28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk - Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the _ Honourable the Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The 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, byDr Everingham,Dr Cass, Mr Lynch, Mr Bourchier, Mr Coates and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘Free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme. That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
– May I inform the House of the absence of the following Ministers: The Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, Dr J. F. Cairns, who is attending the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ministerial meeting in Japan, and who is expected to return to Australia on 30 September; the Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee, who is leading the Australian delegation to the South Pacific Conference at Guam, and who is expected to return to Australia on 15 September; the Minister for Northern Development, Dr Patterson, who is attending the International Sugar Agreement Conference in Geneva, and who is expected to return to Australia in October; and the Minister for Services and Property and Leader of the House, Mr Daly, who is leading the Australian delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting in London, and who is expected to return to Australia on 23 September.
For the respective periods of these absences, the following arrangements will apply: The Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, is Acting Minister for Services and Property; the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart, is Acting Special Minister of State; the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, is representing the Minister for Primary Industry; the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Enderby, is Acting Minister for Northern Development; the PostmasterGeneral, Mr Lionel Bowen, is Acting Leader of the House. He is also acting as Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, and is representing the Minister for Customs and Excise in this House.
– On the last day of sitting, some honourable members drew attention to a passage in a speech by the Minister for Service and Property (Mr Daly), as reported at page589 of Hansard. The Minister himself made two personal explanations, giving his recollection of the precise words he had used. I was asked to make inquiries regarding the accuracy of the Hansard Report and to disallow any alteration of substance if one were submitted to the Hansard office. I have discussed the matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and now inform the House:
– Before I call on questions without notice I think I should tell the House that since our last day of sitting I have been looking into the matter of the length of answers to questions without notice. I find that there has been a slight reduction in the number of questions taken during this year compared with a similar period last year. Obviously the greater the number of questions which can be asked and answered the more satisfactory the period is to all honourable members. I want to stress that the purpose of a question is to obtain information or press for action. It should be stated as directly as possible and should not give unnecessary background information. Lengthy questions seeking detailed answers or which call for the quotation of figures should be placed on the notice paper.
In regard to answers I point out that a Minister may decline to answer a question. That is something on which the Minister must use his judgment. But if he does answer a question the Standing Orders provide that the answer must be relevant to the question. The manner in which the answer is given and the length of the answer are in the hands of the Minister. If it is necessary for a long answer to be given the correct procedure is for the Minister to indicate in his reply that, at the end of question time, he will seek leave to make a statement. This procedure has been suggested by various Speakers over many years. I ask for co-operation from both sides of the House in keeping both questions and answers as short as possible.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Did the Treasurer on Sunday, 31 January 1971, use these words:
Interest rates raised by Mr Gorton and Mr Bury to the highest level in our history-
They were then at 7 per cent - have acted adversely on important groups in the community, particularly young wage earners seeking to buy a home.
Does the Treasurer agree that the interest rate increases, wherever they may finish, will lift the cost of living to families by $5 to $10 a week by increased mortgage repayments, increased hire purchase repayments and increased prices because of the increased cost of borrowing money incurred by the manufacturers of goods or the builders of homes? Does this not mean that the decision is making inflation worse instead of attacking inflation?
– It is very easy to rake up quotations, but I suggest that there are times when, in the face of critical circumstance, one has to take decisions which one does not like to take.
– Why not make the decisions before the Budget?
– I would suggest that many decisions could not be made until after the Budget was brought down; some decisions were made well before the Budget. That simply highlights the fact that the Budget is not the be-all and end-all of financial management in Australia. The steps taken recently and announced oh Sunday, and the matter of varying the rates of exchange and even the matter of open market operations, are not ones that can be bruited around the countryside for weeks in advance. They are matters in relation to which decisions have to be taken with a certain amount of precision. The most critical situation that has faced Australia does not go back only to 2 December; it goes back much earlier. In the period ended 30 June 1973 that rather curious index known as the volume of money increased by 26 per cent, which is unprecedented in Australia. The major part of that increase took place in- the period from July 1972 to December 1972, which was within the jurisdiction of the previous Government.
– For well known reasons, though.
– ‘For well known reasons but also because of bad management. This Government took the steps to try to correct the situation. I heard your earlier reference to the length of answers, Mr Speaker, but when one is asked a series of questions it is pretty difficult to give a brief answer.
– Get on with it and answer the question.
– One of the hardest things to do is to din into the head of the Leader of the Opposition any economic common sense. If honourable members opposite ask such questions they must expect to receive detailed answers. I am appreciative of the fact that what has been done with regard to the instruction about open market operations will force up interest rates in the foreseeable future. But something must be done about inflation. The right honourable gentleman says, when the Government takes one action: ‘Is this the only action you are going to take?’ When the Government takes another set of actions he says: Is this the only action?’ This action has been taken carefully and deliberately with a view to acting upon the long term bond rate for government securities. It will have some impact on other areas; one cannot deny that. All I suggest is that the right honourable gentleman ought to display a little co-operation in this exercise rather than just trying to score cheap political points all the time.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the proposed alteration of installation costs for telephone line plant in country areas. What will now be the situation with regard to applications which have already been lodged and accepted under the 15-mile free installation provision? Will the terms under which those applications were accepted be changed in any way? Will there be any alterations with regard to costs for those applicants who have been given firm or tentative installation dates?
– It is true that there has been a change in what is known as the country line policy. Nevertheless, all contracts entered into, in respect of which quotes have been given and deposits paid, will be honoured.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he recalls his reply to a question asked by the
Leader of the Opposition in this House on 30 August in which he said:
If the state of the economy is to be the criterion, I suggest to all investors that they hold on to their shares.
Does the honourable gentleman now realise that such advice is hollow and misconceived in the light of yesterday’s massive downturn in the stock market which has led to major losses by many thousands of small investors? Does he appreciate that confidence throughout this country will not be restored by fine words from him or by ad hoc decisions of the type we have witnessed recently, but requires a coherent and cohesive package of anti-inflationary policies? Will the Treasurer give this House an assurance that the Government will adopt a comprehensive multipolicy approach to combatting inflation and so restore confidence in the Australian economy?
– At least the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has dug up a more recent statement than his leader did. I did advise shareholders on 30 August to hold their shares. But I did not mean for 10 minutes or 10 days; I meant for a more sensible period such as at least 10 months. I repeat my advice: Still hold them, because the future of this country is good. I would like to ask the honourable members who score so many points in this way: Were they concerned when shares in Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd stood at something like $22 to $24? What was the rip-off in share values in the last several years that brought that particular security down from $22 to about $7? BHP is a better investment than the most recent selling prices would indicate. I talked the other day with the management of BHP. I take the opportunity of talking with any groups of that kind. They indicated that they were a little concerned when the shares were as high as $24. They are equally as concerned now that the shares are as low as they are, and so they should be. I pay this tribute to BHP: I always have been an admirer of it despite what some honourable members opposite may think. I think it is an example of a monopoly that has not always used its monopoly power in the way that theoetically one might suppose it could use that power. I would say to those people who are selling those sorts of shares at this low value: Hang on to them because they will appreciate.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, relates to private companies and the provisions introduced in the Budget in relation to the increase in income tax bringing the private company up to the level of a public company. I refer him also to his intention to readjust the retention allowance. Does the Treasurer feel that this will drive a lot of people away from the company and into partnerships? Does the Treasurer see any value in accepting the concept of an incorporated partnership where for tax reasons the persons involved would pay the same amount of tax but could have the benefits of incorporation and be recognised by the Federal income tax laws for that purpose?
– Yes, I believe that there has to be a lot of re-thinking about business organisation as between corporative and unincorporative business, private and public, and so on. I think that the move taken recently sets the course for beginning to make that sort of systematic change. The details of the Bill will be announced later and I hope that that will afford an opportunity for some of these ideas to be debated at greater length than I can use at question time.
– In view of the successive economic measures of a penal nature imposed against the private sector of the economy, some of which - including the announcement at the weekend of the increase in interest rates - are going to be grossly inflationary in their impact on young home buyers, does the Prime Minister still accept that the public sector should go entirely unrestrained? Does he still see the necessity for the implementation of all of that broad range of policies which he advocated in his policy speech? Does he accept that the consequences of the implementation of those policies are grossly inflationary at the present time?
– I believe that very many forms of expenditures in the public sector are inflationary and should be curtailed. It was for this reason that one of the early acts that the Government took was to appoint the Coombs task force to spring-clean the inherited inflationary expenditures of the Australian Government. As is known, a great number of the suggestions made by the Coombs task force were applied in the Budget.
I would only hope that the State governments, many of whose expenditures are the most inflationary in Australia, would have a similar spring cleaning.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. In discussions with oil companies on the level of wholesale prices for petrol to be charged in the Australian Capital Territory would the Minister emphasise to the oil companies the fact that retailers in Queanbeyan draw supplies from the same source as those in the Australian Capital Territory and therefore should receive those supplies at the same wholesale price as that charged to suppliers in the Australian Capital Territory?
– Yes, I will be happy to press that point in the discussions that take place with the representatives of the oil companies. Perhaps I should add a little rider to my statement. There are certain differences between Queanbeyan and Canberra in the distribution of petrol and petroleum products, one being the more rational distribution of petrol which exists in Canberra as a consequence of planning. For example, it is well known, and if it is not well known it should be, that the average flow through turnover of petrol per service station site in Canberra is double what it is generally outside Canberra. This allows all sorts of economies due to the resultant size to be achieved. I shall be happy to push the matter about which the honourable member is concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and refers to the establishment of naval support facilities which are being developed at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia and, in particular, to the housing requirements necessary to personnel to operate that base. In view of the statement made by the Minister for Defence on 22 August last, is the Minister for Housing in a position to say when the houses will be constructed, how many are involved, where they will be located and the standard of the homes to be built?
– I acknowledge the honourable member’s continued interest in this matter. It is true that the Department of
Defence placed an order for 79 houses to meet the needs of naval personnel at HMAS Stirling’ on Garden Island, Cockburn Sound. The matter has been the subject of some controversy between the Department of Defence and the Western Australian housing authority, the former preferring land at Kwinana and the latter preferring land at East Rockingham. I am pleased to be able to tell the honourable gentleman that recently - I think early in August - I had a discussion with the Western Australian Minister for Housing and we were able to reconcile the differing views to which I have referred. It is now intended to provide the 79 houses in the East Rockingham area. An exchange of land is involved and negotiations towards that end are in progress. Whether or not the provision of the houses is to be delayed will depend upon the priorities of the Department of Defence. I am able to give the honourable gentleman the assurance that the provision of houses will take place in such time as to ensure that the needs of the 79 families at HMAS ‘Stirling’ will be met at the appropriate time, that is, when they need them.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security whether he is aware that material critical of the Australian health insurance program is being circulated to primary schools throughout Australia by a body describing itself as the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia. Can he tell the House the status of this body, how its activities are financed and, if the finance involves the use of contribution income, whether this is an approved use of such income under the National Health Act?
– The body to which the honourable member refers is a front for a number of private health insurance schemes. It does use contributors’ money, without any authority from contributors, on a range of expenditures which I think are far from justified and would not be endorsed by contributors. The previous Government sought on more than one occasion to obtain detailed information on the financial practices of some of these private funds and was unsuccessful. The previous Government was not prepared, for instance, to enact proposals contained in the Nimmo Committee report which would have given it authority to ensure that funds acted responsibly and that if they did not do so they would be answerable for their irresponsibility. I will make some inquiries into the matter raised by the honourable member. I am surprised to hear the honourable member’s suggestion that contributors’ money is being used to supply information to primary schools. However, having had a look at the quality of some of the material that this association has been producing, I would think perhaps the primary school students have been helping the association to prepare it.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether, in categorising schools, the Karmel Committee recognised that, because of greater stability of staffing, the average age and therefore the average salary of teachers in independent schools are higher than the average age and salary of teachers in government schools.
