusympathetically. 1 hope that the additional funding which 1 expect in the future will come will meet those needs. But 1 remind the honourable gentleman that the Ministers in New South Wales hailed the late Government’s Budget appropriations for education for them and hailed the fact that their deficit of SI 5m was being met by the Commonwealth. My Government is honouring that commitment. I sent to the Minister for Education in New South Wales $3,900,000 which he did not expect to receive. That was for technical education. It is a mystery to me how the honourable gentleman, who voted for the last Budget and hailed it, can now regard that same Budget for education, with very many additional sums added to it, as very inadequate. When he tried to make a case about 1,000 unemployed he began by mentioning 560 married women teachers whom the Government of New South Wales does not regard as being other than casual and not under any obligation to employ but whom the New South Wales Teachers Federation regards the Government as being under an obligation to employ.
A large number of these unemployed teachers appear to be casual teachers. The State Government with great numbers of new trainees does not regard itself as being under any obligation to re-engage them. There have been 3 by-elections in New South Wales, and these kinds of statements played a very large part at that time. I emphasise that New South Wales is the only State to seek Commonweatlh grants for this purpose. I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) saying that if the New South Wales Premier wrote to him demonstrating a genuine need for emergency funds from the Commonwealth for the purpose of employing teachers, I would appreciate his giving sympathetic consideration to the request. The New South Wales Premier has in fact written to the Prime Minister, but instead of seeking assistance with a problem of unemployed teachers he has merely expressed general support for the earlier approach to me by Mr Willis, the New South Wales Minister for Education. In that approach Mr Willis asked for additional funds from the Commonwealth to permit the employment of additional teachers but he did not relate this to the problem of unemployed teachers. The Prime Minister has replied to Sir Robert Askin, I understand, indicating that he does not believe that the Premier has justified his request for special consideration.
I believe that New South Wales can find a solution to its problem of unemployed teachers in the general Commonwealth unemployment funds allotted to New South Wales. That State has had its deficits met. It appears to me to have been extremely well treated by the late Government, which the honourable gentleman supported, when it had its deficits completely cancelled. Instead of blaming me, the honourable gentleman might try to find out why New South Wales is apparently the only government with unemployed teachers.
Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– 1 do. During his reply the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said that I was quoting from correspondence from the Minister for Education in New South Wales. I was not. I was quoting from publicly released news statements.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle - Minister for Education) - I would like to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I did not say that the honourable gentleman was quoting. I asked him whether he was.
– I will not detain the House for more than a couple of minutes. 1 just want to say that I and other honourable members on this side of the House are incensed at the treatment handed out by the Government over the 2 Bills that were on the notice paper today. The first was the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill. We agreed to remove the name of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) from the speakers’ list in order to help the Government to complete the passage of that Bill earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Mr Deputy Speaker, you can imagine the amazement of honourable members on this side of the House when an extra Government speaker was added to the list, namely the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James).
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member is now referring to certain things which he said were done or were not done. I think he should give the Government an opportunity to state the real position.
To make these accusations at this stage is most unfair and incorrect. The situation was that-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister is aware that there is no point of order. I ask him to resume his seat.
– I raise a further point of order. The honourable member is proposing to make statements to the House which are not correct, and accordingly I take the point of order.
– Order! There is no way in which the Chair can anticipate what the honourable member is proposing to say.
– I promise the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I will not pursue this point. My only purpose was to point out that my support for another Bill is undoubted, and I will make this quite clear when the House meets in due course to continue the debate on the second Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730314_reps_28_hor82/>.