28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation by Mr Coates and Mr Whittorn as follows and copies of the petitions 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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he yet knows the areas to be canvassed by his Prices Justification Tribunal when consideration is given to the fact that since 1966 government transport fares have Increased by 66.9 per cent, local government rates by 63.6 per cent, postal and telephone charges by 41.1 per cent and radio and television licences by 34.4 per cent, whereas in the same period, that is from 1966, prices for household appliances have fallen by 1.2 per cent and food prices generally have risen by only 28.6 per cent. Obviously, the Tribunal will be looking at all costs where increases have been the greatest and a burden on the people and, therefore, these must include government expenditure and charges.
– I think the honourable member misconstrues altogether the role of this Prices Justification Tribunal. Whether these particular prices have risen or not - and I submit that they rose during the long period of Liberal rule in this country - at least Post Office charges, one area of increase cited by the honourable member, are the subject of examination in this House already. What the Prices Justification Tribunal is to do is to cover those price makers who, at the moment, have no scrutiny whatever of a public kind of their actions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and refers to the agreement reached between the Australian iron ore exporters and the Japanese steel industry. With the successful result of the negotiations on the price to be received by Australia for our iron ore exports, is this not a vindication of the present Government’s decisions on the parity of the Australian dollar and also of its view that future contracts of this nature should be written in Australian dollars?
– The price arrangements are very satisfactory indeed. The whole matter arose from the failure of certain of the iron ore companies to anticipate the vagaries of the United States dollar in terms of international parity. In the course of negotiations I clearly indicated to the Japanese representatives that it was the wish of the Australian Government to have their currency recognised as a world currency, and it is. It is a good, hard currency. It is sound and well managed and will continue to be so. For those reasons I suggested to the Japanese representatives that in future appropriate adjustments would be made in respect of the existing contracts in the event of any further variations of the parities between the Australian dollar and the United States dollar. I also suggested to the iron ore companies that in future they might take advantage of their former errors and see that their future contracts were suitably denominated in terms of payment.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General I refer to a ‘Four Corners’ program of 19 May on which he was a guest. On that program, referring to the tapping of telephone conversations, he said: ‘Yes. Every now and then a court case in the States occurs that involves the admissibility of evidence produced to that court by State policemen. Obviously it has been obtained by interception of a telephone call and the Commonwealth is well aware of it.’ The honourable gentleman was asked whether he would prosecute a policeman in those circumstances and he replied: ‘No, but it is a little bit unsettling, I think, to think that the Australian Government could sort of turn around and sort of say, “We will charge this policeman”.’ In view of the remarks made in the Senate yesterday by the Attorney-General, does the Minister as his representative in this chamber agree that there is a degree of conflict between his attitude and that of the Attorney-General? Will the Minister assure the House that he will not oppose what the Attorney-General is doing? Furthermore, will he do everything in his power to stop blatant breaches of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act through tapping activities and enforce the law applicable to the illegal practice of tape recording of telephone conversations irrespective of whether it is done by priest, politician, policeman or any other person in our society?
– Yes, I recall the television program to which the honourable member referred. Without accepting his version of what I said as being completely correct -
– It is here. I have the transcript.
– I am not quibbling with you about the substance. What the honourable member said is basically correct. It would appear that for a long time the State police forces, acting perhaps pursuant to legislation which the States have enacted and which on all the opinion available to me and to the Attorney-General, would be invalid because it would be in conflict with the Federal Act, are having their policemen tap, if you like, telephone messages. On the television program I expressed my abhorrence at that practice. All I said was - I do not claim to use now the exact words I used then but they are consistent with what I said then - that it would be a rather Draconian measure for the Commonwealth to say to a policeman of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria or South Australia who believes himself to be acting pursuant to a valid law that he would be treated as acting pursuant to an invalid law and charged with a criminal offence. I believe that that would be rather harsh.
If the Queensland Government seeks to enact a law - I am being hypothetical - that is in conflict with the Commonwealth law and is invalid because of that conflict - the Queensland Government should know that - and then instructs one of its policemen to go out and do something that is basically illegal, one of the remedies of the Australian Government would be to institute criminal proceedings against that particular policeman. The real villian, if I can put it that way, is not the particular policeman concerned but the State agencies of the Government of Queensland if it took place in that way. That is all I said. One would not be happy about doing it but one might well have to do it, and there is no conflict at all between the remarks of the Attorney-General in the Senate and what I said on tht ‘Four Corners* program. The reference I made to this matter coming to the attention of the Australian Government as a result of court cases is perfectly true. One reads from time to time - the honourable member for Moreton would be familiar with this situation and I am sure that I have actually heard him speak on this subject -
– I have too.
– Yes, the honourable member also. I refer to cases in State courts when proceedings have been commenced relying upon evidence obtained in that way and judges have exercised their discretion to exclude the admissibility of evidence obtained in that way either because it was improper, because it was illegal or because there was sufficient doubt about whether it was improper or illegal. They have, quite properly, exercised their discretion to exclude the evidence and this has resulted in acquittal. The whole rationale that lies behind all this is that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make laws on the subject of interception of telephone calls. Such a law was made in 1968. Some of the States have enacted laws in conflict with it. This was the subject of correspondence between Sir Robert Menzies, as long ago as, I think, 1964, and State Premiers. The previous Postmaster-General made representations to, I think, the Premier of Queensland on the subject. In copies of the correspondence I have seen there has never been any assertion by any of those State Premiers that they had a right to do what is obviously being done.
– It should be stopped.
– Yes, it should be stopped.
– In view of the Australiawide competition for an exclusive Australian national anthem will the Prime Minister ensure that the copyright remains with the successful composer and that the royalties dependent on such copyright also go to the composer, especially as no additional cost will be required of the Commonwealth Government or the Australian people if this is done? Further, because application forms were not available until about 9 May, will the Prime Minister extend the closing date for entries by a further 2 weeks, which surely is not unreasonable considering that we have waited 185 years for an Australian anthem?
– I regret that 1 have to answer both questions in the negative. The Government takes the view that it would be inappropriate for the national anthem to be subject to copyright. I think this House would agree that no one should expect to derive a lifetime’s income from performances of the national anthem, nor should anyone wishing to perform the anthem be subject to copyright laws. I have made it clear from the outset that a new national anthem will belong to the nation. I also point out that the terms and conditions of the quest were explained in detail beforehand to the Australian Performing Right Association. After discussion with the Australian Council for the Arts, APRA agreed that should the winning composer be a member of the Association, and should he so request, APRA will assign to the Government all rights held by APRA in the winning anthem. I commend the Association for its policy in this matter. The closing date of 31
May is for entries of words alone. Music entries and music entries in collaboration with the writers of words will be called later in the year. There is still ample time for any composer or lyric writer to submit an entry. The response of the public with word entries has been enthusiastic and overwhelming. More than 1,500 entries have already been received. I trust that all Australian composers, amateur and professional, will wish to contribute to the quest and contribute in the spirit in which it was conceived.
– ‘Has the Minister for Urban and Regional Development had discussions with the appropriate State Ministers on the type of regional organisation that would meet Commonwealth requirements for the purposes of access to the Grants Commission? Will the Federal Government accept the regional organisations already established in New South Wales under the Regional Organisation Act and the regional organisations envisaged in Queensland as meeting Commonwealth Government requirements for that purpose? Finally, will the Federal Government have any consultation with the States concerning applications by approved regional authorities prior to accepting or declining any such application?
– The Secretary of my Department has had discussions with the CoordinatorGeneral in Queensland with regard to the creation of regions in that State for the purpose of making applications to the Grants Commission. Discussions have been going on with the respective State Ministers and departments of all other States. In most cases the discussions have been with the departments of local government, but in Queensland they have been with the Co-ordinator-General’s Department. After the regions have been determined the matter will be referred to the States again for further discussion, lt is the object of this Government to work in a spirit of cooperative federalism and to make sure that we really get things moving and achieve the cooperation of all levels of government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I have received reliable information from members of the Army that certain action, similar to that which was taken at Duntroon, is being implemented particularly by 2 warrant officers in Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. This intimidation, which is occurring particularly in 103 Signal Unit, is designed to break the spirit of young members who are endeavouring to make the Army their career. Will the Minister have this matter investigated immediately? If he desires names, I am prepared to give them to him confidentially.
– The answer, of course, is yes. I have made it perfectly clear to the Department of Defence that there will not be a repetition of some of the circumstances and incidents which developed previously, particularly in relation to bastardisation. I have made it perfectly clear that this will not continue and that, if these matters are brought to my attention either collectively or individually, an immediate inquiry will be instituted. I assure the honourable member that I will have this matter investigated immediately and will advise him of the result of that inquiry.
– 1 preface my question to the Treasurer by reminding him that most Australians now lead a very sedentary existence, tied to desks, homes and motor cars, and can no longer be regarded as a race of bronzed Apollos. I ask, therefore, in view of the greater leisure hours confronting most people and compounding the health problems of the nation, will be when framing the Budget consider abolishing sales tax on sports equipment to encourage people of all ages to participate more in active sport?
– As the former Minister should know, at this stage I can make no comment. These are matters of policy yet to be decided.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Housing. I preface it by asking whether he has seen a report that housing commission rents in New South Wales are to rise by as much as $2 a week from 1 July, which replaces a previous decision made in 1969 that housing commission rents would not rise by more than 50c a week. I therefore ask the Minister whether the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement will be able to prevent these increases or increases of such a steep nature if the States agree to that Agreement.
– I have read this morning that the New South Wales Government proposes to increase housing commission rents and there is speculation to the effect that some 60,000 tenants may be affected by these proposed increases. I understand that the increases could go as high at $2 a week, as the honourable member indicated. It is true also that the New South Wales Government previously left increases at a maximum of SOc a week, which is not in keeping with the attitude of the Australian Government, which takes the view that annual rental reviews should be undertaken to avoid large scale increases. The more significant thing is that the proposed new housing agreement could have the effect of facilitating much lower rentals for housing authority homes. As I understand it, the difference between the rate of interest which is being offered under the new agreement, that is, 4 per cent as against 6.5 per cent which is the current bond rate, would alter the average rent in New South Wales to the extent of $3 a week. So there is a lot to be said for the New South Wales and other State governments supporting the proposed agreement if they have an interest in keeping housing commission rents down.
Another matter which I mention in passing is that the announcement made on behalf of the Government yesterday in regard to the proposal to set up a task force to develop a uniform building code around Australia will also affect this area very significantly. The fact is that we spent last year $ 1,750m on housing. It is conservatively estimated that uniform building codes would provide a saving of 6 per cent. Interpreting this, on Australian housing we can save $105m each year if the States co-operate, as I feel confident they will do, with our efforts to contrive and introduce uniform codes throughout Australia.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will remember that in answer to an interjection by me in the House last week he said he was going to Washington. Yesterday he said at a Press conference that an official invitation was not necessary to visit Nixon. I ask him: Has any other Australian Prime Minister ever before visited Washington with the expectation of seeing the President without a formal invitation being issued? I remind him that when I visited Washington in September 1971 it was in response to an official invitation. Does he not think that it is humiliating to the Australian people that an Australian head of Government should create the impression that, Watergate style, he is crashing into the White House uninvited?
– We all remember the ‘McMann’ visit. I take such questions in good part because I realise that the American President and the American presidency would not be in their present parlous position if the present President were to have regular Press conferences as the present Australian Prime (Minister does, and if the American Administration were answerable to the American Congress as the Australian Government is answerable to the Australian Parliament. I was asked questions about this yesterday in the House and at my Press conference. I have nothing further to add, to what I said then, but if the right honourable gentleman is still able to absorb a mature attitude I would commend to him today’s editorial in the Age’. I hope it will be noted by him and overseas.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is Australian industry playing a proper role in migrant worker integration? If not, what steps are being taken to ensure that workers are not held prisoners in workshops because of lack of knowledge of the national language and the community outside? Further, will Commonwealth instrumentalities set the example?
– It is true that there is a problem about migrant education, particularly at the workshop level. In Victoria something like 30 firms and corporations are co-operating in language and citizenship classes at workshop level. This is very commendable. In New South Wales only one or two firms are doing this. I know of none in Queensland, and in the other States the position is much the same. This matter is giving me and the Government great cause for concern. There is a need for Australian industry, which benefits so much from migrants, to play its role in integrating those people. We have been so concerned that today in Canberra a meeting is being held of the adult migrant education officers of the States and the officers charged with educational responsibilities in the various State branches of the Department of Immigration. Those officers will be meeting in Canberra today to see whether we cannot, by joint State-Federal action, do a more effective job for migrants in the workshops. This is something that we are dedicated to doing.
The honourable member also asked whether the Commonwealth instrumentalities could give a lead in this matter. That is a very useful suggestion and I will undertake to have it examined with my colleagues. Just in passing I think of the Postmaster-General, the Minister for Defence - because there are factories under his control - and some of my other colleagues who have direct responsibility for instrumentalities which employ large numbers of migrants. I think it is a very good suggestion from the honourable member that the Commonwealth should give a lead in this matter. I will undertake to discuss it with the various Ministers concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. While not denying that tax relief should be given first to those most in need, I ask the Treasurer whether it is the intention of the Government to wait for the report of the Asprey Committee before embarking on major changes in the overall taxation structure? I also ask the Treasurer whether the Government will bear in mind that if skilled persons earning more than, say, $5,000 a year are unduly penalised this will act as a disincentive and therefore retard productivity and feed inflation?
– As I indicated in an answer to an earlier question, it is not possible at this stage for me to give details of changes, one way or the other, in a tax or in all taxes. In regard to the specific question whether changes will be made before the Asprey Committee makes its determinations, I cannot give that guarantee either. The Asprey Committee will be concerned with such fundamental propositions as whether the existing form of sales tax, for argument’s sake, should be replaced by a value added tax and whether we should explore the interesting realms of capital gains taxation or net worth taxation. All sorts of interesting possibilities are there. I think it is regrettable in many ways that these areas were not explored 10 years ago.
– Has the Minister for the Capita] Territory had the opportunity to view the advertising on the Canberra buses? Is he aware that on many occasions persons in Canberra have been prosecuted for displaying small advertising signs?
– I have seen the advertising on one bus. I should say that the present experiment of placing advertisements on Canberra buses is the result of a decision taken some time ago. In part it is intended to sound public opinion in Canberra on the subject. Also, of course, in part it is motivated by the fact that the Canberra bus service operates at a loss. I think that the loss last year was about $800,000, and we want to ascertain whether this is a viable and acceptable means of raising some revenue. I am also conscious that the placing of advertisements on buses is probably causing concern to some people who are concerned about visual pollution. All I should say at this stage is that my Department has the matter under very close review to ascertain whether it does provoke any opposition from the people in Canberra.
As to the question of whether people have been prosecuted for putting illegal signs on walls and things of that sort, yes there have been prosecutions in the past. It is one of the great features and advantages of the Canberra scene that we can avoid the hoardings, mass advertisements and that sort of thing which exists in so many other parts of the country, and we would like to keep it that way. lt is one of the advantages of a system that depends largely on a very strict control of land use that we can achieve this feature which cannot be achieved in countries or Slates that do not have a leasehold system of land tenure such as exists in the Australian Capital Territory. I want to take the opportunity to add this comment, which I think is relevant to the honourable member’s question: I gave to the Department only a few days ago a direction that there should not be any advertising of cigarettes or any tobacco products on any of the existing controlled places in Canberra where advertisements are placed.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Treasurer by referring to a report which appeared recently in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ that the Government intends to amend section 82H of the Income Tax Assessment Act. It was stated that as far as provisions relating to life assurance and superannuation deductions are concerned
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. This is a matter which is at present before the House and it will be debated today.
-I think the Treasurer may answer the question. The honourable member was in order in asking it.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. It was stated that as far as provisions relating to life assurance and superannuation are concerned a taxation deduction will not be available for premiums paid on a policy which provides benefits other than upon death and which will mature within 10 years of issue, lt has been past practice that member offices of the Life Offices’ Association for Australasia would issue policies of less than 10 years only when the proceds of these policies-
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to complete his question. The preface is too long.
– I ask: Will the Minister please advise whether provision will be made in the amending legislation to enable a taxpayer who is endeavouring to provide for his retirement to effect life assurance or superannuation maturing between the ages of 60 and 65 with premiums allowable as a tax deduction under section 82H even if the policies are for a term of less than 10 years?
– 1 would ask the honourable member to look closely at what was said in the second reading speech on the Bill which my colleague quite properly said is now before the House for debate. The purpose of the amendment basically is to close a loophole whereby what had been given as a tax concession for legitimate purposes was being abused. Basically the premiums on any policy which is taken out after 1 January 1973 for less than 10 years will not be allowed as a tax concession. This does not apply to superannuation fund payments. If the honourable member reads the second reading speech he “111 find that that is quite clearly set out.
– Is the Minister for Science aware that the Georges River in Sydney, which was once a beautiful river abounding with fish and a delight to swim in, in now so badly polluted in some parts that even the fish have great difficulty in making their way upstream? Has the Minister any plans which will enable this once beautiful river to be brought back to its natural state?
– I share the honourable member’s alarm at the growth of pollution in the Georges River. He has discussed this matter with me on several occasions. I am delighted to be able to tell the honourable gentleman that the study of the pollution of the Georges River is regarded as one of the important projects within the total program of the Botany Bay project which is being undertaken with the assistance and co-operation of the 3 learned academics. We are actively involving the local governments in the area. A meeting of the local governments which cover the Georges River, Cooks River and Botany Bay areas will take place some time early in August by which time the director for the Botany Bay project will have been appointed and the program will be under way.
– AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY: GOVERNMENT SPENDING
– I ask the Treasurer the following question: Given the state of the economy and the already large deficit expected, will the Treasurer exercise constraint on government spending? Is the Government working to a fully formulated order of spending priorities? In the preparation of the Budget will he consider the serious inflationary effects of excessive government spending?
– Again I point out that we inherited three-quarters of the anticipated deficit to 30 June 1973.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– It is simply not true.
– It is true. The previous Government was budgeting for a deficit of $630m and it had second thoughts after the Budget was introduced. That brought in additional expenditures. We began in December to add the things that we thought were - (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Well, if honourable members opposite think that age pensions ought not to have been increased, let us hear them say so. If they think it would have been better to have 150,000 people out of work instead of 80,000 let them say so. One of the things we continued and are being asked to continue is rural unemployment relief and its extension into metropolitan areas. One can be very clever about the marginal $l60m in an overall expenditure of S 10,800m and say that that is the straw that is breaking the camel’s back, as it were. This Government is conscious of the role of government expenditure in the totality of the economy. It is conscious that inflation is a serious problem. I repeat that it is not a new problem. However, very few attempts were made to grapple with it prior to 2 December. 1 am astonished now by the zeal of supporters of the former government as to what they would have done had they had another 12 months as against what they did not do in nearly 23 years.
– I ask the Minister for Urban and Regional Development whether it is a fact that Taiga Ltd has gained a controlling interest in the Camden Park Estate situated south of Campbelltown. Does the Minister know of any plans to develop this area or any other area south of Campbelltown outside the existing areas defined in the Sydney regional outline plan? If this matter is confidential and of potential embarrassment to the New South Wales Government could the Minister make a special statement on the principles he envisages for the future development of land south of Campbelltown other than that already planned?
– This matter has been drawn to the attention of the Cities Commission and my Department and they have made investigations. This estate has been taken over by Taiga Ltd. There has been speculation that this company is seeking to rezone the area, although I understand that the New South Wales State Planning Authority would be opposed to any rezoning of this area. The Camden Park Estate is a part of our national heritage. It is of great national significance. It has been owned by John Macarthur and his descendants since 1795. It was there that wool and wheat production and dairying was first commenced. Frankly, the Commonwealth Government and the State governments want to retain our national heritage wherever it is possible to do so. It is important that this estate be retained because of the open green belt that it would provide in the Menai-Holsworthy-Campbelltown corridor. Therefore we would support any action taken by the New South Wales Government to try to retain it in its present state. I have been informed that the Minister for Local Government in New South Wales, Sir Charles Cutler, stated on 19 January that the New South Wales Government wanted to retain Camden Park in its present state. If there were any outside involvement the State Government would take action to acquire it. If that is the case we might be able to make arrangements whereby the Commonwealth would meet and join with the New South Wales Government in the retention of this area as an open space area for the nation as well as in the interests of the development of the MenaiHolsworthyCampbelltown corridor.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. The honourable gentleman has announced that the May loan raised $80.5m, of which 46 per cent has been placed in short term August 1975 securities. Does the Treasurer regard that as being a satisfactory result? If not, what action will he take to increase suport for the next loan, which I believe is to be in July? Does he intend taking any action relating to government bond interest rates against competing money market interest rates?
– As usual there has been a lot of loose talk about the results of the May loan.
– They were pretty dull results.
– I have to put up with a lot of dull comments from honourable members opposite, but I am used to that. I shall repeat some information which perhaps has not been noted, that is, that no cash loan was undertaken in May of last year when the previous Government was in office. In May 1971 a loan was raised in the rather abnormal circumstances of a very depressed economy. The sum of Si 97m was contributed. But if one were to take into consideration what were average periods- 1968, 1969 and 1970 - one would see that the average raised over those 3 loans was $76. 6m. On that sort of comparison the May loan was satisfactory enough.
If the Leader of the Opposition believes that interest rates are too high, I suggest that he make some sort of exhortation to those bodies in the community on which there is no restraint at the moment and which are offering 9 per cent and 9i per cent for short term money. Those who are concerned about inflation at least ought to acknowledge, as was acknowledged in a question asked of me earlier this morning, that there are other costs besides wages. What do honourable members opposite think is the reality of the situation when the interest rate structure goes up from 6 per cent to 6i per cent on government bonds? Is that an increase of only half a per cent or is it an increase of about 8 per cent if interest is regarded as the price for money? If the Opposition wants to co-operate with me in, perhaps, calling for a moratorium on interest rates, I will be happy to listen to any suggestions. But to suggest in isolation that I should tell honourable members now what I think the loan situation may be in July would, I think, bc highly irresponsible. I am sure the former Prime Minister thinks so and I hope he will tell his former Treasurer that.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to recently published reports on air pollution and fallout in Australia and the possible effect on the health of Australians? Is he able to inform the House of those regions in Australia in which regular measurements are taken of solid particulate fallout and the concentration of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases in the atmosphere? Does the quantity of very fine or sub-micron solid particulates in suspension in the atmosphere in the presence of sulphur dioxide bear a relationship to the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in human beings?
– I am not aware of specific recent publications concerning the fallout of the 3 contaminants mentioned by the honourable member, that is, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. In regard to the effects of fine particulate matter on the human respiratory tract, this has not been proven but there is very strong circumstantial evidence that it does damage the human respiratory tract. Certainly, it does aggravate the irritant effects of sulphur dioxide in laboratory animals and it has been generally accepted by authorities on air pollution that the concentration of fine particles in air should be one of the factors monitored to assess the damage done to human communities and to measure fallout. I think the clean air authorities have used mainly sulphur dioxide and solid particle concentration as an index of air pollution and this is what is being monitored, mainly by State authorities. I could get further details on this, if that is what the honourable member would wish. The honourable member mentioned particularly, I think, sub-micron particles. I do not know to what particular size this refers. I know that particles of less than 5 microns, which is five-millionths of a metre, can penetrate the air sacs of the lung and presumably this means that they could contribute to pneumonia and fibrosis and do permanent damage to lung tissue and loss of lung tissue. The only really epidemiological evidence we have concerns the fact that in a series in London, adult males had a continual increase of the amount of sputum they produced when exposed to increasing concentrations of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter. There is an increased incidence of both upper and lower respiratory tract infections in infants exposed to these 2 contaminants.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreement Act 1947, I present the report on the operations of that Act and on the operations insofar as they relate to Australia of the International Monetary Fund and of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the year ended 30 June 1 972.
– In pursuance of section 13 of the Law Reform Commission Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory I present the following 3 reports of the Law Reform Commission of the Territory, namely, a report on the landlord and tenant law in the Australian Capital Territory, a report on the management of the property and affairs of mentally infirm persons, and a supplementary report on imperial Acts in force in the Australian Capital Territory. Copies of each of these reports have been distributed to honourable members. For convenience the supplementary report on imperial Acts has been printed together with the principal report on that subject which was tabled but not distributed on 24 October 1972.
The Law Reform Commission of the Australian Capital Territory consists of Mr Justice Blackburn of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court as Chairman; Professor Atiyah, Dean of the Faculty of Law in the School of General Studies at the Australian National University; and Mr N. M. Macphillamy, a Canberra solicitor.
– We are dealing with the presentation of papers. If the Minister wishes to make a statement he should ask for leave of the House.
– I seek leave, Mr Speaker.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Commission was established by the Law Reform Commission Ordinance 1971 and its first 3 reports were tabled in the House on 25 October 1972. They related, respectively, to imperial Acts in force in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales Acts in force in the Territory and civil procedure in the Court of Petty Sessions of the Territory. Owing to printing delays, copies of the report on imperial Acts have only recently come to hand. As I have indicated, this report has been printed for convenience together with the supplementary report on imperial Acts, in the one cover, and copies of this publication will be available to the public from to-day. The report on New South Wales Acts in force in the Territory is still with the printer but is promised very shortly, and it will be available to the public immediately it is printed.
The report on civil procedure in the Court of Petty Sessions was distributed to honourable members in duplicated form at the time it was tabled, and printed copies have been available for some time. The Government has announced its decision to implement the recommendation in this report for a small claims procedure. This procedure will enable claims up to $300 to be handled with a minimum of formality and expense. The 2 reports in addition to the supplementary report on imperial Acts that I now table are on the following 2 matters, referred to the Law Reform Commission on 17 September 1971:
Whether it is desirable that the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 1949-1957 be amended so as to make provision for the recovery of premises other than prescribed premises, and if so what the nature of the provisions should be, and
Whether and in what respects the provisions of the Lunacy Act 1898 of the State of New South Wales, in its application to the Australian Capital Territory, relating to the management of the property and affairs of persons who are mentally ill needs to be amended.
In its report on landlord and tenant law in the Australian Capital Territory the Commission recommends modernised provisions to deal with the recovery of non-prescribed premises - that is, business and other nonresidential premises.
In its report on the mangement of the property and affairs of mentally infirm persons the Commission says that the law on this subject is in substance mostly satisfactory for the time being, but that it should be replaced by a single piece of legislation in modern, intelligible language. A feature of the present law is that mentally infirm persons in the Australian Capital Territory may be admitted, pursuant to an agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments, to mental hospitals in New South Wales, whereupon the property of such persons comes under the control of the Protective Commissioner of that State. The Law Reform Commission recommends the continuation of this arrangement for the time being, having regard to the expertise built up by the Commissioner and his staff, and to the comparatively small number of Territory estates involved. At the same time, the Commission recommends certain improvements to the law, including a provision for a mentally infirm person to request the Protective Commissioner to take control of his property without the need for the person first to be admitted to a mental hospital.
The Commission’s supplementary report on imperial Acts is a very short one, drawing attention to 3 Acts to which references was omitted in the principal report. The 3 reports are being studies by Ministers having responsibility in relation to the matters dealt with.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Interim Committee of the National Hospitals and Health Services Commission entitled Community Health Program for Australia’.
– For the information of honourable members I table the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. I seek leave to make a statement on this report.
– -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objective, leave is granted.
– I will ask for leave to respond briefly to the Minister’s statement, but I would not like either the Minister’s statement or mine to pre-empt a full debate at an appropriate time on the Commissioner’s report.
– After the Minister delivers his statement, the honourable member for Wannon may seek leave to make a statement in reply. When he concludes this statement I will move that the House take note of the paper.
- Mr Speaker, this report, which represents the unanimous views of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, is a document of major signifiance for Australian education. Its recommendations for 1974 and 1975 are based on the long-term aim that by the end of the present decade Australian schools should all have reached acceptable standards. They regard the educational lag in Australia as most formidable. The quality of this report is outstanding. The Government owes its gratitude to this Committee which in less than 5 months has surveyed primary and secondary education in Australia and has proposed solutions to the deficiencies found. The report outlines the most serious of these deficiencies:
Most schools lack sufficient resources, both human and material.
Among schools there are gross inequalities, not only in resources but also in the opportunities they offer to boys and girls from varied backgrounds.
In particular there are many city schools which draw their pupils from populations that suffer grave socio-economic disadvantages.
There are handicapped children for whom quite inadequate opportunities for schooling exist.
The quality of education leaves much to be desired. Many teachers have been inadequately trained.
Curricula and teaching methods tend to be unresponsive to differences between pupils, and are narrow in relation to the possibilities of life in a complex technological society.
Faced with deficiencies of such magnitude and complexity, the Committee recommends an expenditure by the Australian Government through State grants of$660m over the 2 years 1974-75, of which $461m is for government schools and $179m for non-government schools, with about$20m not allocated specifically. The $660m will be allocated among the States as follows:
In addition to the recommendations amounting to $660m referred to above, there will be in 1974 to 1975 substantial expenditures arising from existing legislation: $4.5m for nongovernment school buildings; $11.5m for secondary school libraries; $16.5m for science laboratories in both government and nongovernment schools; and considerable outlays on expanded programs for the education of Aboriginal children and children of nonEnglishspeaking families. These sums are exclusive of the cost to the Australian Government of running the government schools and of giving aid to non-government schools in the Territories. The outlays also exclude all expenditure on personal assistance programs for example, scholarships, living allowances. Most notably, of course, the Commonwealth has a commitment to expend $l88m on teacher education in the21/2 years beginning 1 July 1973.
Returning now to the total recommended expenditure of $660m over the 2 years 1974- 75, of this figure the Committee’s recommendations involve a net cost to Commonwealth Budgets of $467m over and above the cost that existing programs would have imposed. The recommendations fall into 8 major programs:
General recurrent grants - $197.2m.
General building grants - $116m.
Libraries - $43. 8m, including - $20m in grants for secondary schools libraries and $20m in grants for primary schools libraries.
Disadvantaged schools -$50m, including - $20m in recurrent grants and $30m in building grants.
Special education for physically and mentally handicapped children - $43 . 5m, including - $lm in grants for training courses for teachers of handicapped children; $8. 3m in grants for replacement of teachers in training; $ 10.2m in grants for recurrent expenses in special education; $4m in grants to States to assume responsibility for schools conducted by voluntary bodies; and $20m in grants for education departments for new and replacement facilities for handicapped children.
Teacher development - $10.3m, including - $7. 7m in service training, and $2. 6m for education centres.
Innovations and special projects - $6m.
Information systems - $0.2m.
Of the independent schools, other than Catholic parochial schools, 68 per cent are better off under the proposals, 7 per cent about the same and 25 per cent would receive less than at present. The Catholic parochial systems will all receive substantial gains.
The Committee, in its recommendations, assumes that the present level of State government assistance to the running costs of non-government schools will continue. This level of assistance is estimated at $44.7m for the year 1972. Main beneficiaries of the recommendations to the non-government sector of education are the Catholic parochial schools,whose resource level is estimated at 80 per cent of that of the average state school. There are non-government schools at whose command are resources 4 times as great as in poorer non-government schools. Some of these better endowed schools are already beyond the resource level which it is the Committee’s aim to attain for schools over 6 years. The Committee’s recommendations increase the expenditure on the state schools by the Australian Government by $396m.
Catholic parish schools, which under the old system would receive about $42m in the 2 years for general recurrent expenditure, will receive about $64m. The Catholic independent schools generally will improve, although not quite so sharply. To this must be added expenditure on Catholic disadvantaged schools and expenditure on general school buildings and primary and secondary libraries additional to the existing scheme. The Committee expresses the opinion that it will be necessary for the States to employ outside consultants if the building program is to be mounted quickly. If the States are to be able to create these resources and spend this money, the Committee feels that the urgency of the school replacement and upgrading program would, if necessary, justify restraint on large scale commercial building, which it believes should have a lower priority than buildings for these essential community services.
The Committee has made valuable recommendations concerning functions and structure for the future schools commission, which it suggests should comprise a chairman and 3 or 4 full-time commissioners with, say, 6 part-time commissioners. It also recommends regional boards in the States for effective decentralisation of the commission’s activities.
I should like to draw special attention to the values which have informed the Committee’s deliberations:
The pursuit of equality in the sense of making, through schooling, the overall circumstances of children’s education as nearly equal as possible;
The attainment of minimum standards of competence for life in the modern democratic industrial society;
The concept of schooling as a way of life as well as a preparation for life;
The notion of education as a life-long experience of which attendance at primary and secondary schools is one phase;
Diversity among schools in their structures, curricula and teaching methods; The devolution, as far as practicable, of the making of decisions to those work ing in or with the schools - teachers, pupils, parents and the local community; and
The involvement of the community in school affairs.
I have made the report available to the Parliament and to the State governments, and it will go to the school authorities at the earliest opportunity. The Government has yet to consider the report, but I expect it to discuss the Committee’s recommendations in the near future. When the printed version of the report is available, a copy will be sent to every school in Australia.
In summary, this Committee has presented recommendations designed to provide a general upgrading of facilities, special consideration for the needs of disadvantaged children and improvements in the quality of education. It has recommended a decentralised system of education, public accountability by nongovernment schools receiving assistance, and provision for evaluation of the assistance programs. The work of the Interim Committee is outstanding. I wish to express to Professor Karmel and every member the deep gratitude of the Australian Government. This will be expressed personally in letters, but the nation is deeply indebted to them and that indebtedness should be recorded in this House.
I present the following paper:
– by leave - The House is indebted to Professor Karmel and his Committee for their report. It is quite true that the document recommends some notable advances in terms of Commonwealth involvement in education, but it has not been possible in the hour in which the report has been available to look to see the mechanisms which are proposed. In the last few words of his speech the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said that the Committee has recommended a decentralised system of education. That is something which the previous Government always supported. It is worth noting that in Victoria the State Education Department is being decentralised into regions. I would like to know whether this Government intends to impose its own but different regions or will accept what the State is doing as a proper State prerogative or an act appropriate to the States in decentralising their own systems. The need for decentralisation is understood increasingly by Stats departments of education and State Ministers for Education and it ought not to be something imposed by the Commonwealth.
Public accountability by non-government schools receiving assistance was also a principle firmly supported, accepted and put into effect by the previous Government. Under the research programs which it instituted an evaluation of assistance programs of one kind or another was certain to be undertaken. The Minister in making his speech claimed that some non-government schools had resources 4 times as great as some other non-government schools. He did not compare the best nongovernment schools, because I doubt whether any non-government schools - I think it would be worth the House being given clarification of this point - would have resources equal to the resources available to the higher secondary schools in Tasmania which cost about $4m to $5m for 900 pupils. That seems to me to be a resource level beyond the capacity of any independent schools. The Minister could assist future debate in this House if he made accurate comparisons of that kind as well as comparisons just between some non-government schools and some others. The real matter I wanted to raise concerns the report and something which may be suppressed from the report and may have been suppressed at the direction of the Government. It is adverted to in the report. I turn first to the letter that Professor Karmel wrote to the Minister, which stated:
We have also taken into account the policies of the Australian Government with respect to the various existing programs of assistance for government and non-government schools as expressed in communications from you and we have referred to them in paragraphs 1.14 and 1.19.
I turn now to the terms of reference of the Committee. The third term of reference was that the grants recommended by the interim committee will be for the period from 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1975 in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments. That is the point to which I want to advert in particular. It is my understanding that that term of reference has in secret been changed, and has been changed in a way which made it quite plain to the Committee that the Committee was to recommend the phasing out of certain Commonwealth Government programs. If that is so, it is in contradistinction to and stands against that term of reference which the public and everyone had a right to think was governing the activities of the Interim Committee. Turning to page 5 of the report, we are given a little further indication of this matter. The Committee states:
The terms of reference specify that the grants are recommended by the Committee were to be ‘in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments’.