– I am not sure whether the Karmel Committee, in considering the position of staffing in non-government schools, recognised the fact that promotions in nongovernment schools tend to be on the spot instead of by teachers transferring from school to school, and therefore there would be a tendency for there to be a rather higher level of salary. All of these matters are being raised with the Committee when bodies are lodging appeals. That may be a question of substance that the Interim Committee would not be able to vary, but the matter can be put to the schools commission which I expect will come into existence very shortly; the legislation to establish it will be introduced into the Parliament very shortly. A lot of these matters are being considered at the present time. The actual appeals, if they are put in well and intelligently and are not put in just on the basis of mistakes, can help one to make adjustments to criteria for the future.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he believes that, in the interests of public trust and confidence in the Labor Government and of its financial and economic policies, ill-conceived or ill-considered statements or statements creating a false impression of an economically damaging kind should not be made by him or by his Cabinet colleagues. If so, how can he reconcile the Treasurer’s statement to which my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already referred this morning, and more particularly his own statement to the Chamber of Manufactures ridiculing the suggestion that there would not be another phase of economic and financial policies with the announcement made on Sunday of the decision to appreciate again the value of the Australian dollar and to increase interest rate structures which already has created great uncertainty throughout the business community? I also ask the Prime Minister: Does he know that it has been a general rule in the past that decisions affecting changes in the value of the Australian dollar have been taken by the Cabinet as a whole-
Government supporters - Order, order.
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his question as brief as possible.
– This is the end of it, Mr Speaker. Does he know that such decisions have been taken in the past after ascertaining the effect on producers and consumers from such departments as the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of Secondary Industry which are the only functional departments with a clear and intimate association with producers and distributors and whose advice just cannot be ignored if the economy is to be satisfactorily managed?
– I certainly agree that a Prime Minister and other Ministers should not make irresponsible statements. It was at least 2 decades before we were in the fortunate position in this country of having a Prime Minister, a Treasurer and other Ministers who did not make irresponsible statements. I am well aware - and I am grateful to the right honourable gentleman for the reminder - that variations in the exchange rate used to be made by the Cabinet as a whole. Every stock exchange, every company and every government agency here and abroad also will be grateful to be reminded of the fact that the last time a variation was made in the exchange rate by a previous Government it took 3 days for the Cabinet to thrash it out. It is refreshing that we now have a Government which acts in a more prompt, responsible and effective fashion.
– Just like on Galston.
-Order! The House will come to order. There are far too many interjections.
– But that was a singularly irresponsible one, was it not? We have been forgetting the honourable member. It has greatly redounded to the credit of this country that in matters of international finance we now have a government which is able to act responsibly, effectively and promptly.
– Can the Minister for Urban and Regional Development clarify his Press statement, made late last month, that $500,000 would be made available for preliminary work in developing the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania as one of the first growth centres to be supported in Tasmania with Commonwealth financial assistance?
-I made reference to the Tamar region during my ministerial speech on new cities. In that speech I said that $500,000 would be made available for Tasmania and that there would be further study in the Tamar Valley and other study areas in Tasmania. There will also be money made available to the Tamar Valley in our sewerage program. Also in regard to that valley there will be an examination by the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government as to whether land will be acquired by the Lands Commission.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to explain to the House why the Australian share market is in complete collapse? Does he associate such falls with new tariff policy, regular revaluation or a general lack of confidence resulting from a policy of socialisation and the killing of incentive? Is the proposal to investigate the establishment of a Government controlled motor manufacturing industry a further indication that private enterprise will be phased out unless we see a change of government in the very new future?
– Of course shares were affected as Government bonds were made more attractive. There has also been some effect overseas among investors in Australian mining shares because at last there is an Australian Government which is determined to see that Australia’s mineral resources do not progressively pass into overseas hands. The Tariff Board is seised of a reference concerning the Australian motor vehicle industry. I am satisfied that as a result of this reference to the Tariff Board there will be an overall assessment of the whole of this very important Australian industry and that there will be some aspects which have never previously been considered by governments and upon which they have not taken advice, such as the location, safety, employment and environmental aspects which hitherto have been ignored. I am confident that it will be possible for Australians to get better cars through taking into account all those factors and that better cars will be manufactured through taking into account all those factors.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is is a fact that the Australian Government is being accused of choosing Galston for an intensive feasibility study as a possible site for Sydney’s second major airport, on purely political grounds? Is this charge justified? Does the Minister recall any feasibility studies being conducted by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins, before he ruled out Towra Point as a site prior to the 1969 elections, when surrounding Federal electorates were tenuously held by Liberal members? Did Sir Robert Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, consult the Minister before arbitrarily ruling out Duffy’s Forest as a possible site? Does this location also happen to be in a-
-Order! I ask the honourable member to finish his question.
- Mr Speaker, I am right at the end. Does this location also happen to be in a Liberal stronghold?
– What the honourable member for Barton has said is perfectly true to the effect, that in 1969 when the right honourable member for Higgins was the Prime Minister, without any advice whatsoever from his. Department or from his Minister for Civil Aviation, he issued a direction on the eve of his departure on an overseas trip that Towra Point was not to be considered-
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I do not regard this as an answer to a question without notice, although that is not really the substance of my point of order. The Minister should be given an opportunity to make a statement to the Parliament so that honourable members can debate this subject and also the subject of the Brisbane airport.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I ask the honourable member to be quiet for a little while.
– As I was saying, at the time when the right honourable member for Higgins who was then the Prime Minister gave the ruling that Towra Point was to be excluded from consideration, the 3 electoral seats of Cook, Barton and St George were all held by Liberal Party members. In an endeavour to save them he made that decision. I think that the whole question of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and the need for a second airport has to be looked at in its true perspective. Also, we have to consider the dilatory approach that was taken by the former Government. The decision made by the right honourable member for Higgins in regard to this matter was made in 1969 and in April 1969 the then Government appointed an interdepartmental committee to report on the need for a second airport for Sydney. This committee proceeded with its inquiry and reported to the then Government in September 1970 that there was a need for a second airport for Sydney. Also, it recommended certain sites. I want to quote very briefly from a speech made by the then Minister - -
-Order! I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible.
– I am being brief.
– I rise to order. Obviously, the Minister wants to go into this matter at a good deal of length. I would think that members of the Opposition would give him leave to make a statement at the conclusion of question time. Surely what he is doing is in defiance of your suggestion at the beginning of question time this morning.
-Order! I was just asking for the complete co-operation of Ministers and honourable members to make their questions and answers as brief as possible. Again, I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible. Otherwise, he should seek leave to make a statement after question time.
– I am terminating the reply to the question. I draw the attention of honourable members again to the fact that the inter-departmental committee reported to the then government in September 1970. lt sat on that report for exactly 12 months until 15 September 1971 when the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton,-
– Will the honourable member make a statement at the conclusion of question time?
- Senator Cotton made a statement in the Senate on this subject. On the 13th page of his speech he said: However, the-
– Mr Speaker, I rise to take order. The Minister is making a farce of the ruling that you gave earlier in this session. If he wants leave to make a statement at the conclusion of question time, he can have leave to make that statement.
-Order! I ask the Minister to co-operate with the Chair in regard to the statement that I made prior to the commencement of question time.
- Mr Speaker, I am trying to co-operate with you.
-Order! Members of the Opposition have indicated that they would be willing to give leave to the Minister to make a statement so I am asking you to terminate your answer to the question as quickly as possible. I wish to get as many questions through as I can.
– I am trying to cooperate with you, Sir. I am trying to quote these 4 lines as quickly as I can. The quotation is:
However, the Commonwealth’s view is that for a variety of reasons Duffy’s Forest and Wattamolla are neither desirable nor satisfactory sites and it hopes a quick determination between Richmond and Somersby can be made.
– When was that?
– That was on 15 September 1971. When that Government went out of office in December 1972, no decision had been made.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the written promise by the present Prime Minister as given to the Australian Federation of Credit Unions in a letter dated 24 October 1972 which stated that a Labor government would (1) grant exemption from taxation on credit union incomes and (2) allow child endowment, social service and repatriation payments to be credited to the savings accounts of members of credit unions. In view of this statement, is the Treasurer prepared to explain why this promise was not carried out in the recent Budget? Further, is this promise ever to be honoured or is it another Labor Party promise to be dishonoured totally?
– I thank the honourable member for the polite ending to his question. The matter is under discussion with the credit unions and taxation authorities. The matter is not quite as simple as is sometimes suggested. I can assure the honourable gentleman that it is being considered as also are the necessary administrative arrangements about the other matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to the proposals of the Government of the United States of America to compel motor manufacturers in the United States, as an environment, energy and consumer protection, to show on all new motor cars how many kilometres those cars can be expected to give to the litre? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of ensuring that all new cars sold in Australia show in a prominent position as a protection and guide to consumers a Government certified expected fuel consumption per kilometre as an Australian vehicle standards requirement attached to all new vehicles sold in Australia?
– As best I could hear the question, I take it that the honourable member wants some sort of standard laid down to determine the fuel consumption of particular motor vehicles imported to Australia?
– With respect to all new cars sold in Australia.
– I am quite happy to look at the honourable member’s question and to give him a considered reply when I have had a good chance to study it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to an alleged ban on travel to Taiwan. Has an instruction banning travel to Taiwan been issued to Commonwealth departments and other authorities? If so, who issued the instruction? Does it involve both official and private visits for all categories of Commonwealth public servants? Has the ban been imposed at the request of any outside government or organisation? If not, why has the ban been imposed?
– No Australian public servant or member of the armed forces may visit Taiwan while travelling overseas on official duty; nor may any Australian travel to Taiwan on an official or diplomatic passport. There is no general restriction on private travel to Taiwan by Australian citizens travelling on ordinary passports and, in the case of members of the armed services, travelling in civilian clothes.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to a statement by the former Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, that the Liberal Party favoured Somersby as a site for the second international airport? Will the Minister inform the House whether the residents of Galston are especially privileged in comparison with the residents of the Gosford-Wyong area and whether we have on the other side of the House a bunch of phoney environmentalists who planned to site the second airport at Somersby because they considered Robertson to be a safe Labor seat?
– It is perfectly true that the Opposition, when it was in government, and the present New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government have on every occasion on which they have dealt with a site for a second Sydney airport taken into consideration the political party of the member representing the electorate where the site was located. For example, they excluded Towra Point for a very simple reason and that was, as I said in answer to an earlier question, that, without any technical advice whatsoever and in an endeavour to save the 3 Liberal Federal members in Cook, Barton and St. George, they selected Somersby as a possible site because Mr Barry Cohen, the Labor member, was the representative for that area. They excluded Duffy’s Forest because it was in a Liberal electorate. We should not forget that the honourable member for Mackellar, Mr Wentworth, originally supported Duffy’s Forest and then went cold on it, for reasons best known to himself. The whole question of a site for a second Sydney airport has been a political issue all the way through. The Opposition, when it was in government, sat on the matter for years and failed to make a decision. We, as a government, have a responsibility in this field, and we are endeavouring to make a considered decision to ensure that Sydney has a second airport which will meet its requirements.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Yesterday he said that the Reserve Bank would intervene in the next few days to help the market establish a new interest rate for Commonwealth bonds. He also said that the Reserve Bank had a figure in its mind, whatever that means. That was the way that he put it. I now ask the honourable gentleman whether he will say what figure the Reserve Bank has in mind. Does he accept that the success of the July loan, when I think $239m was subscribed, depended upon the confidence of the subscribers that the interest rate would remain at 7 per cent? Does he accept that no Commonwealth borrowing can succeed until there is certainty in the minds of investors about the long term bond rate? Does he accept that until there is certainty, the proposal of the Prime Minister that they would soak up excess liquidity cannot be achieved?
– I am surprised that a former Treasurer should know so little about open market operations. I will not indicate the level.
– Can the Minister for Transport say whether a new Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill will be introduced into Parliament this year? Is it still Labor policy to give, for road construction purposes, the total excise raised on fuel sold?
– As the honourable member for Gippsland is well aware, the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement does not expire until 30 June of next year. The Bureau of Roads is at present in the process of preparing a report which it is anticipated will be completed about October this year. When that report is received and considered by the Cabinet a decision will be made and announced.
– I raise a point of order. I think the. Minister did not hear the last part of my question. May I repeat it?
– I heard the last part of the question.
– Is it still Labor policy to give the total excise raised on fuel sold for road construction?
– I answered the honourable member’s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister seen allegations that a young Australian was refused entry to the Royal Australian Navy because he was not born in Australia, having come here at the age of two? I ask: Are such actions contrary to the policy of the Australian Government to banish discrimination? If so, will the Minister investigate the allegations?
– The question was directed to the Minister for Immigration but naturally it concerns my Department. The Minister for Immigration and I would not have different views on what ought to be done in cases such as the one referred to by the honourable member. It was the practice previously for the Department of the Navy or indeed of any one of the Service departments to act on its own initiative in respect of an application to join one of the academies by a person who had been born in Australia but not of Australian parents. When a case was brought to my attention and it was proved that the person had been refused the opportunity to sit for the entrance examination because he was not a native born Australian I immediately issued instructions that he was to be permitted to sit for the examination and that this discrimination in future should be removed.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922-1973 I present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30 June 1973. I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the tabling of the report.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I thank honourable members. The Public Service Board’s 1973 annual report describes many of the changes which have occurred in the machinery of government since my Government came to power. The revolution is not yet complete. The Department of External Territories will be abolished on 1 December. Studies are proceeding on the amalgamation of the Departments of Transport and Civil Aviation, on the incorporation of the functions of the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Supply into other areas of the Australian Public Service, and on the amalgamation of the Departments of Army, Navy and Air with the Department of Defence. Further changes may be expected as a result of other inquiries now in process.
In retrospect, these quite massive changes were brought about with reasonable speed and with little friction. The loyalty and impartiality of the Australian Public Service in serving the Government of the day irrespective of political complexion have been demonstrated beyond any doubt. Nevertheless it remains true that some difficulties were encountered and that to an extent these difficulties could be attributed to some lack of understanding on the part of the Government and the Public Service of each other’s purposes and processes. I believe that some of these difficulties could have been avoided.
There is a convention in Britain that before a general election members of the Opposition may meet with senior officials and discuss such matters as the structure and working of departments and the problems of personnel and administration. These meetings are held with the full knowledge and approval of Ministers. This convention has not been adopted by any previous Australian Government including that which immediately preceded the present one. However, in the interests of good government I intend that as long as I am Prime Minister the opportunity for such discussions will be made available to the Opposition in the periods before general elections. Naturally they will not embrace matters of a Party political nature. My object is simply to ensure that should there ever be another change of government the changeover as it affects the nation’s administration will take place as smoothly as possible. I thank the Public Service Board for its great assistance in making the recent change as smooth as it has been.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I have seen a copy of the statement which has accompanied the tabling of this report but I have not seen a copy of the Public Service Board report itself. Therefore I do not know what is meant by the phrase in the statement ‘describes many of the changes which have occurred in the machinery of government’. There have been many changes indeed. One matter which is of more concern to the Australian public than any other is the growth in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Budget has estimated that the Public Service will grow by 4.7 per cent this year. Nobody believes for one moment that the growth rate will be held to 4.7 per cent. Everybody believes that the growth rate will be at least 7 per cent and that more than likely it will be 10 per cent. Even if the growth rate were restricted to 7 per cent it would mean that the cost of running the Public Service would increase to an extraordinarily high level. The Budget, on the basis of a 4.7 per cent growth rate, provides for an increase of 24.2 per cent in salaries and allowances. But that, of course, will not be the actual level of the increase. The level of the increase will be at least 7 per cent.
One should compare the growth rate in the Public Service of 7 per cent with the growth rate in the work force of only 3 per cent to 3i per cent. A 4.7 per cent growth in the Commonwealth Public Service will cost an extra $137.6m a year in salaries. If the growth rate is 7 per cent, as is expected, the salary cost will be an extra $204m a year. That $204m a year would provide every pensioner in Australia with an extra $3 a week in his or her pension. That is an example of the way in which the Public Service is growing. This growth is totally disorienting the proper relativities between the private sector and the public sector and, within the public sector, the proper relationship between social service activities and the unrestrained growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is quite inappropriate for the Commonwealth Public Service to grow in this fashion.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made it clear that he wants the Commonwealth Public Service to be the pacesetter for the whole of Australian industry. It certainly has been used by the Government up to date as the pacesetter. He is quite determined to abandon productivity as a concept. He is quite determined to have the Commonwealth Public Service lead the field in wage rates and conditions in Australia to a level where its inflationary impact will just build upon the present inflationary situation. There is no will on the part of the Government to tackle inflation. Any measure it has taken will not achieve the desired result.
Let us examine some of the extraordinary things which are being done. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) was elected by the Caucus to be a Minister. He had to be found a job to do. So he was appointed Minister for Northern Development. It was only natural that people would expect the Minister for Northern Development to have something to do with beef roads, but that responsibility was taken away from him. It was only natural that people would expect him to have something to do with primary industry in the northern areas, but that responsibility was taken away from him.
– What does he do?
– He has a very important job. He said in this House the other night that the single most important international agreement in existence is the International Sugar Agreement. It is not surprising that he should have thought that it was the single most important agreement in existence because it is his only responsibility.
– And we negotiated it.
– I have been reminded by the honourable member for Wannon that it was a Liberal-Country Party government which negotiated that Agreement. Some other extraordinary changes are to occur. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) this morning, by the way he chose to avoid answering any questions, was anxious to use question time to avoid having any debate. He misused question time in the same way as the Government is misusing the Commonwealth Public Service.
It is said that the Government is to amalgamate the Departments of Transport and Civil Aviation. What relationship is there between rail, sea and land transport and civil aviation? Quite clearly, the departments are not appropriate to be amalgamated. They certainly are not appropriate to be amalgamated under the present Minister. That Minister has no chance of running those 2 departments properly and effectively. We already know that the Director-General of Civil Aviation, who prides Australia on the safety that we have achieved in civil aviation and who has been appointed to the board of Qantas Airways Ltd, is laying siege to his own office. He is not prepared to play any part which would bring about an amalgamation of the departments and a reduction in the safety of civil aviation in Australia. That is a proper attitude for him to have. I am sure that everybody in this House would see the importance of civil aviation and the safety of all those who travel by air as being greater than merely the opportunity for the Prime Minister to give a bigger responsibility to a devoted Minister who always says yes to him. The Prime Minister knows that the Minister will not be exercising that responsibility; it will be an aggrandised public service that will do that.
The Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) will find himself without a job. That Department is about to be abolished. Just what new department will be dreamed up for the Minister for External Territories so that he can continue to be a Minister is beyond anybody’s guess at this time The Minister for Northern Development received that portfolio and has sugar alone as his sole responsibility. What portfolio will the present Minister for External Territories get? It is said that the Prime Minister is making such an awful mess of his foreign affairs portfolio that he is to hand it over to the Minister for External Territories.
– That is what is said. Sources close to the Government - everybody knows how important they are - have suggested that the Minister for External Territories would make a much better Minister for Foreign Affairs than the Prime Minister.
– Mr Morrison says he would.
– That is the point. Let us identify the problem. The present Minister for External Territories would be better than the Prime Minister, but he would still be an awful Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, he has a distinguished background in foreign affairs and perhaps that is what he will do. If that is done, I think that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) is to have his Department broken into two, so that he can be just the Minister for Recreation and the present Minister for External Territories, no doubt, can be the Minister for Tourism.
I do not know what is to happen to the Department of Customs and Excise. The Minister for Customs and Excise is Senator Murphy who, 2 weeks ago in the Senate, delivered the most devastating criticism of a leader that has ever been made. Senator Murphy said that the Prime Minister - the Leader of his own Party - had acted with a total lack of concern for Cabinet unity. The Prime Minister accepted that rebuff and did not have the courage either to explain the matter or to discipline Senator Murphy. This is the way the Government has deteriorated. Any Minister can say whatever he likes because the Prime Minister is not game to discipline him. What is to happen to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) when he returns home? Will he be criticised for saying that the Government acted wrongly in failing to consult him over the economic measures of last Sunday?
Perhaps the biggest joke of all is the amalgamation of the Departments of the Army, the Navy and Air with the Department of Defence. The idea of the Deputy Prime Minister being responsible for 4 departments is just the cause of the greatest amusement that could possibly happen.
– Five departments.
– Oh no. This has changed. The statement mentions the incorporation of the functions of the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Supply in other areas of the Australian Public Service. Under the amalgamation the Deputy Prime Minister will be responsible for the Army, Navy, Air and Defence Departments. So the Deputy Prime Minister has had Supply taken off him. He will have Army, Navy and Air but there will be precious little of the Army, Navy and Air left. Have you ever seen such a deliberate breaking of a policy promise made by a party seeking office? The Labor Party said that it would hold spending on defence at 3.5 per cent of the gross national product. Then the poor little embattled Deputy Prime Minister came up with that worried look over his face and said: ‘I confess we have cut down spending on defence from 3.5 per cent in real terms to 2.6 per cent in real terms’. Yet the Government has the cheek to go around and say: ‘We are going to defend Australia; we are going to play our part in regional defence arrangements; and furthermore we are going to walk the stage of the world and be a powerful middle power.’
The poor Deputy Prime Minister would not know what to sign unless his Private Secretary told him. Notwithstanding this the Deputy Prime Minister will now be responsible for Army, Navy, Air and Defence. I heard an interjection from this side of the House to the effect that the Brownies and the Girl Guides would be included in the incorporation. I do not like the implication; I reject it. I acknowledge that the Brownies and the Girl Guides are doing a tremendous job in building up morale among young women in this community and I would not like to see the direction of their policy in the hands of the Deputy Prime Minister because he has already lost more soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as equipment in this short time than it would have been possible to imagine 1 months ago. During the last 6 months we have seen the depletion of our national defence forces. We then come to the extraordinary statement of the Prime Minister that there were some difficulties between the Government and the Public Service.
– I rise to a point of order. Have you noticed, Mr Speaker, the effect of the Leader of the Opposition in making the Chairman of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ look more miserable over there?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– The Prime Minister says that there were some difficulties between the Government and the Public Service and that all these difficulties could be attributed to some lack of understanding. He said that he believes that these difficulties could have been avoided. But what he really means is that the Public Service wanted to give direct, objective advice and the Government was not prepared to accept it because this was not the advice that it wanted to hear. But now the understanding is established. If the Public Service does what it is told and if it offers the advice that is wanted by the Government then the understanding will pursue. We do not agree that this is the way for a government to govern a country. It is very important that members of the Commonwealth Public Service serve Ministers fearlessly and are not subjected to being shunted off as special ambassadors to the International Labour Organisation or some other body in Europe as has happened to 2 men who were both first class public servants. This action was a deliberate act of retribution by the Government to get rid of these men. No doubt there are more to come. This is a form of action that we would never engage in. And then, as for the convention-
– That is not what Sir John Bunting tells me.
– Pick that up, Bill.
– Yes, I will pick up the point very strongly. That is not what Sir John Bunting would say. We have Woof Woof and the 26 dynamos playing the game. Sir John Bunting is a public servant who is now virtually like Mr Marshall who is attached to the person of Senator Murphy. The Prime Minister has decided to attach to his personal charge one of the greatest public servants ever to serve this country so that instead of allowing Sir John Bunting to develop policies and to put them fearlessly to the Government, Sir John is obliged to take the directions of the Prime Minister and is unable to give the objective advice that he should give.