That was in the original term of reference. That was what all schools had a right to expect. The report goes on:
The Minister for Education has informed the Committee that all grants being made to schools under Commonwealth legislation which was operative when the present Australian Government came to office would be continued during 1973. However, beyond 1973 some of these programs are to be phased out.
That apparently came in a directive. It was not covered under the terms of reference* This House ought to have a copy of the letters that have come, as I understand it, not only from the Minister for Education but also from the Prime Minister to Professor Karmel, directing the manner in which certain recommendations of this Committee-
– That is an absolute slander, a. vicious slander. The programs phased out that are referred to are your own - the library grants finishing at a certain point and tha science laboratories at a certain point. They are nothing additional.
-Order! If the Minister believes he has been misrepresented he can ask to make a personal explanation after the present speaker has concluded.
– If I have misrepresented the Minister I will certainly apologise, but might I develop this point a little further. The report continues:
However, beyond 1973 some of these programs are to be phased out.
That, as 1 understand it, was a directive. I would like to know whether the Minister is prepared to table in this House the letters of directives that passed from him to Professor Karmel on this point. I return now to para* graph 1.19 on page 6 of the report. The Minister might have been better advised if he bad waited until I had come to this matter before he interjected on me. This is the para-; graph that deals with recurrent grants. It states:
Under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972, recur, rent grants are being paid to non-government schools in the States on a per capita basis. The rates for 1973, determined before the present Australian Government took office, were $62 per primary and $104 per secondary pupil. The Government - i
That is the present Government - las indicated to the Committee that, although grants are being made at these rates during 1973, after that tear the basic level of support for non-government s chools will not be pre-determined, and the nature and level of support for recurrent expenditure during 1974 and 1973 will be recommended by the Com- mittee, having regard to the overall assessment of needs and priorities and to the pre-existing situation.
The significant words are ‘the Government has indicated to the Committee that’. How did the Government indicate to the Committee? Was it a verbal communication, was it a letter, was it a directive? That is what I would like to know. The Committee makes it quite plain that the Government circumscribed the manner in which the Committee could make recommendations on this point. It may well not be necessary to continue in these matters, but letters written to representatives of the independent schools authorities in December 1972 from the Prime Minister indicated that any payments recommended by the Committee would be additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of non-government schools, and implied that the pre-existing payments would be continued. That was the letter written on 13 December 1972 and signed by the Prime Minister. Then, of course, the Prime Minister made a speech at St Patrick’s College, I think, at Prospect Vale in Tasmania in which the sense of those words was altered and the sense of those words was not going to lead to a situation in which the funds would be additional to the pre-existing per capita grants.
The other aspect, of course, is that on 20 June 1972, I think at a public meeting the Prime Minister, as he now is, is on public record as having said that any pre-existing forms of aid to independent schools would be continued if he won office. The whole tenor of what I have to say is that the Interim Committee was given an indication, a suggestion, a directive by letter, in writing or by word from the Minister for Education or from the Prime Minister that per capita grants as they had existed, as had been the policy of the Federal Catholic Schools Committee, the Australian Parents Council and the National Council of Independent Schools were to be phased out. It is also my understanding that this kind of directive was given to the Committee as late as April this year. If this is not correct I would like the Minister to explain, when there is a full debate on these matters, the meaning which was implicit in the Committee’s remarks when it said that the grants recommended by the Committee were to be in addition to existing programs. The Government has indicated that certain programs are to be phased out. I know that the Science program was ending because we had built in additional sums for continued science building and in the general capital funds, but the Minister knows full well that the main tenor and thrust of these remarks is aimed at the per capita grants which in terms of previous legislation it is plain are being phased out. It is my understanding that either the Minister or the Prime Minister gave a directive to the Committee that this was to be so, and the only way in which this can be satisfactorily resolved is for the Minister to table the full correspondence that he has had with the Committee throughout its term of activity.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I certainly do. It is very clear that confronted with the possibility that the Government will adopt this magnificent program we are to have nothing said about the program but a situation invented in which statements and accusations are made which are not only grossly defamatory of me but are also grossly defamatory of Professor Karmel, as if he were a stooge who would accept directives. I am perfectly willing to table the letter which I have sent to the Committee. My communications with the Committee have been three. The first was my initial statement to the Committee, which is a public document. The second is a letter I have here and the third was when I was asked for an informal opinion. It may interest the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to know that my informal opinion was precisely the opposite of his slander. My informal opinion was opposite to what the Committee has recommended. My view was that every school in the country, including the Geelong Grammar School, should receive a basic grant from the Commonwealth and that the Commonwealth should have an identity with the education of everychild. If it has recommended, in good conscience, something that is different from that, it is its decision and not my directive. I should like this matter discussed on the basis of the merits of this radical transformation of education in Australia, including the transformation of the Catholic schools and not on the basis of alleged-
– Order! I appreciate that in a personal explanation the Minister may show where the misrepresentation has occurred, but he cannot debate the matter.
– Very well, Mr Deputy Speaker. This matter should not be discussed on the basis of a misrepresentation of my attitude. I will not be manoeuvred into the position of being prejudiced against the education of any child in Australia, no matter whether he be regarded as a privileged child. It was not my attitude.
– As I indicated earlier, if the Minister would indicate that what I was saying was incorrect I would certainly apologise to him. I look forward to reading the 3 communications that were tabled.
– I did not table 3 communications. My initial speech was a public document which was printed. 1 have tabled the one letter I wrote to the Committee.
– There has been no communication from the Prime Minister to the Committee?
– 1 do not know anything about communications between the Prime Minister and the Committee. All that I know is that this has been my view.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- 1 would like to mention one other matter by way of personal explanation. I make the point quite plain that it is perfectly competent for a government that has a certain policy to give policy guidelines to a committee which is making an examination on its behalf. It is no reflection on any member of that committee to indicate that that might have been done. I have the highest possible regard for Professor Karmel and every member of the Interim Committee. If a government has a certain policy it wants pursued that government is entitled to establish policy guidelines within which that examination must take place. The purpose of what I was wanting to do was to see whether there have not been policy guidelines beyond the stated and public terms of reference. Secondly, it ought to be noted that I pressed the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to make arrangements that would enable this long and detailed report to be fully examined. I hope that its educational qualities and merits will be debated without passion from either side of the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I say one thing more to the honourable member, and that is that if the Committee were to-
-Order! It might be best if the Minister asks leave to make a statement.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle - Minister for Education) - I expressed an opinion that if the Committee should come to the view that grants should be phased out, nobody should be jolted out from having a level of grant to nothing. That was an informal opinion. It was not a directive and no directive was ever given. The Committee was completely independent.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps this matter could be pursued in debate but there has been a misrepresentation, I think, on this particular matter. I only ask honourable members again to look at paragraph 1.19 of the Committee’s report where it says quite plainly-
– You can read the letter, lt is tabled.
-The Committee said plainly:
The Government has indicated to the Committee that, although grants are being made available at these rates during 1973, after that year the basic level of support for non-government schools will nol be predetermined . . .
Then the sentence goes on. It would seem to be contrary to the view which the Minister for Education expressed. I accept that as his view. I think there may be some ambiguity which may be later debated and clarified.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave to make a very short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– Yesterday a former wartime Minister and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the honourable J. J. Dedman, called on me personally. Because of the respect I have for the honourable gentleman and his objection to a statement I made in this House last week I now make the following short statement and apologise for any inaccuracies. Last week in my speech on the housing Bills 1 said this:
It happened almost 30 years ago and down the period of years inaccuracies have crept into the original statement of the honourable J. J. Dedman. So I wish now to quote from Hansard that part of Mr Denman’s speech to which I referred. It was not made in 1947, it was not on the hustings; it was in this place on 2 October 1945. Mr Dedman was making a speech on the Bill for the introduction of a Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement - the first such agreement, I believe. Mr Dedman said in part of his speech-
– To get it in context you have to read what was said preceding his speech.
– Yes. Mr Dedman said:
The honourable member for Denison (Dr Gaha) suggested that, instead of augmenting the family income by the payment of child endowment, we should provide for the sale of houses at lower prices and that it should be possible to use the money now paid in child endowment to amortise the cost of such an undertaking. He said that in this way we would make the average worker a capitalist.
Mr Dedman was referring to a statement made by Dr Gaha. He continued:
That is too big a problem for me to discuss in detail tonight, but there is one argument which I would put forward: The Commonwealth Government is con cerned to provide adequate and good housing for the workers; it is not concerned willi making the workers into little capitalists.
The late Mr Anthony, the father of our present Leader of the Australian Country Party, said:
In other words, it is not concerned with making them home owners.
Mr Dedman then said:
If there is any criticism which may be directed against the policies of past governments supported by the present Opposition-
That is referring to past Liberal Party-Country Party governments which at that time were the Opposition, as those parties are today - it is this: Too much of their legislative programs was deliberately designed to place the workers in a position in which they would have a vested interest in the continuance of capitalism. That is a policy which will not have my support, at any rate.
I thank the House for the privilege of making this statement.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of Windsor Telephone Exchange, Victoria.
The proposal involves the construction of a 37.18 metre high reinforced concrete framed building, externally clad with clay bricks, and fully air-conditioned, with a systems reliability compatible with that of the specialist PostmasterGeneral’s Department equipment to be installed. Emergency generating plant is included and special attention has been paid to the decor of the manual assistance centres where carpet tiles, acoustic ceilings and detailed interior design will create a pleasant working environment. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $6m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the new facilities to be housed in the proposed building, that the site was suitable, and recommended that the work proceed. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 29 May (vide page 2817).
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
– When the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was speaking to this clause last night I think he seriously misunderstood the position which had been taken up by my honourable and learned friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). The honourable member for Moreton did not, as I understand it, in any way advocate that senators should be appointed to represent the Antarctica, Heard Island, etc. What he was doing was to use a form of argument which is known among logicians as reductio ad absurdum. The honourable member was trying to show the ultimate consequences of the kind of thing that was being put forward by the Government.
If a Territory is to have senators then why should not the smallest Territory have senators if size means nothing? But the size does mean something. There is some kind of reasonable ratio of size. When I look at the Bills which are before the chamber for cognate consideration, I think that the Government has very rightly arranged for proper representation for the Australian Capital Territory in this House. Previous governments did this. Because the population of the Australian Capital Territory has now increased it is entitled to have 2 members in the House of Representatives rather than one because it is a fair share in relation to the number of people and the number of electors in the Territory. The numbers are important. But when it comes to the Senate the Government seems to forget this altogether and says that the numbers are not important. When my friend the honourable member for Moreton spoke of this he was showing that if we adopted the Government principle that numbers were not important then every Territory would be equally entitled to have its own representatives in the Senate. This is the reductio ad absurdum. Tt shows the consequence of following out the principle which the Government has adopted and it is an absurd consequence. My honourable friend from the electorate of Moreton was, as T take it, simply pointing out the absurdity which followed from the adoption of the prin ciple or should I rather say the lack of principle in the proposals which the Government was putting forward in regard to this Bill.
This is not just a trivial matter. We pointed out earlier in this debate that the disparity between the various States in representation in the Senate in accordance with the number of people in the States, all States having equal numbers of senators although they have great differences in population, arose from a federal compact and we paid this price as the price of federation, lt is not something which we should otherwise willingly have paid but the compact has been made. It should be honoured and it will be honoured. But why should we saddle ourselves with new inequities? Why, for example, should the Northern Territory with something like 90,000 inhabitants have 2 senators which would mean one senator to 45,000 inhabitants while New South Wales with something like 4* million people has 10 senators which means one senator for 450,000 inhabitants? Why should we confer on the Northern Territory 10 times the right of the people of New South Wales? It does not seem reasonable at all. As a representative for New South Wales I do not see why this principle of the State compact should be violated in this way.
This is particularly important because of the system of proportional representation which we have for the Senate and which makes the Senate equally divided or nearly equally divided between the political parties. Between the major parties the majority in the Senate is never very great one way or the other. If you were to put in the 4 anomalous senators they would not be senators, they would be representatives. If you were to put in these 4 anomalous territorial senators - call them what you like - then it may well be that they would cut across party lines and because of their very coherent sectional interests they would be able to gang up and swing the whole balance of the Senate as between the major parties. Is this Government going to put the destiny of Australia in the hands of these small sectional groups which are not like the rest of Australia? After all, Canberra is not a general cross-section of the Australian community and neither is the Northern Territory. Are we going to put the Australian destiny in the hands of these small sections? I would say that this would be a quite unreasonable thing to ask the Australian electorate to do. There is no doubt in my mind that whereas the Government is endeavouring to curry favour with these small sections it is at the same time doing so at the price of the electors of Australia as a whole. Whereas it thinks it can get a little sectional advantage it will find that it will get a major disadvantage which will not be sectional because the rest of Australia will not like to see its rights taken away and concentrated in these small sectional interests.
There is one question of principle which I think should be brought forward when one speaks of the disparity in these numbers. This is something which is ruining the authority of the United Nations. The authority of the United Nations is ruined very largely because of the equality of the voting power which is exercised by nations which have only a few hundred thousand people as against nations which have a few hundred million people. For example, why should India have only the same voting power as Fiji or some country like that? This is not reasonable. It is the kind of disparity - the reductio ad absurdum - which we have seen in operation in the United Nations today which is destroying the authority of that world body on which the peace of the world, and I would say the continued existance of humanity, so much depends. This matter which is before the Committee now is one of quite high principle.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Representation in the Senate).
– I will speak very briefly to this clause. To point to the absurdity of this entire proposal I would like to ask the Minister for Services and Property: Why does he pick on 2 senators? What is the virtue in having two? What calculations have been entertained by the honourable gentleman in arriving at 2 senators? As a further illustration of the fact that it was never intended by the founders of federation that a Territory should be represented by senators I again draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the debate of the 1897 convention on this very point. Deakin and Barton - their reputations are not to be smiled away by the honourable gentleman - both proceeded on the assumption that the Senate would remain a States House. I accept the view of my honourable friend the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) that that has substantially disappeared. If that be the case and if it is today essentially a Parties House then what the Government is doing is seeking to turn its entire back on the nature of the compact as established at Federation.
I ask the honourable gentleman if he will read what Deakin had to say. He said:
The Senate will have an equal voice with tha House of Representatives in determining what representation is to bc given . . .
Right through the whole of his argument, when he was replying to Sir Edward Braddon, he proceeded on that assumption. Mr Barton, when speaking of the Territories, said:
They are in a transition state . .
This is a matter of historical record. I warn this Committee - and I hope that my warnings may filter outside to the country - that this is a most significant attack upon the Constitution and if it should by any chance succeed it will open up the gateway for smashing what is left of federalism in this country.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
The term of service of a senator for a Territory commences on the day of his election and expires at the close of the day next preceding the polling day for the general election of members of the House of Representatives next following his election.
– I move:
Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: 6. The term of service of a senator for a Territory commences on the first day of July following the day of his election and continues for three years.’.
The clause which my amendment seeks to insert differs from the original clause which proposed that a senator’s term of service shall be tied to the House of Representatives time scale. To my way of thinking the clause as it stands highlights the fact that these representatives will be some other sort of representatives. They will be taking their place in the Senate but they will not be elected at Senate elections. I think that if the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are to have senators representing them they should be died in the wool senators.
The Northern Territory hopes to move towards statehood. I know that the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby), who is sitting in the chamber, has been quoted as saying that statehood for the Northern Territory would be a disaster. We think that the Government should be pursuing a course which is aimed at giving the Northern Territory greater autonomy as it moves towards statehood. This is the underlying thought behind the amendment. We believe that the Government, in introducing a different class of representative, is doing a disservice to something which I have supported and which the people of the Northern Territory would welcome, that is, further representation. I am sure that they would like to see these men treated the same way as State senators are treated. Therefore I urge that my amendment be considered and passed.
– I wish to oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) just as I oppose clause 6 of the Bill. The words that I uttered in this House last night and the words that have been spoken by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and other members on this side of the House are such as to suggest that it does not matter what term the Government proposes for a Northern Territory senator or an Australian Capital Territory senator. We believe that the entire concept is wrong. The reason why these strange terms are being introduced is simply to accommodate the Government’s intention to increase the size of Senate so that in accord with the Constitution it can increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives.
I set out last night my view that rightly or wrongly in a referendum in late 1967 or early 1968 the Australian people had rejected our proposal that we should break the nexus. All that this Bill proposes to do is to get around the difficulty in another way so that gently and surely the Government can increase the number of representatives in this House. I do not believe that our founding fathers - and no doubt some of the people who originally went to the early Constitution conferences were members of the Labor Party - would have believed that a Labor Government today, after wandering in the wilderness for 2 decades, would within its first 6 months of office try to upset the entire concept of federalism. The Senate is a States House. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are not States and therefore, like other honourable members of this Parliament, I can have nothing but contempt for the Bill and for this clause.
– I would like to reply briefly to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who moved the amendment. The amendment seeks to make the terms of Austraiian Capital Territory and Northern Territory senators half the term of State senators - that is for 3 years from 1 July. I think that that is broadly the interpretation of the amendment. Whilst this would be a workable proposition, it is quite in conflict with the concept and policy of the Australian Labor Party which is that elections for senators and for the House of Representatives should coincide. Consequently the amendment is not acceptable te the Government.
In answer to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), let me say that our legal advisers, who were no doubt the same advisers as those whs advised the previous Government and who gave it the best of legal advice, have advised us that the size of this House will not be increased if we increase the size of the Senate by these 4 senators. So his argument is completely dispelled. There is to be no intention on the part of this Government to flout the constitutional advice that we have been given. Furthermore, if he thinks that this is part of a sinister plot of the Labor Party completely to dominate and control the Parliament by the election of these senators, I suggest that he should have a chat with the President of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory who thinks that it is a first class Bill and that it should be introduced by the Opposition side of the House even if the Government did not do it in this session.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– Two types of Senate vacancies are dealt with in Part II of the Constitution. There is a casual vacancy which is filled by the State Parliament, and there is a vacancy simplicited which arises if a senator is absent for 2 months, the Governor-General is notified and he in turn notifies the Governor of the State concerned. Here the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is proposing that there is a vacancy. In other words, he is riding rough shod over the whole of Part II of the Constitution. I just draw attention to that. I would be very amazed if it was in the power of the Government to do this. I am delighted to hear the honourable gentleman say: ‘We have received advice’. No doubt he has. But I can assure him some of the advice he has received will be open to argument, and certainly will be submitted to it.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May (vide page 2431), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Clause 5 seeks to amend the Representation Act by omitting from paragraph (a) of section 10 the word ‘Senators’ and substituting the words ‘the Senators for the States’. That dramatically lights up the simple fact that the Government envisages 2 types of senators - senators from the States and senators from the Territories. As to the proposition of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that this will in no way affect the representation in the House of Representatives, I draw his attention to the language used in section 24 of the Constitution, which states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
There is no suggestion in any part of the Constitution that any government is at liberty to distinguish between senators qua senators and senators of another variety. I suggest to the Minister that what he is attempting to do here again lights up the fact that he is seeking to circumvent the Constitution.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is again arguing what is a constitutional matter and a question of legal interpretation. I have already stated that the Government’s legal advice is that the increase in the Senate will not necessitate an increase in the size of this House. Section 5 makes clear that it is our intention not to do so. It makes it clear that Territory senators will not be included in the formula for the ascertaining of the quota used in determining the number of members of the House of Representatives in each of the States. We have clarified that in order to dispel the suggestion that it is the Government’s intention to increase the size of the House of Representatives. I noted that the honourable member said a few moments ago that this matter will be tested. I sincerely trust that he and his colleagues will give this Bill a passage through both chambers of the Parliament and thereby permit to be done with this legislation what is intended to be done with the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, that is, have its legality tested. This would give an example to this Parliament of his consistency on great legal and constitutional matters.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 May (vide page 2643), on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may 1 have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Evidence Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Acts Interpretation Bill seeks to make a formal amendment to the principal Act because of a change in the description of magistrates in Tasmania. It is a machinery type of provision and the Opposition does not object to it. The Bill also seeks to change the name of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette’ to the ‘Australian Government Gazette’. The Opposition also does not object to that. That change will require some consequential amendments. Indeed, the Evidence Bill - the other Bill which is being debated cognately - seeks to add to the principal Act a provision for proof on production of the Australian Government Gazette’. The Opposition thinks that this consequential amendment is necessary. The only other thing I wish to do in dealing with this matter is inquire of the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) whether he is yet able to tell us when the Government will introduce in the Parliament legislation relating to the law of evidence of the Australian Capital Territory, which may prove to be a model or a first prototype for a general evidence Act for the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion of Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 24 May (vide page 2643), on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24 May (vide page 2641), on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We are discussing the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill. I start by saying that the Opposition does not propose to oppose this Bill; it will agree with it. When we first set up the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation - and I was very closely associated with this for a considerable number of years, although it was shortly after I retired as Minister for National Development that my successor introduced the Bill into the House of Representatives - we had quite a lot of problems to face. The Snowy Hydro-Electric Authority under Sir William Hudson, and later under Mr Howard Dann, had achieved a very high reputation and considerable fame and 1 believe that world wide it was regarded extremely highly. There was no doubt that the Authority did a magnificent job in designing and completing the work which has now been almost completed. But we did have problems then as to what would happen to the Authority. As my successor, Mr Swartz, said when he introduced the Bill into the House in March 1970:
Some sections of the community would have liked us to retain the whole of the Snowy organisation intact to undertake major water development measures throughout Australia in much the same way as it has tackled the Snowy scheme.
He went on to say:
The truth is however that there is no other scheme in Australia of the same size and homogeneity as the Snowy. The Snowy had been geared to spend annually sums equivalent to the total expended by all States on rural water development measures. While the States’ total might with good reason be increased, there is no case for the Snowy to move into this field so as to push the States out.
So we had to look and see what expertise the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority had which might be used. First of all, of course, it was not in the field of construction because, as we know, all the dams that have been built in the Snowy Mountains area have been built by contract and these contractors are of course available to build dams elsewhere in Australia. But the Authority itself was not a constructing authority. The expertise and the efficiency which this Authority had was in investigating not only projects in the Snowy itself but also many other projects and in designing - in particular, in designing dams, tunnels, mountain roads and a number of other things in this area - in scientific services which it provides in Cooma, and in contract writing and supervision.
So what we set out to do when we set up this Corporation was to maintain these skills. But we did not want the Corporation to go so far as to undermine the business of local private engineering consulting organisations or to compete directly with them in all fields, and we did not want to have the Authority able to push unwanted into the States. Therefore, the then Minister in his second reading speech outlined a number of measures which he felt would see that the Authority was fully used, but in Australia anyway would abide by the rules which Cabinet had laid down for it. It was not to be permitted to act as a constructing authority, and the principal engineering fields in which it was to operate were broadly described as those related to the development of water and power resources and for underground works. In work for private organisations, it was able to act only when commissioned by a private consultant and the State governments were invited to introduce legislation matching that of the Commonwealth. I understand now that all the States have done this and I am very glad that they have done so because at the time some of the States seemed to be rather half-hearted as to whether they would use the Authority or not. They have ali used the Authority and I am glad that they have all now passed the necessary legislation, lt was expected that the Snowy would continue to use and collaborate with Australian consultants in appropriate circumstances and this it certainly has done. It was to be necessary for the Snowy to obtain approval of the Minister before undertaking any job and the Minister, before he gave that approval, was to have the advice of a consultative committee which was formed and on which some private consultants were members. Finally, it was to operate as a commercial organisation, would pay Commonwealth income tax and would be expected to make a reasonable return on its capital.
I am sure we can say that everything that was set out in the second reading speech for the Authority to do it has achieved and I am sure that everyone is extremely pleased with the way it has been operating. I see from its last annual report that last year, the charges to clients were over $8m, up about $1.5m on the previous year. Its operating profit was just on $500,000, it made provision for income tax of $305,000 and this left it a net profit of $172,351. It has been able to undertake a large number of assignments. In the last year, there were some 25 assignments inside Australia and about 11 assignments outside Australia, in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia or North Borneo. So, I think we can be justly proud of what the Corporation has achieved during the relatively short period it has been in operation.
The Bill now before the House proposes to widen the capacity of this Corporation to undertake work in Australia. As I said, at present inside Australia it has been limited in a number of ways, lt has been limited to the development of water resources, to the generation and transmission of electricity and to underground works. It was limited in that it had to work through a private consulting engineer and that it was not to engage in construction. Some of these restraints are to be removed by the present Government. The first is the proposal that will allow the Corporation to act independently or in association with others. The second is that at present all works undertaken by the Corporation, however minor, must receive the prior approval of the Minister, and the Government says that it believes this provision is unnecessarily restrictive and it will amend it so that the Minister can allow certain works as prescribed by him without specific submission being made for approval. This, I am sure, is only sensible. A change is to be made in the Principal Act so as to alter the composition of the consultative committee and add representatives of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Trade to this committee. I think in the past there was close liaison on all overseas matters with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Trade, but this will put them even closer together.
There, is to be a change in the borrowing powers of the Corporation to bring it into line with standard provisions in other similar Acts such as, we are told, the Overseas Telecommunications Act. The final amendment clarifies the fact that the Corporation must not only seek the approval of the Minister before it can acquire or dispose of property with a value in excess of $100,000, but also seek the approval of the Minister to enter into an agreement for the provision of services if their value is in excess of $100,000. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. We believe that it is a sensible measure. I understand that a request has been made for the services of the Corporation in additional areas, in fields outside those in which it is at present allowed to participate. 1 refer particularly to the mining field. In the early days of the development of the Bougainville field Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia sought the services of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, but because of the then charter of the Corporation it was not enabled to assist. Now it will be able to engage in such activities in mining and other areas when its services are required and desired.
The Opposition believes that the Corporation has been extremely successful. I have no doubt that a number of projects with which the Corporation has assisted would have gone to overseas consultants had the Corporation not existed. It has also assisted Australian consultants. Sometimes an Australian organisation employs Austraiian consultants in conjunction with the Corporation knowing that if the Australian consultant does not have all the required expertise, probably the Corporation will be able to assist. Such joint undertakings have enabled Australian consultants to obtain jobs which otherwise would have gone to big overseas consultants, private and governmental.
Consultant engineering is a very big activity nowadays. The amount expended annually on such work in Australia is enormous and in addition quite a lot is spent overseas. Anything that can be done to build up local expertise is worthwhile. The Corporation is not a large organisation in the field of consultant engineering operating in Australia today. I understand that in the Association of Consulting Engineers there are between 4,000 and 5,000 engineers, and all told there are between 10,000 and 12,000 men in that organisation. The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation employs 107 engineers and a total staff of about 308 people, so that relatively speaking it is quite small. For the reasons I have given I believe that we should congratulate and support the Corporation. We support the Bill.
– The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was established by the Commonwealth in 1949. Its function was to carry out detailed investigation, design and construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme over the period of its operation. An area of over 2,000 square miles has been worked and there is now an integrated water and electrical generating system. It is quite a feat by world standards. There are now hundreds of miles of transmission lines interconnecting the supply systems of New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. The capital cost of the scheme will amount to about $800m by the time of its completion, all of which will be paid for from revenue from the supply of electricity. A water supply of 2 million acre feet is a bonus to the inland of Australia and it will not be necessary to cover the cost of delivering the water because that cost will be covered by revenue from electricity supply.
The Snowy Mountains Council was created to direct, control and maintain the completed works, and it now operates from Cooma. As the scheme is in my electorate, situated in our largest snow area and one of the most scenic regions in Australia, I have asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) to organise a government members’ tour of the area. This has been agreed to by both Ministers. I hope honourable members, particularly new members, will take the opportunity to inspect the scheme and to see the area in which it is situated.
– Are only government members invited, or all members?
– All members are invited. I thank the honourable member for the correction. In 1970 the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation was established to use the engineering skills and expertise built up by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Corporation has won overseas projects against very strong international competition. On the invitation of the New South Wales Government the Corporation is involved in work on the Shoalhaven scheme and the Eastern Suburbs Railway. This Bill removes the restraints on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation that confine its activity to the development of water resources, works associated with electricity and underground works. Even in those areas, because of the restrictions, the Corporation had to operate through private consulting engineers and could not engage in any construction work in Australia. We believe that they are unnecessary restraints on the operations of the Corporation.
The possibility of completion with private enterprise is a myth. On the contrary, the Corporation has provided opportunities for private enterprise in this country that did not previously exist. We believe that the unnecessary restrictions have had quite a dampening effect on the expansion of the Corporation. The Bill lifts the restrictions and the Corporation can now accept contracts for consultation and construction works. This will allow the Corporation to tender for works on such projects as the national pipeline. I also feel that in addition to the restrictions imposed by the Act another anomaly deserving the attention of this Parliament has existed. The Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority inherited very strong arbitral powers which presumably were required for the functioning of the Authority during the construction period of the scheme. These powers are now extremely overbearing and wide sweeping in respect of the present function of the Authority and the future function of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. I believe, as the member for the electorate, that those arbitral powers should now be subjected to very close scrutiny. The powers associated with the man in charge of the new organisation should be reduced to fit the function of that position. With the removal of the restrictions on the scope of the work that the Corporation can undertake it is expected that many more people will be absorbed from the Snowy Mountains Authority. In this respect I would like to discuss for a few minutes the impact of this measure on the town in which the Corporation is situated.
Land sales are currently being undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. In my view, at least, this action seems contrary to the express function of the lands commission and of the Department of Urban and Regional Development. That Department has established a lands commission to purchase land for urban development and a Cities Commission to develop that land under proper guidance. In respect of Cooma, the temporary nature of the Snowy Mountains Authority is relevant. Its objectives have been achieved and I think it is time to review what is to happen to the houses in
Cooma. Most of the Authority’s houses in Cooma were built for a short life span of about 20 years. Most of them have exceeded that life span. The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, a permanent organisation, has been established and it is time that we looked at the provision of permanent accommodation for the people employed by the Corporation and the Snowy Mountains Council. On that point it seems sensible to employ the resources of the Cities Commission. I hope that that aspect of this Bill and its relationship to the setting up and administration of the Corporation can be handled between the Corporation and the Cities Commission. I hope that some consideration will be given to the wider work of the Corporation.
The social conscience of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has become one of its claims to fame. The Authority’s consideration for conservation, its employees and the people in the communities which impinged upon the activities of the Authority has become a legend in the area. It would be a pity if, at the inauguration of the Corporation, that social conscience was forgotten. I would not like to see the continuation of the work that has now become fairly standard; that is the indiscriminate sale of land to various interests in the private sector in the Cooma area. I commend this Bill to the House and I look forward to the stability that it will introduce into my electorate. I look forward to greater achievements from the Corporation. I am sure it will be a worthy successor to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
– The Australian Country Party supports the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill. However, I must express some reservations and some fears about what could emanate from the amendments that are proposed to this legislation. Perhaps experience might show them to be unfounded. This Bill is designed to expand the scope of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to allow it to engage in construction work in Australia with a wider range of tasks than has been permitted by the existing legislation. It is not what is known about the legislation that is of so much concern to me as what is not known about it. It is the shadow of the intent rather than the substance that gives me concern. It should be a general rule that statutory bodies of government officials are established to perform useful functions. They should not be established as an expression of the political belief that there should be government involvment in an area of the economy simply because that area is important. Similarly, given that the existence of statutory organisations is indicative of the need for their existence, once the purpose for their intended role has disappeared or changed the nature of the organisations should be changed. In other words, the legal structure and functions of the Corporation reflect the apparent requirement for it in the economy. This is a sensible and pragmatic approach and, being consequently devoid of ideological preconceptions, it is one that the Australian Labor Party apparently seems to reject.
It seems to me that the Labor Party has an almost spiritual attachment to statutory organisations and an almost mystic belief in their universal appropriateness. By contrast, the Country Party approaches this legislation in an objective and constructive manner. I believe that legislation relating to statutory organisations should be subject to 5 criteria. Firstly, will the Corporation play a role in the development of Australia that could not successfully be filled by existing organisations? Secondy, is the role envisaged by the Corporation an appropriate one for a statutory body to fill, given the basic nature of the Australian economy and poltical system? Thirdly, is the resultant utilisation of public funds appropriate in view of the increasing and diverse demands for government expenditure on a national basis? Fourthly, will the Corporation’s operations lead to a net increase in the national welfare to an extent not otherwise possible? Fifthly, will the aggregate benefits provided by the Corporation sufficiently offset the adverse competitive impact on sectors of the private enterprise economy, through the Corporation’s access to public funds, to justify its actions?
These are real and fair tests that ought to be applied to this legislation. However, the answers cannot be clearly received as the intentions of the Bill are rather vague and indefinite. I am not implacably opposed to State intervention in the economy simply because of ideological implications. Each case must be looked at on its own merits. However, it would seem to me that the tasks of the proposed new expanded Corporation should be made clear by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) before Parliament is asked to authorise legislation which could enable the Corporation to become the biggest construction group in Australia.
In 1970 the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority employed some 3,000 men and was geared to the super-vision of approximately $40m worth of work a year. The action of the previous Government to subsequently limit the operations of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and to arrange a specific list of matters was not taken out of political malice. It was taken for the very good reason that once the duties of the Authority had changed its nature had to be altered to take account of the circumstances. It did not want to retain a very large construction organisation simply because of an emotional reluctance to see it diminished in size. The functions of the present organisation have enabled it to engage in some very useful work for the nation. It has operated at a substantial profit and has had a full work load. If the Government wishes to expand the scope of the organisation it should make clear how it is to meet the 5 criteria I have listed, and what duties it envisages the organisation performing. The lack of a statutory organisation of this nature in the past has not prevented massive development work being carried out in Australia. lt has not prevented the rapid mineral development of this nation and the exploration and exploitation of previously untapped energy resources.
What I suspect is that from an organisation with a useful supplementary role in the economy, performing with distinction on a profitable basis, the Corporation will become a gigantic government-controlled construction authority serving, in a most clumsy and unwieldy manner, the dual purpose of satisfying the socialistic instincts of the Labor Party and, in a heavy-handed way, the use of overseas capital and skills in the development of Australian resources. I emphasise the word ‘suspect’ although from the Minister’s second reading speech we have a subtle hint that the Corporation’s relevance will be in relation to mining and to the construction of the gas pipeline between, I presume, South Australia and Sydney.
One would never have guessed from the bland second reading speech of the Minister that this legislation is one of the most potentially dangerous pieces of legislation one could imagine for State and Commonwealth relations. At present, the Corporation has broad functions associated with engineering work in a Commonwealth territory. Where the Corporation’s activities relate to a State, the Minister shall not approve Corporation activities unless they are related to underground work and work associated with the development of water resources for the generation and the transmission of electricity. The existing Act shows that it was the intention of the Parliament that the Corporation may operate in a State, subject to these restrictions. The Commonwealth Parliament has power to limit the extent to which the Corporation may perform functions with the authority of State law, and it has done so.
All the States - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - have passed legislation complementary to the Act. That State legislation permits the Corporation to operate legally within a State in relation to those matters with respect to which the Commonwealth Parliament does not have power to make laws. The State legislation also controls the Corporation’s operations in the State in order to protect the operations of existing construction authorities and consultant facilities in the State. What do the proposed amendments entail? The Corporation would be able to engage in the construction of engineering works not only outside Australia but also inside Australia. Previous restrictions as to its scope would be eliminated. Under the amendment to section 27 of the Act the Corporation would be given potential preferential borrowing rights. I oppose provisions of this nature under which the Corporation could well be in competition with existing organisations in the construction industry.