Sir John Bunting served the previous Government as the permanent head of 2 successive departments over very many years. 1 wonder what is to be his future under the present Prime Minister. There is no doubt in my mind that Sir John Bunting would like to be able to return to the days when he could offer objective and fearless advice.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the following paper;
Taxation Statistics 1971-72’ dated 1 September 1973, supplement to the Fifty-first Report of the Commissioner of Taxation.
Ordered that the paper be printed.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967-1970, I present the report of the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education for the year ended 31 December 1972.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Parramatta-
Postmaster-General - For the information of honourable members I present a Tariff Board Report on Nitrocellulose (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 6 July 1973.
Mr MORRISON (St George- Minister for
External Territories)- For the information of honourable members, I present the report on the Administration of Papua New Guinea for the year ended 30 June 1972. This report was submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 1973 in conformity with article 88 of the Charter of the United Nations.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of a working group appointed to study costs and revenues of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– I want to make a personal explanation on the ground that I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones). The Minister stated that the announcement was made by me that we would not be establishing a second Sydney airport at Towra Point without any proper or technical consideration; that the announcement was made purely on political grounds. He has made similar statements before and I have not bothered to reply to them because I did not think that people would take much notice of him. However, as he is continuing to make similar statements I wish to make a personal explanation.
The first point I want to make is that according to my recollection the paper presented to Cabinet at the time that a site for the second Sydney airport was being considered by the Department indicated that Towra Point was not one of the sites which the Department was considering. The Minister no doubt has access to papers to clarify that position. He can use them as he generally uses papers, even if they should be confidential, in which case I do not want them to be. It is my recollection that on technical grounds we were told that Towra Point was not one of the places being considered.
Had the situation been different, had Towra Point been one of the places being considered and had there been departmental technical reasons for establishing Sydney’s second airport at Towra Point I believe we would still not have selected that site because examinations were being conducted into the the possible results of establishing Sydney’s second airport in that area. Some of those examinations were made by a Committee appointed by this Parliament comprising members from both sides of the Parliament. The Committee was to investigate the possible effects of aircraft noise on people living in that area. We were concerned. There was a study and it is quite clear that not only were the people in that area being seriously affected at the time by existing aircraft noise but further, had we chosen Towra Point the nuisance would have been multiplied very much indeed.
We are concerned with the quality of life and with not making conditions worse for people. For ‘those reasons and on environmental grounds - not for political purposes - I believe we would have come to the same conclusion even had there been technical reasons purely from a civil aviation point of view to support the establishment of an airport at Towra Point. It is perfectly clear that those considerations still obtained when the Minister for Transport either announced or arranged for an announcement to be made in the Press that regardless of environmental considerations he was going to put the new airport at Towra Point, a decision which was changed - although at the time it took no notice at all of environmental considerations - to Galston without any environmental examination whatsoever.
– This is not a personal explanation.
– It is a personal explanation in that I have been accused of making a decision previously on political grounds and I am explaining that there were grounds - environmental grounds - and that they were important grounds. I am pointing out the importance of these grounds. I believe that the House generally would consider that they were important, and therefore it is quite wrong–
– I agree with you on it.
– I am sure the House does.
-Order! There is only one way to make a personal explanation. I think in his personal explanation the right honourable gentleman is getting away from the claim that he was misrepresented. I think it would have been better if he had applied for leave to make a statement.
– I trust I have made it perfectly clear that this is an improper allegation. We will give an opportunity to the Minister, as he knows, almost immediately to have a statement made and debated.
– A few moments ago the honourable Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) said that I had at one time advocated the location of Sydney’s second major airport at Duffy’s Forest. That is not so.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) on the television program ‘Federal File’ on Sunday, 9 September. In that program the Minister said that I had given him an assurance that I would not make public the very serious allegations made against him by the Director of the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. That is not so.
– Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman gave no indication of what he was going to speak about. He is referring to a Minister who is not in the chamber and I believe that the etiquette in these matters is that one does not go ahead in those circumstances. At any rate, the honourable gentleman has a question on the notice paper about this matter. I know about it because I have given leave for the correspondence to be incorporated in the answer.
– I take a point of order. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is in order in debating this matter.
– I am not debating it.
– I claim to have been misrepresented and I take the point that it is within my rights to state the extent to which I have been misrepresented. If the Minister in question believes that the facts are not as stated, then of course he has the full right to use the forms of the House to make his position clear.
– The honourable gentleman is abusing the forms pf the House. He claims to have been misrepresented by something that occurred outside the House - that is, on a television program. The honourable gentleman would scarcely have been given leave or you, Mr Speaker, would scarcely have allowed him to make a personal explanation in respect to something which occurred in another medium.
– I take a point of order. With great respect to the Prime Minister, a member may claim to have been misrepresented by a newspaper, which is outside this House.
-Order! I think it is in order for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make a personal explanation. In the past a personal explanation about being misrepresented has been allowed when an honourable member has claimed to have been misrepresented by a newspaper. This procedure could apply also to television programs.
– I thank you for that ruling, Mr Speaker. It is a matter upon which the Prime Minister does appear to be more than usually sensitive.
-Order! The honourable member will make his personal explanations.
– As I mentioned before, this is not so, and I seek leave of the House as I feel-
– It is by my good grace that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is making this explanation at this stage. You, Mr Speaker, asked me if I would defer tabling a matter until personal explanations had been given.
- Mr Speaker, I should have thought that I was making this statement not with the good or bad grace of the Prime Minister but, in fact, with the good grace of the Chair. The statement will occupy only about 3 further lines.
-Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to continue with his personal explanation.
– I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard all of the relevant correspondence in order that the facts can be placed on record.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– There is on notice a question in which the correspondence will be incorporated.
– As leave has not been granted I am compelled, in order that the point of misrepresentation can be made clear, to quote from some of the correspondence. This will make the point of misrepresentation crystal clear. As I recall it, I wrote to the Minister for Immigration on 3 September referring to an earlier letter of mine of 2 September. I wrote:
I have received a copy of a letter to you from the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. His letter, as you are aware, refers to certain statements made by you on Federal File.
I went further and wrote:
The Opposition is particularly concerned that the Director was restricted from discussing the question of Australia’s membership of ICEM during his recent visit. If that was the case your remarks on Federal File did not accurately reflect the views of ICEM on Australia’s withdrawal.
As I have previously sought to make clear, the Opposition believes that the huminatarian objectives of ICEM justify Australia’s active and continued support. If you have misrepresented, albeit inadvertently, Mr Thomas’s position in this matter or if certain restrictions were imposed on his visit to Australia, the Opposition would feel obliged to express its concern publicly.
The point of misrepresentation, of course, was that at no time in relation to the correspondence with the Minister for Immigration did I place any embargo on my capacity to make this matter public, particularly in the circumstances in which the fact of this publication came about as a direct consequence of a copy of a letter which was sent to me. That letter was to Mr Grassby from Mr J. F. Thomas, the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, and copies also were sent to Ambassador Corkery in Geneva, Mr Shildberger of the television program ‘Federal File’ and Mr Zurek, the representative of ICEM in Australia. That letter, dated 28 August, I believe makes some quite serious allegations which the Minister has not answered and which I believe he should answer because the Opposition has been pressing for a statement from the Minister for Immigration on Australia’s immigration progam and it has not been forthcoming. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, we have heard more about Australia’s immigration program from Mr Grassby overseas than we have heard from him in this House.
-Order! I would ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to debate the matter but to confine his remarks to his claim that he has been misrepresented.
– In the letter from Mr Thomas, who is well known to members from both sides of this House as an international civil servant of very high renown, appears the following:
A copy of the script used on the ‘Federal File’ program setting out the exchanges of views between yourself and Mr Lynch has just crossed my desk.
My conscience would not be clear if I did not write to you to express my objections to the statement in which you are quoted to say: ‘As a matter of fact, the Director, Mr John Thomas, was here in May and he understood this because we’d been discussing it since 1968’. I will not quibble over small inaccuracies,” i.e. 1 actually was in Canberra in April and I could not have discussed the matter in 1968 as I assumed the office of Director of ICEM only in 1969. What I mainly object to is the inference that I understood the withdrawal of Australia from the membership of ICEM. I did not at that time and I do not today understand why Australia withdrew from an organisation serving such a great humanitarian cause - an organisation which had been so helpful to Australia in time of its needs.
You will recall that I asked to come to Australia and I was told that I would be welcome as long as I did not discuss the question of membership. At the time I thought this to be an unusual restriction but I abided by it in the hope that I might be able to speak directly with Mr Whitlam. Unfortunately I was told that Mr Whitlam could not see me. I am not certain that he was asked. I did get to speak with you on several occasions for which I was grateful. I thought that you understood my position and that you were sympathetic with ICEM’s work with refugees. Therefore it is something of a shock to read the contents of your part of the interview. If there were any misunderstandings concerning ICEM’s position during my visit, I would consider they might have been clarified by my letter of 19 April which was sent to Mr Whitlam on my return. I assume this letter would be made available to you, but enclose herewith a copy as reproduced for the last ICEM Executive Committee Session - though it was not possible to reproduce a reply.
When I was in Australia I pledged ICEM’s full co-operation in turning over services concerning national migration in the various European countries by 30 June 1973. I have carried out my pledge in a very effective and efficient manner. I have done everything in my power to effect a smooth turnover with minimum hardship to the ICEM staff that had to be terminated and to the migrants involved.
I feel that I and ICEM have been very responsible in this matter and therefore it comes as an extreme disappointment to see my position being put forward to the Australian public in such a misleading manner.
I hope in some way you will be able to rectify this situation.
If the Prime Minister wants me to read some further correspondence I can do so. And if the point has been somewhat laboured let me say to the honourable gentleman that all that was sought on this occasion was the tabling of the file. While he is sitting here in his usual frustrated silence he can reflect that what has happened has been brought about by his own decision.
– Mr Speaker, I table the Tariff Board Report on Motion Picture Films and Television Programs dated 30 June 1973, I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to it.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Speaker, it was on 20 March 1972 that the then Minister for Trade and Industry forwarded to the Tariff Board a reference which requested it to inquire into and recommend on the assistance needed for the production in Australia of motion picture films and television programs. At that time the Board already held a reference dated 28 September 1971 from the same Minister on the film processing industry, and on 1 June 1972 the then Minister for Customs and Excise forwarded to the Board a reference relating to value for duty of certain film of an advertising character. Public hearings relating to these 3 references were held concurrently. However, in view of the present Government’s desire to take early action on the production of films and television programs, the Tariff Board has restricted this report to the first mentioned reference. It has, however, kept in mind the matters raised relating to the second and third references and these will be the subject of future reports. The Government has now given preliminary consideration to the report. It is not at this stage committed to the adoption of its recommendations and will be continuing with its examination of it, including the constitutional issues which it raises. The release of the report will enable members of Parliament and others to examine it and, as appropriate, to make known their views. This is a primary purpose of the release,
I should add, Mr Speaker, that it is not the practice to release Tariff Board reports except at the time of the announcement of the Government’s decision concerning them. It will be clear to honourable members why this is so. An exception is possible in this case in view of the special nature of the references and of the report. It should not be assumed therefore that this is a precedent for action on Tariff Board reports in future. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), whose Department was established since the references to the Tariff Board were made by the previous Government, has been invited by the Cabinet to make detailed recommendations to it for the future development of the Australian film and television industries, taking into account the report of the Tariff Board. The Minister has been asked to bring his recommendations to cabinet in the near future.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the house take note of the paper.
– The Opposition is interested in the tabling of this report. It recognises the reasons the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has mentioned why in general such reports are not tabled. In this case the Opposition takes the view that the procedure followed is a very good idea. We thank the Government for the procedure adopted and we too will be interested in studying the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I raise a matter of privilege, Mr Speaker. In his reply to my question this morning I understood the Prime Minister to say that the holders of official passports would not be permitted to travel to Taiwan. Members of Parliament hold official passports. Am I to understand that members of Parliament will not be allowed to travel to Taiwan on their official passports? If that is so, I ask that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges.
-Order! I think it might be advisable if the Prime Minister were to read today’s Hansard in view of the matter of privilege which the honourable member has raised. If the honourable member does not get a satisfactory answer we can have another look at the matter later,
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Transport making a statement on the proposed airport site atGalston and the debate proceeding forthwith.
The situation in regard to this matter is one which has the odour of political expediency and partisanship about it. It may be suggested - the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) has attempted to do this - that on previous occasions statements have been made, views expressed and decisions taken in relation to the second Sydney airport on political grounds. We have already heard something on this matter from the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), who is a former Prime Minister, and we will hear more from him. But in the light of the Government’s commitment to ‘open government’ and in the light of the impact this decision could have for many people by opening up a period of doubt and dread as to the future of the region, I believe it is of the utmost importance that the Government take steps to make available all the facts about the situation.
So far as one can judge - this is why it is important that the matter be debated and that we suspend Standing Orders to do so - the decision to site the second Sydney airport at Galston has been taken against all available advice of a significant character. It has been taken against the advice of the high powered Commonwealth-State committee set up to advise on the matter. It has been taken against the findings, so far as we know - it is in this regard that we want to find out the facts - of the British firm of specialist consultants hired to assist the Commonwealth-State committee. This British firm of R. Travers Morgan and Partners worked with an environmental study group established, so far as I understand, by that committee.
The decision has been taken against, I suggest, the thinking of the much vaunted Coombs committee which was set up to advise the Commonwealth Government on matters of economic priority. The matter is an important one and should be debated because, so far as we can ascertain the facts, the. decision was taken in the teeth of the advice and thinking from all these sources which favoured a different course of action. I understand that their investigations - I would like the Minister to confirm this - have already cost upwards of $500,000 which mainly has been expended this year. The Commonwealth-State committee commissioned a cost-benefit study by the British firm R. Travers Morgan and Partners, the cost of which would be part of the $500,000. Against their advice the Government decided in a precipitate manner - one might even suggest a casual or frivolous manner; certainly a political manner - to site the proposed airport at Galston.
The decision was taken to dump what for the Government threatened to be a political embarrassment on the doorstep of, as one journalist put it, a group of North Shore silvertails and semi-rural dwellers at GalstonDural. As the Minister will find when crowds of people from this area come here today, semi-rural’ does not mean sleepy, relaxed or easy going. He will find the people to be tough, united and implacable in their opposition to the proposal to turn this scenic and recreational heritage, which is as fine as any in the land, to this purpose. As far as one can judge, the decision has been taken in an unwarranted and unjustified way. There appears not to have been a detailed feasibility study. The Commonwealth-State policy committee which was set up comprised top public servants from the Commonwealth and State government departments and the State Planning Authority of New South Wales. The committee, as I have said, commissioned at great cost, the study by the British consultants, which took the form of a complex and comprehensive cost-benefit study of alternative sites. That firm includes persons of very high international standing. This matter should be debated. A considerable amount of detailed study and expert evaluation has thus been made of about 15 sites. I would like the Minister to confirm that.
As a result of this investigation the Galston site was rejected decisively in the recommendations of the Commonwealth-State committee on environmental grounds and also on economic grounds, especially as compared with the upgrading of Mascot airport. As I understand it, the study by the British consultants was supplemented by investigations by an environmental study group established by the committee. Such a group would have taken into account the environmental aspects which are particularly important in the case of the Galston area. It is one of the finest residential, scenic and recreational areas in Australia. It contains a number of important reserves including the Hallstrom reserve, the Muogamarra Sanctuary and others.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The motion is for the suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Minister to make a statement. The mover has had considerable latitude but I think that he is getting too wide of the subject when he goes into the detail he is now pursuing. I ask the honourable member to come back to the motion, which is for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I am submitting that Standing Orders ought to be suspended to enable this matter to be debated because of the odour of political partisanship which surrounds this decision and the fact that although this Government is committed to open government we have not yet heard the facts of this situation. I am endeavouring to set out some of the facts as I understand them with a view to underlining the importance of the need for the Minister to make a statement and to confirm them. A very important aspect is the figure quoted in the Press as to the cost of this project. It is said that it could be in excess of $ 1,000m as compared with an alternative costing the order of £350m.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The motion is for the suspension of Standing Orders. Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I think we must make the position clear to the Opposition; the Government will not agree to the suspension of Standing Orders. There is no difficulty about this matter because, as members of the Opposition will be aware, the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) already has advised the House in the course of answering questions that he will table the relevant documents when they are printed and are available. This motion for the suspension of Standing Orders has been moved purely on the rather remote issue that the Minister be given leave to make a statement. I submit that the appropriate thing is for the Minister himself to decide when he will make that statement.
We are well aware of the political contentiousness of the site of a second airport for Sydney. It is somewhat pleasing to see the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) here because he was closely asso ciated with the problems of airports. The former Government was associated with those problems for many years. I represent the electorate in which the present airport is located and it is a damning indictment of the present Opposition that it did nothing to fix the location of a second airport for Sydney. The biggest problem that faces any Government is proper planning. Admittedly this usually comes about through the co-operation of State governments. It is acknowledged and admitted that when the Towra Point site was abandoned there was co-operation between the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins, and Sir Robert Askin because they made a joint statement at the time. That indicated the co-operation that could be obtained to guarantee that there would be no airport at Towra Point. Irrespective of any personal explanations, that decision was a wise one politically because no-one could say to the people of that area that they were going to have so many more aircraft flying overhead and- that they were going to suffer so much more nuisance because of the Government’s actions.
In fairness to the right honourable member for Higgins I say that it is a pity that in 1959, when the Government selected a site for a second airport for Melbourne and chose some 4,500 to 5,000 acres at Tullamarine, something was not considered for Sydney at that time. This shows the parochial nature of the then Government. All it could think of was to get an alternative site to Essendon, which was a mere 900 acres and which it knew was unsatisfactory. The then Government acquired some 4,500 acres at Tullamarine for a second airport but did nothing at all about Sydney.. Sydney Airport has a mere 1,400 acres and is now handling more than 2,000 flights a week. Are we talking about suspending Standing Orders on the basis that this subject covers unknown factors? Surely that could not be the case. The present Opposition was in Government for 23 years and knew all the problems associated with airports. It knew the problems it had to overcome in Melbourne and it knew the problems in Sydney. Yet at any stage it would not dare to suggest that a new airport for Sydney should be in an electorate represented by a Liberal. It is completely improper to use the time of the House today to suggest that Standing Orders ought to be suspended to enable the Minister for Civil Aviation to make a statement. The House is in the middle of the
Budget debate and the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards), who moved this motion, has not spoken in that debate. There is plenty of opportunity to discuss all aspects of this matter.
– What about the Minister?
– He may want to speak in that debate. Does that not prove how ridiculous this motion is for the suspension of Standing Orders? The Opposition has moved that Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Minister to make a statement but he may want to make a statement in the course of the Budget debate. It is an unknown situation. We have already said to the Opposition: ‘Because you have been in government you are well aware of all the difficulties’. The Minister, as was his right, said in answer to a question: ‘I will table the relevant papers when they are printed’. What more could the Opposition ask for at this stage? The Minister controls his department and will table what he said he would table, that is, the report on the environmental impact study. This is the position that the Opposition has to face today. We have a Budget debate, about to take place, being delayed by the tactics of the Opposition, merely because it hopes that somebody listening to this debate will think that it will save Galston. It is not a question of saving Galston; it is a question of what the Opposition failed to do for a number of years.
For the Opposition merely to say now that it wants leave for the Minister to make a statement assumes that it knows nothing about the matter. It is well aware of the situation and is very anxious that the Government expand the existing site. I will fight to the end against this because, for a start, it happens to be within my electorate. However, from the point of view of the merits of the situation, Sir Robert Askin has a quite nice piece of the action, if I may use that word, because before he knew it was to be at Galston he said what a dreadful thing it would be to expand Kingsford-Smith. When he heard it was to be at Galston he asked what was wrong with Kingsford-Smith. As the Opposition is so anxious to have information I inform honourable members opposite that Sir Robert has gone on record as saying that he has a site for a second airport but is not yet prepared to tell anybody where it is. As Opposition members have some connection with the Liberal Party in New South Wales they might find out what he has in mind. I am certain that any responsible government would listen to any reasonable suggestion. But as to the matter that we are discussing now and what should be done about it, it is not fair or reasonable that the Government should put aside all its business because the Opposition wants a statement to be made. The Minister has answered every question asked of him and has given an undertaking to table all the relevant papers. From the Government’s point of view that is sufficient.
The Government has had the responsibility of deciding where the second airport will be because the previous Government failed to accept this responsibility. It did something to suit Itself politically in other areas, but it did nothing for Sydney. It let Sydney be destroyed. It is ridiculous for the Opposition to say now that it is anxious to learn something from a statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation, a statement which can obviously be debated ad nauseum but which would achieve no result at all. The Budget debate is to continue and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) is anxious that it should. He said that he has a list of speakers a mile long. I think there are 20 honourable members on his list, but if we are to proceed on the basis suggested that number will be reduced to about ten because there will not be sufficient time for anybody to talk.
– Is that a threat?
– It is not a threat; it is a reasonable suggestion. I indicate now that the Government wishes to finish the Budget debate at 6 o’clock tomorrow night. The Opposition has been given notice that that is the position. The Government will co-operate with the Opposition, but if the Opposition intends to use the forms of the House as it has done today - it did not mention what it intended to do; it just decided to do it without any discussion at all and then talks about cooperation and about trying to run the House-
– I told you.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition never mentioned it to me. I ask him what he means by co-operation. We have wasted so much time on this when there are so many important pieces of legislation to be introduced. They have to be introduced this afternoon and the Opposition knows it. The present discussion is eating into that time. It is a question of members of this House having certain rights and privileges and having an opportunity to say what they want to say in the interests of their electorates. This is not a matter for Party political considerations. The Opposition moves for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable a Minister to make a statement. I have never heard the like of it. The proper course is-
– You have never had a Minister like it.
– That is the tragedy. It is about time we had a Minister like the present Minister for Civil Aviation because now we will get some action. For 23 years we have been waiting for some results of deliberations on a second airport for Sydney. We now have those results and the Opposition is a bit upset about it. But it is not going to take the business of the ‘House out of the control of the Government and for that reason the Government will not support the motion.
– The first point I make is that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) indicated what a frightful thing it was to suggest suspending Standing Orders in order to enable the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to make a statement. If honourable members cast their minds back a few minutes they will remember that I was to make a personal explanation in this House and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) suggested that it would be better for a statement to be made on the matter. Therefore I sat down. So if the Postmaster-General has not heard of a motion to suspend Standing Orders in order to allow a statement to be made, at least the Prime Minister has; he suggested it.
The second point I want to make arising out of the speech by the Postmaster-General is that I agree with him as to the great environmental damage and damage to the quality of life that would have been caused if an airport had been established at Towra.
– That is right.
– That is right, yes. The Postmaster-General has indicated that he would fight to the death for that. Obviously he would not be fighting me, and he would not be fighting us because we made a decision not to establish an airport at Towra. So let him carry on his fight with the Minister for Civil Aviation, which he appears to have won, but do not let him blame us for this sort of internecine quarrelling.
The third point I want to make is that we are not raising this matter merely in the hope that somebody may be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings; we are raising it because we are concerned about the damage that can be done to the ordinary person’s environment, comfort and quality of life - I have to use that phrase again - if an airport is established at Galston, just as we were concerned about the Mascot proposals.
– You took so long.