The Australian Country Party opposed a similar financial provision in the Australian National Airlines Bill and was assured by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) in the Committee stage that it was intended that in practice Trans-Australia Airlines would not be given preferential borrowing rights. I hope it is not too much to look for a similar assurance from the Minister for Housing in relation to the amendments to this Act. But here is the crunch: The restrictions which the Commonwealth Parliament imposes on the Corporation in its operations in the States are to be removed. If the States go along with these increased powers and amend their complementary legislation, all will be done legally. But if the States do not go along with this the Corporation may exercise its newly acquired functions in a State to the extent that the Commonwealth legal authority over-rides State legal authority.
To what extent is this the case? Here we are getting into complex legal areas, but in a nutshell it is quite likely that the Commonwealth can over-ride State objections to an almost unlimited extent through, for example, the Commonwealth defence powers. Let us take an example. Section 32 of the Act is to be amended so that the Corporation must acquire property under the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1966 if it wishes to acquire land or property at all. This means in the final analysis that the Corporation could compulsorily acquire land in Sydney and build on that land any type of structure or engineering work. This could be done despite all the objections of the State planning authorities and the State Government. The Further one looks into this Bill the more significant its implications become. If the off-shore area could be legally defined as Commonwealth territory, the Corporation could engage in the engineering works and construction activities related to mineral exploration in the off-shore areas of Australia.
The foregoing explains my earlier concern that the Government should indicate what its intentions are. Are my fears imaginary or are they real? That is the important question that needs to be answered. If the Government’s actions are commensurate with the legal provisions of this Bill the position is a very serious one indeed. 1 believe it is necessary for me to highlight my concern and to give warning to those people who may not believe that there are any dangers inherent in this Bill. If the Government has certain latent socialistic views and intends bringing them into action, all I can say is that in the future this sort of legislation will have to be strongly opposed. The Opposition will take whatever action it can to see that those areas of the Bill which tend towards state and monopoly control and undue competition with free enterprise which could ordinarily undertake this work are removed.
– in reply - I want to express appreciation for the co-operative attitude that generally has been taken in respect of this
Bill. As I listened to the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) I could not help feeling that his speech was rather synonymous with the kind of speech that was made many years ago when the first Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was set up. That Authority became a great success. The doubting Thomases of the Parliament were around in those days, as they are today. They evince a lack of faith and enthusiasm in public enterprise. The fact of the matter is, as history demonstrates, that the Authority took on work important to Australia which private enterprise would never have contemplated. It seems to me to be a very real likelihood that the newly-structured Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will go on to do likewise. It also seems to me that the involvement that the body will have in overseas activities will probably end up being to the advantage of even private engineering concerns in Australia.
It is a big league which our own private enterprise entrepreneurs have not always been able to move into to the extent that they would like. The imprimatur which is given to a governmental authority of this kind can be extremely beneficial not only from the point of view of establishing the buoyancy of the enterprise itself but also as a lead lamb, if you like, which will cause there to be a rub-off benefit for many private enterprise establishments in Australia. One honourable gentleman referred to public funds being used. It is important for us to take note of the fact that the Snowy Mountains Authority over the years has demonstrated its earning capacity. It has been more than self-sustaining. An extremely limited amount of governmental funds was injected into this activity. It was probably in the vicinity of $lm and it was used for very secondary purposes. I doubt whether the kind of fear expressed by the Leader of the Country Party can be justified.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) referred to the fact that after decades we now have a situation in which there is an authority with the capacity to calculate its land and site requirements for its various purposes. It seems to me that his suggestion that we should evaluate the usefulness of this land for public purposes before any disposal is engaged in was a very useful one. I have noted his comments that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) might undertake such an evaluation in co-operation with the other Ministers concerned so that we can ensure that, in the event of any land being surplus to the requirements of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, we can set about using it for purposes that are compatible with the public interest. I think that is the spirit of what the honourable gentleman said.
What has occurred here today is a manifestation of the enthusiasm which this Parliament generally has for the Snowy Mountains scheme and the great work which has been done over the years. The Corporation is one of the very finest organisations which our country has ever seen. It is good that there has been an absence of fierce controversy in this debate. In fact I sensed a degree of imprimatur and enthusiasm from honourable gentlemen opposite. I sincerely hope that the hopes we have on this side of the House for the success of the new instrumentality with its widened area of powers might be substantiated and that the people of Australia will benefit as a consequence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 May (vide page 2505), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), when introducing this Bill, mentioned that it was to continue a process that was set in motion by the previous Government to pay a bounty rather than impose a tariff on books. Obviously the idea, quite rightly, was that it would not increase the price of books; it would not impose a tax on knowledge. I am glad to see that the present Government has continued this lineof thinking. There are several things about the bounty that should be mentioned. One is that it is needed because of the high cost of publishing books in Australia. This cost has 2 components. One is the cost of the paper on which the books are printed.
This is one of the unfortunate results of our tariff system; it increases the cost of the raw material, so to speak, and increases the cost of printing.
The second element in the costs that make this bounty necessary is the wages cost. This cost of course is higher in our country than in others and is likely to be higher still. I have before me a log of claims put out by the Printing and Kindred Industries Union. It sets out the way in which the union expects to be treated. If these claims are granted there will be need for a very greatly increased bounty. - Let me give some examples. The union is asking that an employee should be paid weekly by his employer for all time occupied by the employee in travelling to and from work, and that all fares for travel be paid in addition. If a chap goes to and from work by car it is claimed that he should be paid, in addition to payment for the time taken, 30c a mile for travel either way.
There are many other quite startling claims which, if granted, will inevitably increase the need for an increased bounty. The Union claims that an employee should without loss of pay be allowed by his employer compassionate leave of 7 consecutive days in connection with the death of a husband, wife, next of kin, or any other relatives. We can imagine the rush of mother-in-law deaths we would have about test match time if that kind of thing were accepted. The Union is asking that a female employee who becomes pregnant be given 6 months’ leave, 3 months before and 3 months after the birth. It does not mention how the father is to be treated. It is asking for a 30-hour week. If this kind of thing is continued the bounty we will be passing in this House, and which the Opposition will be supporting will inevitably have to be increased.
There are other aspects of the industry that I think I should mention because they are relevant to the need for bounty protection. I am using as my source of information an article by Max Harris. It deals with the arrangements between the British and the United States publishers which make it very difficult indeed for the main sections of the Australian publishing industry. It centres on an arrangement whereby an American publisher sells the copyright to a book to a British publisher. This means that the book cannot be exported directly from the United States to Australia. I quote from Mr Max Harris’s article in which he sets out the kind of damage that this does to the industry:
It became almost a law of life that Australia could only purchase British editions, and that Australia could only publish nationally books of Australian authorship. Booksellers looked wistfully at American publishing lists and the invariable code letters OBE.
That does not stand for the Order of the British Empire; it means outside the British Empire. He goes on:
This meant that the American book could not be supplied to Australia because a UK publisher had taken up the copyright option to issue an edition which sometimes eventuated, sometimes didn’t.
This is an important barrier to the Australian publishing industry. Let me give some examples, and I quote again from this article by Mr Harris:
Charles Mountford’s ‘Oceania, Australia’, an important text on the art of our region, was published by Methuen in London. The title went out of print. Methuen are unlikely ever to reprint it. However, the American edition of a major volume on our Aboriginal art survived and was largely unsellable in the U.S.A. But the New York suppliers could not sell the copies to Australia, where the book is essential, because Methuen held the copyright.
He gives many other examples which show the difficulties of the Australian publishing industry of which I think we ought to be aware on this occasion. Let me again quote directly from his article:
Let me cite an everyday example. For the past six months you can buy a paperback of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ in France, Israel, India, Greece, Hong Kong, or the U.S.A. The title was potentially a gigantic bestseller in Australia. It was not the Englishman’s cup of tea. A U.K. paperback may eventuate. We don’t know when. What we do know is that if an Australian publisher had been able to bid for and produce a paperback for this country late last year he would have sold about 50,000 copies. The Australian publisher would have profited, the author would have earned sizable extra royalties, and the original U.S.A. publisher would have done better by negotiating a separate deal for a U.K. and an Australian edition.
But the British system is one of united blackmail. The British Publishers Association will not, by private joint agreement, purchase copyright just for the U.K.
There are many examples of this restrictive trade practice in operation. There is no doubt that it bears heavily on the Australian publishing industry or certainly those sectors of it that are not overseas owned, particularly in the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister when he is looking at this matter again to be aware of the concern that is felt by a great many people, including myself, about this practice. I will not say anything more about it except that the Bill before us continues the practice of the previous government in assuring that there is not a tax on knowledge. We are awaiting the Tariff Board report on this matter with great interest. The Opposition supports 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 Dr Cass) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 2220), on motion by Mr Connor:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition, of course, supports this Bill. It would be quite a wrong decision to impose a tariff on agricultural tractors, which are obviously tools of trade for the agricultural industry. As we have to compete in export markets against world competition it would be quite a serious blow if we had to protect the industry by tariffs rather than bounty. Indeed, I hope that there will be more of this kind of thinking. I can think of many other tools of trade which the farmer uses which are protected by tariffs. I am glad to see that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is enthusiastically supporting me. He and I for many years have fought lonely battles in this place trying to get more realistic realisation of how heavily the tariff burden bears on those of us in the farming industry in particular, and in the export industry in general. So, 1 can assure the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) that we gladly support this method of protecting the industry. We have to realise that this industry is pretty heavily protected. If no dumping duties are imposed the Tariff Board assesses the rate of effective protection at 50 per cent. If the dumping component is taken away, the protection is still 30 per cent. If this protection had been in the form of a tariff which would increase our costs, I can imagine how angry the honourable member for Moore would have been, and indeed rightly so.
– He would not be alone.
– No. I am glad to hear the awakened interest of the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) in this matter. For many years we have been waiting for the Country Party to show the kind of concern that I was always hoping it would show. I hope that in the future I will get the active support of honourable members of the Country Party, as I have always been able to rely on the support of the honourable member for Moore, who has been courageous and capable in this lonely battle.
The other thing that should be remembered is that this legislation follows a Tariff Board report, which, although the Minister does not speak of it, recommended a duty of 30 per cent on tractors with a power rated at less than 20 horsepower. They are not tractors that would be used generally in broad acre farming, but they are used in other aspects of horticulture - chiefly in limited fields of agriculture. I am sorry to see that the Tariff Board has recommended this, but I understand from reading the report that this will be a temporary arrangement while the Tariff Board presents its report on a number of farmers’ requirements of other kinds. Generally speaking, on behalf of the Opposition I am glad to support the Bill. I only wish that this type of protection were practised more generally and not confined to this narrow field of tractors. 1 would be glad, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would like me to continue, to give an example of how the tariff burden is spread.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)The honourable member should confine his remarks to the Bill.
– In that case, I hope that the honourable member for Moore will now take up where I have let off. The Opposition will support the Bill.
– Like the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), we of the Australian Country Party support the bounty on agricultural tractors. We do this for 2 reasons. We believe that the local tractor industry should be encouraged. We realise that this Bill gives a security to the industry until 31 December 1976. Like the honourable member for Wakefield we share the concern that the bounty does not apply to the smaller type tractors. We submit that the best way of protecting the tractor industry and reducing costs is to have the bounty extended to the smaller tractors also.
There have been investigations by the Tariff Board into the agricultural machinery industry in 1925 and 1934 and an inquiry in 1967. In 1970, the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act was passed extending the bounty until 30 June 1972 as an interim measure pending the submission of the Tariff Board’s report which was submitted on 30 June 1970 and published as Parliamentary Paper No. 4 of 1971. In 1972 the then Minister for Customs and Excise, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) in his second-reading speech after introducing a Bill to extend the bounty for a period to 31 December 1972, stated that the Bill was an interim measure pending the submission of a further report by the Tariff Board.
Now the present Bill is presented in similar words, with similar aims and similar objectives. Those who depend on this industry, and those in rural industry, like the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), either as consumers or producers, would like to know what are the guidelines and what is the Government’s thinking on a long term basis. Even though the Government has extended the bounty until December 1976, the present occupiers of the Treasury bench - and I submit, with due deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that they are not showing much interest in this very important matter at this stage - rather gleefully pointed out all the things that they have achieved in their first 100 days of office. However, of late we can criticise them for being all talk and not too much action.
The employees in the tractor manufacturing industry are concerned as to their future. The bounty on locally produced tractors, unless implemented on the long term basis, will price the local product out of the market. The amount of bounty paid by the Commonwealth Government in 1970-71 was $2,750,000 and in 1971-72 it was $3,160,000. As the production of tractors was in the vicinity of 5,000 per year the bounty per tractor is approximately $575 to $600, which is a subsidy, in effect, to all stages in the tractor production process.
The Australian Country Party has always fought for the right of all to be employed. I would like to remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker and through you the House, that last year prior to the elections on 2 December the rate of unemployment in Australia was lowest in Queensland - a State, incidentally, which has a Country Party Premier. So we are not only concerned about unemployment; we promote public policies to do something about it. We recognise the dignity of labour and we are thus very alarmed at any curtailment of the tractor manufacturing industry and because we appreciate the resultant hardship it might cause to employees.
Indicative of the trying times over recent years through which primary industry has gone - and will continue to go on account of the respective Ministers’ refusing to give any meaningful help in revaluation compensation discussions - is a recent report of the Commonwealth Statistician that the age of tractors on Australian farms is increasing. This must serve as a warning. Farmers are keeping their tractors longer, not on account of choice but through sheer economic inability to take advantage of new techniques and discoveries in agricultural engineering. This is having some effect on economic growth in the respective quarters. For the year ended 30 June 1967 the number of new tractors was 18,543 and notwithstanding the fact that in the following year the definition of ‘tractor’ was changed to include certain types not included for statistical purposes prior to this period the number has fallen progressively to 17,723 in 1970 and 12,177 in 1972. This is a serious state of affairs and we must do everything in our power to safeguard this Australian industry. We want to look after the jobs of the workers, the distributors, the service personnel and the salesman. We stand for a balanced Australia - balanced in its approach to job opportunity reward and selfexpression.
It is interesting to peruse the Tariff Board report for 1970. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, a body to which the honourable member for Moore gave many years of distinguished service, maintained that a bounty was preferable to a tariff because users of machinery covered by the Tariff Board reference were in the main exporting production. I have spoken in this House on a few occasions on this matter. Notwithstanding our high internal costs we have to compete in the cut-throat, knock-‘em down tactics of international marketing. In addition, as has been stated, we have had inflicted on us a great cancer - a government which is completely incapable of understanding even the basic preliminaries of international financing in regard to marketing.
The Government refuses to pay compensation amounting to $28m to the Australian wheatgrowers and an amount of $10m to southern Queensland sorghum growers which is needed because of its deliberate contemplated action in the currency alignment negotiations to discourage exports. Tariff duties do have an influence on the cost of production and farmers can no longer absorb any increase in costs. Because Australia has great potential to produce we have to export the greater proportion of our crops, our beef and our wool. On the one hand we have to accept the world prices which are offered and on the other hand the high internal costs which according to a recent newspaper report are escalating at an alarming rate following the present Government’s assumption of office.
Last year the Australian production of tractors amounted to slightly in excess of 40 per cent of total sales. The retention of the bounty for the term envisaged under this legislation and for the future will also encourage another most desirable feature. Over the years there has developed a very close relationship between the manufacturer, distributor and farmer. A sturdy interdependence has grown up, This involves the manufacturer in having a vital interest in the wellbeing of the agricultural sector and it involves the agricultural sector in an interest in the continuing operation of companies engaged in the production and design in Australia of machinery best suited to meet the farmers’ needs. It is probably true to say that Australian farmers have been supplied by fellow Australians with efficient machinery which is constantly being improved and which, with some exceptions in the case of spare parts, is available at reasonable prices compared to those obtaining in other countries. But the fact remains that agricultural machinery costs are not the only major element in production costs.
In the report to which I referred the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation assessed the cost in producing a bushel of wheat attributable to the cost of farm machinery as 12c to 15c. This is a big factor in the cost index in view of a somewhat increasing trend by some overseas firms not to have spare parts readily available. It is worth giving encouragement to the maintenance of a viable Australian tractor manufacturing industry for this reason alone. Where an industry is based in Australia at least any spare part is reasonably accessible to most Australians. A complicating factor in obtaining spare parts from overseas when they are not in stock in Australia is the savage air freight charges which are applicable. The payment of a bounty has the support of those of us who sit on this side of the House because it provides some measure of assistance for local manufacturers to make tractors available to farmers comparable to worldwide imports. But we do express some concern that the present Labor administration did not set its sights wider and include in the bounty provisions the smaller type of tractors which are at present excluded. The smaller type tractors have a particular place in the row crop industry in my own State and in some of the other row crop industries in the other States. We would have been very pleased if the Government had extended this bounty to include the smaller type tractors. But we do appreciate that the Australian tractor industry, the manufacturers, the distributors and the consumers have some knowledge that the tractor bounty will be paid until 31 December 1976 because we were somewhat concerned that the present Government which places great emphasis on adopting an ad hoc approach to solving problems would have adopted a similar approach in regard to this very important matter.
– I rise to support my 2 colleagues the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) who support this Bill. This Bill seeks to extend up to 31 December 1976 the bounty which is paid on agricultural tractors manufactured in Australia. This legislation fully supports in their entirety the recommendations which were made as a result of the recent Tariff Board inquiry. The tractor industry has grown with the wheat boom years 1965 to 1969 when the total number of tractors in Australia rose from 290,000 to 323,596 of which 299,297 were wheel type tractors. This industry is one which experiences great fluctuations due to the varying seasons experienced by farmers right across Australia. In fact, huge losses have been sustained by tractor and machinery companies operating in Australia in the past few years. Some firms manufacturing tillage implements have folded up and they have been taken over by their competitors.
While tillage and harvesting machinery has been manufactured for many years the manufacture of tractors has been, comparatively, a much later proposition. Imported tractors come mainly from the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, Italy, Czechoslavakia and other continental areas. The huge import of overseas machines was no doubt the main reason why the LiberalCountry Party Government brought down in October 1966 the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act to cover tractors manufactured in Australia and to give Australian firms protection from overseas companies which were manufacturing for the world market. The first company to manufacture tractors in Australia was John Deere Chamberlain Pty Ltd of Welshpool in Western Australia. The Government encouraged that company by way of subsidy payments from 1 July 1969 to 30 June 1970. A total of 1,779 tractors were manufactured on which bounty of $992,478 was paid. The value of the machines totalled $7,727,000. That was a very worthy and great contribution to the tractor industry in Australia. The greater the horse power of the tractors produced the larger the bounty that was paid by the Government. This practice has continued under the provisions of the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act. The amount of bounty which is payable is clearly set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill. That Schedule takes into consideration low horse power tractors and extends up to tractors in the 80 to 100 horse power bracket. The action of the Government in paying bounties encouraged this company to manufacture in Australia, saving valuable foreign exchange and creating employment for labour and industry. It helped us to be self-sufficient in this very important field.
When we look at the situation we find that the next company that manufactured here was the International Harvester Co. which has its headquarters in Melbourne. This company soon followed the example set to it by Chamberlain Industries. From 1 July 1969 to 30 June 1970 this company received from the Government by way of bounty $764,000 for 1,407 tractors produced at a value of $3. 4m. These figures indicate clearly the growth of this industry due to the assistance given by the Government -to the companies. In 1971 Chamberlain Industries was paid a bounty totalling $848,535 for the 1,333 tractors which it manufactured, and the International Harvester Co. was paid a bounty totalling $537,183 for the 1,147 tractors which it manufactured. So both of these companies have been helped considerably by the bounty which the Government has paid on tractors manufactured in Australia. Tractors manufactured in Australia have helped farmers right across ‘the board in their production campaigns, particularly in the big wheat years. They have helped these farmers to achieve the production of huge quantities of wheat which has been of great benefit to Australia both from a national point of view and from every other angle.
Another intending manufacturer of wheel type tractors in this country will be covered by the Bill that we are at present discussing. This intending manufacturer is the Pointer organisation which plans to make an unconventional wheel tractor designed particularly for use in developing countries. Having looked through the records one finds that this company will be manufacturing in Victoria. It has not got off the ground yet. At current levels of production both local producers are well below their maximum plant capacity. Chamberlain Industries has a capacity on a multiple shift basis of over 3,000 units per annum. At the time of the Tariff Board inquiry this firm was working at slightly over only one shift capacity with additional time being worked in some production processes. The International Harvester Co., which has a plant capacity considerably in excess of that of Chamberlain Industries, has indicated that it could increase its output considerably by working its sheet metal, forge, welding and machine shops on 2 shifts with 3 shifts on certain key machines.
Local producers’ combined plant capacity is sufficient to supply over 40 per cent of the 1975-76 total market demand, which was estimated recently by the Tariff Board to be 15,000 tractors. At the present time neither local producer has plans for extending its production facilities. The reason for this is that this industry has received very severe setbacks over the past few years due to drought conditions and a lack of farmer income. These companies have had to curtail their manufacturing program. Indeed, when we look at the companies which supply tractors from overseas we find that their imports of machines are down considerably. It has been only in the past few weeks that the number of tractors in Australia is catching up and is sufficient for current demands made on this industry by the farming community.
At the time, of the public hearing of the Tariff Board local manufacturers employed just over 1,000 people in the production and distribution of the goods under reference to the Board whereas prior to the decline in production in 1969-70 it is estimated that approximately 1,600 people were employed. These figures do not include the considerable number of people employed by manufacturers which supply mc and Chamberlain Industries with spare parts and they do not include the great number of people who are employed right across Australia in the various tractor distributing organisations which sell to the farmers. So U ls an industry which is very important to Australia, which employs a great number of people, and which is making a splendid contribution to the economy of the nation. It is my wish and the wish of my colleagues that more companies operating in this field should commence manufacturing in Australia and thus make a contribution to employment in Australia and in this industry. I feel that as the years progress and as courage comes back into the industry as the seasons possibly revert to their normal condition we will see this happen. But the way the seasons have been manufacturers certainly have not been encouraged to put capital into this industry. I support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 May (vide page 2305), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There are several things that I want to mention about this very important Bill. I am rather uncertain as to how far and wide we are allowed to range when talking to the Bill but I will, of course, be obedient to your wishes, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, I want to deal briefly with the fascinating subject of phthalic anhydride. I presume that as I am talking to the second reading of this Bill it would be competent for me to discuss this subject. As you have not signified any disagreement, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will just make a passing reference to this industry which has received yet another of these Special Advisory Authority reports. When this matter comes up formally in the next session I intend to deal with it a good deal more thoroughly.
I want to warn the industry that I am most unhappy about the present amount of protection that the industry is getting. As is the case with so many of the chemical industries the product of this industry lies at the root of other industries. This industry supplies the raw material for other industries such as the manufacturers of paint and plasticisers. There is only one manufacturer of this phthalic anhydride and that is the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. I have always been critical of the expectation that big powerful rich companies such as CSR should get such generous tariff protection as they have been getting. In speeches I made about phthalic anhydride on 10 October 1962, 14 August 1963 and 14 April 1964 I pointed out the succession of tariff protection measures that have been taken to assist this industry. At one stage there were 2 organisations - the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and, I think, the Newcastle Chemical Co. - engaged in the industry. Then CSR Chemical Industries, as it was then known and which later became CSR, took over. It has since been getting successive measures of assistance under the tariff.
This is another example of a Special Advisory Authority report recommending an increase in the rate of protection to help a company which one cannot say is really suffering. Let us have a look at the figures. According to the last annual report it made public - on 31 March 1972 - it made a profit of $20m and a return on ordinary capital of 27.6 per cent. The last half yearly report, which came out in September 1972, indicated that the half yearly profit had gone to $11.6m and that there was a 12.96 per cent higher rate of return. I cannot quite understand why an industry which is as important to other industries as this one is and which is in the hands of a firm that is as powerful and competent as CSR should need to have this kind of lavish protection handed out to it whenever it asks for it. If I had a good season but one paddock in the corner of the farm was a failure it would hardly be proper for me to go whining to the Government and say: ‘Look I need some assistance. True I am doing very well overall but I am not happy about the return from the bottom paddock and I think the Government, the consumer or someone ought to do something about it’.
I think there is justification for the imposition of wise tariff policies, but to expect the infant industry argument to carry on for so long and to have infants as large as CSR, which has indicated a profit return on ordinary capital of 27.6 per cent and a total profit of $20.5m is, I think, taking it a bit too far. I understand that I must not range over too wide a field during the debating of a validation Bill. But I issue a warning that when the matter comes up for consideration in the future I will deal with it in more detail. In the meantime it is suffice to say that the Opposition supports the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
All duties of Customs demanded or collected (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) on or before 31 December 1973, pursuant to Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on any of the following dates shall be deemed to have been lawfully imposed and lawfully demanded or collected: 7 March 1973 15 March 1973 29 March 1973 3 May 1973.
– I move:
– Perhaps the Minister for Services and Property could explain to us what is the purpose of the amendment.
– It is a funny thing but I can do that. I omitted to say this in the. (first place. This amendment seeks to provide for the validation of the collection of duties under Customs Tariff Proposal No. 10 of 1973, which was introduced subsequent to this Bill. Customs Tariff Proposal No. 10 relates to industrial type plastic-coated knitted gloves. I think that has cleared up the matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) - by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 May (vide page 2713), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill relates to the administration of the Commonwealth of Australia electoral laws. At the present time the organisation responsible for the administration of the Australian electoral laws comes under the jurisdiction of one of the departments of state. It has no foundation in a statute of its own. Consequently it is not independent, nor does it have the appearance of being independent.
For some time - I can go back as far as 1965 - various suggestions have been made to the effect that there should be a statutory office for the Electoral Office and that the office should be independent of any department and directly responsible to a Minister. The Bill also seeks to substitute the word ‘Australian’ for the word ‘Commonwealth’ wherever it appears in relation to the Commonwealth electoral laws. As an illustration, clause 4 of the Bill provides that the Commonwealth Electoral Office is to be known from now on as the Australian Electoral Office and the titles of the senior officers are to be Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Deputy Chief Australian Electoral Officer and Australian Electoral Officer in each of the States. I think that this is a wise provision, giving independence and with the appearance of independence as it does. I think the word ‘Australian’, with all its meaning for us, is far better than the word Commonwealth’.
There is one other matter of importance. There has been - for as long as I can remember, anyhow - a great deal of trouble not only with regard to the officials of this Parliament but also with the members of the Australian Electoral Office, as it is to be called, in establishing their proper place in the range of scales that exist within the whole salary structure of the Commonwealth Public Service.
It should be known, 1 was continually worried about the status and the salaries of officers of this House. Just as I thought of their responsibilities and of the necessity for them to be upgraded in the salary scales, I have also felt for a long time that the positions of members of the Electoral Office needed to be upgraded and that they needed to be given a status suitable to their responsibilities. Under this Bill it is not necessary for the officers of the division - now the Commonwealth Electoral Office - to apply through normal Public Service channels in order to receive their pay or salary increases. They will be able to make an application direct to their Minister. The Minister can then take it direct to the Cabinet and then have whatever pay scales are authorised validated by the Parliament itself.
I am sure that this is a long overdue reform and I can assure the Minister for Services and Property that the Bill is worthwhile and should be approved. I have no other contribution to make than to say that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer becomes a Permanent Head with all the rights of a Permanent Head. The rights of the officers themselves, who are transferred, are protected. I understand from my discussions with the Minister that the officers who now occupy the various positions mentioned under the title of Commonwealth Electoral Officer will in fact be put into corresponding positions under the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. We commend the Bill. We think it is long overdue, and I personally compliment the Minister for introducing it and, I hope, getting it through as quickly as he wants to.
– I am sure that all members of this House will recognise the very responsible and progressive attitude adopted by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). We on this side of the House share his concern that the office of the Australian Electoral Office as it will now be known has for long been under-valued and not given the status it deserves. We should consider when looking at this Bill that we are virtually considering the status and the remuneration of those men who are virtually in charge of the democratic concept in this country. These are the men who supervise the elections. They are entitled to be regarded as having very responsible positions. They are entitled to be rewarded for the responsibility which they exercise. This, I hope, is the beginning of a new look and a new structure within the Electoral Office. True it is that this Bill virtually takes the Commonwealth electoral officers outside the purview of the Public Service Act or the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board and brings them, as the right honourable member for Lowe has said, under the direct control of this Parliament - a place where they should be. This is not an ordinary Commonwealth Public Service function; it is not a matter merely of administration. The very election of this House and the Senate is under their control.
We are concerned also that the officers and staff in the electoral divisions are frequently overworked. There is insufficient staff in many of those divisions to cater for the many and changing needs of electorates, and they do not receive the salary status to which they are entitled. Indeed, until recently, they were classified as class 5 officers and to the credit of this Governfment since it has been in power the Public Service Board has at least upgraded them by one salary range. But their old classification was that of class 5 - the same classification, for example, as that of a vocational officer for the Department of Labour. It was a totally and completely inadequate classification. Indeed, as things stand now, they are still inadequately rewarded for the responsibilities that they have. They are not given a proper remuneration for the many and varied functions that they perform.
However, it is not just the functions that they perform which must be considered; it is also the responsibility involved in those functions. I am also concerned at the way the staff is treated. For example, those who are responsible for checking electoral rolls are, more often than not, casual employees engaged for a particular period and they go round from door to door determining whether or not persons whose names appear on the roll are entitled to be enrolled. This is a tremendous responsibility. In my view, it is simply not good enough to have it on the basis that a casual employee, casually engaged, perhaps for one period and never again, should undertake this responsibility. In my own electorate the number of changes in the roll runs into tens of thousands in every 3 -year period. For example, 10,000 changes in a year is not exceptional. This would be 10,000 on the roll and perhaps another 8,000 or 9,000 off in a period of a year - an enormous number of changes which have to be collated.
But the most important thing is that this Parliament must ensure that every person who is entitled to vote has the opportunity to vote and it must also ensure that no person who is not entitled to vote should ever cast a ballot in an electorate. Those are very important considerations. In my view, the Electoral Office is the custodian of the democratic concept. I know the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is seized with the importance and the urgency to upgrade the responsibilities and the remuneration of these officers and also to ensure that proper steps are taken to make it possible for every person who is entitled to vote to vote. Also, apart from that is the consideration that every person who has a responsibility to vote in the election of this Parliament should exercise it consistent with the laws of this country.
This is not a matter on which one need delay the House because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, all members on this side would be grateful to the right honourable member for Lowe for the constructive attitude which he and the Opposition have adopted to this Bill. This is as it should be. The matter of electoral laws and the administration of the electoral laws should be beyond the realms of political partnership and for that reason we support the Bil] and acknowledge the support from the Opposition.
– The Australian Country Party gives support to this Bill relating to the administration of our electoral laws. The continual increase in our population and the technological advances which have brought substantial changes not only to office administration but also to the preparation of rolls have created huge stresses and demands not only upon this administration but also and more importantly upon the individual staff members in our electoral offices. Governments and the electors are looking for the maximum of efficiency in the conduct of elections and it is desirable that the results of elections are known as quickly as possible. People today are more politically aware. They are constantly in search of knowledge not only about voting procedures but also about other things which will require adequate research. The influx of migrants to our nation and the granting of full franchise to our Aboriginal people mean that the demands upon the officers and their staff to disperse this knowledge has increased.
It is significant also that this Bill allows the electoral officers to take steps in connection with and for the conduct of an election or ballot within the confines of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Clause 5, sub clause (5) of this Bill deals specifically with these functions. By giving statutory form to the Australian Electoral Office, this Parliament is giving it substantial powers and functions and, more importantly, allowing these functions to be exercised free of political control and without fear or favour.
The most important aspect of this Bill, however, is that it paves the way to responsibly upgrading the status of the officers and, I sincerely hope, the staff operating our electoral system. There is at present little incentive for employment or promotion within this system. A district returning officer has only recently had his rating lifted from a class 5 position to a class 6. The clerks are rated only as class 2 or 3 which is only one step above the base public servant grade. With little chance of promotion to district returning officer under 10 years and virtually no opportunity for further promotions, it is little wonder that staff recruitment for these offices has been difficult. District returning officers have not only the responsibilities of running elections and of conducting the census but also have had recently the added work of introducing into the rolls recently a large number of 18, 19 and 20-year-old voters and this has shown up the weakness in the resources of our electoral offices.
In my electorate of Mallee where the District Returning Officer and his staff are housed in a large Commonwealth office block with other government departments, it is demoralising to them that they are the lowest rated in status in that office block. The District Employment Officer has a rating of 6 and most of the PMG officers range from 7 and 8 up to class 10. Understaffing is a continual difficulty. Two officers are normally expected to handle up to 14,000 notations a year but recently, no doubt because of the added load of the new voters, up to 1,000 cards have had to be handled each week. Discussion with some of the district returning officers tends to reveal that the computerisation of the electoral roll involves them in added specialisation requiring administrative skills and additional application.
I do not believe it is necessary to speak at great length on this Bill. I have the highest regard for the. dedication of our electoral officers and it is personally pleasing to speak briefly in their support. Morale has been low and it is only to be expected that good clerks find it unattractive to wait 10 years for promotion, plus the further prospect of 25 to 30 years of working life with little chance of further promotion. The Country Party supports the Bill and joins with the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) and the honourable member of Phillip (Mr Riordan) in their remarks. We sincerely hope that this measure will raise the status and the salary of the electoral officers and, I stress, also their staff and will relate their working conditions to their importance so that they may operate successfully in a democratic electoral system.
– I thank the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) for allowing me to say a few words at this late stage in the debate. I also thank my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) for limiting his remarks. My colleague has drawn attention to some of the factors related to employment in electoral offices. I have a question or two to ask the Minister about that aspect. The honourable member for Mallee mentioned that there does not seem to be a great deal of opportunity for advancement and promotion in the Electoral Office. As 1 understand it - and I would like the Minister’s confirmation - employees of the Electoral Office have an opportunity to transfer to another department. I ask the Minister whether any disadvantages would apply in such transfers in addition to the advantages which have been enumerated by previous speakers in this debate.
I join with previous speakers in appreciation of the work that has been done by divisional returning officers and their staffs. The honourable member for Mallee referred to the staff in his divisional electoral office. In the divisional office in my electorate a problem arose at the last election because of flooding. The staff there went to no end of trouble and were subjected to a great deal of strain in deciding whether the election should be held on the scheduled day in that division. The divisional returning officer earned great credit for himself, his staff and the temporary staff in seeing that the election was conducted so efficiently.
My concern is limited to asking a question of the Minister. Are there any disadvantages in respect of promotions or transfers which will apply to the staff of the Electoral Office working in a statutory body as compared with the present position? As the honourable member for Mallee has pointed out, prospective staff for these offices, in view of the slowness of advancement, could be deterred from joining the Electoral Office if they were to be confined to a particular office. Is there a right of appeal against appointments related to the change? I welcome the upgrading of the Electoral Office and commend the Minister for it. I would be pleased to have his advice about any disadvantages which may accrue and whether provision should be made to eliminate any that do arise. In this way the type of staff that we all want to see working in the Electoral Office generally would be encouraged to join that organisation.
– in reply - I thank the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) for their constructive and complimentary remarks about the activities of the Australian Electoral Office and its officers. I also place on record my commendation, after a long period in Parliament, of their impartiality, integrity and the contribution that they make to the workings of democracy. I share with the right honourable member for Lowe and other honourable members a common desire to see that the staff enjoy conditions of employment and advancement that are enjoyed in other avenues that in many respects are not so important but in which greater privileges are extended. I hope that this Bill goes a little way along that course.