– It is better to take a long time than to make the wrong decision and ignore the rights of individual citizens, which is what the proposal to establish an airport at Galston does, because let there be no question that if this proposal is proceeded with, not only will a great area of bushland near Sydney be destroyed, but goodness knows how many hills will have to be bulldozed down and how many valleys filled up. Not only the so-called silvertails, but also the ordinary people living in the areas around the proposed airport will have aircraft coming in over their heads day after day, hour after hour, and this ought to be something that is taken into consideration; pure technical matters should not be the only questions considered.
There are perfectly good and proper reasons why we should move this motion to suspend Standing Orders at this stage. Let us look at the history of this matter. The first point that arose, as I said before, was that the Minister for Civil Aviation either announced, or arranged for it to be announced in the Sydney Press, that the decision had been taken to establish a new airport at Towra. No doubt the Postmaster-General and even the other Minister had something to say about that, but this was the initial announcement. The decision was taken regardless of any consideration of the environment in which the people would have to live.
The next announcement a day or two later was that this was not so, that an airport was going to be established at Galston although .no proper environmental examination whatsoever had been made. The last I heard was an announcement by another Minister, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), at a dinner in Parramatta on Monday night that they had not made any decision at all. So it is really about time that we had a statement to tell us exactly what the situation is. Has there been any proper planning? Apparently there has not, or at least if there has been it has not been the joint planning that is required, because the New South Wales Government has made it perfectly clear that it has not been properly consulted and that it does not go along with this decision to establish an airport at Galston.
Has a proper environmental study been made? Another Minister, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), indicated with great regret that he was not even able to get along to the Cabinet meeting to makea statement on the environment. If one had been made perhaps it was made by some sub-committee or by somebody else; but was it a proper one? Was it one that we would consider as perhaps we might consider an environmental study by a joint committee comprising members drawn from both sides of this House which was established to look into the damage to the environment done by this proposal? We, as a Government, appointed a committee comprising members from both sides of this House to examine the environmental damage that had been done at Mascot.
Why has not this information emanated from the Minister for Civil Aviation? Why can he not make a statement on this matter and tell us why members from both sides of the Parliament are not given a chance to speak on this matter? Surely these are all valid reasons for moving the motion to suspend Standing Orders. It will allow this information to be put before us now. We could be given the history and the whole matter could be studied. We need to know whether this proposal has been planned, what planning has taken place. We need to know what the actual decision is going to be. It has been sort of waffled about so much that we do not know what the decision is going to be. Above all, we need to be concerned about the people who can be disadvantaged by building an airport on this site at Galston or on a number of other sites. I am the first to admit that it is not easy. In relation to the statement by the Minister, why cannot we raise what could properly be a solution to this whole problem, and that is–
MrREYNOLDS -Four years. You should have started 5 years before that.
– I am not allowed to answer disorderly interjections, but through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to put this to the House: Who has considered going 50, 60, or 70 miles out and putting in a fast road transport link?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired. The timeallotted for the debate also has expired.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill 1973
Film and Television School Bill 1973
Australian National University Bill 1973
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Speaker–
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I seek your guidance. A crowd of some thousands is outside the House trying to see the Prime Minister. Apparently he will not show up. Is there any way in which the House can intimate his duty to him?
– The honourable member will resume his seat. He knows that that is a frivolous point of order. The matter in question has nothing to do with the Chair at all.
– I present the fifth report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies have been circulated to honourable members.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the resolution of the House of Representatives of 5 April with certain modifications.
Motion (by Mr Stewart) proposed:
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I note with very much regret that the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) is not in the House at this time.
– He has arrived. He is here.
– He is here now. I am not running the timing of the House. The Government is supposed to be doing that
– The honourable member has said nothing.
– I would not be the only one. I am looking right at you. I would have thought that the Minister would have been here to introduce this motion. In actual fact he has agreed in principle with the amendment which was introduced into this House but which was defeated by the Government. With others it was introduced once again in the Senate. I am glad that the Minister has agreed to it, because in the Northern Territory the Legislative Councillors were becoming somewhat dismayed at the fact that the negotiations which were taking place in regard to political reform were not getting anywhere. They grasp the formation of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory as a means of helping them to achieve political responsibility and constitutional reform. Those are the words which were actually used in an amendment which was agreed to in the Senate. But this does not mean that members of the Legislative Council and the people of the Northern Territory accept that this Committee is the be all and end all of their aims which, as I have indicated, are political responsibility and constitutional reform. They accept this only because of the negotiations which were taking place and which were at a stage at which an offer was to be made by the previous Government to the Legislative Council to take over the responsibility for a great many items some of which, of course, have been taken from the responsibility of the Northern Territory. For instance, the control of the police has now descended to Canberra and to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). Serious objection is now being taken to the Minister’s attitude towards the acquisition of land in the immediate Darwin area. Urban land was to be under the control of the Northern Territory Legislative Council.
The people see these and other rights of self-determination being swept away before their very eyes. I am certain that they do not accept that this Committee is the answer to their hopes and aspirations. I am certain that they would agree to its formation, as I do. But I would hope that the Minister and his colleagues would reopen their discussions with the members of the Legislative Council. I have heard the Minister say in the House that he has already done so. He may have reopened discussions with some of his Party colleagues, but I do not think he has done this to any great and significant degree with the members of all parties. So whilst agreeing and not objecting to the formation of this Committee, I would urge the Minister and the Government once again to look at the proposal which was advanced under the previous Government. I know that the Minister has virtually agreed to study the hopes of the Legislative Council as the first item to be referred to this Committee. But I also notice that in the resolution the following words are used: . . to examine and report on measures that might be taken in the long and short term to provide the Northern Territory with responsible selfgovernment in relation to local affairs-
Since the Minister will be speaking after me, no doubt due to some mistiming of arrangements, perhaps he would be able to explain to the House what-
– He has allowed you to speak first.
– Certainly, I quite agree. Probably I would have a greater knowledge of the situation than he. I would like the Minister to explain to the House and to the people of the Northern Territory exactly what he means by ‘in relation to local affairs’. The original amendment which was defeated in this House and agreed to in the Senate dealt with the advancement of political responsibility and constitutional reform for the ‘Legislative Council. Those items seem to me to be somewhat different. I ask the Minister when he speaks on this matter to deal with that. Although I support the resolution, I say on behalf of the people whom I represent that it is no substitute for what was originally planned with regard to the discussions between the Legislative Councillors and this Government. I ask the Minister to deal with that.
– I apologise for not being present in the House when this matter was introduced. I was engaged in a matter that will be of interest to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder).
– I was engaged in some business, too, but I got here on time.
– It concerned discussions with the Chairman of the land tenure inquiry and my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). But I paid the honourable member the courtesy of discussing this matter with him this morning when we both expected confidently that it would be brought on in the Parliament at or before noon. I and my ministerial colleagues can take considerable pleasure in this decision that has now been reached and reported to us from the Senate. Honourable members may recall the original discussion that took place in the House some considerable time ago. We discussed the best ways in which to bring about a situation whereby the people of the Northern Territory could have a say in their own affairs. At that time the honourable member for the Northern Territory moved an amendment that would have tied in a rather restrictive and clumsy manner - I hope that the honourable member will forgive me as I do not mean this in an offensive way - reference to the proposed joint committee of the question of how best to inquire into territorial government for the Northern Territory. That amendment was defeated in this House.
We know that the consideration of this matter by the Senate has been very considerably delayed. That is to be regretted. I think it is fair to point out that that delay is largely the result of the fact that the Government does not have a majority in the Senate. It is typical of the actions of Liberal Party and Country Party members who sit in the Senate with their Democratic Labor Party colleagues that they have stalled for so long this proposition that today is supported by the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– Until you agreed to what we asked for.
– The honourable member says that I agreed. I direct him to the Senate Hansard where Senator Webster incorporated my Press statement. That Press statement forms the basis of the proposition that has now been referred to this House from the Senate. My Press statement setting out what I thought should be done was adopted in its entirety by the Senate. I congratulate honourable senators for that decision. It is only to be regretted that they took so long in doing it. There is little merit to be gained in arguing here whether the Government did the right thing or whether the Opposition did the right thing. The fact is that the right thing has been done. Therefore, it is with considerable pleasure that I move:
That the Senate’s modifications be agreed to. This will be the first step towards setting in motion in the Northern Territory discussion and investigation that we confidently hope will lead to constitutional reform in the Northern Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This is an historic Bill. It introduces the first phase of the Government’s program to abolish the means test on age pensions. It proposes complete abolition of the means test for residentially qualified men and women aged 75 or more. It confirms the Government’s desire to see an entirely new approach to the question of cash payments. It is the fourth Social Services Bill introduced by this Government since it assumed office just over 9 months ago.
The main provisions of the present Bill were announced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech on 21 August. Briefly, the provisions are as follows.
Let me now turn to a more detailed description of the features of the Bill.
The increases now proposed represent the second occasion on which the rates of pension have been raised by the Labor Government since it assumed office just over 9 months ago. In December 1972 the standard rate was $20 per week and the combined married rate was $34.50 per week. With the current increases these rates will have been increased by amounts totalling $3 and $6 per week respectively. The comparable amount for widow pensioners without children is even more dramatic. With the current increase, the December rate of $17.25 per week will have been raised by $5.75 per week. Moreover, we have removed the long standing discrimination against widow pensioners without children who were deemed eligible for pension but paid less than widows with children. Honourable members will recall that in March this year the Government adopted the general principle that common needs deserve common rates of benefit. Hence, unemployment and sickness benefits will be increased in line with the proposed pension increases. When the new rates have been paid, unemployment benefits will have been increased by this Government by amounts ranging between $6 and $15.50 per week and sickness benefits by amounts ranging between $3 and $15.50 per week.
The Government is, of course, committed to raising the standard rate pension until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. This is the effect of an undertaking of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made when he delivered the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party on 13 November 1972. The latest available figures in respect of average weekly earnings are for the June quarter of 1973. Based on these figures, the Government’s goal of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings would be reached if the proposed standard rate were to be increased by a further $3.92 per week The Australian Government is determined to achieve its goal of a standard rate pension of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings and, if it is necessary, the pension increase for the autumn session will be greater than $1.50 per week.
Unlike previous governments, we will not allow pensioners to suffer adversely from economic movements and we are certainly not going to allow them to bear the cost and disadvantages of tight money economic policies in the unconscionable way so regularly resorted to by previous Australian governments.
Indeed, this is the whole reason why we are pressing to quickly establish the standard rate of pension at 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings, and thereafter by regular adjustments to maintain this ratio.
In 23 years of conservative administration, previous Liberal/Country Party governments were never interested in such an objective. They resolutely eschewed proposals by successive Labor Oppositions, pensioner representative groups, other -responsible and concerned groups and people in the community urging a clear commitment to a formula such as this. They were unmoved that such a step should be undertaken in the interest of preserving social and economic justice for pensioners. I ought to point out at this stage that in the 12 months from the June quarter 1972 to the June quarter 1973 there was an 8.2 per cent increase in the consumer price index, and an 11.4 per cent increase in average weekly earnings, whereas the married rate of pension increased by 17.2 per cent and the standard rate by 17.8 per cent respectively. When the increase now proposed becomes operative, the married rate of pension and standard rate of pension will be $20.25 and $23 a week respectively. In turn this means an increase in pension rates since the June quarter last year of 26.6 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard the following table showing relative annual movements of average weekly earnings, consumer price index and the standard and married rates of pension.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. Honourable members will note that the largest and most generous yearly increase in pensions in money terms and in percentage rates has taken place since this Government came to office. Unlike previous governments, the proximity of elections will not be a deciding factor in the rate at which pensions are increased; rather it will be our commitment to achieve social and economic justice for pensioners to establish pension payments at an adequate level and as a right, and to maintain these principles consistently. I would ask honourable members to contrast what this Government has done - the generous rates of increase in pensions, both in money terms and percentage rates, against the indices set out in the table - with the record of the last Government which in the year ended June 1971, for instance, when the average weekly male earnings increased by over 13 per cent, increased married and standard rates of pensions by a mean and miserable 7.6 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.