Questions were asked by 2 members of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Maranoa and the honourable member for Mallee. The Bill refers expressly only to the 8 officers that it covers - the 6 State officers, the Chief Australian Electoral
Officer and his deputy. At this stage other employees of the organisation are still members of the Public Service. Under clause 12 of the Bill all their rights are preserved in relation to their employment as members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Naturally, that involves appeals and all matters relating to them. It is only fair to say that employees of a statutory authority suffer slight impediment in respect of working conditions, transfers, and so on, but those matters will be looked at in the wider aspect when the organisation is complete. I can assure honourable members that all precautions will be taken so that no employee suffers by the change, particularly public servants. Statutory officers being appointed at all stages will have full protection in regard to their status and salaries should changes take place. I again thank the House and particularly honourable members who participated in the debate for the way in which the legislation has been received. I hope it is as successful as we all envisage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
– by leave - The purpose of this statement is to provide the Parliament with a broad view of the decisions that this Government has taken and the measures it has initiated to give effect to the Government’s defence policies.
Government’s Defence Perspectives
Adequate provision for the security of this country is a fundamental objective of this Government. This security will be achieved by pursuit of a sound foreign policy supported by a strong economy and well organised defence forces which are structured for expansion and able to contribute to the maintenance of a favourable international environment. As is well known, our policy provides for the maintenance of a strong and valid defence capability to ensure Australia’s territorial security security of its overseas trade, and its peaceful development as an independent nation; enhancement of this capability by continued participation in mutual defence arrangements with other nations in South-East Asia and the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas consistent with the requirements of the United Nations Charter and the objectives of existing treaties; assertion of the right of consultation in the issues of war and peace and of a right not to be committed to any course of action without consultation and agreement; and the conviction that war can and must be prevented and that Australia has a part to play in its prevention.
Pursuit of these objectives requires a clear definition of the future role that Australia is to play in our strategic environment and of the requisite size and structure of the armed forces. This also involves consideration of the capabilities, skills and conditions of service of the officers and men who, on a volunteer basis, will operate the highly sophisticated defence systems that modern technology makes available and demands. Since becoming Minister for Defence, I have taken a number of important decisions relating to the Government’s defence objectives and have initiated some major investigations within the Defence Group of departments.
Decisions Already Taken
In accordance with Labor’s electoral undertaking, within 10 days of assuming office the Government ordered the withdrawal of the remaining Australian forces in Vietnam, bringing to an end the Australian commitment in Vietnam and the Australian Army’s 10i year involvement in that war. The Labor Party had consistently opposed the commitment of troops to Vietnam. While we pay tribute to the professional skill and high distinction with which Australian forces participated in this campaign, Labor has consistently believed that the attempts to force a military solution to this kind of war were wrong. Commitment of troops, including conscripts, to an immoral war against Australian interests was a monstrous offence against the people of Australia as well as the unfortunate people of Vietnam. The last of the Australian troops returned from Vietnam before Christmas with the exception of a small number of men remaining as guards and escorts for the Austraiian embassy staff in Saigon. Following the return home of these forces, the Government also decided that defence aid to South Vietnam would cease. Plans to undertake group training of Cambodian armed services personnel were also abandoned.
Again in accordance with our electoral promise, liability for call-up under the National Service Act was ended within a few days of the Government taking office. All national servicemen who did not wish to finish their term of service were released as quickly as practicable, with full knowledge of their entitlements for service. Additional entitlements in the form of war service loan benefits, and the right to elect for repatriation benefit for disabilities caused by war, were offered to national servicemen who wanted to complete their term of service. Soldiers who were serving with Citizen Military Forces as an alternative to full-time national service were also discharged at their own request. Persons imprisoned for breaches under the National Service Act were released and those undergoing periods of detention after lengthy absences without leave were discharged.
I am also now in the position to inform the House that the Government intends during this session of the Parliament to introduce legislation to abolish the obligation to render national service. In doing so, care will be taken to ensure that benefits flowing to persons continuing to serve voluntarily will be preserved. This Act imposed an intolerable burden on a small section of the community, distorted the structure of our armed Services, and enabled the previous Government to avoid its responsibility to provide justice to the men who are in the forces in terms of conditions of service. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his electoral speech, when a law divides the community and alienates some of its best citizens as the National Service Act does, the onus of proof for its retention lies entirely with those who support it’.
The Government also made an early announcement of the withdrawal of the Australian ground combat forces in Singapore, having regard to the electoral undertaking that such forces would not be replaced when they completed their current tour of duty. On the other hand, we have emphasised our commitments to the security of our region. We will support the Five Power Arrangement. The most effective way in which this can be done is by provision of assistance in training, logistics, technical assistance and through joint exercises - not by stationing combat troops overseas in the absence of treaty obligations and threat of external aggression.
Development of Volunteer Forces
Consistently with our fundamental policy that members of the defence forces must serve under financial terms and conditions that are no less attractive than those available to the general community, and that the Services must be manned on an all-volunteer basis, the Government has taken a number of major decisions. Let me highlight the more important of these: We have adopted the Joint Select Committee recommendations (with minor modifications) for the introduction of a new defence forces retirement benefits scheme. We have accepted the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into Services’ Pay, thereby introducing substantial reforms to earlier pay policies and practices and providing a range of improved salary rates and conditions. We have introduced a bounty of $1,000 for volunteers prepared to re-engage for a further period of service. We have increased from $9,000 to $12,000 the defence services homes loan and have extended eligibility to members who serve for a minimum of 3 years. We have extended the range of resettlement benefits available to serving members. We have provided that repatriation benefits will be available to members for disabilities due to their service, which does not have to include was service, where those benefits are more favourable than Commonwealth employees’ compensation. New machinery is being developed to determine pay and conditions of service that are both soundly-based and compatible with the position of serving personnel in contemporary society. We have decided to appoint a defence forces ombudsman to deal with individual grievances of servicemen and servicewomen.
A number of these decisions have already become law. Others are being dealt with in this current autumn session. They are all designed to give practical effect to our policy to develop modern volunteer forces. The Government is committed to an all-volunteer, professional force with the motivation, capacities and skills to employ the most modern defence systems. A serviceman is a citizen as well as a member of the defence force, and whilst he must undertake certain commitments and obligations not ordinarily accepted by others in the community, his standing as a citizen must not be entirely subordinated to his membership of the forces. The decision and measures already referred to demonstrate in a practical way our dedication to this policy. Its success in the few months in which we have been in office is plain for all to see and is a complete vindication of the views expressed over a period of years by the Labor Party.
The result of these policies has been to demonstrate that an all-volunteer army can be raised during peacetime if the Government is so determined. Between December and April, Army volunteer strengths have grown by 1,121; this compares with a total increase of 1,219 during the whole of 1971-72. Recruiting has improved and at the same time relatively fewer soldiers have left the Army. I should add that all the indications are that the target I set of 31,000 (that is, a growth of 1,674 during the current financial year) Army volunteers to be reached by the end of June will be achieved.
Future Size and Shape of Army
It will be recalled that last December I announced approval, as an interim measure only, of retention of the existing Army structure of 9 battalions. I also announced that I had requested a detailed study to be undertaken of the size and shape of the Reguluar Army required. This study has now been completed. At my request, it has also been considered by the Defence Force Development Committee (which comprises the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman Chiefs of Staff and the 3 Service Chiefs of Staff) in the context of the defence program.
I undertook this step because surprisingly such a comprehensive review of the desirable Army strength and organisation had not been undertaken by the previous Government. The cost of manpower is a heavy drain on the limited resources available for defence.
Against this background, I wish to announce the Government’s decision on the future shape and size of the Australian Regular Army. This decision implements the recommendation of the Defence Force Development Committee. The Chief of the General Staff would have preferred a larger Army than that which the Committee as a whole recommends. The Committee assures me the Force levels decided are sufficient to meet our strategic needs during the period covered by the decision. The previous Government claimed that it was advised that an Army of 40,000 or more was necessary even after Vietnam. It never received such advice from the Defence Force Development Committee which it established to give the Minister advice on such force structure matters.
The divisional structure is to be maintained, but is to be re-organised on the basis of 6 battalions each with appropriate combat and logistic support forces. Battalions are to be manned to an effective operational training strength. The 3 task forces are to be located at Townsville, Enoggera and Holsworthy, with Townsville being built up to an operational training force first. The Australian Support Area is to be placed under a ceiling of 21,500 service personnel which is consistent with the support required for a field force of this size. Re-organisation of the Regular Army along these lines is being carried out on the basis that total Army strength is to grow at a figure in the vicinity of 1,000 per annum and to reach 34,000 by 1976. Army’s organisation and career structure, however, is to be based on an Army planning strength of 36,000. We believe an Army at these strengths is adequate in the strategic situation as presently foreseen.
Growth to 36,000 will occur if the need is determined by a major review of our ground force capability which is to be carried out in 1976. It is intended that this review will encompass both the Regular Army and the CMF and will, of course, be made in the light of the strategic situation then existing. Re-organisation of the Army along these lines will provide the Army with an adequate basis for expansion should the need ever arise. Should such a need arise it is clear, as I have previously mentioned, that more independence is required in the development of Australia’s defence capabilities. The new Army structure is consistent with this policy and will enable in particular the development of the necessary doctrines, operational concepts and techniques for the defence of Australia. The new Army structure will provide a deployable capability which will adequately enable Australia to meet any international obligations, including a capacity to assist the United Nations if requested. It will be able to conduct meaningful unilateral or multilateral exercises with the armies of other countries within our region.
This Government’s objectives for the size of the Australian Army make an interesting comparison with the record of the previous Government. I have already referred to our success with volunteer recruitment. I also recall for the benefit of honourable members that in 1964, when Australia was faced with a deteriorating strategic situation, including difficult times with the then Indonesian Government, the size of the Australian Army was only 22,600. To remedy this situation, the previous Government introduced a crash program of national service. This performance should be compared with the objective of the present Government to increase the size of the Army, on a volunteer basis, to 34,000 by 1976, with a further growth to 36,000 if required. We are doing this in a strategic situation much less dangerous than in 1964 and when our foreign policy and defence relations with Indonesia have undergone a most favourable transformation. Finally in respect of the Army, I wish to emphasise the Government’s total approach to determine the ground force capability required. At this stage, I wish to remind the Parliament of the inquiry recently initiated by the Government into the CMF. This inquiry which is being led by Dr Millar will examine in detail the role and scope which citizen forces can and must play in our defence forces. It is long overdue. We are determined that the people who serve in the CMF play a significant and satisfying part in our national security system.
Review of Australian Strategic Outlook
As announced earlier, I have asked the Department of Defence to review the strategic assessments and policies on which the action of earlier governments has been based. This review has been proceeding in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and will be finalised in the next few weeks. It is the Government’s opinion that circumstances at this time particularly favour this review. With the movement towards ‘a detente’ between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States and China and the growing multi-polarity of political and strategic power in the world, there has been a relaxation of the military confrontation that has so dominated the world’s affairs over the last 2 decades.
The review will look critically at the strategic assumptions of the past. We are less apprehensive concerning the social and political changes that are taking place in the envir onment to our north, and Australia will no longer concern itself with military arrangements for the mobilisation of forces to intervene simply because of the prospect of change. This Government favours programs of political conciliation and co-operation rather than military intervention and we believe that the time is ripe for this. We are, however, in a transitional era and there are still many uncertainties in the longer term. We recognise - this is made clear in our Party platform - the need for continued defence preparedness for national defence and for defence association with our friends in South East Asia and continued co-operation in the development of their defence capabilities. Our defence relationship with the United States and New Zealand and the ANZUS Treaty remains important to Australia’s security and to the development of our defence forces.
Defence Consultations Abroad
I am carrying through an extensive program of consultations with other governments, beginning with those in our immediate neighbourhood. I have in sequence visited Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia and I will shortly be visiting the United Kingdom. While in Papua New Guinea I discussed with the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, and members of his Ministry, significant defence matters relating to their country. I emphasised, as I emphasise again today, that it is the Government’s firm view that it is for the Papua New Guinea Government ultimately to decide what security forces should be maintained there after independence, and their roles and capabilities. I agreed in discussion with the Chief Minister that officials from both countries should commence consultations on defence matters as soon as possible.
These consultations commenced in March this year. Arising from these, and as announced by the Papua New Guinea Chief Minister on 17 May, the Papua New Guinea Cabinet has agreed on policy guidelines on which planning is to proceed for Papua New Guinea’s defence arrangements after the achievement of independence. Based on these guidelines, a further round of official discussions involving officers of my Department and the Department of External Territories and Papua New Guinea officials, was successfully completed last week. These discussions will greatly facilitate the further planning and practical measures being undertaken by Papua
New Guinea and Australia, working in close consultation, to develop before independence forces which meet the Papua New Guinea Government’s policy guidelines. Meanwhile the process of localisation is continuing steadily and effectively.
In Indonesia I was received by the President. My talks with him and with senior members of his Government mainly concerned the situation in South East Asia and the program of defence co-operation between our 2 countries. I participated in a ceremony at Ishwahudi airfield in East Java where the Australian gift of 16 Sabre aircraft was formally accepted by the Indonesian Air Force. Particular attention was given to the longterm development of an Australian project of assistance towards Indonesia’s maritime surveillance requirements. Future exercises between forces of the 2 countries were discussed. The Indonesians agree that such exercises will be of value to us both. My visit, following that of the Prime Minister, underlined the common interests that join Indonesia and Australia in close and friendly relations. Speaking from my particular responsibilities as Minister for Defence, I am convinced that the program of practical defence co-operation and defence contacts is of considerable benefit to both countries.
In New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, my discussions covered a number of subjects. In New Zealand these included the French nuclear tests, SEATO and defence cooperation. In Singapore and Malaysia I had talks about proposals for further defence cooperation in such areas as training and joint exercises. In these 3 countries my main concern, however, was to outline the Australian Government’s thinking on the overseas deployment of our forces, and on the Five Power Arrangements, and to consult about proposals we are formulating for the implementation of Labor policy on these matters. These will also be the principal subject for discussion when I visit the United Kingdom next month. At the conclusion of this round of consultations I shall be reporting to my colleagues in the Government.
The decisions of the Government on future defence programming will be taken in the context of the first Budget to be brought down by this administration. The program will be a detailed planning framework for the 5 years to 1977-78 and will not involve spending authorisations except for the first year. Actual authorisation and commitment of funds for the financial year 1973-74 will come in the context of the Budget discussions and the submission of the Estimates to Parliament. Basically, the task is to develop a defence program which protects Australian security and vital interests and ensures that Australia will have the opportunity of meeting whatever national or international responsibilities may fall upon her. I emphasise that we will not be thinking in terms of an isolationist policy. We have an announced policy of concern with the security as well as the welfare of other nations, particularly those in this part of the world. But planning of our defence capabilities can not continue any longer against the concepts of the 1950s. Planning for military involvement abroad has had a quite disproportionate effect on the planning of our defence capabilities.
As part of this new emphasis on national defence, an inquiry has already been commenced concerning the future disposition of bases and facilities within Australia for our defence forces. The study will assess the locations which are most suitable militarily for the defence of Australia, for the protection of its interests, and for the support of its external commitments. The study will also take into account the need to satisfy the dependence of some elements of our Services on complex industrial and technological support, joint training between the Services, and proper access ‘ to amenities for Service families, consistently with our approach to modern all-volunteer forces. Environmental and urban concerns will be taken fully into account. This will be the first time such a comprehensive review of our national defence infrastructure has been undertaken.
I might refer here to the 2 fellowships which I have decided my Department will endow in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University, as already announced. I see great value to be obtained in a greater exchange of views with non-government defence scholars and more generally in stimulating wider discussions of Australian defence problems. One of the fellowships will be specifically in the field of conflict avoidance and resolution, for there is nothing more important to our continuing way of life than how to avoid war and maintain peace. The second fellowship will be in a field of study specificed by the Strategic and
Defence Studies Centre. Both posts will be non-tenure posts to be held for 2 to 5 years, and 1 believe they will lead to valuable research for both academic staff and practical decision makers.
The Defence Organisation
The Government’s policy on re-organisation of the Defence group of departments is to merge into the Department of Defence the 3 Service departments. We also propose to reassess the place in the defence structure of the procurement and production activities and of the Australian Defence Scientific Service, now in the Department of Supply. Labor has had a rationalisation of the Defence group of departments as its objective for some considerable time. We believe that such an objective recognises the growing inter-dependence of the Navy, Army and Air Force as part of what the Defence Act describes as the defence force. We also believe that a single Department of Defence would be the most effective and certain method of concerting responsible policy decisions at the level of Cabinet or Defence Minister into active performance by the 3 Services, as well as promising greater efficiency in the use of resources. As I have previously stated, however, the 3 Services - Navy, Army and Air Force - will retain their separate identity.
It is appropriate for me, while referring in the Parliament to the question of Defence reorganisation to advise the House that I now intend to table with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), for the information of members, the 2 reports of the advisory committee of officials led by Sir Leslie Morshead which were completed in 1957. This is in accordance with our wellknown intention that as many reports as possible will be made publicly available. It was never clear to me while in Opposition why these reports were not made available to the public in the 16 years since they were produced. It is not clear to me now. The relevance of these reports to the re-organisation of the Defence group of departments now proceeding is a matter of assessment, but there is no reason why they should not be released forthwith to the Parliament.
In accordance with the Government’s policy. I assumed charge in December last of the entire Defence group of departments with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop assigned by the Prime Minister to be the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence in respect of the defence forces. Reorganisation of the Defence group of departments is to take place in stages. The first stage has already been implemented in which the Department of Defence acting on behalf of its Minister is to have greater authority in its direction of the execution of defence policy and approved defence objectives by each of the three Service boards and by the defence production, procurement and scientific areas of the Department of Supply. This is already giving the Department of Defence more effective means of control of spending in individual departments and in the direction of the total defence program towards national objectives and policies.
Development of the second stage of reorganisation required, first, the issue with Government authority of clear objectives which are beyond dispute and, secondly, painstaking inquiry among those experienced in the administration of defence activities and the running of the Army, Navy and Air Force into the most effective way of establishing lines of authority on a more centralised basis. The policy objectives were laid down by the Government on 19 December last. The Secretary of the Department of Defence, assisted by the Secretary of the Department of the Army, is now engaged on the second task.
There is a wide range of activities which needs careful examination and assessment before the organisation proposals can be formulated. A study group is preparing a report. It is anticipated the report will be considered before the end cf the year and the Government’s decisions will be announced to the Parliament. In the meantime, the Secretaries of the Service and Supply departments continue to exercise their statutory functions, but under guidance of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, who is now the principal adviser on policy resourses and organisation to the Minister for Defence, Navy, Army, Air and Supply. The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, who is directly responsible to the Minister for Defence, is not only the principal military adviser to the Minister for Defence, but I have directed that he is to be consulted by the military members of the Service boards on major matters relating to organisation, training, and operational deployments in each Service so that he may exercise greater influence in the development of the Services towards integrated national defence objectives. That concludes my review of achievements and initiatives to date in furtherance of the Government’s new defence policy. Some important matters on which I have directed in-depth examination such as the proposed light destroyer project for the RAN and the future of the Australian aircraft industry are still under study. They will be the subject of announcements as the Government takes its decisions.
In summary, the 4 main lines of advance in defence by the new Labor Government are these: Firstly, greater authority in the direction of the execution of defence policy and approved defence objectives; secondly, a marked improvement in the conditions of service to give the servicemen and servicewomen of this country the status they deserve in a modern community; thirdly, a program of defence cooperation with our neighbours in South East Asia and the Pacific which emphasises training, technical assistance, joint exercises and continuing consultation; and fourthly, a commitment to promoting participation by Australian industry in production for defence needs.
These stand as the 4 objectives of the Government’s defence policy, the achievement of improvements in policy co-ordination, in conditions of service, in regional co-operation and in defence industry capability. I have, I believe, demonstrated considerable advance in a short period of time. We shall go on in the same way. We see our defence forces as designed to ensure our security and independence, and, further, as an important element in the furtherance of a foreign policy based on a true perception of Australia’s national interests in a rapidly changing international environment.
I present the following paper:
Australian Defence Policy - Ministerial Statement, 30 May 1973
Motion (by Mr Stewart) proposed:
That the Mouse take note of the paper.
Br FORBES (Barker) (4.37)- I find this first statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) since taking office rather disappointing. I think I can demonstrate what I mean by referring to the penultimate paragraph of his statement in which he described the 4 objectives of the Government’s defence policy. The first of these was the achievement of improvements in policy co-ordination. I listened to the Minister’s statement carefully, but it consisted of nothing more than a mass of generalisations and statements that the Government is working on it and we will get the details later. However, I will have something to say about this later in my remarks. The second of the 4 objectives of the Government’s defence policy, according to the Minister, is improvements in conditions of service. I make the point that the only 2 substantial improvements in conditions of service, that is in pay and in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, were both set in train by the previous Government, despite the credit that the Minister takes for them. Perhaps they would have been implemented before this if there had not been a change of government.
The third objective is regional co-operation. I, and I am sure the House, will take note of the fact that this Government has withdrawn or announced its intention to withdraw Australia’s forces from our region. Most of the governments in this region believe the maintenance of Australian forces in the region is the most substantial contribution that Australia can make to defence stability and cooperation in the area. The fourth objective the Minister mentioned was industrial defence capability. The only remark I make about that is that it was the first and only mention of it in the Minister’s statement.
The Minister has made much of what he has achieved, what he instructed the Departments and the Services to do, the directions he gave and the orders he gave to X Y and Z. He has emphasised his personal role in the defence decisions of the Government to quite an extraordinary degree, not only in this statement, but also in almost every statement he has made since he has been Minister for Defence. It is almost as though unless he blows his own trumpet and emphasises his own role no one will realise he is around the place at all. Of course, he started off behind first base in a situation in which it was an open secret that the bullets he fired were the product of the able and agile mind of a Press secretary called Lloyd.
I can remember an occasion, when the Minister was the shadow Minister for Defence, when he had to mark time in the middle of a speech while he waited for the next few pages hot off Mr Lloyd’s typewriter. It was because of this that even his own Party was prepared to believe that he was being run by Sir Arthur Tange when he got into trouble over the question of troops in Singapore. People of stature, people in control of a situation, people who command respect do not have to emphasise their personal part in the decisions for which they have responsibility. With people who have these qualities it is taken for granted, Only little men without these qualities have to blow their own trumpets and arrogate to themselves the exclusive and sole credit for decisions which any mature person knows are the collective effort of many people, including in this case the Minister’s own colleagues in the Government.
I have made this point not because I enjoy saying harsh things about the Minister, whom I personally find amiable and inoffensive. I make the point because I find it rather frightening that a man holding this important position should demonstrate the characteristics I have mentioned. These arrangements were most hastily formulated by the Government - they were announced on 19 December only a fortnight or so after the Government took office - yet the Minister this afternoon boasts about them. As I say, I find it frightening that he is the Minister solely responsible for controlling, directing and shaping the defence effort of Australia. I would find it frightening to see any one person, let alone this Minister, in the situation which this Government has created, placed in this position. This Government has reduced ministerial control and direction of the defence forces, months, perhaps years, ahead of the administrative reforms, that is the. integration of the defence group of departments, designed to enable a single Minister to keep a proper grip on the situation.
It was in recognition of this that the Morshead Committee recommended a phasing in of the changed administrative and ministerial arrangements over a period. Common prudence would have dictated that it be done in this case. But no, so anxious was the Government to give an impression, an image, of change when it came to office, to substitute images for substance, so anxious was it to denigrate everything the previous Government had done, that it was and is prepared to take great risks with the security of this country and to put in jeopardy a fundamental principle of government, that is civilian and parliamentary control of the defence forces. Who really believes that in this situation, this betwixt and between situation, this ministerial and administrative and power vacuum, this Minister - any Minister for that matter - knows what is going on and is capable of being anything else but a rubber stamp for the decisions of officials and Service officers. How many honourable members even in his own Party honestly believe that in the situation that I have described the Minister is properly capable of being answerable to this Parliament for the activities for which he has nominal responsibility? The Minister has shown this by his failure to answer questions; his lack of grasp of details; his lack of knowledge of what is going on and his pathetic attempt to cover up. His own supporters, of course, protect him with their numbers. But it must be deeply worrying to Government supporters because I believe that they share with honourable members on this side of the House a deeply ingrained belief in the fundamental importance in a democracy of civilian controls of the armed forces through the elected Ministers and members of Parliament. By all means let us strive for greater central direction, for more effective operational control and efficiency and for the economies that these things will bring. But never let us achieve it at the expense of this fundamental principle. When the Minister brings down his final detailed proposals all of us, I hope, will look at them from this point of view. In the meantime the great maxim of ministerial control of the armed services has been put at risk by this Government.
The Minister has been less than frank with the House in what he has had to say about the Army. Again he has emphasised the personal decisions that he has made for reasons which are not difficult to divine. He has an almost compulsive necessity to do this. But what he has not emphasised and what he has not put in perspective is that all the flurry of activity, all these committees and all this cover-up resulting in his announcement today that Australia no longer has an Army which can be dignified with that name would not have been necessary if the Labor Government had not made the disgraceful, contemptible decision to abolish national service in one stroke without regard to the effectiveness, the efficiency and the credibility of the Army as a fighting force. I say ‘abolish national service in one stroke’ advisedly because it would have been quite reasonable and responsible to have committed the Government to phase out national service as sufficient volunteers became available when and if the measures introduced to stimulate recruiting became effective. That would have been the responsible course but this Government did not take it. It claimed that it had a mandate to abolish national service. That is open to doubt. What it did not have was a mandate to wreck the Army.
Indeed, the Government claimed when it was in Opposition and also during the general election campaign again and again that it would obtain the required numbers by voluntary means. The public accepted and expected that the Government would achieve an Army of effective size and structure. The people did not give the Labor Party a mandate to create the rump of an Army which the Minister has outlined this afternoon. What would have been the attitude of the public if they had known that the instant abolition of national service would produce the fragmented rump of an army which the Minister has outlined and some of the consequences which the Minister has chosen not to mention but which I will mention in a minute? What would their attitude have been if they had known that instead of an Army of 41,000 men we would have one to all intents and purposes of less than 31,000? Even 41,000 will produce only the framework of a division, the basic organisation which any Army worthy of the name must have. An Army of 31,000 is barely capable of putting a task force in the field and certainly not capable of relieving it.
Although an Army of 41,000 was capable of contributing a task force in South Vietnam and rotating it, it was only able to do so with a great deal of logistic and support assistance from other countries particularly the United States. It is not difficult to imagine how utterly and completely dependent on our allies is a task force or part of a task force produced from an Army of 31,000. Where, in this situation, is the military self-reliance to match our much vaunted independent foreign policy? Where is the capability of independent action in situations short of a major threat demanded urgently by the Guam or the Nixon doctrine - something to which the Minister has paid lip service on many occasions. In a situation in which a great all round capability was required - something that was acknowledged by the previous Government - this Government has instead produced greater dependence and greater weakness.
I am not impressed by the Minister’s smokescreen about defence advice and changed situations. The strategic environment cannot have changed markedly since last year when the previous Government obtained firm advice that an army in excess of 41,000 was required. The threats position has not changed; the range of situations in which we should be in a position to exercise an option to intervene or take part has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the capacity of the Army to undertake a range of tasks which the Government may require of it. The Government cannot hide behind defence advice for that. The responsiblity is squarely that of the Government however much the Minister may wriggle and squirm and confuse the. issue.
The fact is that the Government, having taken the decision to chop off a third of the strength of the army overnight for purely party political and ideological reasons, set about giving this disgraceful action the imprimatur of respectability and responsibility. (Extension of time granted.) The Minister started talking about his great achievements in getting closer to a target of 31,000, whatever that may mean. He mentioned it again this afternoon. He announced with a great fanfare that he was setting up a Defence-Army committee - he told me this in the House - to tell him what size the Army should be. By including defence officials on that committee, as the Minister saw it, you would get an unbiased objective result. That is fair enough. But the answer must have been a sore trial to the. Minister in his search for respectability because the answer that came out was 38,000 volunteers. In other words, it was the same advice as the previous Government had recieved, making allowances for the training component for the national service scheme. The Minister has been notably silent this afternoon on the recommendations of that committee about which he boasted so much at the time of its appointment. He now has to rely on the statement that this expert objective recommendation was varied by the Defence Forces Development Committee. I am utterly unimpressed.
This Committee was faced with a fait accompli. The pass had been sold. The members of the Committee could do no more than pitch their advice not to the objective situation but to a compromise based on the numbers that the Army might hopefully be able to obtain. In any case the Defence Forces Development Committee consists of a civilian - the Secretary of the Department of
Defence - 2 sailors, one airman and one poor solitary soldier operating in an atmosphere of impending savage cuts in total defence expenditure to accommodate both the ideological proclivities of the Australian Labor Party and a vast uncontrolled civilian spending program. In this situation what else could one expect. It does nothing to alleviate the concern and uneasiness which the Opposition feels about the state and the adequacy of the Army under this Government’s decision.
This concern is underlined and underpinned when we consider some of the consequences of the Government’s decisions which have not been mentioned by the Minister. I can do no better than draw the attention of the House to a lecture delivered to the United Service Institute of Victoria last year by the Chief of General Staff, Lieut.-General Sir Mervyn Brogan. I do not have time to read what he said to the House. But the text of the lecture sets out in some detail the views of the Chief of the General Staff on the effects of the abolition of national service on the Army. Presumably they are still his views. To put it in another way, one could say that the Chief of the General Staff was expressing his views of the effects on the Army of a reduction in manpower and the extent to which these changes have been undertaken by this Government. The part of the speech to which I am referring is very germane to this debate and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
About five of the nine ARA battalions, together with other units would have to be disbanded (ARA battalions are currently only at 600 rather than 800 strong). The small resulting field force may have to be concentrated in one area (probably Townsville) in order to have even a minimum training capability. Considerable re-location of units and personnel would be involved resulting in some installations being closed and an imbalance of facilities (i.e. married quarters) at others. Our ability to deal with civil emergencies would be greatly reduced. The levels and nature of units remaining would preclude training of the kind required to develop a competent modern Army. As mentioned earlier, professionalism must decline, at an accelerating rate, and it should be remembered that the standard of the Citizen Military Forces is directly related to this. The CMF would lose its 8,000 National Servicemen who have opted for five years CMF service in lieu of 18 months Regular service, and the total strength would come down to 19,000. This is below a viable level and the CMF would have to be completely restructured. The Regular Army Reserve and Emergency Reserve would fall from 35,800 to 9,000. The plannned development of Papua New Guinea Forces would be seriously set back. National Service skills are important to this program, especially the 50 National Service teachers now preparing NCOs and ORs in Papua New Guinea for promotion. The Medical, Dental, Education and Psychology Corps would lose 200 National Service.
There are further even more serious longer term implications which could result, notwithstanding that the adverse effects may be progressively reduced if volunteers came forward in the required numbers in a relatively short time frame. The Field Force Order of Battle would be based on a skeleton task force as in 1964 when our operational capability enabled us to field one battalion group overseas. (The remainder would be taken up in the necessary support area and fixed establishments, including staffing of Citizen Military Forces and Cadets, to allow the Army to live.) This could result in the following: lack of attraction to officers and senior NCOs: inability to expand quickly: reversion to the status of imitators of foreign armies with a consequential depressant effect on Australian production and R&D: inability to properly support the Citizen Military Forces which must continue to go down in strength; the development of a separate military class largely divorced from the community at large; the disappearance of an effective Reserve, now sustained largely by National Service.
– I thank the House. Many members on this side of the House both past and present have over the years fought for acceptance of the point of view that whatever else our defence effort comprises, adequate and effective ground forces are essential to the credibility of the armed forces generally. This we believe applies to any of the roles in which our armed forces may be cast - whether it is the defence of the Australian mainland, the defence of our Territories, our interests overseas or fulfilling our obligations in a United Nations peacekeeping role. If evidence were needed of this the demonstration of the way in which the North Vietnamese Army has resisted massive naval and air power should have provided a profound lesson for us all.
We have fought for this point of view that we cannot have adequate, effective and credible ground forces without at least the framework of a division. The Chief of General Staff in the same lecture to which I have referred cogently put the reasons why that is so and no doubt this will provide the reasons why, as the Minister said in his statement, the Chief of General Staff dissented from the views of the sailors, the airman and the civilian on the Defence Forces Development Committee. I seek leave to have those views incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted! There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
First, the nine battalion Army. The requirement for nine battalions should not be considered in isolation or necessarily in relation to the infantry strength needed for any particular operation. It must be viewed as part of the Army’s general requirements for a field force of a size at least sufficient to:
meet possible contingencies;
enable development of expertise in all aspects appropriate to a modern Army;
pass on its experience to the CMF and Reserves;
provide a sound basis for expansion;
contribute to the credibility of our armed forces generally.
For these reasons we believe we must have the framework of a division and I would remind you that the term ‘division’ signifies the smallest permanent grouping of units into an independent, balanced military formation of units of combat, combat support and logistics. If we do not have a division or at least the essential framework we have no capability to field an independent balanced force.
A task force does not meet the requirement. Despite publicity which gave the impression that our Task Force in Vietnam was an independent entity, it could not have operated without the massive supplementation it received from the US, the Vietnamese, the Australian Logistic Support Group andl HQ Australian Force, Vietnam. Such supplementation cannot be assumed for future operations but in any case is not available in peace to allow balanced training and preparation for war.
A series of hostilities since the Second World War has enabled us, by operating with larger armies, to develop a high degree of professionalism otherwise unachievable in a small army; the reservoir of this experience will last for some years but the prospects of a long period of peace make this aspect a most important one when considering the size and shape of the Army. This has particular relevance to the training of senior officers, on whom the standards of an army depend. It is simply not possible to develop and perfect systems and procedures in such vital fields as logistics, communications, command and control without adequate forces in being.
– After fighting for many years for this point of view - the point of view that one does not have an Army at all unless one has at least the structure of a division and one certainly does not have the structure of a division, whatever the Minister might say, with an Army of 31,000 - we achieved it in the mid-1960s. The Labor Party has destroyed it. That is what the Minister’s statement adds up to. We now have an Army about the same size as the New York City Police Force whose capacity to perform the role of an Army is just about as great.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Labor Government undertook on election to abolish conscription forthwith. It promised that there would be no further call-up of young men for national service in the Army under the National Service Act and all pending prosecutions would be discontinued. My first major action following my swearing in as a Minister on Tuesday, 5 December, was to do just this by administrative action. I approved the cancellation of call-up of some 2,200 men who had been medically examined and passed fit for service and were due to be called up at the end of January 1973. I directed that there should be no proclamations requiring any further age groups to register for national service under the National Service Act
In accordance with the powers vested in the Minister under the Act to grant deferment to classes of persons liable to render service under the Act, I deferred indefinitely the liability of all men who had not as at that date been enlisted for service in the Army. This affected the 2,200 men I have already mentioned, and another 30,000 men who subject to their fitness for service would have been included in future Army intakes. There were also some 8,000 men already serving in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to full time national service in the Army. Their liability for national service was also indefinitely deferred. At the same time I revoked all approvals for prosecution for offences against the provisions of the National Service Act.
As Minister I also confirmed arrangements which the Department of Labour and National Service had brought into effect on the Monday morning following the election. Besides taking no further action regarding the call-up and registration scheduled for January 1973, and in respect of prosecution, these arrangements provided that all national service medical examinations were to be cancelled forthwith, no further steps were to be taken to detect men who had defaulted in their obligations under the National Service Act, all investigations into apparent defaults were to be discontinued, and no warrants for apprehension of persons for breaches of the National Service Act or for non-payment of fines under the Act were to be executed, and the restriction requiring persons with a national service liability to obtain permission to leave Australia was waived. This action avoided a number of major problems which could otherwise have arisen in closing down national service.