– What is the source for that table?
– The Department compiled the table. It was the Liberal-Country Party governments in the past 23 years that presided over and indeed were responsible for the erosion of the standard rates of pensions from 26 per cent of average weekly earnings in the 1940s to as low as 18 per cent to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings in recent years.
I mentioned earlier that this Bill confirms the Government’s desire to see an entirely new aproach to the question of cash payments. Confirmation lies in the fact that this Bill takes the first step towards abolishing the means test on aged pensioner eligibility for people aged 65 or more. Complete abolition will be achieved within the life of this Parliament. When the scheme is fully implemented and backed with national superannuation, national compensation, universal health insurance and a system of guaranteed income Australia will have one of the best systems of social security in the world. Indeed I would go further and say that Australia will then be a world leader in this field. We will restore Australia to its proper position as a great and successful social laboratory, a leader and trend setter in the field of social welfare - a position it rightfully held 50 years ago.
Abolition of the means test on age pensions for people 75 years of age or more will have immediate beneficial effects for a great many elderly people throughout the community. Immediate benefit will be felt by those now receiving age pensions at reduced rates. A great many others whose means presently exclude them from any pension entitlement will also benefit. The number of people in each group is estimated to be 34,000 and 31,000 respectively. The cost, including extension of free of means test service pensions for ex-servicemen and women, is estimated to be $40m in 1973-74. I think it fair to make the comment at this stage that in the first year of the new Australian Government the first positive step towards the elimination of the means test has been taken. Liberal-Country Party governments made promises on this for most of the 23 years they were in charge of the affairs of this country but produced nothing.
They were the governments, remember, which consistently from the mid- 1940s promised a national insurance scheme but never did anything about achieving such a scheme in the long period in which they were in office. Indeed, it is worthy to recollect that their first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was a man who resigned from the Lyons Government in 1939 because the national insurance legislation enacted by that Government, which would have included a national superannuation type scheme, was not proceeded with. In spite of this dramatised demonstration of principle, Sir Robert Menzies, as Prime Minister of this country for 16 years, never introduced a national superannuation scheme. Our promises will be fulfilled. We currently have an inquiry into national superannuation under way. We will respond to the findings of that inquiry by introducing a national superannuation scheme. In the meantime, as I said earlier, we will abolish the means test. I repeat that this Bill represents the first step towards achieving that objective.
This Bill allows for a period of 3 months grace - that is, up to 31 December 1973 - during which, if an age pension is claimed by a person who qualifies solely as a result of abolition of the means test, payment may be backdated to the first pension pay day after the Bill receives royal assent. However, an important point to remember is that free-of-means-test pensions will be available only to people who satisfy the normal residence requirement for age pension eligibility. A period of 10 years residence in Australia at any time is required. This period is reduced where a person has lived in Australia for periods aggregating more than 10 years and has had a period of continuous residence of not less than 5 years. The guardian’s allowance and additional payments for children will continue to be subject to the means test, as will the wife’s pension.” Supplementary assistance will also remain payable subject to the existing supplementary assistance means test.
A word about Australian Government fringe’ benefits - that is, the pensioner medical service, funeral benefits and rebates on telephones, radio and television. These benefits are available only to people who would qualify for a pension under the 1967 means test. The Government has decided that the 1967 means test will continue to apply for ‘fringe’ benefit eligibility but that the pension increases to be paid in the autumn of 1974 will not extend benefits to people whose means are outside the new limits now proposed. The pension increases provided in this Bill will lift the disqualifying limits of means as assessed for ‘fringe’ benefit eligibility by $1.50 a week to $33 a week for single’ pensioners and $3 a week to $57.50 a week for pensioner couples. What this means is that a married couple may have a combined income of up to $86.50 a week, including pension, and a single person a combined income of up to $49.50 a week, including pension, before eligibility for fringe benefits ceases. There are many people in the community, such as young marrieds with families to support, homes to establish and pay off and a future to be made, who have less income than this but are denied such benefits. This raises questions of equity. We will give special consideration to the needs of all people, through programs supported by the Australian assistance plan and programs to be developed following on the findings of the Henderson poverty inquiry, which, of course, will provide useful guidelines for us here.
At this point I should mention that, because increases in the basic rates of pension have the effect of raising the limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable, many people who do not qualify for a free-of-means-test pension will, nevertheless, qualify for either an age, invalid or widow’s pension for the first time. As a result of the increases now proposed a single person without property affecting his pension will retain some pension entitlement until his income reaches $66 a week. A single pensioner without other income will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his non-exempt property reaches $34,720. For a married couple, the equivalent limits of income and property will be $115.50 a week and $60,880 respectively. A widow with one child and no property affecting will now be able to receive income of up to $90 a week before losing her entitlement to widow’s pension, or up to $94 if her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring full-time care. If she has no income affecting, a widow with one child may have property to the value of $40,480, or $42,560 if her child is under 6 or is an invalid requiring full-time care, before her entitlement to widow’s pension is extinguished.
I have already mentioned the 2 new benefits called transitional benefit for the aged blind and double orphan’s pension which are proposed in this Bill. The transitional benefit is designed to alleviate any financial detriment which blind persons of pensionable age might experience when their pensions become taxable. The benefit will be payable at the rate of $3 per week and it will supplement age and invalid pensions to permanently blind persons who have attained 65 years of age in the case of men and 60 for women. It is proposed that the new double orphan’s pension of $10 per week will be paid to the guardian of a child both of whose parents are deceased. It will also be paid to the guardian of a child, one of whose parents is deceased, if the whereabouts of the other parent is unknown.
Double orphan’s pension removes an area of human neglect that should not have been allowed to continue. It is incredible and inexcusable that this anomaly should have been tolerated for so long by past governments. Imagine the grave social distress and severe disadvantage that has been caused to thousands of unfortunate and innocent children over the years because of these injustices. Let me give one illustration of the intolerable nature of this injustice. Children of a widow receiving a widow’s pension would attract a mother’s allowance and additional pension for children. If the mother were to die, all pension entitlement from the Australian Government, until this Government accepted its responsibilities with this legislation, ended. Previous governments washed their hands of all responsibility. I am pleased that this important reform has been achieved as one of our earliest actions.
The new pension will not be paid in respect of an adopted child if both adoptive parents are still alive. However, a benefit will be payable to the guardian of a child if both adoptive parents are deceased or if one is deceased and the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown. There will be no means test. However, double orphan’s pension will not be paid if the child attracts a war orphan’s pension payable under the Repatriation Act.
The conditions for payment, generally, will be broadly along the lines of those applying to child endowment. Payment will be made in respect of orphans who are under 16 years of age or who are full-time students aged 16 to 21. My Department will make payment by the same method and at the same time as child endowment. In most cases the new pension will supplement child endowment.
In turning to the rehabilitation aspects of the Bill I should first say that the decision to remove the time limit of 3 years on rehabilitation treatment and training is a practical and overdue move. It is designed to meet the needs of a small number of disabled people who, because of the severity of their disabilities, or their need for specialised training, are unable to return to suitable employment within 3 years and consequently do not, at present, qualify for acceptance. Greater use is now being made of tertiary training at universities and colleges of advanced education as a means of giving handicapped people vocational or professional skill that will ensure for them a suitable and satisfying career. Some of these courses are of 3 or more years’ duration and it is not unusual for training to be preceded by a period of treatment in a rehabilitation centre.
Provision is also made to increase the rate of rehabilitation training allowance from $4 to $8 per week to persons undergoing fulltime training; and to pay $4 per week to parttime trainees. The rates of livingawayfromhome allowance, payable to persons undergoing training, have been amended so that the married trainee will receive $16 per week instead of $8 per week. The new rate will also be paid to persons with the care, custody and control of children. All other trainees will have their rates doubled from $5 to $10 per week. When a handicapped person has been away from employment for many months it is natural for him to want to go back to work as soon as possible after medical treatment is concluded. This is a very good thing where the person’s residual disability permits him to return to his former job. Frequently, however, it is in the handicapped person’s interest, or sometimes a matter of necessity, for him to be trained for a different type of work.
Widow trainees, too, may need to be encouraged to train for a career that will afford them long-term satisfaction rather than turn to unskilled or casual employment.
It is not easy for an adult to adjust to training for a new vocation and it may involve a temporary financial sacrifice, especially if there are dependants to look after. The higher rates of training and living away from home allowances are intended to make it easier for handicapped persons and widows to enrol in training courses, and to encourage them to opt for the long term advantages that training will provide. Pension increases proposed in this Bill will also flow to persons receiving rehabilitation allowances. These allowances are paid in addition to the training allowance and living away from home allowance. Sheltered employment allowances will also be increased in line with pensions.
Mr Speaker, I would now like to give the House further details of the costs involved. The expenditure on cash benefits for 1973-74, other than that resulting from the provisions in this Bill, is estimated to rise by some $200m over the expenditure for 1972-73. This is partly due to the natural increase in the number of pensioners but mainly due to the full year cost of the significant increases granted after the Government assumed office, and the introduction of the new supporting mother’s benefit. The cost of the proposed increases in cash benefits and abolition of the means test for residentiary qualified persons aged 75 years or more is estimated to add an extra $141m to expenditure which would otherwise have been incurred in 1973-74 on benefits payable under the Social Services Act. This will bring estimated expenditure in 1973-74 on benefits payable under that Act to $ 1,874m.
In accordance with the usual practice, it is proposed that the pension increases provided under this Bill will operate from and including the pay days following royal assent. The increases in unemployment and sickness benefits will, as usual, operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of royal assent and each benefit week thereafter. Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.
– Anything you want we will get for you.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I believe, Mr Speaker, that this Bill contains some of the most significant changes in the repatriation field that have been presented to the House for many years. There will be increases in the rate of payment of most pensions -and allowances. The means test for Service pension purposes will be eased and, for Service pensioners or applicants for service pensions who have reached the age of 75 years, it will be abolished. Free medical and hospital treatment will be provided for all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War. Ex-servicemen and women who served in a theatre of war and who suffer from malignant cancer will be provided with free medical and hospital treatment for that condition. Artificial limbs will be provided free through the repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres to all amputees in the community who need them. These new and extended benefits were referred to in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). This Bill will, however, introduce other changes which the Government proposes, both within and outside the Budget context. Repatriation benefits will be extended to members of the regular defence force.
The admission of civilian patients to repatriation hospitals will be authorised, but only to the extent that facilities are available after catering for entitled repatriation patients. Statutory authorities giving determinations under the repatriation system will be required to give reasons for their decisions. These changes, Mr Speaker, are an indication of the responsibility that this Government accepts in relation to those who have served their country in time of need, and now those who voluntarily make up the country’s defence forces. We also recognise that, when and where capacity exists, the facilities and expertise of the repatriation treatment services should sensibly be made available to the community generally.
Although most existing pensions and allowances have been improved on this occasion, there are some that have not been changed or increased to the degree eventually intended. They have not been overlooked but, as a matter of priority, benefits for ex-servicemen and women, and the dependants of deceased ex-servicemen, have been given preference on this occasion. Other benefits will be adjusted as circumstances permit.
In addition to the improvements that I will detail shortly, there will also be increases in the rates of payment of service pensions that will result automatically from proposals that my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has already announced in the House. However, the Bill amends the principal Act to apply the increased rates of service pension payable in respect of some children and to incorporate in the principal Act the same principles that will aply to age pensions under the Social Services Act. A small pension of 25c a week presently payable to certain children of service pensioners, but not payable to children of social service pensioners, will be discontinued, but this will be more than offset by the increase in the rates payable to parents in respect of those children. The increased rate of means test pensions, the easing of the means test and, in some circumstances its abolition, will mean that many war pensioners and war widows will receive greater total payments than may at first appear to be the case. The opportunity will be taken in this Bill to remove the remaining instances of higher repatriation payments to dependants on the basis of the rank the serviceman held in the forces. This Government sees no justification for differing payments being made for like circumstances. Probably fewer than 200 dependants will be involved and all of these people will receive an increase.