The abolition of conscription is, however, too important a matter for it to continue to rest solely on administrative decision and administrative action. Conscription should not, moreover, be capable of reintroduction without the express need for legislation to be brought before, and passed by, this Parliament. The Government has decided that legislative effect should be given to the decision to abolish conscription which I as Minister took administratively. It is also not only confirming, but strengthening and* reinforcing, these decisions to ensure that they cannot be reversed administratively. The Bill is simple but far reaching in its effect. It legally terminates as from 5 December 1972 the liability of men to register for national service, whether it be full time or part time service on the Reserve - or in the CMF - on completion of the full time service. The date on which the new Government came into office was 5 December and I, as the Acting Minister for Labour and National Service, approved administrative action to end all call-up for national service.
The Government has not repealed the National Service Act primarily because it wishes to ensure preservation of the rights of those men who were serving at the date the Government assumed office, including those who have elected to continue their service under the provisions of the National Service Act. The men thus remain eligible for reinstatement in civil employment and for their reestablishment benefits. It is nonetheless the Government’s intention to repeal the National Service Act just as soon as possible after all men have ceased to serve in the Army under the Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Forbes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 May (vide page 2710), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on these 4 Bills I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering these Bills, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill and the Defence Force (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 6 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 6 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I have been waiting for a long time to see this legislation before the House. I would add with certainty that so has every member of our defence forces. While I appreciate that this legislation has been introduced and that the Government is trying as best it can to improve the retirement benefits available to servicemen, the manner in which it has gone about its task and the methods it has adopted to achieve the aim of providing greater benefits leave a lot to be desired and, in lots of instances, have added to the confusion which already exists in the area of retirement benefits. Recently, during the passage of the Housing Agreement Bill, I had occasion to take the Government to task for what I called its undue haste in framing legislation which created uncertainty in its interpretation. I now make that charge again with regard to the defence forces retirement benefits legislation that is before the House at present.
I believe that these measures are the result of a fourth attempt to produce legislation which can reasonably be understood. If that is so, I would not like to try to interpret the first three attempts. The Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Legislation - the Jess Committee - from its very first meeting stressed the necessity for simplicity in the framing of any new legislation on this matter. The final report of the Committee stressed the need for simplicity. The Minister for Defence, Minister for Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply, (Mr Barnard) mentioned during his second reading speech the necessity for simplicity. I think I can quite rightly say that the Minister has not read the draft legislation but has merely made comparisons with the Committee’s recommendations if he thinks that the legislation in its present form is simple legislation. The Jess Committee, as the Minister well knows, set out to devise a simple scheme which servicemen could understand, and I believe it succeeded. But when translated into the present legislation its recommendations are on the way to becoming incomprehensible. Legislation which cannot be understood by those who are required to administer it or by those who will benefit from its provisions should never be allowed to be brought before the House until it has been made tidy. In this instance I think the Minister has been very remiss.
The whole reason why the existing legislation is in such a confounded mess is that the original legislation has been continually patched up by amendments since its inception in 1948. To continue this patching up process must only add to the confuson of the serviceman. I know that the Minister has said that it is impossible to repeal the existing legislation as it now stands because of certain complexities. But I would remind him that on his own admission the Government has been dealing with this matter since 22 December last year. Surely since that time something more definite than this legislation could have been produced so that servicemen would easily understand what is being afforded to them. In fact, I think it was the Minister’s responsibility to ensure that this was done. But how could this be possible, how could simplicity of understanding be achieved, when the Minister permitted the exclusion of Service representation from the drafting committee? Surely the inclusion of Service representation during the drafting stages is a basic principle to abide by, for servicemen understand the problems of the Services far better than do their civilian counterparts in the Department of Defence.
Since the inception of the DFRB scheme in the late 1940s our defence force has been integrated with the Commonwealth Public Service, which I think is completely wrong. The defence force and the Commonwealth Public Service are 2 major but entirely distinct arms of our national government service and to continue to link those 2 organisations together can only add to the confusion and dissatisfaction which this integration has already caused over the years. In my opinion there can be no escaping from this confusion and dissatisfaction until the link between the DFRB scheme and the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme has been severed.
Some aspects of the legislation lead me to believe that there must be a lack of communication between the Minister and his departments, for it would appear that this legislation is the end product of rather indecent haste. While the Minister is to be commended for wishing the legislation to be introduced and accepted as soon as possible, surely he could have supervised its construction to the extent that a clear and concise definition of the retirement entitlements of servemen was produced. There must have been a lack of communication, otherwise why would the Government have introduced in the one session 2 Bills which are completely different in relation to the benefits applicable to payments to widows? A widow who is receiving benefits under the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill is far better off than a widow who will be receiving benefits under the proposed DFRB scheme. I would recommend to the Minister that he study the anomaly I have just mentioned and make adjustments because in my opinion there has certainly been a discrimination against the serviceman’s widow. My colleague, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), will enlarge on this matter during his contribution to the debate and make the situation even more clearer to the Minister. I think that the presentation in the one session of 2 Bills that deal with this matter in such a vastly different fashion is a situation which is most extraordinary.
I wish to draw the Minister’s attention to another extraordinary portion of this legislation. The Minister has stated emphatically that no serviceman will be disadvantaged by this legislation. The Committee was most adamant that no serviceman would be disadvantaged. Yet there appears to have been a curious departure from this principle in clause 25 (2) (d) (ii), which deals with early retirement and states that a person: . . who, on his retirement, had not attained the retiring age for the rank held by him on 30 September 1972, but in respect of whom the Authority is satisfied that, but for the enactment of this Act and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1973, paragraph 39 (2) (b) or (c) of the previous Act would, on his retirement, have applied.
I think that the Minister will find that the operative words there are ‘but for’. I would suggest that the Minister for Defence study this in conjunction with clause 25 (1) and sub-clause (3) for it is my interpretation that some hundreds of service members could be penalised by the inclusion of these words ‘but for’, which would deprive them of the right of making an election referred to in sub-clause (3). I would most certainly appreciate the Minister’s clarifying this situation.
There is yet another grey area in this Bill which is the position regarding those members who have frozen their contributions and those who have not. Clause 25 could be interpreted as imposing discrimination between these groups of members. If my memory serves me correctly, the Service representation agreed that the basis of determining whether or not a detriment existed should be the same pension percentage of pay as if the individual being considered had not frozen his contributions under the old Act. An interpretation could be made that he would be denied the opportunity to purchase back service and denied opportunities under sub-clause (3) of clause 25. If this is so, the ‘no detriment’ principle would be useless and clause 25 of the Bill would not be translating policy decision into law.
Sub-clause (4) of clause 25 needs a more satisfactory definition, for it states:
Where the Authority so determines, an election under sub-section (3) is of no effect unless the person making the election pays to the Commonwealth a contribution under this section of such amount as the Authority determines as being appropriate . . .
The wording ‘of such amount as the Authority determines as being appropriate’ could mean any amount, and I would suggest that the serviceman would require a much clearer definition than this to avoid the determining of amounts prescribed by the Authority becoming suspect. Another portion of the Bill which I doubt will be accepted with any joy is that portion of clause 8 which states that there will be a Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority which, ‘subject to the directions of the Minister, shall have the general administration of this Act’. I fail to see why, once the Authority has been established, the Minister needs to start directing it according to what he may wish. The Authority will have the references under which it will operate and I see no reason whatsoever for the Minister to buy into its activities unless the Authority specifically asks him for advice. I have a reason for saying this. It would seem that the Minister is loath to delegate some of his responsibilities, but I think I can assure him that the Authority as described is quite capable of doing its job and there will be no need for him to make it subject to his direction. The situation could get into an awful muddle if we had a Minister who insisted on directing the Authority’s activities. I would remind the Minister that if there is any direction to be given it should be given by the Parliament. This clause 8 could mean that Parliament could be by-passed and the law administered by one individual.
I am sure that the concerns I have expressed have arisen from the fact that there was no Service representation involved with the drafting of this Bill. I know that some drafts were submitted to the Service departments for comment and, after studying the Bill, I feel positive that many of the comments which I know were made are not included in this Bill. They may be kept for later amendment; I do not know. But Service personnel have no union to represent their interests and it is my firm opinion that any future amendments that are made or, in fact, the drafting of a new Act after the old one is repealed, should not proceed until Service representatives have been consulted and invited to assist in the drafting. I am sure that if this is done we will have a complete and entirely comprehensive Bill.
If the views of the Services are pushed into the background on a matter such as their own retirement benefits scheme, I hate to think what will happen with the proposed reorganisation of the defence forces. A government which seeks to reform legislation for the benefit of a section of the community as important as our Service personnel should not have to be reminded of the importance of communication with that section of the community. I also feel that the Minister has failed to appreciate the mood of Service personnel regarding this matter. If he had, I am sure he would have produced a much clearer and more comprehensible Bill which could have become the new Act - something that was simple and able to be understood by everybody.
The fact that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Jess report means that most of the policy work had been done by that Committee and I can see no good reason why we cannot have a new Bill completed and presented to the Parliament during the next session. If this matter is placed on a low priority drafting because it may be thought that the introduction of the present Bill may satisfy our servicemen, the Minister will be regarded as having no concern whatever for the serviceman’s welfare. It may be a big job - I do not doubt that for one moment - but I suggest that the Minister has access to enough Public Service personnel and machinery to tidy up this Bill and get the job completed for introduction next session.
Finally, may I say that I regard it as a privilege to have served on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation Committee and more than pleased to have our recommendations accepted, and in some cases improved, by the Government. The previous Government - the one in which I served - is in my opinion not without blame in regard to the introduction of this Bill, but that is history and the ball is now in the present Government’s court to complete this important matter. The Opposition has no intention of opposing the Bill and trusts that it gets a quick passage through this House and the other House. There will be no amendments. The only request I make is that the suggestions I have made and the suggestions that will no doubt be made by other speakers receive the Government’s consideration.
The other Bills I recognise as purely machinery Bills and they, too, will not be opposed. I realise why the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme for the Papua New Guinea Forces - that is another Bill that should have been introduced years ago; it is time it was introduced - is a funded scheme whereas the previous Government’s scheme was non-funded. I believe that an agreement has been reached with the Chief Minister on this matter so that there will be no upset with its Public Service and police force when Papua New Guinea finally gains its independence. In conclusion, I should like to take the opportunity to thank the members of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board for their patience and assistance over the last few years with my queries on DFRB matters. In my opinion, their task in implementing the old Act has not been easy and I trust that the new Act, which I hope the Minister for Defence will introduce next session, will make their task a lot easier.
– It gives me also great pleasure to see this Bill introduced, a Bill which effectively codifies the report put forward by the Jess Committee. But what we are considering today are 3 Bills of great complexity. The main one contains 79 pages. These Bills affect about 70,000 present servicemen and many thousands of retired ones. It was introduced into this House last Friday and 5 days later we are debating it. For a Bill of such complexity, in my opinion, that is a grossly inadequate time for proper consideration. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) has pointed out what seems to him and to me an anomaly in the Bill. I am sure many other anomalies will be found when people with close interest in and concern about these Bills study them in detail.
It is a matter for great regret therefore that we have not had more time to go into the Bills in detail and consult those most concerned. What the main Bill does is effectively to introduce the provision and the recommendations of the Jess Committee, of which I was a member, as was the honourable member for Herbert and, of course, the present Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I congratulate the Minister for Defence on thus honouring an election promise he made on behalf of his Party. It was, we must recognise, an all-party committee and the findings were unanimous, with one minor dissent by Senator Byrne. The setting up of the Committee had support from both sides of the House. Although I said that this Bill does implement the recommendations of the Jess Committee, 1 should add that it has had to vary them in a number of ways, some of them necessary. I have quite serious doubts about others, although I accept the principle and the purpose of what is going on. I would like to run through a few of my doubts. One of the overriding purposes of the Jess Committee was to achieve simplicity. The earlier Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund legislation had many admirable features, but it failed in its purpose because it was not understood by the average serviceman. For that reason the
Jess Committee very strongly felt that there should be a single Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund Act, simple in form and comprehensible to servicemen. Only in this way would we achieve the purpose which the Government had in mind.
For reasons I do not agree with, the Government has chosen to retain the old Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund Act in existence as a means of continuing to pay benefits to pensioners who left the Services before 1 October last year. I can see why that has been done, but I do not agree with it. The Jess Committee had in mind that people who left the Services before 1 October 1972 should have their updated pensions assessed as a percentage of the rank they held at the time of retirement. For instance, a major would have a pension equal to 40 per cent of the current active pay of a major. These people should be transferred to the new scheme on that basis. Thereafter their pensions should be updated by maintaining a steady ratio with the active pay for their rank.
The reason why that has not been done is quite clear. So far the Government has been unable to reach any conclusions about the best method of updating pensions. The suggestion I put forward implicitly accepted that the system was to operate on the basis of average weekly earnings. Apparently the Government is not yet prepared to accept that suggestion, although it is worth noting that a different arm of the same Government, operating as it tends to do in different directions, has accepted that principle in the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act which has been passed by this House. If the Government can adopt that suggestion in the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation I cannot see why it will not give equivalent benefits to its servicemen.
I am glad to see that in respect of pensioners who left the Services before 1 October 1972 the Government has accepted the full benefits which the Jess Committee recommended for children. There is no doubt at all that the benefits for children have become grossly outdated. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) mentioned one anomaly. I think it is a clear error in drafting the Bill. It concerns late entrant officers. In that respect the initial report of the Jess Committee was incomplete. When representations were made after the Jess Committee report was published it became obvious that some late entrant officers - officers who enter the Services probably in their 30s and are unable to complete 20 years service before they reach the mandatory retiringage for rank - would receive less under the Jess scheme than they would under the post- 1959 scheme. This was an obvious unfairness. It was not totally compensated for by the fact that those people were contributing at very high rates - over 10 per cent of their pay in many cases - and would receive a substantial refund of their contributions. The recommendation of the Jess Committee in its supplementary report, in a letter to the then Minister for Defence, which the Government has not adopted, was that any late entrant officer who found that his future entitlement was being reduced should be entitled to buy back notional service to bring his entitlement under the new scheme as high as it was under the post- 1959 scheme. That has not been accepted by the Government. I think that is a mistake, because from that refusal stems the error of drafting pointed out by the honourable member for Herbert.
The contribution rate is now to be a constant 5.5 per cent of pay. This was done in the interests of simplicity and because it was the rate paid currently by most post- 1959 contributors. There is no magic in the figure of 5.5 per cent. It was merely a figure picked out to represent a fair contribution by servicemen. I know that in the study of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act the proposal has been put forward that the contribution by Commonwealth public servants should be 5 per cent. That has not yet been accepted by the Government. If it is accepted, I think the Government should consider very seriously bringing the DFRB rate down from 5.5 per cent to 5 per cent because, in my view, it would be quite unfair for servicemen to pay a higher rate than public servants.
I turn now to the key area in which I part company with the Government. The Government has not been prepared to make a decision on what is in many ways the most important aspect of the report: that is the method of updating. The Jess Committee after considering various alternatives recommended that updating be done on the basis of average weekly earnings. We managed to prove, at least to my satisfaction, that Service pay followed very closely average weekly earnings. Therefore the requirements of both simplicity and fairness would be met if after retirement a pensioner’s annuity was maintained as a constant percentage of the active pay for the rank he held. It is simple and fair. A pension would thus be updated on the basis of average weekly earnings. Although the Government has accepted this principle in respect of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, apparently it is not prepared to accept it in this legislation. I cannot understand why.
One of the reasons why the Government is delaying a decision on this aspect is the report by Professor Pollard. He was appointed by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government to investigate methods of updating pensions, particularly for the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) as Prime Minister had promised to expand the scope of the investigation of Professor Pollard to cover the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. The present Government did not follow through on this matter so that Professor Pollard’s report covers only the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. It does not cover the DFRB scheme and his findings are probably not relevant to what we are now considering.
Professor Pollard recommended that the superannuation payable to public servants after retirement should be updated in accordance with changes in the consumer price index. This has caused a lot of confusion. Many people thought that he recommended that adjustments should be made at the rate of 1.4 times changes in the consumer price index. That is not so. Under the Commonwealth superannuation scheme the Commonwealth pays five-sevenths of the superannuation and the fund pays two-sevenths. The only part that is updated by payments after retirement is the Commonwealth portion. In order to keep the total pension moving with changes in the consumer price index it was necessary to adjust the Commonwealth fivesevenths portion at 1.4 times changes in the consumer prices index. Professor Pollard is thus recommending that changes in Commonwealth superannuation should follow consumer price index changes. What the Jess Committee recommended - and what the Government has done in respect of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act - was that pensions should be changed in accordance with average weekly earnings. In the scheme we are considering today the demands of both simplicity and fairness make that highly desirable and I strongly recommend that the Government take action on those lines.
I can speak personally about what I consider to be an extraordinary anomaly in this measure. The Jess Committee recommended that rather than starting service for DFRB purposes at the age of 20 years - there is no magic or purpose about that age - service should start for that purpose at the age of entry. It was never envisaged that this would apply to officer cadets who entered the Services as young as at 13 years, but as this measure is worded that result will follow. I entered the Navy at the age of 13 years. When I joined my pay was ls. a week, rising after 6 months of very good conduct - they took a rather generous view of what comprises very good conduct - to ls.3d. a week. During my 4 years’ service as a naval cadet I earned a total of £16 4s. Taking from that 5.5 per cent, which is the requirement of this Act, the sum that such an officer now serving would have to contribute would be $1.80. For that contribution of $1.80 he would be entitled, after retirement, to a pension increase for the rest of his life of at least $1,000 a year. This seems to be a very generous donation. It even makes me wish sometimes that I was back in the Navy so that I could receive it. The Minister might look at this aspect. I accept that the purpose of the Bill should be generous, but this seems to me over-generous. As far as I know it was never envisaged by the Jess Committee that the date of commencement of service would go back to the age of 13 years.
A serious area of difficulty in this Bill concerns invalidity and death benefits. Two things have happened since the Jess Committee investigated this subject. The first is that repatriation benefits have been extended to servicemen for injuries or illness not related to operational service. All servicemen are now entitled to repatriation benefits for injuries or illness associated with their service careers. This takes out one of the principal purposes of the invalidity provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. In fact the only purpose that it retains is to cover the case where a serviceman either becomes ill or is injured when not on duty. I accept that tha; provision should continue, but I think that the meshing in of the Repatriation Act and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act with respect to the invalidity pension should be looked at. Most of all, the Government should look at what it is doing with respect to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act.
I do not know whether all honourable members remember this, but at the moment the widow of a person killed in Commonwealth employment gets his full pay, including overtime - his recent average weekly earnings - for life. These earnings are updated by a factor very close to that of the average weekly earnings. This is twice as generous as the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. I do not know why a civilian employee should be so much more generously treated than servicemen. I think it is wrong and I can imagine it being an oversight by the Government - another example of its right hand not knowing what its left hand is doing. The whole area of death and invalidity benefits should be looked at to see whether we really need a repatriation system, a defence forces retirement benefits system, a Commonwealth employees compensation system and ordinary invalid pensions. I hope that the Government will wait with the Commonwealth employees compensation scheme until we see the result of the report by Mr Justice Woodward who is looking at this area. It would be rash of the Government to take too radical action before his report is received.
Another aspect that caused the Jess Committee some concern was the question of retention of officers. It is agreed on all sides that what we want in the professional Army, Navy and Air Force are long service career officers. The experience of the Canadians and Americans whose officers had a right to retirement after 20 years’ service - though in their case service commences at the age of 20 - was that they had a high attrition rate among officers at that point. The Jess Committee therefore recommended that there should be some penalty for the voluntary retirement of officers before they reached the retiring age for rank which in the case of, say, a lieutenant-commander in the Navy is 45 years. The Jess Committee recommended that the pension entitlement should be reduced by 5 per cent for every year at which an officer voluntarily retired before the laid down retiring age. I must admit that this caused some concern in the Services largely because the men misunderstood what the 5 per cent was to apply to. They thought it was an absolute 5 per cent reduction when, in fact, it was only 5 per cent of entitlement. What the Government has done is to introduce a notional retiring age of 5 years less than the ordinary laid down retiring age and to reduce the penalty to 3 per cent. I do not know what will be the effect of this generous action. I fear it may well be a very severe attrition of officers in their late 30s and early 40s, who will take their defence forces retirement benefit entitlement and establish themselves in new careers. Surely it is not the purpose of a defence forces retirement benefits scheme to encourage early retirement. We should be trying to encourage people to remain in the Services. I confess that I am concerned about this aspect.
My final point concerns the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority. Perhaps the last part of the title is the best. The Jess Committee recommended that this Authority should be disbanded. I can accept that it will have a temporary rate while contributors are being transferred from existing schemes to the new one. This will be a difficult job and there are bound to be considerable disputes and difficulties about entitlements and rights but I do not think the Authority should have a permanent existence. I should like to see a system under which Service personnel - whose pay is computerised - are paid by their branch of the Services throughout their lives. While they are active they are paid through the Services computer system. When they retire they should continue to be paid through the Services pay system although, of course, at a proportionately lower rate depending on their length of service. Administratively this would be much simpler and clearer and, I believe, better than retaining the Authority.
I accept the purposes of this Bill as, of course, I must. I was a signatory to and totally agreed with everything in the Jess Committee report. I believe this Bill is an honest attempt to implement the findings of the Jess Committee and the election promises of the Minister for Defence. I am not happy with the way in which it has been done. It has been cone in a muddled and confusing way and I think many amendments will be necessary as difficulties arise in its practical application. I urge the Government not to regard the defence forces retirement benefits question as settled and put it at the bottom of the priorities of the Parliamentary Counsel but to keep the Parliamentary Counsel ready at short notice to draft the many amendments that I am sure will be necessary to make this Bill work in the manner in which it is intended to work.
– The fundamental benefits and changes in the major Bill of these 3 Bills which are of great complexity, as mentioned by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), meet with the broad approval of the Australian Country Party as part of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. I compliment the honourable member for Isaacs in particular and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) who both had the fortune to be members of the committee commonly known as the Jess Committee which was established in 1970 to investigate this extremely complex subject. The honourable member for Isaacs spelt out with preciseness and brevity some of the doubts he has about the effectiveness of the provisions of this Bill. Broadly speaking I share those doubts. I do not propose to go into the same detail as the honourable member for Isaacs but I will refer to some of the matters he mentioned during the course of his comments. lt should be put on record that by asking that the second reading of this Bill be proceeded with today in this House the Labor Party once again has illustrated its disregard for the normal traditions of the House and the rights of honourable members to have a reasonable time to consider the contents of Bills presented to them. I draw to the attention of honourable members the situation with these Bills. Last Friday afternoon the Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply (Mr Barnard) introduced these Bills, one of which is a 79 page Bill containing 131 clauses. He wants them passed on the second sitting day since last Friday. Surely it is not reasonable to expect any members of the House who was not a member of the Jess Committee to be in the race even to read the contents of the Bills, let alone to have studied them in detail and to have had consultations with people affected by the Bills. I refer in particular to the servicemen and women of Australia.
This is another example of the complete farce that the Labor Government is making of the Parliament. Surely the appropriate procedure would be to debate these Bills in the Budget session and make provision for retrospectivity to whatever date the Government decided. The Bills already contain a great deal of retrospectivity. To introduce these 3 Bills last Friday - particularly the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Bill which contains 139 clauses and covers 79 pages - and to expect the House to debate them now is not giving honourable members a fair deal. Basically the Bills are the result of the efforts of the Jess Committee which was formed in 1970 and which had the express and overriding objective of simplifying the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme.
Originally a request was made by the Government Members Defence Committee to the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), when he was Prime Minister, to set up the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Legislation. As well as to simplify the provisions of the schemes, it was designed to make recommendations which would improve the complex schemes and also remove anomalies. By leaving the present schemes in existence the Labor Government seems to have made things more complex than ever before, particularly for the pre- 1959 contributors and the present recipients of superannuation benefits. The Jess Committee received about 450 written submissions from individuals, departments and organisations, and heard evidence from 65 witnesses. The main recommendation of the Committee was the introduction of a completely new scheme to replace the existing pre-1959 and post-1959 DFRB schemes which commenced 25 years ago, in 1948.
The original scheme had much in common with the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. However, one of the major problems it encountered was its inflexibility. In 1957 a committee chaired by Sir John Allison was appointed to review the scheme. The result was a new scheme for members of the forces who joined up after 1959. It is known as the post-1959 scheme. The objective of the Jess Committee’s report was to remove these 2 previous schemes with their complexities and establish one scheme that would be simplified and understood by all. However, that has not been achieved by the Bills presented to the House by the Labor Government. Of course, it is understandable that these Bills would be brought in by the Government. This is another move towards giving people an incentive to join the forces, particularly the Army and even to remain in them. Of course, the DFRB amendments are long overdue.
The Labor Government has found also that it must find a substitute for national service training to encourage people to join the Army, in order to have a reasonable number of people in the armed Services. National service training contributed greatly towards maintaining our Army at an appropriate strength. However, the Labor Party was influenced by the strong ‘peace’ proponents and ideologists within the Labor Party’s ranks, both inside and outside the Parliament. Eventually, after a long and, at times, rather emotional campaign they gradually infiltrated the minds and thinking of many good Australians. It is a shame that the Labor Party gives no recognition to the fact that since 1965 national service training has provided Australia with more than 40,000 men trained in various military areas. It has helped many young men in many ways and it has helped Australia. Personally I would not seek to retain national service military training, but it certainly seemed to me from my contacts with national servicemen that a vast majority of them approved of the scheme.
As I said, the honourable member for Isaacs has dealt very comprehensively with his doubts about the effectiveness of the main Bill before us. I support his remarks. We are discussing about half a dozen Bills. I want to comment briefly on some of them. The major Bill - the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Bill - does not achieve simplicity. The objective was to get rid of the previous Acts. The Labor Government has not done this. It has retained the old DFRB Acts. This Bill does not deal with the problem of late entrant officers. It strikes a rate of contribution for a Service pension at 5.5 per cent of a serviceman’s annual rate of pay, which can be compared with the rate of 5 per cent in the Public Service. Surely that is an anomaly. The Government has not been prepared to make a decision on the updating provisions which keep the superannuation payments of people who retire on pensions in line with average weekly earnings. That was recommended by the Jess Committee and seems to be a simple and fair procedure. It was accepted in the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) legislation which has been passed by this House but has not yet been passed by the Senate.
This Bill introduced by the Labor Government does not implement the recommendation on updating. As the honourable member for Isaacs said, the Government seems to be more inclined towards the Pollard recommendation which involves an adjustment based on a change in the consumer price index. The final glaring anomaly which indicates that this is either a complete abrogation of responsibility to the widows of the ex-servicemen of this country or a complete lack of co-operation between the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), is that the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill which was introduced in this Parliament placed the widow of a member of the Public Service who died during the course of his duties, or while travelling to or from work, on full pay for life plus adjusted payments according to the rise in salary for the particular class in which the member of the Public Service was employed. If an exserviceman dies his widow is only 50 per cent as well off as a widow of a public servant. In almost successive weeks, or at least very closely together, we have been presented with 2 very important and wide ranging pieces of legislation by this Labor Government and we have a shameful anomaly in the provision for widows of servicemen.
Finally I refer to the setting up of an appeal system, which is a very praiseworthy inauguration. The people who are dissatisfied with the assessment of the rates of their DFRB pensions will now be able to appeal to a tribunal. The Minister in his second reading speech said merely that they will be able to appeal to a tribunal but I would have thought it would have been competent for him and not beyond the bounds of possibility to set out the composition of the tribunal and the procedures which it would adopt. There is no possibility of discussing the manner of composition of the tribunal and the methods it will use because these are not set out in the Bill. I draw attention to a statement in the second reading speech which is misleading. The Minister said that the Jess Committee report ‘recommended the introduction of a new scheme which, with some necessary modifications, is the scheme covered by the first Bill introduced’. This is inaccurate. Speakers, including myself, have pointed out that quite significant departures have been made from the Jess Committee report. Perhaps the Minister will say when he is replying who thought the modifications were necessary.
– 1 am glad also to have the opportunity of saying a few words because while I was not directly responsible for retirement benefits for members of the Services when 1 was Minister for Defence - the Treasurer was the responsible Minister - it was my responsibility to put the views of the Services, and in particular 1 was closely associated with the Government’s assessment of the Jess report and with its attempts to try to get a workable scheme and an agreed scheme that would be acceptable to the House, to the public and to the servicemen in particular. In particular I want to thank the officers of my former department who devoted so much time and energy to work on this scheme, which I think must be one of the most complex schemes on the statute book.
Most of the recommendations of the report of the Jess Committee have been implemented, but I feel that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) might have been a bit more magnanimous in his second reading speech and might have paid a tribute to those who are responsible, and in particular to John Jess, the former honourable member for La Trobe. I am disappointed in the Minister. We got a lot of T. He used such phrases as ‘I initiated’, 1 moved for the appointment’, ‘the Government of the day agreed with my proposal’, but everyone knows that in this place members of the Opposition can move amendments or motions until they are blue in the face and they do not achieve what they are seeking. The reason that the Jess Committee was established was that John Jess in particular and the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) saw the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and were able to persuade him to agree to this committee. I do not know what arguments they used to persuade the Prime Minister, but they certainly used them and they were effective.
Undoubtedly one of the major arguments would have been the tremendous complexity of the scheme as it now exists, especially the pre-1959 scheme. It is virtually impossible for any serviceman to know what his benefits are, and particularly in the pre-1959 scheme contributions varied enormously. The post- 1959 scheme was better but this led to considerable trouble and unrest in the Services. I recall that many years earlier when I was Minister for Air we had problems with people believing that the scheme was an ungenerous one; I do not think that this was so. The problem was partly or one could say almost mainly that the scheme was not understood. In fact we went to the extent, when I was Minister for Air, of sending a senior officer round to all the bases to explain the defence forces retirement benefits scheme and this had some effect. But in the old days virtually every case had to be looked at individually and obviously many anomalies existed. It was to try to get rid of these that the Jess Committee was formed.
Of course another problem was that in the earlier scheme promotion shortly before retirement led to vast increases in contributions. Admittedly the person who paid these received greater benefits eventually but he had to decide whether to live very cheaply while he paid for a benefit that he would receive later or not to make the additional contributions, in which case he lost the opportunity of an increased benefit. We were particularly fortunate in having available to us in the Government at that time people of the calibre of John Jess. He was brought up, as everyone knows, in a military background. His father, for instance, I believe was the youngest general in the First World War, and John Jess has maintained over a period of many years close links with the Army and he understands many of its problems and its thinking. We were also extremely lucky to have the services of 2 other men. One was the honourable member for Isaacs who spent a considerable time in the Navy and therefore understood the workings of this scheme. The other was the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) who had very many years in the Army. They were of great help. I am not by any manner of means underrating the contributions made by other people, but I say that at the time when the then Treasurer, the then Prime Minister and I were doing our utmost to try to sort out some of the problems associated with this scheme those people were of considerable help to us.
Another argument that could possibly have told when it was decided to set up the scheme was the fact that the serviceman did not appear to be well treated vis-a-vis the public servant. I found in the time that I was associated with work on this scheme that there appeared to be a resistance amongst many people to realise that conditions of service in the Services are completely different from conditions of service in the Public Service. The serviceman, first of all, of course, is constantly on the move. It is not unusual for an officer in the Services over the period of his service to have 20 or more moves. A public servant can have perhaps only one. Sometimes he starts in Canberra and remains here all his life. On other occasions of course he may be moved to Canberra from Melbourne. But certainly it is very much easier for the public servant to set up a house. He does not have the problem of being constantly moved and having to establish a new home. Sometimes a serviceman gets a home where he thinks he will retire and will be settled and in no time he is sent off overseas or to another State. He has to face the problem of either selling his home or getting someone to occupy it, knowing that very often homes are not well looked after by tenants.
If a war breaks out a serviceman is pretty likely to find himself in it, being shot at and facing all the problems and conditions associated with war. The setup in the Services is completely different from that in the Commonwealth Public Service. The serviceman is separated from his family for long periods. This particularly applies to those in the Navy, not quite so much perhaps to members of the other 2 services. There is the problem of educating children. Even moves from one State to another can cause great problems and children may have to be left behind and often arrangements made under other legislation to help them. On occasions when a serviceman is sent overseas his children have to be sent back to Australia or perhaps sometimes to England to get the education that they need. The other thing - and this is extremely important - is that servicemen are forced to retire at an early age. Commonwealth Public Servants can opt to retire at 60 or 65, and they do not have to obtain a new job after retirement. Some do obtain a new job and some perhaps get a part time job. The serviceman, on the other hand, would be unlikely to retire after about 55 years. I suppose most of them would retire in their 40s. This is at a time when it is urgent for them to get some alternative employment. That is not easy because they are a little old to start off with new ways. On the other hand, of course, they do have service portability and this often helps them to find employment.
So, as I mentioned, it was extremely hard to get some of those who were looking at this problem to see the difference that existed between the DFRB and the Commonwealth Public Service arrangements for retirement. However, the report was tabled in May 1972, after 20 months. I know that the Committee had considerable problems. One of them was not being able to get reports on costs of the scheme as quickly as they would have wanted. In fact, I do not know whether these costs were finally obtained from the Actuary before the report was presented. But, as I have mentioned, this is one of the most complex pieces of legislation on the statute book. There was a great deal of work to be done and I and other members of the then Government did everything that we could to try to force this legislation along. 1 am afraid that the present Minister for Defence, while he called for implementation of the report last year, was not prepared to see that there were problems if the report were implemented. Of course, this became apparent the moment the report was produced because there were 2 ways in which a serviceman would have been disadvantaged if the report had been implemented in its entirety. I think something like 12,000 servicemen would have been worse off by its immediate implementation. This was realised very quickly and a letter was received by me from the chairman of the Committee saying that the Committee hoped that the Government would see that no serviceman was worse off as a result of the report. We looked at this matter very quickly, but there were 2 areas to be considered. There was the late entrant officer, owing to the change of the criterion for payment of pension to length of service at retirement rather than the rate of pay at retirement, as had been in the previous system. The other point was the pension reduction penalty of 5 per cent for each uncompleted year of service if the officer retired at his own request before the normal retiring age for rank. The then Government announced as quickly as it possibly could that no officers would be worse off as a result of the report and it set up a committee under Mr Rutherford, the Queensland State Actuary to advise the then Government how to transfer servicemen from the pre-1959 and the post 1959 scheme to any new scheme. I am extremely sorry that the present Government saw fit to abolish that inquiry. I believe that as a result of that action we will never have available the information we would have had the inquiry proceeded. We also said that any decision would be backdated to 1 October 1972. It was realised that drafting problems would have made it quite impossible to bring the scheme into the House before the end of the last Parliament. The then Government accepted 7 specific recommendations. I will give them quickly. They were:
Marriages of pensioners before age 60 will be recognised for widows’ pension purposes;
A dependent spouse of a female member or pensioner will be entitled to pension on her death;
Subject to conditions yet to be determined, de facto spouses and illegitimate children will be recognised for pension purposes;
Children’s benefits payable to students will be continued until age 25;
There will be payable to the estate of a contributor or pensioner, who dies without leaving dependants entitled to pension, an amount equal to one and one half times his contributions less, in the case of a pensioner, any pension or other benefits received;
The tapering of the entitlements of more senior officers will be eliminated;
A retiring member will not be penalised by reason of his refusing to sign on to a reserve force.
We also adopted another 6 recommendations in a modified form. Because of the time limit I shall not read them. But I was interested to hear the Minister’s second reading speech on this Bill. A number of things which had been accepted by the previous Government about 6 months ago were referred to in the Minister’s speech with an air of novelty as though they were being introduced for the first time. I hope that this was not the intention but certainly if one reads the Minister’s speech one could be excused for believing that the Minister was introducing these things which we had agreed to do some 6 months previously.
We then set up a committee to advise use of the criteria by which the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits pensions should be adjusted annually after retirement to maintain relativity. Professor Pollard was asked to advise the Committee. I am only sorry that until now no final agreement or how these things should be done appears to have been made. But I hope that the Minister will continue to work hard on those areas of this Bill which have not yet been worked out. Apart from these aspects the Minister’s speech does not appear to go much further. As I said, he mentioned some things which we accepted last October - 7 months ago. They are restated. The rest of the speech is really a number of platitudes like, for example:
The conversion of some 78,000 contributors to the new scheme . . . will involve individual calculations.
He goes on to say how many people this will apply to and how long it will take to do these individual calculations. He said:
I will be arranging for these cases - to be given priority treatment.
They are people who have retired since 10 October 1972- He then said:
He referred to development in updating in other Commonwealth pension schemes and said that these had to be carefully investigated.
None of this really takes us any further. I only hope that work will continue at a great speed with this scheme. I am glad to see the scheme introduced. I believe it is a monument to the work of John Jess and we should be magnanimous in paying a tribute to him. Without him in all probability we would not be debating this matter here tonight. I have only 2 minor matters in which I disagree with the proposals of the Jess Committee - and they are minor matters. They are to do with administration, and I suppose they are not very important in the overall scheme of things. The first is that the DFRB Fund, which now stands at $174m, will be frozen and wound up. I believe that an invested fund is likely in the long term to return earnings at a level that enables members’ contributions to provide greater support for benefits than would otherwise be the case. We would have maintained this fund. We, in fact, made arrangements for it to be invested in a very much better way than previously so that it could earn a lot more. We had legal advice that the transfer of the existing fund could raise a possible question whether the transfer represented an acquisition of property by the Commonwealth in terms of section 51, (XXXI), which relates to just terms. I do not know whether this is so or not, but it is hard to know what is the true situation. The money does not belong to the Commonwealth; it beloings to the servicemen. I do not know how something can be acquired from the servicemen on just terms.
The other point is that the administration and the responsibility for the DFRB Fund is now to be transferred to the Department of Defence from the Treasury. We were satisfied that the present arrangement with the one organisation handling the Superannuation Board and the DFRB Board and servicing both the DFRB and the superannuation scheme is effective and results in significant economic improvement through the common use of highly specialised staff and facilities. I am sure, that the system of sharing was more satisfactory. I do not really quarrel on this point.
– It was one of the recommendations.
– 1 know. But it was one of the recommendations which I, although I was Minister for Defence at the time, did not agree with. I felt that the actual administration, apart from policy making, was better left in the hands of the Board and the Treasurer and the Treasury, who handle such matters. Unfortunately we now have 3 schemes, not two. This was a problem to which the Treasury drew our attention. So I hope that the Government will work extremely hard over the parliamentary recess and at the earliest possible moment will arrange that the people concerned can be transferred into one easily undectored scheme as was recommended by the Jess Committee. Otherwise, I support the scheme.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The second reading speech of the Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply (Mr Barnard) is rather remarkable in its tone. It is remarkable insofar as the opening words would indicate that the Minister alone was responsible for these Bills which are now before the House. In introducing the Bills the Minister’s opening words were:
These Bills represent the culmination of steps I initiated in this House some 3 years ago . . .
It is rather amazing to observe the political extravagance of the Minister’s claim and the claim of those supporters who occupy the Treasury drew attention. So I hope that 12 September 1972 the present Minister for Defence referred in a question he asked to the subject matter of this legislation as ‘the Jess report’ and now he refers to it as the culmination of steps he initiated. Irrespective of what the Minister claims, the Jess report is the result of a committee which was set up by the Gorton Government at the request of the then Government members defence committee and the returned soldiers committee. At this stage we should pay tribute to the members of the Jess Committee who embarked on a wide ranging inquity in the course of which they received 459 written submissions from individuals, departments and organisations and heard evidence from 65 witnesses in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
The main recommendation that was contained in this report was that a completely new scheme should be introduced to replace the existing pre-1959 and post-1959 defence forces retirement benefits schemes.
The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), who incidentally was a member of the Jess Committee, expressed some concern at the haste at which this important legislation has been introduced and is being discussed. This was repeated by my colleague the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten). This indicates to me that we have a government that is floundering and is not sure where it is going. It is remarkable to note how Government supporters have changed in their expression and in their beliefs since they moved from the Opposition side of the House to sit on the government side. I will quote from page 3291 of Hansard of 26 October 1972 from a speech made by none other than the present Prime Minister, who was at that time the Leader of the Opposition. He said:
The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act is usually amended right at the end of a session when it is impossible for honourable members to read the amendments and understand what differences they make to the legislation or to consult people outside the Parliament in the Services or in the Public Service.
That was the present Prime Minister speaking when he was Leader of the Opposition in a similar debate on 26 October 1972. I submit that he was criticising the then Government for introducing an important Bill at the closing end of a session. What does he do when he gets on the other side of the House? He does exactly the same thing. His Government introduced last Friday Bills consisting of 74 pages and we are expected to discuss them today which is right at the end of a sessional period. I submit that it ill behoves anyone to criticise the action of a previous Government when at the first available opportunity his Government does exactly the same type of thing.
I deplore the manner in which this type of legislation has been introduced at the end of the session. I deplore it because it is legislation which affects the lives of many people who are dedicated to the defence of this country. This legislation is, as I stated earlier, important on the national scene. It is important for all defence force personnel who are in receipt of retirement pay and those who serve and are looking forward to participating in retirement benefits eventually. This legislation is important to the people in my own area of Darling Downs. It is far too important to be introduced in the closing stages of the first session of the 28th Parliament. This Administration has had almost 6 months to have this legislation drafted but it has shown its obvious neglect for the welfare of our defence forces. Indeed the whole area of defence has not received the attention that it deserves by this Government. We had to wait until this afternoon to hear a report on this vital matter from the Minister for Defence. Surely the defence of our country should have top priority, not the very low priority that appears to be given to it by the present occupiers of the Treasury bench.
The defence forces retirement benefits scheme is important to my area because there is within the electorate of Darling Downs the $10m Army aviation complex at Oakey, the 7SD at Hamilton in Toowoomba and the Army establishment at Cabarlah outside Toowoomba. I am concerned that these men and their dependants should have a retirement scheme equal to and as generous as that which they could obtain as an employee of the Commonwealth Public Service or if they were employed in private enterprise. They are entitled to this. They are good citizens. They have become absorbed as ordinary members of the community. They are not apart from it and indeed they are intrinsic to it. They stand beside the rest of the community in the social, sporting and economic life of the area. I support any benefits scheme that will allow these people on retirement to remain part of the community; which will provide to them allowances which will allow them to continue to live where they are happy, and I support the provisions of the legislation in which the commutation provisions will, if they wish to take this step, allow them and their families to start a new career or business enterprise.
One can be critical of the legislation before the House in that it does not overcome one of the initial purposes of the inquiry. I refer to the need to bring simplicity out of com.plexity. As the honourable member for Isaacs said, that has not been achieved. What has been done has been done in a muddled way.
It was expected that the new legislation would iron out the anomalies in the previous schemes that were causing discontent among the servicemen. The men involved were unable to work out what their entitlements were. The matter was far too complicated. There were too many ‘ifs’ and too many buts’. These men are still disillusioned because the old scheme has been carried on concurrently with the new one. The servicemen concerned - and there are thousands of them - who contributed under the old scheme have to remain for years to come under the provisions of the old scheme. They have reason for concern and every cause to be disillusioned. In these days of the computer, of actuarial schemes readily worked out, a scheme could be devised based on justice and equity for these people. At least some elements have been spelt out. I congratulate the Minister for dealing with years of service, rates of contribution and the commutation factor. These matters have been spelt out a little more explictly. But in view of the generous compensation that is being paid to widows of Commonwealth employees, I would hope that the Government will give consideration to the widows pension and invalid pension of the same magnitude. There needs to be some rationalisation in these spheres so that these widows and those who are injured in the performance of defence duties are not disadvantaged. These are the people who have generously given their services so our country can be free of fear from hostile lands and they should be on the same level of compensation as other sections. I hope that the Minister will take notice of this and see that justice is done in this very important field.
My final point of concern is the personnel of the invalidity review tribunal or an administrative appeal tribunal. The Minister has assured us that these bodies will be completely independent. I hope he means that. I trust that the tribunals will not provide just another job for the boys. We do not want another headline in the Press tomorrow such as ‘Egerton for Qantas’ which we have seen in the last few days. We do not want any more of this.
– Who put him on the university council?
– My good friend, you can rest assured that Jo Bjelke-Petersen would have sent him to any place other than the university. I would hate to spell out in this august chamber where most of us would like to send him and I can assure the honourable member that he would not need an overcoat there. We want competent men; men who understand and men who appreciate the great difficulties while retaining a sense of justice. I implore the Minister not to appoint to this tribunal one of the boys. We heard in a statement on defence this afternoon by the Minister
– It was a terrible report.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Lyne said, it was a terrible report. I think that when the great number of people in Australia have had time to consume it they will agree with that most enlightened opinion expressed by my colleague. We heard the Minister state that h<* will endeavour to increase the strength of the Army to 34,000 men by 1974 even though the President of the Returned Services League in Queensland suggests that we should have an Army of 41,000. Be that as it may, there are always 2 sides to a story and 2 points of view in every matter that comes up for consideration. I would suggest to the Minister, notwithstanding his great anticipation that he would fulfil the recruitment target by June of this year, that one of the best methods of attracting the young men of Australia into the various arms of the defence forces is to have an adequate defence forces retirement benefits fund.
We of the Australian Country Party submit that the present Bill before the House does not achieve what most honourable members had hoped it would achieve. The Government has had 6 months in which to draft the necessary legislation. But as the honourable member for Isaacs said, all that the Government has come up with is a hotchpotch of muddled thinking. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said last year that this type of legislation should not be introduced at the close of a session. I suggest that the Minister should place absolutely top priority on this legislation when we come back in August and that he should accept the point of view of those of us on this side of the House who have expressed a lot of concern on this matter and who share the disillusionment and the great misfortune that is at present expressed by Army personnel. We should be given a chance to express constructive points instead of being given a little more time than just 3 or 4 days to study a voluminous document of 74 pages.
– in reply - There are one or two comments that I would like to make about a Bill which has been described this afternoon as one of very great significance. I listened with a great deal of interest to the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). The honourable member is a new member in this House and he obviously displayed that tonight. I certainly do not want to enter into a debate on the historical background of the defence forces retirement benefits legislation, but it is quite clear that the honourable member has not studied the legislation. I must confess that I had great difficulty in deciding or determining whether the honourable member was speaking on DFRB legislation or on the defence statement that I made this afternoon. But I think he can be excused for that. As I said, he is a new member. However, the honourable member described the legislation as deplorable. As a matter of fact, having listened to all of the Government members - the Opposition members - who spoke on this Bill this afternoon I was not impressed to hear the honourable member for Darling Downs, despite the fact that some criticism was expressed, describe it as deplorable legislation. At first I thought that I had not heard him correctly. But the honourable member repeated the statement later. However, I am prepared to excuse this on the basis that he is a new member and therefore no doubt has a great deal to learn about the DFRB legislation and indeed other legislation that he has spoken on in this House.
I accept the criticism that was made by the honourable member for Darling Downs and some other honourable members this afternoon about the time that was available to members of the Opposition to consider this legislation. I acknowledge that the legislation does involve a great many clauses. I acknowledge that probably more time ought to have been made available. But if I may come back to the historical background of this legislation it was quite clear that a policy decision made by the Opposition back in 1972 which was outlined to the people of this country during the election campaign of December 1972 proposed that the DFRB legislation would be introduced in this Autumn session of the Parliament. I have honoured that promise. I do not want to take any of the credit myself for what is contained in the legislation because again I acknowledge quite freely that a number of people have made a contribution. I think the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said late this afternoon that the exmember for La Trobe, Mr John Jess, had not been mentioned in my second reading speech. What I say in answer to that is that I have publicly acknowledged outside this Parliament on a number of occasions the contribution made by the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation as well as by the honourable members for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) and Herbert (Mr Bonnett), both of whom have some experience in this matter. I freely acknowledge the contribution they made to bring about a very successful report which is now, of course, incorporated in this legislation.
I am prepared to accept the criticism in relation to the time that is available to honourable members to study this legislation. But it is quite clear from what has been said by honourable members, particularly from the Government side this afternoon, that the Bill does incorporate the recommendations of the Jess Committee. The Government has not in any way at all dishonoured those recommendations. Indeed, as a result of discussions which I had with departmental officials back in January of this year when I issued instructions that the legislation should be introduced in this session of the Parliament - these meetings involved not only officials of the Department of Defence but representatives of the certain respective Services, the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department - some adjustments were made to the original recommendations of the Jess Committee. Any of the amendments which were made at that time were accepted on the basis that they would improve the legislation, that they were an improvement on the recommendations in the report and that, as a result of their incorporation into the legislation, no one would be disadvantaged. I was quite firm in my instruction that no one should be disadvantaged. lt was said this afternoon - I think by the honourable member for Herbert - that no one from the Services was invited to participate in the discussions that took place when the drafting of the legislation was being undertaken. The plain fact is that representatives of the Services were at the 2 meetings I supervised and the other meetings which were held. They gave their opinions and accepted the Jess Committee’s recommendations. I accepted the amendments which were suggested. So in point of fact this legislation is in the ultimate an improvement in many respects on the recommendations of the Jess Committee because it ensures that no one will be disadvantaged.
One or two points were raised this afternoon by honourable members opposite concerning invalidity and comparisons were made between the entitlement of widows under the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill, which is still before the Parliament, and this legislation. I have no hesitation in saying that I will be only too pleased to look at any anomalies that may arise as a result of the implementation of the legislation which has now been introduced in the Parliament but which has not been finally determined. Honourable members should understand that I moved immediately to give effect to the recommendations of the Jess Committee and that it was not possible at that stage to take into consideration legislation which was not then under consideration but which has subsequently been introduced in the Parliament. If there are anomalies, naturally they will be considered. I believe that no Minister who has the responsibility of introducing legislation of such complexity and of such magnitude would not be prepared to concede that some anomalies will arise. As any anomalies arise I will be only too pleased to have them reviewed. That applies to the rights of widows and to the question of invalidity. Those matters will be reviewed at the appropriate time.
I believe that one member of the Opposition displayed complete ignorance of the legislation this afternoon. Obviously he had not read it or did not understand it. He said that in his opinion it should have been spelt out in the legislation how the review and appeal systems will operate. Provision is contained in the legislation for both an invalidity review tribunal and an administrative appeal tribunal. The appeal tribunal will hear appeals from ex-members of the defence forces or serving members of the defence forces who believe that they have been disadvantaged. The terms and conditions have been clearly set out in the legislation. The appeal tribunal will be headed by a barrister. A contributor to the defence forces retirement benefits fund and another member will be appointed to it. The entitlement tribunal will be an assessment tribunal for invalidity purposes. The Question has been raised as to whether we should use a repatriation entitlement tribunal in this respect or whether a new tribunal should be established. As they have been clearly provided for in the legislation, there ought not to be any criticism in relation to those matters. One of the matters to which the Jess Committee gave very thorough and, I believe, careful consideration was the question of appeals and invalidity entitlements or assessments. These have been provided for.
I believe that one can claim that the Government has honoured the promise it made to introduce this legislation during the first session of the Parliament. I can only reiterate what I said a few moments ago about anomalies, that is, that they are bound to arise in some fields. Naturally I will be prepared to look at them as they arise. It has been said also that the Government has promised to repeal the existing DFRB legislation. That matter was clearly explained in the second reading speech I delivered to this House only a few days ago. There I made it quite clear that it would not be proper to repeal the existing legislation at this stage as to do so would have created anomalies and difficulties which would have prevented the introduction of this legislation at this time. I pointed out and made it quite clear in my second reading speech that the legislation will be repealed at the appropriate time.
There may be in the legislation which is now before the Parliament provisions which honourable members feel ought not to be there. They are there because it is necessary to retain them at this stage in order to provide the entitlements that contributors are now receiving under the old legislation. But there is to be simplicity in relation to the entitlements of future contributors and those who retire after 1 October 1972 and who become eligible after that date. They will pay 5. 5. per cent of their salary and will be able immediately to determine what their retirement benefit will be. That is the great simplicity of this legislation. It is what the Jess Committee looked for and indeed recommended in its report.
There is only one other matter to which I think I should refer. It is a matter which was raised by the honourable member for Herbert. The honourable member referred to the problems relating to the no detriment clause, which is clause 25 of the Bill. In respect to this matter, I wish to say that about 3,500 officers who entered the Services at the age of 22 years or thereafter may suffer benefit detriment on retirement because their prospective service under the Jess scale would give them a lower entitlement than they would have under the present scheme. This detriment is to be overcome by allowing them to purchase notional service, which will equalise the 2 entitlements. In many cases the cost of purchasing the notional service will be met by the refund to them of excess contributions and the lower contribution rates which will apply to them in the future. In effect the intention is to preserve a man’s entitlement as at 1 October 1972. That is the way in which the legislation is written. If, however, I find that this creates any serious anomalies, I shall be pleased, as I have already indicated, to have a further look at the matter. I submit that the legislation which is now before the House does honour the recommendations of the Jess Committee. It will provide a substantially improved benefit to serving members of the armed forces and ex-members of the armed forces.
I conclude by indicating to members of the Opposition that if there are any problems with this legislation it is because the time factor has meant that they have had to be accepted by those who have been responsible for the drafting, which has been a long and complicated process. I believe that the preparation of the legislation was a monumental effort by the draftsmen. They deserve very great credit for their achievement in being able to produce the Bills by last week as drafting was commenced only in January of this year. So whatever criticism may have been offered by members of the Opposition this afternoon it was quite clear that they accepted that the recommendations of the Jess Committee had been honoured and, indeed, I give credit to those who made a contribution to bringing about the reforms.
Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make- a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In his opening remarks the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who I understand has a reputation for honesty and integrity, stated that I had said that the legislation was deplorable. I did not say this at any stage. The remarks of the Minister for Defence are personally offensive to me. I realise that the Minister is a tremendously busy man and probably was not very clear in his thinking, but what I did say was that it would be a terrible thing if the administrative tribunal were created just as a job for the boys. At no stage did I say that the legislation was deplorable. Actually, I spoke in favour of its implementation but pointed out a few anomalies. In a later stage in his speech - just to further my point that the Minister was not quite with it - he referred to remarks made by speakers from the Government side. There were no speakers from the Government side.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order. He may speak only in regard to misrepresentations made in regard to himself. Any other misrepresentations relating to any other honourable member must be made by those honourable members personally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Barnard) together read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 25 May (vide page 2711), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 25 May (vide page 2712), on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 May (vide page 1730), on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– About 4 weeks ago this matter came up for discussion. I led for the Opposition. It was late in the evening and I had nearly completed my speech when, under the new rules, time was called on me. I do not propose to go through the whole speech again but can I just very quickly state the Opposition’s position on this matter. First of all, of course the Opposition supports this Lock to Kimba pipeline. I say ‘of course it supports it’ because this proposal was announced by the previous Government - the McMahon Government - and the present Government is just picking up the tab and putting into legislative form what we had agreed to do.
This proposal is that we should make a grant to South Australia of $2.1m under the national water resources development program. The original program of the Lock to Kimba pipeline was started by the South Australian Government at an estimated cost of $5m. When it had completed part of the pipeline the South Australian Government ran out of money and it is now estimated that $3m will be required to complete the scheme. The Commonwealth will pay $2.1m and the South Australian Government will pay the balance. The proposal is for 69 miles of trunk main on Eyre Peninsula and 170 miles of distribution branch mains for stock domestic purposes and for the 2 townships of Dark Peak and Kimba that will be served by this proposal on Eyre Peninsula.
At present Kimba is supplied from 2 small earthern reservoirs. The water supply is most unsatisfactory as the rainfall is about 16 inches annually. This proposal will provide a water supply to those 2 townships as well as supplies for stock and domestic purposes throughout the area with water pumped from the Polda Basin. It is of interest to note that the Polda Basin has a large quantity of high quality underground water which was found through the accelerated water resources measurement program initiated by the previous Government. All told 207 properties will be covered by the supply thus permitting increases in livestock numbers. The estimate on which the project is based is that it should be possible to increase sheep numbers by about 71,000 and cattle numbers by about 22,000, in addition to providing domestic supplies to farmers and people in the 2 townships that I have mentioned.
The annual net return to farmers in the area will be increased by nearly $lm. That estimate is based on a wool price of 40c per lb whereas at present wool is bringing far more than that. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has said that it is an economically sound project with internal rates of return from 7.7 per cent to about 8.1 per cent. It is just one more example of the work of the national water resources development program, a program which I had the honour to initiate in this House some years ago. It has changed the face of Australia.
The total Commonwealth commitment for the program is about $150m. A number of dams have been completed and many more have been started. I refer to the Fairbairn Dam; the Kolan Dam at Bundaberg; the Copetoun Dam on the Gwydir River; the King River Dam; the Barr Creek and Lake Hawthorne weirs on the Murray River which prevent a lot of salt water from flowing back into the Murray River; the Keith-Tailem Bend pipeline; the Western Australian Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme, the Long.fordCressey irrigation scheme in Tasmania; the flood mitigation works costing about $9m in the north-east of New South Wales; and finally, 2 projects the future of which is uncertain. I do not know whether the present Government will proceed with them. I refer to the Pike Creek dam and the Millewa domestic and stock scheme. In addition to the enormous amount of work that has been done as a result of the national water resources development program, during the same period there has been considerable expenditure on the accelerated water resources measurement program and on the Ord River Dam, built at a cost of about $60m after many difficulties were overcome. Construction of the Dartmouth Dam is now under way at last after suffering some problems through Mr Dunstan and his colleagues.
The Blowering Dam has been completed and the Snowy Mountains scheme has virtually been completed.
The water resources program initiated by the previous Government has increased production enormously, and more importantly, it has stabilised production. This is particularly important to some of the remote areas of Australia which have an unreliable rainfall. It has also helped considerably towards decentralisation. The Opposition supports this measure, of course, because it was announced by the previous Government.
– I will not take up much time of the House but I wish to say a few words about the scheme as it is situated in my electorate. I have directed my efforts towards pushing the scheme while I have been a member of this House. The scheme has had a rather chequered career. There had been concern up to 1963 about the lack of a water supply to Kimba. Water had to be carted every summer. There was also a lack of surface water at that time. The South Australian Government investigated the feasibility of connecting Kimba to the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline but because of the estimated high cost of the project the idea was rejected. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) referred to the discovery of the Polda Basin. It is in the lower part of the Eyre Peninsula and holds a considerable amount of underground water. Consideration was then given to tapping into the Polda Basin to service this area. At that time the South Australian Government decided to go ahead with this scheme. In 1966 an approach was made to the then Federal Government for financial assistance to carry on the scheme, but the Commonwealth decided that the Polda-Kimba pipeline, or the Lock-Kimba pipeline as it was later known, should be excluded at that stage.
The new program was announced in 1969 and in January 1970 the South Australian Government again made submissions to the Federal Government for assistance under the national water resources development program to complete the project. Unfortunately there was a long delay until October 1971 before a decision rejecting the approaches made by the
South Australian Government was announced. Following that rejection approaches were made by quite a number of interested people, including myself, asking that the rejection be reconsidered and assistance given to the project. The main reason given for rejection at that time was the state of the wool industry.
After approaches had been made in a number of quarters for the plan to be reconsidered the Federal Government agreed that it would reconsider it and asked the South Australian Government to submit new proposals. In May last year the South Australian Government submitted a new proposal to extend the scheme considerably, involving more pumping. Just before the last election the previous Government agreed that it would make available $2.1m of the $3m needed to complete the scheme in a reasonable time. This sum was to be given to the South Australian Government as a grant to complete the scheme. This Bill honours the undertaking given by the previous Government. It will allow the scheme to be completed ki a much shorter period than was originally envisaged and will certainly allow expansion of rural activities in the area. Only a few weeks ago I read a report in the Kimba newspaper that the pipeline had reached Kimba. Provision of the extra finance will allow completion of the branch lines and ancillary work. Completion of the scheme will accelerate much greater development of the area. This area has suffered in the past because of lack of surface water. I support the Bill-
– The Australian Country Party is pleased to see that the Government has supported the decision of the previous Government to grant up to $2.1m to South Australia for assistance in constructing a pipeline which will cost over $5m. The Lock-Kimba pipeline in some respects resembles the Millewa pipeline project which is planned in my electorate of Mallee. I have in mind the number of farms to be serviced and the natural environmental and agricultural conditions. This pipeline at present is also under construction as a result of a similar grant from the former Government. In these areas water is a limiting factor with regard to both human and stock life. These areas have a low natural rainfall, high evaporation rates and high annual consumption. In this age of technological sophistication and of tremendous improvements in personal standards of living, schemes such as this must be completed with all haste to provide for people who are prepared to suffer no small amount of personal hardship, particularly in relation to education, cost of services and means of communication. At least a reliable water supply will give these people the security that such a supply can offer.
One of the main reasons that this project was deferred in 1970 was that the expenditure involved was considered inappropriate in view of the low prices being obtained for wool. The position, of course, has changed considerably now. Not only are wool and sheep meat products competing in a more satisfactory, economic and viable state; cattle production also has expanded, giving rise to diversification. A reliable water reticulation scheme to each individual property will have a further stabilising effect on production and income, allowing a continuation of this diversification. There are many regions in Australia where future pipeline schemes will be necessary to bring water to towns and properties. Water must be available to supply their needs. Many existing open channel systems that have served an essential purpose in the past will have to be replaced with piped supplies so that future requirements can be met. The huge annual losses through evaporation must be reduced if there is to be a reliable water supply to serve not only existing needs but also future increased consumption.
The Lock to Kimba scheme will service an area of 259 hectares taking in about 270 properties and including the township of Kimba, with a population of approximately 900, and also other smaller community centres. The successful implementation of this project is economically important for the State of South Australia as well as for the immediate farming districts which the pipeline will serve, but perhaps its real value is not in monetary terms; rather is it its aesthetic value. Nearly all land holders in this region have at some time or other had to cart water for stock and home purposes. This has happened at frequent intervals and on occasions the State Government has even had to rail water to the district. The satisfaction of having a garden, lawns and orchards can now be appreciated and enjoyed because of this future reliable water source.
The Australian Country Party supports this scheme as have honourable members from both sides of the House. The Commonwealth must continue to make grants for projects of this nature that guarantee the future comfort and security of all our people whether they live in rural or urban areas. I know that our new Country Party member in the South Australian Parliament, Mr Peter Blacker, concurs with this Bill as does the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis). The Federal Government’s decision to continue the former Government’s policy of water conservation and reticulation is to be commended. We support this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Br Cass) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 April (vide page 1315), on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Br Cass) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 May (vide page 2504), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
MrDAVIES (Braddon) (8.56)- As indicated by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) the King Island Harbour Agreement Bill provides for a Commonwealth contribution of $1.355m towards the cost of the construction of an all-weather seaport at Grassy on the basis of half loan, half grant. The terms of the agreement closely follow previous Commonwealth assistance in respect of port development in other parts of Australia and was negotiated in March last year on a government to government level by the then Liberal Premier of Tasmania, the Honourable A. Bethune, and the former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. When Mr Reece returned to office in Tasmania in April after the general elections last year, he intimated that he accepted the Commonwealth offer and hence this legislation now before this Parliament.
Similar legislation has already been passed through both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament and I pay tribute to the Premier of Tasmania, the Honourable Eric Reece, who has been a very strong supporter and keen advocate of a better shipping service not only for King Island but also for the far northwest corner of Tasmania known as Circular Head. He has been pressing for many years now for the introduction of the triangular service that will come about by the expenditure of the money proposed in the Bill before the House.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, referred to the difficulty that the shipping operators had had in providing a reliable economic service to King Island owing to the hazards of entering or leaving the port of Currie in bad weather. He referred also to the restrictions on the size of the vessels that were able to use the port of Currie. The main operator in the days referred to by the Minister was Captain R. H. Houfe who had formed a company in 1954. He operated a very efficient service to the benefit of the people of King Island first with the ‘Loatta’, then with the ‘Darega’, which he purchased from New Guinea, and then with the ‘King Islander’ which he had designed to his own specifications. It was a revolutionary type of ship weighing only 220 tons and it was constructed in Devonport. It operated much like a Bristol freighter, with bow end loading facilities as a roll-on, roll-off vessel. These ships were frequently delayed in port at Currie because of bad weather, making it impossible for them to clear the harbour. I refer to an article in the ‘King Island News’ of Wednesday 16 September 1970 concerning a story that the ‘King Islander’ was aground with a damaged propeller. The story indicated that the vessel had run aground while negotiating the entry channel to Currie Harbour in rough seas. This sort of incident occurred on several occasions when the vessel scraped coming through the narrow channel to get into the harbour at Currie. On several occasions it damaged propellers and rudders.
It was because of this problem of the size of the harbour, together with the fact that by 1966 the 220 ton ‘King Islander’ could not cope with the cargo that the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Freeth, asked Captain Houfe what could be done to upgrade the King Island trade. There was also a great deal of pressure from the stock owners because at the peak of the season stock was kept waitting for up to 3 or 4 months at a time before they could Se transported to the mainland market in Melbourne. This was brought about by 2 factors - because the harbour facilities were very small and this limited the size of the ships that could operate in and out of Currie and also because of the upsurge in stock numbers on King Island. It is interesting to note that in the past 7 years the number of beef cattle on the island has more than trebled, from some 13,000 to 42,000, and the number of dairy cows has increased from 7,000 to a static figure of about 11,000.
On Friday, 23 August 1968, I accompanied the then Minister for Shipping, Mr Sinclair, on an aerial survey of possible new port sites on King Island. He advised me that following negotiations with the Tasmanian Government the Commonwealth Government was prepared to share up to $100,000 of the cost of the survey to determine the feasibility for a new port. Tenders for this survey closed on Friday, 31 January 1969, and the tender was let to the engineering firm of McDonald, Wagner and Priddle. It became obvious that the survey would take some months and then possibly a few years for the construction of a deep water port. The shipping position at King Island and Circular Head in Tasmania at that time had deteriorated to such an extent that Captain Houfe obtained an import licence to bring into the service from overseas 2 sister ships as an interim measure to relieve the pressure. In June of that year, however, it was decided for various reasons not to proceed with the plan. The report submitted by McDonald, Wagner and Priddle in June 1969 recommended Currie as the port with ships of up to 300 tons. The report indicated that extensive dredging and other works at Currie harbour would be required. The Commonwealth Government was then paying a freight subsidy and it was estimated that if this were capitalised over a period of 20 years it would provide at least 75 per cent of the estimated cost of the improvements to Currie harbour. I have previously criticised this report in this Parliament. I have referred to the fact that in one section of the report McDonald, Wagner and Priddle gave a list of people with whom they maintained they had had discussions. They referred to the Marine Board of Circular Head, the Duck River Co-operative Butter Co. Ltd and Hardwoods Australia Pty Ltd. I know from my own discussions with these companies that McDonald, Wagner and Priddle at no time saw any of them. The study cost about $100,000 which was shared jointly by the Commonwealth and the State. As I said to the previous Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Government should have sued the firm for the return of the money.
I am not an expert in shipping matters. I have never contended to be one. But the report was criticised also by the main operator to the island, Captain Houfe. He said:
The recommendation for a 300 ton vessel to operate into Currie harbour is completely unrealistic in this day and age of increasing tonnages and knowing the difficulties of operating small tonnages especially into a main port such as Melbourne.
The question of maritime unions has been overlooked and this, to me, is a problem of extreme importance when one considers that the reason Australian coastal shipping has changed for ships of larger tonnage is on account of high operational costs forcing this trend, in fact it is the same the world over. 1 ask the question, would ANL or other companies engage in an interstate trade with a vessel of 300 tons? I know they would not, and there are many reasons why they could not, especially operating from a main port such as Melbourne, to Currie on the west coast of King Island whereby the vessel and crew are subjected to endless nights of turbulence with the vessel rising and falling at times 20-30 feet in 5 seconds and rolling constantly 30-40 degrees, and then the return voyage of cattle and other livestock.
Peko-Wallsend Ltd also severely criticised the report of McDonald, Wagner and Priddle and the recommendation that the new port should be an enlarged edition of the port of Currie.
The main operator to the island, Captain Houfe, had decided that he needed a larger ship to carry more freight than was envisaged in this report so that he would endeavour to contain freight rates. He thought that the only way was to get a larger ship and carry more cargo. He thought that by this means he could contain freight rates and keep them at an economic rate for the people on King Island because they are an isolated community and their costs of living are exceedingly high due to other reasons apart from rates. By this time Peko-Wallsend Ltd had taken over the Grassy Scheelite Mine and was not interested in the recommendations of tha report either, because it realised that it would still encounter the same shipping holdups with small ships operating in and out of the port of Currie.
On 15 August 1969 Peko-Wallsend Ltd instructed Maunsell and Partners to carry out a study of the feasibility of constructing a deepwater, all weather port at Grassy on King Island. The consulting engineers reported in September that the project was feasible. It provided for a harbour at Little Grassy Bay with a berth for 200 feet roll-on roll-off vessels and moorings for a 500 feet tanker using overburden and reject rock from the mine as construction materials. The cost of this facility, complete with access roads and a reclaimed and paved marshalling area, would be approximately $1.3m. Negotiations began almost immediately between PekoWallsend Ltd and the Tasmanian Government on the new port for Grassy. The mining company bought capital equipment, including bulldozers, Euclid trucks and other earth moving equipment, in excess of $500,000 to start the breakwater. The breakwater commenced over a rocky shelf on the land end and then was constructed for a length of approximately 1,500 feet to connect up to a small island. Reject rock and overburden from the mine were dumped into this area into water of varying depths of up to 50 feet. Despite all the gloomy forebodings of some of the leading citizens of King Island, the work proceeded ahead of schedule. The mine management and the men employed on this project deserve the highest possible praise for the wonderful job they did.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.848m. Of this Peko-Wallsend Ltd provided a loan of $110,000 and the Tasmanian Government spent $383,000 during the financial year 1970-71. The balance of $1.355m will be provided under the Bill now before the Parliament. The non-repayable grant from the Commonwealth to Tasmania amounts to $677,500 and an interest bearing loan of a similar amount is repayable by Tasmania over a period of 15 years. Captain Houfe went ahead to call tenders for a new vessel, the Straitsman’, to use the new facility at Little Grassy Bay and at the same time to provide for a triangular service linking Stanley in Tasmania with King Island and Melbourne. The tenders for the new vessel were called in 1970 and the contract was let to the shipyard of North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty
Ltd in Cairns. Those of us who were vitally interested in providing an improved shipping service for both Stanley and King Island thought that all our worries were over when we received a telegram from Mr Fry, the managing director of NQEA, on Friday, 4 September 1970, to the effect that the keel for the new vessel had been laid on that day.
The standing committee on shipping for Circular Head worked very hard and for a long time to try to get a triangular shipping service. They had been turned down by the Australian National Line after a survey conducted by the ANL over a period of 12 months. The Australian National Line sent technical officers to America to look at seagoing tugs and barges to see whether these were a feasible operation but they finally rejected them and also rejected roll-on roll-off facilities. The committee persevered, along with the people on King Island who were anxious to upgrade the service which was being given to the island. We were very pleased when Captain Houfe commissioned the ‘Straitsman’. The vessel came into service in May last year but, unfortunately, after a few months - during the first week of June last year - was tied up due to financial difficulties experienced by the company and has remained there ever since. Despite strenuous efforts by all Tasmanian Federal members and by the Tasmanian Government, we have been unsuccessful in persuading the Commonwealth Government to take over the ‘Straitsman’. The Minister commissioned an inquiry by the Australian National Line into the economics of the ‘Straitsman’. The report of this inquiry indicated that the annual trading loss would be of the order of $500,000.
I simply point out that we were elected last December on the promise of open government, and the time is fast approaching when that report that was prepared by the ANL for the Minister will have to be tabled. I say this, especially in view of the fact that in evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Shipping Services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne in Melbourne on Monday of last week it was stated that the ANL has now reduced this figure to approximately $300,000. In evidence on Monday of this week in Launceston the former secretary of the ANL, Mr Dawkins, indicated that the vessel would make a considerable profit. I think it is only fair that all members and not just I should have a look at the report prepared by the ANL to see the basis upon which it came up with an anticipated loss of $500,000 each year.
The people of Australia just cannot understand why a new ship should remain tied up now for 12 months when the shipping position both on King Island and in Circular Head is so critical, when hundreds of head of cattle and sheep have been bought for the Melbourne market but cannot be delivered because of the lack of shipping, and supplies of materials to keep the scheelite mine at Grassby operating are urgently needed. They cannot understand why alternative ships either have to be imported or have to be built in Australia when there is a ship in Melbourne which was specifically designed for the service. However the Minister is adamant about this matter and we have to resign ourselves to some alternative proposal. Details of the present proposal to overcome these serious shipping difficulties are now being worked out by the Minister for Transport and the Tasmanian Government. All we ask for now is the restoration of a regular service as quickly as possible in the interests of the people on King Island so that full use can be made of the excellent harbour facilities for which the funds are being provided in the Bill before the Parliament.
– All the fine words of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) cannot hide the fact that although the honourable gentleman says that details concerning the operation of an effective and regular shipping service to King Island are being worked out by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) those details apparently are not clear. Whilst negotiations may be proceeding at the present time, the Government is clearly not in a position to provide the House with the full information which I believe it ought to have in terms of the concept for open government to which the honourable member for Braddon referred. What the Opposition wishes to know is whether the Government is prepared to honour its obligations to Captain R. P. Houfe in respect of the use of the ship ‘Straitsman’ and the King Island shipping service. Nothing that has been said in this debate gives the Opposition any real sense of encouragement that the Government is prepared to do this and provide the people of King Island with a shipping service which they obviously deserve and demand at the present time.
Mc- Nixon - Hear, hear.
– I am very glad that my colleague the honourable member for Gippsland joins with me in that interjection, because he is a man with a very distinguished record in the portfolio of Shipping and Transport. He knows full well the nature of the problem and the apparent manner in which the Government to this stage, is not prepared to provide the House with the information it ought to have in this context.
This Bill seeks parliamentary approval for an agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments for the provision of $1,355,000 by the Commonwealth for the construction of a seaport at Grassy on King Island. The total cost of this project has been estimated at $1,848,000. Of this, $110,000 is by way of loan from Peko-Wallsend Ltd, and $383,000 was spent by the Tasmanian Government in 1970-71. The Bill before the House incorporates the agreement whereby the Commonwealth undertakes to provide the balance of the funds required for the construction of the port. Under the agreement the balance will be provided in the form of a nonrepayable loan of $677,500 and an interest bearing loan of an equivalent amount repayable over 15 years.
Of course this Bill cannot be viewed in isolation. Terminals for roll-on roll-off shipping have been constructed to facilitate services between Melbourne, King Island and Stanley. The Melbourne terminal was constructed at a cost of $2m and the Marine Board at Stanley constructed its terminal at a cost of $500,000. The significant fact is that those 3 terminals have been idle since June 1972. For 6 months prior to the election the Australian Labor Party was making unconditional election promises that it would require the Australian National Line to operate the Straitsman’ which has been tied up in Melbourne since 4 June, and to start an immediate shipping operation to King Island, which would carry a separate subsidy account.
The Opposition recognises the economic difficulties in establishing a viable long term shipping service in this area. While we support the Bill, which provides substantial Commonwealth funds, we must point out that it has not been accompanied by proper guarantees of the Commonwealth’s intentions to ensure the continuance of the shipping services. That is a point which must be stressed. I am certain that the honourable member for
Braddon would be the first to realise that all this Bill does is to provide funds in respect of the sea port, but a sea port is of little use to the people of King Island without the provision of the effective and regular shipping service which the people on King Island should have.
The Government would be aware of the move by my colleague in another place, Senator Wright, on 12 April to appoint a select committee to examine the problems associated with shipping services to King Island. This is particular evidence of the general concern felt by the Opposition, and I am certain that the honourable member for Braddon would agree that we have been concerned. In the course of this debate our concern has been to seek the information which the people of King Island require. We do not oppose the passage of the Bill, but we will be seeking answers and assurances in respect of the Government’s intentions, and the details of these assurances will be spelt out by my colleague the honourable member for Gippsland.
– I rise to speak to this Bill because I had the pleasure of completing my formal education on King Island at the age of 14 and spent 2 years over there to receive some of the best practical experience in a very warm and friendly community. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am privileged that you are sitting in the chair at the moment because I know you had a very difficult task, probably one of the most difficult tasks, on King Island and that was to minister to the population which at that time consumed 5.5 pints of beer per week for each man, woman and child. I recall that the flow of this commodity, like that of many others at that stage, was interrupted by various holdups in the shipping service. As a school boy I was always very pleased when these happened because the petrol ran out and the school bus could not run and I was able to stay at home.
To set the situation in geographic terms, King Island is a basin which stands off the north-west tip of Tasmania. Inside the basin there are no rabbits. There are lots of kangaroos, and extremely intelligent ones, because I recall that in the days when we were growing potatoes they would always wait until we dug the potatoes up before they came and ate them. There are a number of snakes. The island has the highest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere, and on the northern end of the island there are many mutton birds and some pheasants. I am giving you these statistics, Mr Deputy Speaker, just to illustrate that there is a viable community with a great deal of interest on King Island. A regular shipping service would not only supply it but also take away its commodities. There are in fact 3,000 people in the community on the island today.
The west coast of King Island is rocky and bordered by reefs extending 3 miles into the Great Australian Bight. This piece of coastline has claimed 57 wrecks, probably more wrecks per mile of coastline than any other piece of coast in Australia. The east coast is open and sandy. There is always a wind on King Island, sometimes reaching gale force. I clearly remember an occasion - this is quite relevant to Currie Harbour because this is one of the difficulties in entering and leaving Currie Harbour - when my father, rounding up cattle, crested a hill and the wind ripped every button off his coat. His hat took to the air and gained altitude and has no doubt since been reported as an unidentified flying object. On the east coast, which is a sandy strip, the Naracoopa jetty was blown out to sea during a gale. So the experience of building a port on the eastern side of King Island stands as testimony to any recommendation we should make on the episode.
Currie Harbour is the only natural harbour on the island that has been used in the past. As the honourable member for Braddon has mentioned and as I have tried to illustrate, the approaches and entrance to Currie Harbour are extremely narrow. They are reef strewn and the Harbour is small and shallow.
While on King Island I also had the very interesting experience of seeing the water run out of the harbour and a ship tied to the jetty at the time - perhaps in some ironically classical was called the ‘Argonaut’ - became stuck in the mud and when the water returned remained there for some time with water in its hold. King Island is characterised by many such stories. Most of them are about the harbour itself. I recall another occasion when a ship had been held off on the other side of the reef from entering Currie harbour for nearly 3 weeks and finally the captain ran the ship on to a sand bar as he came through the narrow heads. In the subsequent inquiry he claimed that he had been held off outside Currie Harbour for so long that he had run out of whisky and in 15 years of bringing ships into that harbour he had never come in sober. He said he always thought there were 3 pilot lights and not two.
It is an extremely difficult harbour to negotiate. It is appropriate that the proposal that we now discuss should situate the new port at Grassy near the scheelite mine which is one of the expanding industries on the island. There are many industries on King Island of course. It has a temperate climate which lends itself to the production of meat, dairy products, wool and other agricultural pursuits. These are the main exports from the island. I was there basically because I had relations there. In 1947 my uncle found it very difficult indeed to export cattle and to get cargo space on ships for this purpose. The production of that island at that stage was severely limited by the capacity of people to export from it. It is clear that in order to maximise the potential production of this island we must have a new port.
There are other mining activities on the island. I recall the experiences of another miner, Mr Max Gatenby, who operates a rutile mine on the eastern seaboard of the island. Mr Gatenby also provides entertainment for the people who frequent the Currie Harbour and other harbours on the island. He operates a picture theatre there. He was ingenious enough to construct his own projector for it. In 1947 this home made projector was very effective in entertaining the sailors and fishermen of Currie Harbour and, of course, other residents of the island. Unfortunately there were frequent breakdowns. When the program was interrupted and there was one flick on the lights, that meant that the audience was to wait in their seats because the repairs could be made in the projection room. Two flicks of the lights meant that the breakdown was a little more serious and we all went out for coffee. Three flicks meant that we went to the dance and an announcement would be made when the projector was repaired. We would then all come back to see the remainder of the show, sometimes ending in the middle of Sunday afternoon.
I am using these illustrations to indicate that the community of King Island is very warm, friendly and productive. It is absolutely essential that this community should not be isolated by having inadequate transport facilities. It has been necessary to cultivate some of the production resources on the island by flying meat from the abattoirs to the mainland. In this way some opportunity has been given to the many soldier settlers who have taken up residence on the island. I commend the Bill to the House. I am sure that that port will be well serviced in the future, regardless of the cynicism displayed by the Opposition.
– I must by way of preface open my remarks on this Bill by referring to the speech of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) when he talked about the cynicism of the Opposition. If ever I have heard speeches which contained sheer hypocrisy in regard to a very important Bill I have heard them tonight. The speeches were not only by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro; he obviously does not know what he is talking about, so I will ignore the rest of his speech. However, for the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) to sit there cosily and to talk in the terms that he did about this Bill simply amazes me. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will know, in your high position in the Chair, that I speak with some feeling on this matter. I am sure you will join with me in my sheer horror at this Bill and what it does not tell the Parliament. It is a very important Bill to those warm people on King Island. Unfortunately those warm people have met the cold hands of a Labor Government which has failed to honour its undertakings to them. That is the tragedy of this Bill.
I will come back to that point in a moment. The Bill, of course, honours the undertaking that we, when in government, gave prior to the last election. I am pleased to see its ratification and the fact that the financial obligations are being met. I will not recount exactly what the Bill does because that has been spelt out clearly here again tonight. I want to express my sheer disappointment that a Labor Government which before the election clearly said that it would honour an obligation and an undertakinfg to Captain Houfe, should dishonour that obligation. The honourable member for Braddon spoke of a telegram that he himself sent to Captain Houfe and that came out of, as I understand it, Sir, your Caucus. It was a clear decision of the Labor Caucus. I shall read this telegram to the House. It stated:
Federal parliamentary Labor Party today approved the following policy decision. A Federal Labor Government will require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island shipping service and for this purpose to negotiate with the owners of the ship Straitsman which was specifically designed for this service.
Signed Ron Davis, MHR
– Davies. I do not know whether he signed his name correctly or not. That is the name on the telegram. This telegram is an obligation to assist Captain Houfe in maintaining the King Island service. Captain Houfe built that ship specifically for the port of Grassy, recognising that the Commonwealth and the State had agreed to construct a new port. He invested a lot of money personally in having a new ship built in Cairns, Queensland, at a cost of $2m. He ran into a great number of difficulties right from the outset. Indeed, the ship was never given a real opportunity to prove itself. But that opportunity was to have been given to it by a Labor government. For our part, when we were in government, we said clearly that our obligation in respect of King Island would cease when we met the financial requirement to assist in the development of the port and that the State Government should then - and I agreed to this - deal with the problems, if any emerged, in the shipping service. But the Opposition of the day, the Labor Party, sent that telegram clearly stating that it would pick up with this problem and would assist Captain Houfe in overcoming his difficulties.
That is the real tragedy of this Bill. It has not gone unnoticed either. 1 notice that James V. Ramsden of the ‘Financial Review’ in an article on 27 March noticed it. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you with your kindly worldly ways would have noticed the change of face and the change of heart by the members of the Labor Party. You, sitting in that Chair, must be a sorry man to see such a policy breakdown, finch a destructive act and the capacity of the Labor Party to turn its back on a clear commitment. You must be a broken man tonight, Sir, having to sit in that Chair and listen to this debate. I know that if you were not sitting in the Chair you would be on your feet demanding that the Labor Party’s obligation be fulfilled. I am sorry that the honourable member for Braddon has let you down, Mr Deputy Speaker, when he was on your batting team but he did not in fact do what clearly you would have done. It seems to me a tragedy that you happen to be sitting in the chair at this point of time. I come back to the article by James V. Ramsden. He said that there were a number of contradictory points about this whole affair. The first point he made is:
The present Labor Government promised unequivocally while in opposition that if it was elected to power the ANL would be directed to take over the King Island service and would negotiate with the owners of the Straitsman.
The next point he made was:
The ANL and the Federal Government are now most reluctant to honour this promise in view of the losses which the ANL says it would make on the King Island-Stanley- Melbourne service of between $400,000 and $500,000 a year.
Another point was:
The ANL and Holyman-Union-Bulkships all say that if they had to undertake the service they would use the Straitsman for that service.
I am sure you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are a number of contradictory points and it must be breaking your heart that you cannot speak on this Bill. I wonder that somebody has not offered to relieve you in the chair in order that you might speak on it. Mr Ramsden went on to say that the Minister for Transport had agreed that:
The Straitsman was an uneconomic proposition for the King Island service.
It surprises me that the Minister would be so unkind as to say that. As I recall the position, the Minister for Transport had not, in fact, seen the report given by the Australian National Line. He said so publicly himself. He had not seen the report given by the ANL on 29 March but by that time he had taken the decision not to use the ‘Straitsman’. On 4 April he said that he would ask for a copy of the budget for the use of the ‘Straitsman’ in the service. But the decision had already been taken. It really horrifies me that the Minister should act in this unkindly way to Captain Houfe who developed this service and ran the King Islander’ for so many years and replaced it with a ship specifically built for the new port. I am sure that you will agree with me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this is a matter of ratting on an undertaking - ratting on a promise. That the honourable member for Braddon should sit in this chamber and even mention Captain Houfe’s name surprises me.
– I did.
– The honourable member did. It surprised me that he should mention it in such a lighthearted way. I should have thought that he would have torn the Minister apart for breaking his promise but what did he say? He just said: ‘The Minister has accepted it and we have to go along with that. Tut, tut! Bad luck Captain Houfe. You might go bankrupt over this but the Minister has accepted it and I don’t care any longer about it and that’s the end of it’.
– Why does the honourable member not try to be fair?
– I am trying to be fair. The honourable member sent the telegram to Captain Houfe giving a specific undertaking yet he is not prepared to stand up and be counted on the issue. I am surprised both at him and the Minister turning their backs on Captain Houfe in this way.
-Order! I would ask the honourable member to come back to the Bill which deals with a harbour installation.
– I shall respect your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. I submit that if the honourable member for Eden-Monaro can talk about people losing buttons off their coats and drinking 5.5 gallons per day and the captains of ships running out of whisky my remarks are relevant to the Bill. With your knowledge of this question, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you would recognise that my remarks have been much more relevant to the Bill than those of the honourable member for EdenMonaro. I plead with you to let me make a passing reference to this subject. I felt that I should make this passing reference to this very serious subject which does not directly affect your constituents, Mr Deputy Speaker, but the constituents of the honourable member for Braddon. I point out that the honourable member for Braddon gave a clear undertaking to the people of Grassy and Captain Houfe that the Labor Party was going to do something. They have not done it. They have plainly broken their promise.
This Bill provides money for the construction of a port to enable a ship to sail in and out of the harbour but the Government has turned, its back on the ship. From the second last news which I have received on this matter - there have been occasional changes - the Government was going to bring in an imported ship. But I understand that the Minister for Transport has seen the wisdom of my speech on this subject on an earlier occasion and he is now seeking an Australian ship for use on this service. Is that correct?
– The Standing Orders do not permit me to interject.
– I am seeking information. I understand that the Minister has now recognised his earlier mistake and that he is prepared to seek an Australian ship. Why does he not use the ‘Straitsman* for this service? Why does he not table the report of the ANL which was produced months ago? Is this the open government that we hear so much about? I think that the ANL gave a report on this about the end of January or February.
– The honourable member said a while ago that I did not have the report in March.
– The Minister said he did not. The report was to hand at the end of February. Why does not the Minister table the report so that we can see what the ANL has to say on this subject? Is it true that the ANL was not allowed to talk about tonnage or to really get down to a proper budget in regard to this service? That is the sort of information we want to find out. Captain Houfe’s whole financial future has been jeopardised. The Minister is not being open about this matter yet honourable members opposite talk about open government. These are the questions that remain unanswered. I hope that the Minister will tonight put the propositions clearly to us as to what is going to be the future of the shipping service to King Island.
– Are you for or against the harbour?
– I helped to negotiate arrangements for this installation under the Bill which is before the House so do not tell me anything about it. What I want to know is what flows out of this Bill and the shipping service to King Island. There has been much disappointment for a number of people who are involved in this matter. We have not heard clearly what the facts are from the Minister. I hope that tonight he will take the opportunity, with your tolerance Mr Deputy Speaker, to give us a proper explanation. I know that you, Sir, are looking forward to it because I know that you have not heard it either. It is therefore important that the Minister for Transport should tell us clearly what is the future of the shipping service to King Island and what is happening in regard to the ‘Straitsman’. How is Captain Houfe to be compensated for the money which he invested in the ‘Straitsman’? With those few words may I say that I support the Bill?
– in reply - After listening to that humorous speech by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and taking into consideration that he has a reputation in this House of being a dour old campaigner with no humour in his soul, to sit and listen to his speech interspersed with giggles and laughter by him one can understand just why he made the speech that he did make. One could honestly believe that he was a new member in this House who had had nothing whatever to do with the ‘Straitsman’. Yet when the Grassy port was mentioned the honourable member said: ‘Oh, that was mine.’ He poked out his chest. But what he did not do was to tell us what went on in the last 6 months of his reign as Minister for Shipping and Transport. He was in charge of that portfolio when Captain Houfe brought this ship into service on 1 May 1972 and in the 7 weeks in which it operated the company allegedly lost $90,000. What did the honourable member for Gippsland and the former Minister for Works, Senator Wright, do about this matter? I almost forgot about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) who also made one of bis hypocritical speeches in this House tonight in which he criticised me for what I have allegedly not done in this matter. Yet they are the guilty men. You know that, Mr Deputy Speaker, and everyone else knows that they were the people who allowed-
– I rise to order. I think there has been a clear implication that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been termed hypocritical’ by the Minister. I would ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to demand a withdrawal of that remark.
– That is against the Standing Orders.
– I did not call him a hypocrite. I said that his speech was hypocritical.
– I heard quite distinctly what the Minister said. He said that the honourable member spoke in a hypocritical fashion.
-I think the Minister could rephrase that sentence.
– I said it was a hypocritical speech. I do not think that ls unparliamentary.
– I rise on a point of order. I have had some experience as to what is and what is not unparliamentary. Sir, may I suggest that if you look up the records I will send you a copy as I have been getting them from the Parliamentary Library lately - you will find that the word ‘hypocritical’ is unparliamentary. I suggest that the Minister should retract it.
– I would like to speak to the point of order. There is some doubt as to whether or not the word ‘hypocritical’ is offensive. For a start it depends on who the person is to whom the word is addressed.
– That is another reflection.
– I have not made a reflection on anyone. Being a Christian I would never reflect on anyone. But my point in speaking to the point of order is this: Maybe the Minister did not mean what he said; maybe he meant to say ‘pharisaical’. With your knowledge of the Scriptures, you may think it was a fit description.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I withdraw the remark because I want the debate to proceed?
– I would like just to give a few facts on this matter. I just outlined to the House that the ‘Straitsman’ commenced operation on 1 May 1972. The honourable member for Gippsland and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were senior Ministers in the former Government which allowed this ship to be tied up. I would like to give the House a few more facts. On 16 June 1972 the Premier of Tasmania sought a grant of $300,000 from the Commonwealth. On 5 July the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), rejected the request. Further approaches were made to the then Prime Minister and as late as 30 August the Prime Minister again rejected an approach for financial assistance for the Tasmanian Government to assist Captain Houfe. To listen to these 2 honourable members speak in this place in the way in which they have spoken tonight one could come to only one conclusion - that is, that they were completely innocent and had nothing whatever to do with the ‘Straitsman’. One must come to the conclusion that they had nothing to do with the ship being taken off the run in the first place and that they had been most open hearted and generous in making untold grants to the company concerned and to the Tasmanian Government to maintain the vessel.
The honourable member for Gippsland and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are critical of what I said late last year. It is perfectly true that my Party made a decision about what we would do. We decided that we would instruct the Australian National Line to enter into negotiations to purchase the Straitsman’. We said that we would require the ANL to reinstitute the service. But upon making inquiries on becoming the Government we found that the information which had been given to us and which came I believe from Captain Houfe was not factual information. So we had made a decision on information which was not factual. Therefore, I do not feel bound to honour something which was not based on correct information. When someone passes you incorrect information, are you bound to honour a decision which you made on that information that came from the person who is now complaining that we would not honour our promise?
One of the early actions I took on becoming the Minister was to ask the ANL to give me the necessary information and to prepare for me a report so that I could make a decision as to what we would do with the Straitsman’. I did that on 18 December, the day that I was elected as a Minister. On 9 January I received a report from the ANL which advised me that we would lose, on the present freight rates, $500,000 a year. Honourable members should bear in mind that the ship only cost $1.2m. I questioned the officers. I kept the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) informed of what was happening. The honourable member for Gippsland said that the honourable member took no interest in this matter. I can assure him that the honourable member for Braddon has nearly worn out the carpet in my office from walking in and out wanting to know what was happening. He has never been off my back about this matter. The honourable member has carried out his responsibilities as the member for Braddon in an endeavour to get a shipping service for King Island. To criticise him in any way is completely unfounded and unfair because I know what he has done in regard to this matter. As I have said, he has never been off my back to do something about this matter. 1 drew the attention of the honourable member for Braddon to the report of the Australian National Line when it was made available to me. The honourable member said it was not factual and that there was additional freight which he was certain would be available. I arranged for an officer of the ANL to go to Tasmania and to King Island with him and they were able to get together an additional $28,000 worth of freight. The report then was in this condition: If freights were left as they are at the moment we would have lost $500,000 a year on a ship that cost only $1.2m; if we increased freights to return us $100,000 that would bring the loss back to $400,000; and with the additional freight that the honourable member for Braddon was able to get, the final figure for the annual loss on this ship would have been $384,000. Facts contained in the ANL report show that the Labor Party had not been given the correct information from Captain Houfe. 1 am not able to table the report because it contains a lot of confidential commercial information which belongs to the ANL. I do not propose to make information concerning the general administration of the ANL available to every other shipping company in Australia. My predecessor will know what the position is.
Since then we have had numerous discussions. On 15 February I had discussion with Mr Batt, the Minister for Transport in Tasmania, and the Premier of Tasmania. Mr Batt wrote me a letter on 16 February. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) and I had discussions with both him and the Premier of Tasmania on 20 March. We put a proposition to them. Let me underline the important point that the Premier and the 3 Ministers who attended this meeting unanimously agreed that the ‘Straitsman’ was not the most suitable vessel for this job. The Treasurer and I made an offer whereby Tasmania could charter a ship for a short time or buy it. We told them that we would provide the money by way of loan so that they could charter or buy the ship. We pointed out that we would accept responsibility for half of the loss. We were resigned to the fact that there would be losses on the run. We then agreed that they could operate the ship for 2 years and at the end of that time they would replace it with an Australian built ship. We said that we would again make special loans available to them so that they could first of all purchase other a ship from overseas or a ship operating on the Australian coast and then build a ship in an Australian yard. That decision was reached on 15 March.
On 20 March there was further correspondence between the Premier of Tasmania and myself, as was the case on 5 April. So this matter has continued to move. But I was not and am not prepared to recommend to the Government that we should purchase the Straitsman’ and lose the money which I have already outlined to the House. We on this side of the House have done our damnedest to make sure that King Island has a shipping service. As late as 25 May I again wrote to the Premier to inform him of the terms of an agreement which the Treasurer and I were prepared to recommend to Cabinet. We said that we would provide money by way of loan so that Tasmania could acquire a ship, whether it be a second hand Australian ship or one from overseas, and that if a ship from overseas was purchased they subsequently would have to build one in an Australian yard. We have done all we can to make sure that there is a viable shipping service. We have not closed it down, as the honourable member for Gippsland and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) did when they were Ministers in the former Government. We have attempted to give the people a shipping service. We are still prepared to make money available to the State so that the people can have a shipping service.
Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Duthie)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, on 3 counts. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) said that I was laughing about the Bill. I was not laughing about the Bill; I was laughing about the interjections that were being made. I regard the Bill as being a very serious matter. That is the first count. The second count relates to the Minister’s statement that the previous Government refused to provide $300,000 to assist Tasmania in providing a shipping service to King Island. In fact what happened was there was a Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting at the same time as the request cams in and Tasmania was so generously dealt with, as was acknowledged by the Premier of Tasmania, that there seemed to be no need to proceed with the earlier request. Finally, the Minister claimed that I said that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) had no interest in this matter. That is not what I said. I am fully aware of the honourable member’s real interest in this matter. He not only has tramped the corridors of the Minister’s office but also tramped my corridors when I was Minister for Shipping and Transport. I do not question his sincerity about or interest in this matter. But the fact remains - this is the point I was making - that he is the man who was guilty of sending the telegram.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That the resolution of the House this day making the second reading of the National Service Termination Bill 1973 an order of the day for the next day of sitting be rescinded and that the second reading of the Bill be made an order of the day for this sitting.
Debate resumed (vide page 2879).
– As this measure does no more than duplicate for public relations purposes action which has already been taken, the Opposition has no interest in it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Barnard) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr Crean) agreed to:
That the amendment of the Senate be taken into consideration in the Committee of the Whole forthwith.
Senate’s amendment -
After sub-clause (7) add the following sub-clauses:
The Tribunal may, by resolution, authorize the Chairman to exempt a specified company, or companies included in a specified class of companies, either generally or otherwise, from the application of this section and may, by further resolution, authorize the Chairman to revoke such an exemption.
An exemption, or the revocation of an exemption, under sub-section (8) shall be in writing and a copy of the exemption or revocation shall be published in the Gazette, and such an exemption or revocation takes effect on the date of publication of the copy.
Evidence of an exemption, or of a revocation of an exemption, under sub-section (8) may, in any legal proceedings, be given by the production of the Gazette purporting to contain a copy of the exemption or revocation.’.
– I move:
That the amendment be agreed to.
In introducing this amendment in the Senate the Government took into account various representations it had received concerning the Prices Justification Bill. The Government recognised when it introduced the Bill that there could be room for improvement as the Bill broke new ground and we could not be certain that it would meet all eventualities. The amendment proposed will enable the Prices Justification Tribunal to exempt a company or companies, either generally or otherwise, from the requirement to notify the Tribunal of proposed price increases and proposed prices for new products, and to refrain from implementing the proposed new prices for up to 21 days. The provision for exemption ‘generally or otherwise’ means that a company may be exempted in respect of all goods and services in which it deals, or in relation to particular goods or services or classes of goods or services. This will provide scope for overcoming a potential problem for companies such as department stores, and no doubt some manufacturers, selling many thousands of products of many kinds. There could be a large administrative problem for such companies and for the Tribunal if a price clearance had to be obtained for every one of the great number of items handled by such companies. There could also be problems if the companies had to refrain from putting the goods on sale until a price clearance was obtained from the Tribunal. There would be a particular problem in relation to perishable goods, such as meat, poultry and vegetables, which are seasonal goods whose prices vary frequently, and which would be unsaleable if sales were delayed for up to 21 days. The proposed amendment would exempt the company or companies concerned only from the requirement to notify new prices and not implement them for 21 days. It would not exempt such companies from the Act as a whole; the Tribunal would still have the power to inquire into their prices if it so wished. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
– The Opposition’s position in respect of this Bill has been made clear both in this House and in the Senate. However, the Bill has been returned to this House with an amendment moved by the Government in the Senate which has been described in the early morning Press as a watering down of the Bill. In fact, the ‘Australian’ of this morning commented:
The Federal Government yesterday introduced an amendment to its controversial Prices Justification Tribunal legislation, which will severely restrict the operation of the tribunal.
In the view of the Opposition, the amendment is a manifest public confession by the Government of the inadequacy and precipitous nature of the Prices Justification Tribunal legislation which this Government has brought down. It is a proposal which we believe to be unreal and impracticable, establishing a huge and cumbersome bureaucracy which will deal with the symptom and not the real cause of inflation in this country. The amendment adds three new sub-clauses to clause 18 which deals with the notification to the Tribunal of proposed increases in prices of goods or services. The amendment is in fact one of the most extraordinary alterations which this Government could have made to a major legislative proposal. Quite simply, the Government proposes that the Tribunal, under its own authority, may exempt companies from the major requirement of this legislation which is that companies must provide notification of rises in the prices of their goods or services. This of course is an enormous discretionary power when it is the clear intention of the legislation to require all companies with an annual turnover in excess of $20m to justify and make known alterations in their pricing structure. Moreover, this discretionary power is to be exercised by the Tribunal without any apparent reference to the Government or in fact to the Parliament itself.
The amendment arises simply because the Government has come to realise that the terms of the Bill introduced into this Parliament are in a practical sense completely unworkable. The procedures outlined in the Bill are, of course, an administrative nightmare, far beyond the resources of the type of Tribunal this Bill contemplates. We believe that a responsible Government would recognise that this legislation, which was prepared in such great haste, ought to be withdrawn and given the degree of consideration which the Government believes it requires. It is in fact simply irresponsible to amend it by a provision which provides for such wideranging exemptions and in fact defeats the real purpose of the Bill. The amendment provides no guidelines as to the criteria which the Tribunal might adopt in providing exemptions under the Act, nor does it specify any particular circumstances in which the Government would consider exemption to be warranted.
The amendment will add to the already very considerable confusion felt by the business community concerning the terms of what this Government regards as a significant Bill. The Opposition is fully aware that the operation of an effective Prices Justification Tribunal is a very substantial task. Any organisation which is established to monitor the pricing behaviour of such a substantial sector of the economy must itself be correspondingly large. It has been estimated that to effectively operate the tribunal would require a staff in the region of 1,000 personnel. It is, of course, this realisation which no doubt in part has prompted the Government to amend the Bill in this very drastic fashion. The Government did make one concession to administrative sanity in preparing this Bill and that was to exclude companies whose annual turnover does not exceed $20m. This provision, although a concession to administrative reality, actively discriminates on the basis of size of enterprise and type of industry and not according to degree of responsibility for inflationary pressures. While this provision provides a facile solution to the dilemma which is facing this Government it makes a mockery of the intention of this Bill which is to restrain inflation. This type of arbitrary formula to exclude companies from the provisions of the Bill could only be justified, in an economic sense, on the premise that the excluded companies bear a minor responsibility for inflationary pressures. This we know to be unsubstantiated by fact. The amendment moved by the Government suffers from the same fallacy. That is that the Tribunal may now exclude companies on the basis of administrative expediency rather than proper economic criteria.
Because the Tribunal has been granted the substantial discretionary powers incorporated in the amendment to clause 18, it now becomes liable to all the undesirable aspects associated with political and industrial lobbying. The Opposition believes that the amendment represents a recognition by the Government of the unworkable nature of this Bill. We believe that the Tribunal is an inadequate and misconceived device as a method of controlling inflationary forces. It represents in fact an abrogation of Government responsibility to face up to the critical nature of Australia’s inflationary difficulties. No Government, of course, can command credibility in the field of economic management when it is unprepared to sedulously pursue non-inflationary fiscal and monetary policies, and no Government can command respect when it continually capitulates to the inflationary demands of the trade unions without consideration of the national interest.
There has been widespread Press coverage of the fact that in recent days a major economic conference held in Adelaide has drawn from those economists present very sharp criticism of the nature of this Bill. The Financial Review’ reported on Friday 25 May:
The Commonwealth Government’s hopes that its proposed Prices Justification Tribunal will help to stem inflation were scathingly criticised at a conference of professional economists in Adelaide yesterday.
A succession of speakers commenting on a paper on the problems and policies of price justification tribunals described the Tribunal as being, in effect, a useless paper tiger and a propaganda method of diverting attention from the real problems.
One leading economist at that conference described the Prices Justification Tribunal of this country as akin to ‘putting the cart before the horse, and then shooting the horse’. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) would be very interested in a paper which was presented to that conference by Mr V. C. Routley, the Principal Executive Officer of the Department of Labour. I indicate here that he obviously was attending that conference in a private capacity. The comments Mr Routley made in a very detailed paper on the problems of price justification tribunals and incomes policies generally would bear attention by the Government because they are exceedingly critical of what we believe to be the nature of this Bill.
I will not speak at any greater length because I am to be followed by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). I know the Government would like to have this Bill through before the close of business and before we proceed with the adjournment. I indicate that it is Opposition policy not to oppose the Bill by a vote in this House because this is a Government which is digging itself deeper into the economic mire; and if that is its policy it will need to bear the full responsibility of those programs in the future. The Bill and the amendment before the House are unreal and impracticable and will do nothing to solve the cause of inflation in this country.
– The Government has moved an amendment to clause 18 of the Bill involving an addition of 3 subclauses. The need for these amendments, I believe, is a reflection of the hasty, ill-thought out manner in which the legislation was drafted and now the Treasurer (Mr Crean) finds that the Prices Justification Bill as it presently stands is essentially unworkable. The proposed Tribunal would be liable to examine prices for a whole range of retail products and would have legal force to prevent retailers from increasing their prices for a period of 21 days.
The amendments as designed give the Chairman of the Tribunal power to exempt a specified company, or companies included in a specified class of companies, from the requirement to notify the Tribunal of proposed price increases. This amendment would seem to overcome some of the more obvious machinery defects of the Bill, although I suspect that it is still inherently defective. The companies referred to in the amendment are those which have a turnover exceeding $20m a year. Therefore the amendment is seen essentially as an incomplete answer to the Opposition’s objections to the machinery defects of the legislation. In my previous speech on the Bill I pointed out the absurdity of the requirement that individual items handled by significant companies should be individually subjected to price examination by the Tribunal. This amendment is an incomplete answer to the objections I raised in my speech at the second reading stage. The Government is obviously intent on setting up the Tribunal as soon as possible. There is no need to emphasise the fact that its terms of reference will make it almost unworkable. I believe that the basic concept of the Tribunal is quite naive and nothing more than a rubber stamping operation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The Chair has been rather tolerant about the scope of the discussion on the amendment which is before the Committee.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I will not oppose this amendment on the assumption that any improvement at all will help the measure before the House. However, it does not go nearly far enough in trying to overcome some of the grave anomalies it contains. I do not know how a large company that has a multitude of operations involving the pricing of the products it sells and possible increases in handling charges can have all such matters referred to a prices justification tribunal. It is so clumsy and cumbersome that it makes the operation almost impossible. The problems confronting the Tribunal in the practical application of its functions are probably but a faint and inadequate indication of the problems which will confront it in carrying out its terms of reference.
However, my major misgivings relate to the discretionary power given to the chairman of the Tribunal in the proposed amendment. On the one hand the Tribunal is required by legislation to investigate companies in respect of price movements; on the other hand it is now given discretionary authority to exempt specified companies from the requirements of the legislation. It could be that at this stage this is the only practical way by which the Government can escape the consequences of the ill considered legislation but the legal implications are, to say the least, quite disquieting. I think it would be a useful safeguard if the Treasurer were to give his approval when it was required to allow exemption to a particular company. I do not believe that the Tribunal should have absolute discretionary power to select which companies will be examined. I believe the power ought to rest in the hands of the Treasurer as a form of safeguard against any form of prejudice or abuse of power.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
– Order! It being 10.15 p.m. in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– On 29 February last year the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), moved a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister of that time. The words of his motion included an accusation that the Prime Minister in answering questions without notice had deliberately misled the House. During the course of the debate the then Leader of the Opposition stated that he had directed to the Prime Minister a simple enough question requiring a straightforward answer. He complained that instead of giving a straightforward answer the Prime Minister had chosen to give a tortuous and smart-aleck reply. I share his dislike for smart-aleck replies. For that reason I do not appreciate the smart-aleck reply the Prime Minister gave me in answer to a question which I directed to him on 15 May. It was surely a simple enough question requiring a straightforward and simple answer. I asked:
Is the Prime Minister aware that last Wednesday’s issue of the ‘Canberra Times’ carried a report of the Press conference which he held on the preceeding day? Is he aware that the report stated that, in answer to a question directed to him about whether he had received any response from the Chinese Government to his protest note on the nuclear tests, he said that the protest to China was oral so there would be no written response? Is the Prime Minister aware that on last Wednesday’s ‘A.M.’ program Dr Fitzgerald, Australia’s Ambassador to China, stated that his predecessor, Mr Cotterill, lodged a protest note with the Chinese Assistant Minister? Is this another instance of the Prime Minister not being informed of actions taken by his Ministers or his departmental officers on matters which are under his direct control?
That was a simple enough question requiring a straightforward answer, but the smart-aleck reply given to me by the Prime Minister was as follows:
I did not read the newspaper account. I did not hear ‘A.M.’.
The reply certainly was not tortuous but undoubtedly it was a smart-aleck reply.
The Prime Minister knew perfectly well what he had said at a Press conference on 8 May in answer to a question directed to him by a pressman. It was not necessary for him to read the report of the conference in the daily Press to know that he had stated unequivocally that the protest to China was oral and that for that reason he did not expect a written response. I say that he did not need to read the newspaper report of what he said because he later issued a transcript of the entire Press conference. The relevant question and answer are stated in the transcript issued by the Prime Minister’s Department. The transcript states quite clearly that the protest to China was oral so that there would be no written response. The conference was held on Tuesday, 8 May, so that the Prime Minister no doubt would issue the transcript a little later that day. As Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs he should have been aware that the Ambassador to China whom he appointed had stated in a radio interview that a protest note had been lodged with the Chinese Assistant Minister. If he were not aware that a note has been lodged he should have been so aware and that is the whole point of the question which I directed to him.
Later in the day on 15 May during question time in the Senate Senator Marriott addressed a question to Senator Willesee who represents the Prime Minister in the Senate. He asked whether the Australian Government had made a protest to the Chinese Government about that country’s nuclear atmospheric testing, whether there had been a protest and whether it had been verbal or written. Senator Willesee replied that a protest had been lodged and that it had taken the form of a letter from the Foreign Minister to the Chinese Foreign Minister. The Prime Minister, who is also Foreign Minister, must have written the letter of protest himself. Yet, he chose to give me the smart aleck reply that he did. This might be good enough for the honourable member for Werriwa but it is a long way from being good enough for the Prime Minister. However, it is in line with the misleading answers which he gave to a series of questions which had been directed to him and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) - questions regarding the proposed visit to Australia of Mr K. T. Li of Taiwan. On 3 May 1973 the honourable member for New England asked the Prime Minister: . . on what terms and conditions will Mr K. T. Li be allowed to enter Australia in order to participate in this regional conference? The conference referred to was of the Pacific Basin Economic Council. The Prime Minister replied:
He would undoubtedly be able to come to Australia under the same conditions as any other person from Taiwan, that is, in any unofficial capacity.
Mr Li subsequently applied for a visa but his request was refused. On 10 May 1973, during question time, the honourable member for New England directed a question to the Minister for Immigration asking why Mr Li’s request had been refused in view of the Prime Minister’s assurance that provided he applied in an unofficial capacity Mr Li would be issued with a visa. The Minister promised to make inquiries. On IS May 1973 the honourable member for New England again directed a question to the Prime Minister asking him how he reconciled his change of attitude with respect to the refusal to grant a visa to Mr Li. The Prime Minister’s firm reply on 3 May was that Mr Li would be issued with a visa provided he came to Australia in an unofficial capacity. The Prime Minister, of course, by that time had received his orders from Peking and he sought to blame the honourable member for New England for, as the Prime Minister said, blowing Mr Li’s cover. He must have known that the honourable member for New England blew Mr Li’s cover - I am using the Prime Minister’s words - in his original question. The Prime Minister’s assurance that a visa would be issued to Mr Li, provided he came to Australia in an unofficial capacity, was given with the full knowledge that Mr Li was at that time Minister for Finance in Taiwan, because the honourable member for New England said so, and also with the knowledge that a reception had been given in this Parliament on the previous day to representatives from North Vietnam. As I said earlier this conduct might be good enough for the honourable member for Werriwa but it is far from good enough for the Prime Minister of Australia.
– I rise tonight to say a word of thanks to the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) for the expedition with which they acted in the matter of the health of Aboriginal children in East Gippsland, demonstrating that at least on the part of the Australian Government there is a readiness to recognise problems when they occur. The truth about the health of Aboriginal children in East Gippsland has begun to emerge despite the efforts of health authorities in Melbourne to suppress it. The Health Officer of the Tambo Shire, Dr H. M. L. Murray, revealed yesterday that in the East Gippsland hamlet of Nowa Nowa alone there are 16 children under the age of 11 who are infested with scabies. Of 5 of the children he examined yesterday he said:
Two were so messy that I have not the faintest clue. Their skin was a mass of discharging sores.
This is the condition which the Assistant Chief Health Officer of Victoria, Dr B. P. Mccloskey, regards as ‘not a serious health problem but a minor health nuisance’. While Dr Murray was making his disclosures, Dr Mccloskey continued to insist that there was no health problem. He accused me of overdramatising the situation. He asserted that among the 54 students at Nowa Nowa there were only ‘2 confirmed cases of scabies and 5 doubtful cases’. 1 received today a copy of a letter sent on 27 May by one of the Aboriginal women to whom I was introduced at Nowa Nowa to a friend in my electorate. She wrote:
I myself think the scabies are getting worse not better. My sister’s family at Warragul are in a terrible state with the horrible skin disease. It’s like a mange the children can’t stop scratching. It’s also at Bruthen, Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance.
If Dr Mccloskey is unable or unwilling to recognise the gravity of the situation he should resign his high office in favour of someone who will take a less supine approach. The Assistant Chief Health Officer of Victoria should be giving more time to improving the health care delivery for which he is responsible and less to public controversies which are properly responsibilities of the Victorian Minister for Health and the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Controversy should not be something at which public servants play while public services decay.
The Aboriginal people of East Gippsland have no faith left in health services provided by the Victorian Government. They regard officers of the Victorian Department of Health and of the Victorian Department of
Aboriginal Affairs not, I am sorry to say, as friends but as enemies. I was told at Nowa Nowa:
A woman had to take her S children to Bairnsdale to be immunised. She told the sister who was visiting that she had no car and couldn’t afford the bus. The sister told her ‘I’m sure you can hitch-hike’.
I was also told:
They have objected to the Save the Children Fund people de-lousing, worming and treating the scabies of children and also to them giving meals.
I was also told:
What we’ve got to do is to say that all responsibility for Aboriginal people should be taken by Canberra.
Dr Mccloskey was quoted this morning in the Melbourne ‘Age’ as calling on the Federal Government to provide his Department with finance for which it asked on 6 April ‘to appoint a medical officer as a health educator in the area’. He was quoted as saying:
We asked for finance to provide a health educator through the State Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the Commonwealth Department about seven weeks ago, but we haven’t even received an acknowledgment of the request.
The finance to which Dr Mccloskey refers was requested to provide the car and salary for an officer who would operate not in East Gippsland alone but throughout Victoria. It was requested not to provide the health care services for which a need so clearly exists but to provide yet another health educator of the sort already familiar to the Aboriginal people and rejected by them. It was requested not as a matter for immediate action but as a routine item in the 1973-74 finance program. It was not ignored but rather made the subject of discussions between the Australian Government Departments of Health and Aboriginal Affairs and their Victorian counterparts.
I rise tonight, as I said at the outset, to thank my colleagues the Minister for Health and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for the action that has been taken already in the light of my request that Australian Government medical staff should be sent as a matter of urgency to the East Gippsland area. The Assistant Director-General of the Department of Health, Dr W. A. Langsford, will visit Lake Tyers and neighbouring centres next week to inquire into the health of their Aboriginal citizens. At the request of Dr Langsford, a medical officer of the Victorian Department of Health went to Nowa Nowa today to investigate the incidence of scabies among the children at the Nowa Nowa school and the Save the Children Fund kindergarten.
I hope that this activity will lead before long to the establishment of the permanent medical centre through which alone an adequate standard of health care can be made available to the Aboriginal people of East Gippsland. I hope that it will lead to a situation in which scabies is something about which Aboriginal children may read but from which they will never suffer.
– I rise tonight because this is probably the last opportunity on which I can say something in summary about the events of the past few months. We know that when this Government came to power it did many things by administrative action. Some of these were farreaching things for which there was no mandate. Since that time there has been a gradual sense of disillusion coming over the community, partly because the truth was realised that this Government was under the control of outside forces. Some honourable members may have seen the appearance of the television program Federal File’ last Sunday of a Mr Hartley - he is a senior member of the Labor organisation - who quite openly boasted that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Government here would be compelled to do the things which the trade union officials, unelected by anybody except their members, told them to do and that they would decide matters of the foreign policy of Australia.
There has been disillusion also because of the veering to the left of the Government which was not in the mandate it received from the people and about which the people knew nothing. I am sure that the result of the Victorian election, which would be the pattern in other parts of Australia, measures the amount of the popular disillusion with this Government, which is a temporary Government. It no longer has popular support. But tonight I want to refer to the things which have happened inside the House and the way in which the House has been hustled by the Government. Bills have been going through in succession without proper debate in this House. Some of them have had no Committee debate at all because the guillotine has been applied to them. The Government has not allowed them to be debated in Committee.
My concern is not just with the number of Bills but with the importance of some of them. Far-reaching Bills such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Pipeline Authority Bill, the Prices Justification Bill and the
Seas and Submerged Lands Bill have been put through this House without Committee debate or with only very inadequate and incomplete Committee debate. This is an absolute scandal. Some of these Bills are very far reaching. Some of them have been very badly drafted. I am reminded of the line in Aristophanes In regard to the conduct of another man - it would be well known to honourable members
He churned out Acts of Parliament that sounded like pop songs.
– Order! I am not too sure whether that is parliamentary.
- Mr Speaker, I thought that your scholarship would be quite adequate to meet that contingency.
– No, it is not.
– I can assure you that the line is one from Aristophanes and is therefore entirely in the best parliamentary tradition.
– I will take your word for that.
– The concern is not just with the number of Bills but with the importance of the Bills. We have had a flood of legislation. One Bill was brought in here, apparently for immediate passage. There is not only the question of Bills but also the question of bad faith in the House. Honourable members may remember that I introduced a private member’s Bill. It should have been voted on on non-party lines if there was any good faith. But no, honourable members were not even allowed to read it. It was killed by a Caucus vote which had been predetermined by the Government. Yet the Government says ‘At least we are allowing a vote on your private member’s Bill’ when all it has done - even the Minister at the table obviously had not read it - is decide to kill it. This is the kind of bad faith, hyprocrisy and pretence that is characteristic of the way in which the Government runs the affairs of this chamber.
Let me refer to the questions which the Prime Minister has answered, or failed to answer, at the table. A few moments ago the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) detailed one of these instances. I suppose that the polite thing to do is to call the Prime Minister’s replies evasive. That is a polite word and, as you know, Mr Speaker, it is a parliamentary word. I will refrain, because of you, from calling them deliberate lies.
– Bloody lies.
– No, I cannot use the words I would like to use.
– Order! I heard that remark. Honourable members should contain themselves and not use such words.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I am telling you that I will not describe them as lies because that would be unparliamentary. But if they had occurred outside this chamber I would describe them as outrageous lies and prevarications.
– The honourable member may call him a big fibber but he cannot call him anything else in here.
– He is a big man, at least in stature, and he is, as you say, a big fibber. I come now to the serious matter of the violation of pledges which have been given by the Prime Minister at that table. The Prime Minister broke his word to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in regard to the amendment to the States Grants Bill. He did break his word. I heard it. I heard the incident at the table. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is not a man of his word, and the country is now starting to understand that it has elected-
– Order! The honourable member is making a personal reflection on the Prime Minister. I ask him to refrain from doing so.
– I will say that the country, now knowing what is the character of the Prime Minister, regrets-
– Order! That is still a personal reflection.
– The country is coming to regret what it has done in putting him into office. I will not go further than that out of respect for the Chair. But I think that the result of the Victorian election shows the change of heart in the country. It is not just a question of the way in which this Parliament has been hustled in regard to the debates that have been brought on and the inadequate consideration that has been given to important Bills; there are also the sins of omission, and they are very many. Most important matters have not been debated. I referred a moment ago to the new orientation of Australia’s foreign policy to the left - leftwards all the time. Yet there has not as yet been a major debate on foreign policy in thi? House. I am told that there is to be a token debate of an hour or two tomorrow. That is not enough. It is only a token and it does not meet the realities of the situation.
Then we have had all the brouhaha of the nuclear tests. That is fair enough but we want a debate in this House. The Government thinks that the matter is important enough to send our Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) overseas to stir up the International Court of Justice, but there has not been a word mentioned in this House. It is important that this House should remain the centre of government. After all, the Government holds office because it is responsible to this House and has a majority in this House. But the Government has treated this House with constructive contempt in this manner.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on a matter of which, unfortunately, 1 have personal knowledge. I suppose all of us from time to time as members receive complaints from constituents regarding their problems as consumers with various firms, and we do all that we can to assist those unfortunate constituents. But it becomes difficult when you yourself are involved. It is terribly difficult not to allow your own personal displeasure to make you unreasonable. I am in that situation. However, since I have spoken widely around my electorate supporting complaints continue to come to light in relation to the firm with which I have experienced difficulties.
In 1968 I had the good fortune to purchase a Volvo car which over the ensuing years did in excess of 120,000 miles without clutch problems, towing a heavy electoral caravan, towing a heavy trailer and towing other cars which had the misfortune to break down or become bogged on the Nullarbor. In fact, the car did 120,000 miles of solid, hard work with its original imported clutch. However, all good items eventually wear out. It was when the clutch wore out that a tragic error was made. The vehicle was given to a firm representing itself as experts in clutch and brake repairs. The cost, in excess of $130, was promptly paid and just as promptly, some 1,693 miles later, the replacement clutch failed. The firm concerned, a Repco subsidiary, Carbon Brakes Ltd of WA, gave a 3,000-mile guarantee, and subsequently the experts decided that the vehicle had been misused, thus causing the failure of the locally manufactured parts. The company offered a concession on labour, parts, etc., of $70 to do the job again, but of course would give no assurance that the replacement part would not fail again. Thus some $200 was paid for what I would call a botch job to a vehicle that had proven that with original imported parts it would return a tremendous mileage. So, of course, I do not intend to be caught twice. I will have the vehicle returned to its original design and have the repair done by the distributors of the vehicle at a much higher figure, but at least I will be able to reach Canberra in the car.
This is all right for me. What of the ordinary man in the street up to his neck in hire purchase?
– He drives a Holden.
– He may. What of the man who has a family to maintain and who needs transport for his work? He is at the mercy of such people. When one talks around one hears such comments as this: ‘Yes, a friend had a job done there. It was satisfactory for 8,000 miles, so it was out of warranty. What could he do?’ One also hears of the new and used car distributor who laughs and says: ‘They supplied us with so many parts that failed, and we had to do the job twice, that we refused to pay them’. One becomes quite rueful about not making inquiries about this firm earlier, believing its advertisement and being trapped.
We can all be wise after the event. Some time ago when speaking on another matter I raised the need to register repair people, to exercise some form of control, because who can afford the legalities which are currently needed to retain redress? Only very few would risk throwing good money after bad. No doubt this aspect is traded on by these experts in fobbing people off. It is no good protecting these people with tariffs if their protection is to be misused to fleece the public. If their product is not as good as the original, let them be honest and admit it to the Tariff Board so that steps can be taken to ensure that a workable replacement is available at a similar cost to the customer until such time as they are able to ensure the durability of their parts and workmanship to preserve the good name of the overall Australian product.
But I repeat that the whole question of automotive repair and standards needs urgent review. As things stand now just about anyone who claims to be able to repair is able to open a business to repair. The unfortunate Who suffers from his mistakes is the consumer motorist. As I pointed out earlier, it is difficult not to become angry in these matters when personally affected but when one thinks of the people who are similarly caught, who perhaps do not have the resources to finance the achievement of justice in this type of problem it could well lead to the loss of vehicle through inability to meet both repair costs and repayments. But, more importantly, when firms such as these deal not only with clutches but also with brake systems such failures could well lead to tragedy if the braking systems were involved. The sooner that examination, registration and grading of repairers take place the sooner a step towards road safety will be taken.
– I rise tonight to draw attention to a few matters that I feel should be ventilated. Firstly, I refer to cash on delivery charges on articles sent through the Post Office. I do not know for how long the present rate of charges has applied, and I do not suggest that it has changed in recent times. In other words I am not blaming the present Government for the matter about which I am concerned but nevertheless it should be looked at. Since a royal commission is being conducted into the affairs of the Post Office, although evidence has closed I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) might look into the matter or perhaps even include it for consideration by the royal commission.
The case drawn to my attention involves an order for 4 small special screws for a power drill. Their size was £ inch by 7/32 inch, special thread. They were unobtainable in Queensland. This is another matter about which 1 wish to speak. I regret that so often people have difficulty in getting parts for all types of machinery. These small screws for a power drill were unobtainable. The agent offered to get them up from the South. They arrived In Brisbane and were posted up to my constituent c.o.d. The actual cost of the screws was 24c. The c.o.d. charges that the constituent had to pay when he received the screws were 72c. This seems a pretty severe charge to be placed on a small item which was so light that it required only a 7c stamp to mail it.
– They put the screws on him.
– That could well be. I know that there would be some cost related to registering this item and perhaps giving a receipt but it seems excessive to me that an item which cost 24c and which was posted in a very light packet which cost only 7c to post should attract a c.o.d. charge of 48c. I am pleased that the Postmaster.General is in the House tonight. I put it to him that it is an excessive charge. We sometimes hear that the people in the cities are subsidising the people in the country. If the Post Office cannot make a profit in providing a c.o.d. service at that rate I am wondering what it would charge to make a profit. I believe that it is a little excessive and I would be pleased to have that matter investigated.
Another point to which 1 draw attention is the general availability of spare parts for tractors and farm machinery. I have mentioned this matter in the House previously. When I mentioned it I put dealers on notice that if I were to get more complaints about modern machinery for which parts were not available I would name the firms concerned in this House. This is a pretty drastic action to take because it would be adverse publicity for such firms. I am not happy with the availability of parts for some tractors and farm machinery. I say again as a second warning that if firms are to provide machinery it is up to them to provide a fair and reasonable range of parts at consistent prices.
Another complaint I received very recently was about a big variation in the prices charged for similar parts. I draw attention to it because this is one of the few ways in which people who feel that they are being victimised or excessively charged can have a chance of having their voices heard. I know that a committee has been appointed to review prices but that would probably take a fair amount of time to come into operation. At any rate, I am not going to wait for it. If my constituents are disadvantaged, as I feel they are, unreasonably in any way I am quite happy to ventilate the matter in this House.
– It is a pretty efficient committee.
– The committee of which the honourable member will be chairman may be able to deal with these things; I mention that in passing. I v/ill have a look at how the committee works and if it seems to be working satisfactorily I will be happy to make use of it. To give an example of the range in price and the very high increase that has occurred, I should like to cite just one case. The owner of a modern car of a popular make lost a hub cap which had to be replaced. He asked for a quote and the price given was $20 and some odd cents. A matter of only a week or two later a price was obtained from the same firm for the same type of hub cap and the price quoted was $30. It seems to me that the original price was fairly high anyway, but to think that it should be jumped up by that amount of money for that item seems again to be excessive. Perhaps I might keep the honourable member for Adelaide and his Committee busy with these sorts of complaints.
The main reason I raise this is that I do not want to take any drastic action without giving some notice of it. I put all the people and firms concerned on notice that I certainly will be quite prepared to name them if I feel that there is any injustice being perpetrated. I want to see them keep their prices within reasonable limits.
The other matter 1 want to raise tonight is a matter I have raised before, namely the Pike’s Creek dam. I have mentioned this matter on a few occasions. The construction of this dam was an undertaking given by the previous Government. It was to be constructed in conjunction with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the House about this matter not long ago. Incidentally, I did tell the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) that I would be speaking on this subject tonight. The Prime Minister said that he hoped to be bringing this matter to the Parliament. I do not want to be unkind in any way, but I am becoming very concerned about what I feel is undue delay in bringing this project to fruition or in having a decision made on it.
The Minister for Northern Development - I think he may have left the chamber, but I noticed that he was here earlier - complained recently about the progress in regard to some water conservation project in which he was interested. He said that he was disappointed that further progress had not been made. The Pike’s Creek dam project had progressed quite far enough under the previous Government. I believe that the only reason legislation was not introduced to complete the project was that the previous Government was taking every care to see that a cost benefit analysis justified going on with the project.
– It had a cost benefit analysis in 1970. Sir Reginald Swartz told me that by letter.
– 1 wonder how the honourable member who is interjecting would have felt when the Chowilla dam project was dropped and the Dartmouth project took precedence over it, if the Government had given an undertaking and had decided not to go on with it after the undertaking had been given? The 2 State governments concerned have undertaken a cost benefit analysis of the project. There was a further cost benefit analysis made by the Commonwealth after the one made in 1970. An environmental study also was made, I understand. Anyway, all these steps were taken to make sure that this was a worthwhile project. The honourable member who has interjected does not know anything about it anyway. He would be much better suited to stick to something he knows something about. Just because he happens to know about one investigation he regards himself as an expert in that field. There is no doubt that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The honourable member’s remarks give a striking example of just how dangerous it is. He obviously does not know the full ramifications of this scheme at all.
The point is that the decision to continue with this dam project is still being delayed. I hope that the Government will honour the undertaking. If we reach a stage where governments are not prepared to do that, it will be a sorry day for Australia. I believe that the New South Wales Minister concerned was prepared to consider with the Queensland Minister concerned whether the States could go it alone. That is how desperate they were. The delay has continued. It is becoming impracticable to go on with this project because of the time of year. I believe that there is a real obligation on the part of the Government to make a decision and to make it quickly.
– I do not think that today should be allowed to pass without making mention of the fact that 2 historic and momentous documents have been presented to the Parliament. One is titled Community Health Program for Australia’ which is a report from the National Hospitals and Health Services Commisson Interim Committee. The other report is entitled Schools in Australia* and is a report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. As I have said, these are momentous reports. The Committees concerned were both headed by very knowledgeable and greatly respected people within their own disciplines. We are very fortunate in Australia that we have these 2 eminent people heading their respective Committees. Subsequently they will head the Commissions concerned. I refer to Professor Karmel, who will be the head of the Australian Schools Commission. The Australian Hospitals and Health Services Commission will be headed by Dr Sidney Sax, who is at present the Chairman of the National Hospitals and Health Services Commission Interim Committee.
The report on Australian schools is an excellent document. I have not had time to examine it in detail, but from what I have seen of it already I know that it is a magnificent blueprint for education for the 1970s. It is not just an ad hoc survey like the survey that was commissioned by the previous Government. It has all the details we need for a dynamic program for education in the 1970s. In the report is an estimate of the immediate needs in schools and itemised details of what is needed. The report sets out how we should collect the data for an ongoing appraisal of the needs of education. There are recommendations on how to meet those needs and the estimated costs involved. There are firm recommendations on the administration and the structure and the functions of the Australian Schools Commission. The report contains an excellent system by which the Committee ban indexed the recurrent resource use of schools throughout Australia. They have used this system to estimate the needs and how to bring the facilities in schools up to a certain target by 1979. The report sets out the urgent needs for 1974 and 1975. It outlines the problems of all the various areas such as the problems of schools “with socio-economic disadvantages.
-Order! I should like to remind the honourable gentleman that the debate on the schools report has been made an order of the day for tomorrow.
– In that regard, I might also mention that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has also spoken about foreign affairs today. That is also a subject set down for discussion tomorrow. Be that as it may, I want to make only passing reference to the subject. I do not think the occassion should be allowed to pass without mentioning the snide remarks of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he spoke on this subject earlier today. In the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission at page 87 he found a sentence which stated that category A schools, which are a small select group of schools in the nongovernment, non-Catholic sector, already use a volume of resources that well exceeds the 1979 target and that the Committee believes that Government assistance to those schools cannot be justified.
Did the honourable member for Wannon bear in mind the great blueprint of this document for underprivileged schools? He said not a word about that. Did he have anything to say about the new deal for handicapped children? Not a word. Did he have anything to say about the needs being met for migrant children? He said nothing about that. What about the new deal for primary school libraries? There was not a word said about that. All he is concerned about is protecting this small group of elite schools. What did he do? He made a personal, despicable and shameful attack on the Chairman of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, Professor Peter Karmel, under the veil of making an attack on the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley).
– I raise a point of order. I point out, through you Mr Speaker, that you did tell the honourable member for Kingston that this matter was to be debated tomorrow. You advised him that he should not deal with it. He is disregarding that advice from you. This is out of order.
-Order! I asked the honourable member to keep away from discussing the report.
– I am just taking exception to the despicable remarks made today by the honourable member for Wannon, when he made a personal attack on a public servant who is unable to defend himself. It was thinly disguised as an attack on the Minister for Education. Professor Karmel, as we know, is probably the most accomplished person in his field in Australia. His integrity is without question. I believe that the honourable member for Wannon should be made to apologise. On the question of the community health program for Australia set out by the Committee headed by Dr Saks, I believe this report commends its attention to everybody in Australia and I would particularly commend it to those gentlemen from the Australian Medical Association whose contribution to community health resources will be announced tomorrow when they announce their fee increases. I hope that when they announce those increases that they will give some indication that they are paying regard to what is after all the purpose of a health policy, namely, to provide a system of integrated community care for the whole community.
– - Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The following answers to questions upon no tice were circulated:
Commonwealth Hostels Ltd (Question No. 103)
Darwin, Northern Territory, three - two for public servants working in Darwin offices; and one for employees of the Department of Works and of contractors working for the Commonwealth.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, one - for public servants working in Commonwealth offices and employees of the Department of Works and of contractors to the Commonwealth.
Katherine, Northern Territory, one - for public servants working in Commonwealth offices and employees of the Department of Works and of contractors to the Commonwealth.
Exmouth, Western Australia, one - for Australian employees working at the United States Navy Communications Station.
Cocos Island, one - for single persons employed on the island and to provide overnight accommodation for persons on visiting aircraft
All the non-migrant hostels provide casual accommodation for the general public through the use of rooms not immediately required for the primary purpose of the hostel.
Family Planning (Question No. 328)
The approaches made to the Government on family planning and the years in which they were made are listed below:
The Government has incurred expenditure in connection with family planning as follows:
The organisations which received these funds and the amounts received are listed below:
Registered Medical and Hospital Funds (Question No. 355)
Security, upon notice:
MrHayden - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Immigration: Telephone Interpreter Service (Question No. 435)
In what way does the on-call 24-hour telephone Interpreter service for urgent community needs, announced, by him as an initiative of his Government, differ from the proposal on the same subject announced by the previous Minister on 31 August 1972.
The service does not differ from the proposal announced by the previous Minister in his statement to Parliament on 31 August 1972 and which was first mentioned formally in Departmental files in February 1972. In my statement to the press on 16 February 1973I gave details of the new service and announced that I would open it at the Melbourne office of my Department on 19 February 1973 which I did.
Department ofImmigration: Multilingual Welfare Officers
In what way does the new system whereby members of a special team of trained welfare officers and interpreters visit migrants in the home, school and workplace, announced by him as an initiative of his Government, differ from the proposal on the same subject announced by the previous Minister on 31 August 1972.
The proposed appointment of 48 multi-lingual welfare officers to provide a welfare and interpreter service to migrants in the community generally and in schools, to which I referred in my statement to the press on 11 March 1973, does not differ from the proposal announced by the previous Minister in his statement to Parliament on 31 August 1972. In my statement on 11 March I said that the Department would be seeking approval (of the Public Service Board) to appoint the officers concerned. The concept of bilingual or multi-lingual welfare officers is not however new. The already existing welfare staff of the Department includes some 65 per cent of persons born overseas or in Australia from ethnic background and withfluency in other languages. The majority of these appointments date from the late 1960s, though the first was made in 1963.
Drug Advertising (Question No. 453)
Has his Department consulted with any of the relevant committees set up under the Therapeutic Goods Act on the possible restriction of drug advertising; if so, what committees have been consulted and when; if not, why not.
The Australian Drug Evaluation Committee was consulted in December 1970 about the advertising of therapeutic goods in medical and allied journals ana concluded that control of the content of such advertisements was necessary. This resulted from the opinion that many such advertisements included undesirable and unsubstantiated statements, and provided no information about contraindications, precautions or side effects of the advertised goods.
Other Committees set up under the Therapeutic Goods Act have not been consulted on the possible restriction of drug advertising because -
they are set up to advise the Commonwealth alone, and not the States which would be responsible for introducing a significant proportion of the relevant legislation;
their charters relate specifically to standards and, although covering aspects of labelling and packaging, the charters are not sufficiently comprehensive to include the total concept of advertising control that is proposed. Standards do not cover aspects relating to side effects, hazards, efficacy, etc.
Since the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee was established to advise only the Federal Minister for Health and since his Department has no control over the advertising of therapeutic goods in medical and allied journals, its recommendations were referred to the National Therapeutic Goods Committee. This Committee, established by Order in Council, consists of representatives from the Federal and each State Health Department, and was established to advise the Commonwealth and States on action necessary to bring about co-ordination of legislation and administration of controls over therapeutic goods. It was not appropriate to establish such a Committee under the Federal Therapeutic Goods Act 1966.
The National Therapeutic Goods Committee widened the scope of the subject to cover all advertising of therapeutic goods, in the light of recommendations of other bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse and the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits.
This Committee has been responsible for formulating the Proposed Requirements for Advertising of Therapeutic Goods and recently was authorised by the Australian Health Ministers to discuss the draft with all interested parties before finalising any proposals, which would be subject to final approval by all Health Ministers. Discussions with appropriate bodies are currently in progress.
A copy of this draft document will be made available to any Honourable Member interested in its contents.
Trade Unions: Representation on Government-created Bodies (Question No. 457)
There are constitutional limitations on the Commonwealth Parliament’s power to legislate to put on private enterprise a requirement of a kind mentioned in the honourable member’s question and in the circumstances such legislation does not appear feasible. In relation to Commonwealth bodies I refer the honourable member to the answer to his question No. 456 (Hansard, 3 May 1973 pages 1742-3).
Public Servants: Comments on Official Matters (Question No. 467)
Fishing Industry: South Australia (Question No. 507)
Storemen and Packers: Classification and Wage Rates (Question No. 559)
Noise Control Legislation (Question No. 556)
Indirectly, through the Air Navigation Act (1920- 1971), the Noise Certification Standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation are applied to all commercial aircraft certified after March 1972.
Australian Capital Territory
Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1949-1971. Other controls are based on nuisance provisions of Police and Police Offences Ordinance 1923-1971.
Currently noise control is by local authorities only. Comprehensive noise control legislation is currently being prepared.
New South Wales
Comprehensive noise control legislation is currently in draft form. Currently, noise control is covered either directly or indirectly by the following Acts.
Environment Protection Act (1970) part 8 sections 46-48. Other provisionsinclude:
The Environment Protection Bill is currently before Parliament. This will provide comprehensive noise controls. Current provisions are included in the Local Government Act and in Traffic Regulations and the Shop Factory and Office Regulations.
There is currently being drafted a Noise Abatement Bill. Current controls are by the Health Act and by implication as nuisances in several other Acts.
The main legislation is the Noise Abatement Act (1972). Minor provisions include:
It should be noted that the Australian Environment Council has examined the question of noise pollution and has asked its Emission Sub-committee for a report on standards for noise levels. The information is not readily available.
Invalid Pensions: Paraplegics and Quadraplegics (Question No. 584)
What would be the estimated cost of providing invalid pensions without means test to paraplegics and quadraplegics.
MrHayden - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Adequate data is not available from which to reliably estimate the cost of providing invalid pensions without means test to paraplegics and quadraplegics.
Prime Minister: Tabling of Correspondence (Question No. 623)
The correspondence concerning Croatian terrorism between Ministers of former Governments which was tabled illustrated the differences between Ministers which stultified those Governments. There has been no difference between Ministers of this Government on that subject.
Age Pensions: Cost of New Rates (Question No. 628)
With reference to my question No. 207 (Hansard, 15 March 1973, page 672) regarding the estimated additional annual cost, by single years of age, of paying age pensions at the new rates to all persons qualified by residence and age, is this information now available and will he make it public.
The information requested was forwarded to the honourable member by letter dated 16 May 1973. The additional annual cost estimates advised in that letter were as follows:
$126m (per annum) for eligible persons 70 years and over.
These estimates relate to 30 April 1973, and are based on the assumption that all persons eligible by residence and age would claim a pension if the means test were abolished. They represent the additional cost over and above the liability which exists for current pensions.
Fauna Protection (Question No. 658)
Will he investigate, in consultation with the States, the possibilities of having installed, for the protection of local fauna, warning signs on country roads indicating the type of fauna in that area and the degree of caution required for their protection.
I have been informed that the Australian Committee on Road Devices has prepared a manual recommending uniform warning signs, including one relating to kangaroos and that the Australian Transport Advisory Council will consider the manual at its next meeting. I will certainly arrange for the honourable member’s thoughtful suggestion to be drawn to the attention of the Australian Fauna Authorities Conference (AFAC). If AFAC recommends that further action be taken, I will ask my colleague the Minister for Transport to have the Australian Committee on Road Devices re-examine the question.
Colour Television (Question No. 667)
Pensioner Fringe Benefits (Question No. 682)
What is the Government’s intention in relation to pensioner fringe benefits such as television and radio licences and telephone rental concessions, subsequent to abolition of the means test.
This is a matter of Government policy and any announcement deemed necessary will be made at the appropriate time. ,
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730530_reps_28_hor84/>.