Another anomaly this Government considers exists in the pensioning structure will be removed. I refer to the special compensation allowance introduced by the previous Government in 1968. This allowance is paid to most of the 14 per cent of general rate pensioners who are in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range. While these pensioners will not lose any money, most of them will not receive any of the proposed increases in the general rate announced in the Budget. They will, however, thereafter receive all general rate increases at a rate commensurate with their assessed extent of incapacity. I will now outline the specific increases proposed in the Bill. The rate of payment of the various pensions and allowances referred to will be weekly amounts unless otherwise stated.
The special rate - totally and permanently incapacitated - pension is payable to those exservicemen who, because of war-related incapacity, are totally and permanently incapacitated to such an extent that they are incapable of earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage. This rate is also payable to the war-blinded and certain sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis, as well as those temporarily totally incapacitated because of warrelated disabilities. About 20,000 will benefit from the proposal to increase this rate by $4.50 to $55.60 now and to increase it further by a like amount to $60.10 in the autumn, when it will again be the equivalent of the minimum wage. The Bill provides for the first of these increases.
I should remind honourable members that war pensions are paid free of income tax and, in terms of purchasing power, have a greater value than equivalent earnings. Even without the various additional allowances payable in specific circumstances, and disregarding valuable fringe benefits available, the special rate pension of $55.60 to be payable under this Bill is in excess of the net value of the minimum wage after tax. The intermediate rate pension is paid to about 1,840 ex-servicemen who, because of war-related incapacity, are able to work only part-time or intermittently. The Bill provides for this rate to be increased by $2.25 to $38.80, and that rate will be further increased by $2.25 to $41.05 in the autumn.
This is the rate of pension that is paid to most repatriation pensioners. About 190,000, or 90 per cent, of those ex-servicemen and women who suffer war-related incapacity are pensioned under this rate at percentages from 10 to 100. The Bill provides for an increase in this rate at the 100 per cent level by $3 to $19. There will be corresponding increases at lower levels. The rate will be further increased by the same amount to $22 in the autumn. As I mentioned earlier, Mr Speaker, in conjunction with these increases it is proposed to eliminate the special compensation allowance. Half of that allowance will be withdrawn now and the remainder in the autumn. The previous
Government saw fit to leave the general rate pension unchanged for eight years between 1964 and 1972 and consequently the value of the payment declined significantly. It is the intention of this Government to restore its value but, because of the need to bridge such a wide gap, and the numbers involved, this cannot be achieved in one step.
Dependants of Deceased Ex-Servicemen
Increases are proposed in the payments made to the widows of those ex-servicemen who died from war-related causes, and to the children and certain other dependants of those servicemen. It is in this area that differential rates based on the serviceman’s rank, to which I referred earlier, will be eliminated. The Bill provides, Mr Speaker, that the War Widow’s pension rate will be increased by $1.50 to $23. This pension will again be increased by a similar amount to $24.50 in the autumn. The pensions payable to the children of deceased ex-servicemen will also be increased. Where the child is in the care of his or her mother, the Bill provides for an increase of $1.90, lifting the pension to $9.25. The pension payable to a child who has lost both parents will be increased by $3.80 to $18.50 a week. Approximately 3,200 children are involved, of which about 130 fall into the latter category. Another relatively small group of dependants are the widowed mothers of deceased unmarried ex-servicemen and the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and invalid children of deceased ex-servicemen. In each instance the serviceman died from war-related causes and, apart from the widowed mothers, the other dependants must be without adequate means of support to be eligible for pension. The present rates vary according to the exserviceman’s rank, but it is proposed that in future the same rate of $8.50 will apply to all these pensions. Incidentally, Mr Speaker, I would mention that the rate of this pension has not been varied since 1950 although most, if not all, of these people would also be in receipt of a means test pension.
In addition to war pensions various allowances and amounts are paid for specific purposes. It is proposed to increase the rate of payment of these allowances to the order that I will detail. Attendant’s allowance is payable at the higher rate to the blind who also suffer from total loss of speech or are totally deaf and to those who have had both arms amputated. It is paid at a lower rate to the blind, the paralysed and to those who have certain particularly severe amputations or who otherwise have need of an attendant. The proposed increases are $4.50, to §22, for the higher rate and $2.50, to $13, for the lower rate. About 1,200 receive these allowances. Additional amounts paid to amputees vary according to the nature of the amputation suffered. There are 15 specified categories of the loss of a limb or an eye, or a combination of both, that attract this additional payment. The first 6 items are for those more seriously disabled, who have their pensions and the addition made up to an amount equal to the special rate (TPI) pension. For the remaining 9 items, the increases proposed in the Bill will range from 45c, to $2.95, and the new rates from $2.25, to $14.70. Almost 2,100 receive an addition under the last 9 items of the schedule.
Allowances authorised by Regulations
I should also like to point out to honourable members that, in addition to the increases I have just outlined, there are further increases proposed which will be authorised by regulations under the principal Act, as amended by this Bill. With your permission, Mr Speaker, I shall briefly outline the proposed increases. The domestic allowance, which is payable to approximately 97 per cent of war widows, either because they have children, including student children, or because they are at least 50 years of age or are permanently unemployable, will be increased by $1 to $9.50. Clothing allowance, which is payable at one of three levels depending upon the degree to which the pensioner’s war-related disability causes excessive wear and .oar to his clothing, will be increased by 20c, 15c and 12ic respectively. The new rates will be $1.05, 70c and 55c.
Recreation transport allowances will be increased by $3.50 at the lower rate and by $7 at the higher rate to $16 and $32 a month respectively. Where a gift car has been issued, the allowance towards the car’s upkeep, payable in lieu of recreation transport allowance, will be increased by S84 to $384 a year. Soldiers’ children education scheme allowances for other than tertiary students will be increased by various amounts ranging from 65c to $3.35 and the new weekly rates will range from $3.25 to $16.65. The allowances for tertiary students are adjusted in line with movements in the rates of living allowances paid under the university or advanced educa tion scholarship schemes administered by my colleague, the Minister for Education.
Cost of increased pensions and allowances
The cost of increases I have referred to, and which are authorised by this Bill, together with the increases to be implemented by regulations, is estimated to be $16. 167m for the remainder of this financial year and $21. 540m in a full year.
The Bill will authorise the making of regulations to permit the provision of medical and hospital treatment for additional categories of people.
All ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War will be eligible to receive free medical and hospital treatment for all disabilities, irrespective of whether they are warcaused. The majority of these ex-servicemen saw service under unusually severe conditions for long periods, and the Government recognises that the added security this measures will give these men in the later years of their lives is well deserved. The full range of repatriation treatment facilities, including general practitioner services, out-patient and in-patient treatment, specialist services and the supply of artificial aids and appliances will be provided free of charge. Additionally, nursing home care will be provided where necessary, subject to a patient contribution of $17.85 a week. About 29,000 veterans could be eligible at an estimated maximum cost of $7.13m this year and $9.51m for a full year.
The Government proposes to provide free medical and hospital treatment for malignant cancer suffered by ex-service men and women who served in a theatre of wai. The full range of repatriation benefits will, of course, continue to be made available in cases where the incapacity is determined to be related to war service. It is difficult to estimate the cost of instituting this proposal; but, on the best available evidence, it is thought that about 5,700 persons could benefit at a cost this year of $2.25m and $3m in a full year.
The loss of a limb is an event which is a catastrophe in anyone’s life. Such an event can result from the increasing number of industrial and road accidents arising in today’s developed society or from diseases more common to the older age group. The Government proposes that artificial limbs will be provided, free of charge, to all persons in the community who need them, whether ex-service personnel or civilians.
Supply, at least in the early stages, will be subject to certain priorities, generally based on need and medical advice. The Repatriation Commission will supply artificial limbs either direct from the Repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres or through commercial limbmakers. In addition to supplying initial artificial limbs to new amputees, the Government proposes that replacement limbs will be supplied to existing amputees, estimated to number 13,000.
The estimated cost of providing the additional limbs this year is $0.6 15m and $0.9m in a full year. In addition, an estimated $0.5m is expected to be spent on provision of additional buildings and equipment over the next 2 years.
Disregarding War Pension as Income for Means Test Purposes
As a step towards implementing the Government’s undertaking to disregard war pensions as income for means test purposes, the Bill proposes that 25 per cent of all war pension payments will be disregarded in the assessment of Service pensions. Some war pensioners whose means exclude them from receiving a Service pension, or who receive such a pension at less than the maximum rate, will benefit from this proposal. Estimates are difficult to make, but it is expected that approximately 25,000 persons could benefit at a cost of $5.6m this year and $7.47m in a full year.
The Bill provides that the means test on Service pensions will not be applied where the Service pensioners, or applicants for Service pension, have reached the age of 75 years. As with age and invalid pensioners under the Social Services Act, the Repatriation Act at present excludes the earnings of a blind pensioner from the means test.
Because it is proposed to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to make age pensions subject to income tax, the Government proposes in the Bill that a transitional benefit of $3.00 a week will be paid to any blind Service pensioner male over the age of 65 years, or over 60 years in the case of a female. This benefit will be free of tax and should ensure that those aged blind will not be disadvantaged.
Proposed amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act will also provide a rebate of tax for non-blind age and Service pensioners totally or mainly dependent upon their pension.
The cost of the first stage of abolishing the means test on Service pensioners and providing the transitional benefit for Service pensioners will be of the order of $8.8m this year and $ 11.7m in a full year.
Repatriation Benefits for Regular Servicemen and Women 1 come now to provisions in the Bill which are of a non-budgetary nature.
Perhaps the most important of these matters is that, for the first time, Repatriation benefits will be extended to servicemen and women in the peace-time Services.
In many respects the regular servicemen’s range of activities, location and .potential exposure to personal injury are far less predictable than in the case of a civilian.
Recognising these factors, the Government proposes in the Bill to extend to regular servicemen and women Repatriation benefits in respect of disabilities arising out of or aggravated by their defence service on or after 7 December 1972.
Persons who will be eligible are those members of the forces on continuous full-time service on or after 7 December 1972 who, whether before or after that date, have completed 3 years effective full-time service. Persons who were engaged or appointed for a period of full-time service of not less than 3 years but who, on or after 7 December 1972, died or were discharged on medical grounds for reasons attributable to their defence service before the completion of 3 years service will also qualify, unless their discharge occurred before the completion of 12 months effective service and resulted from a preexisting condition which was not aggravated by service. National servicemen serving immediately before 7 December 1972 who complete the period of service for which they were engaged to serve or who die or are discharged on medical grounds as a result of their service prior to the completion of that period of service are also eligible under the provisions of the Bill.
At the risk of repetition but so that this aspect is abundantly clear, I emphasise that only incapacity or death arising from service on or after 7 December 1972 will attract repatriation benefits. It must be remembered that regular servicemen and women are already provided for under the Compensation (Government Employees) Act, which I will hereafter refer to as the Compensation Act, and they will retain that cover even though the Bill extends to them eligibility under repatriation legislation.
The dual eligibility concept avoids the many complications which would arise if servicemen and servicewomen were forced to make rigid choices of cover under only one of the two Acts. However, the Bill includes provisions under which benefits received under the Compensation Act are to be set off against entitle.ments under the Repatriation Act. Thus, while dual eligibility under the two Acts is proposed, double compensation is avoided. For example, a serviceman or servicewomen disabled because of defence service may claim under both the Compensation Act and the Repatriation Act, but any pension payable under the latter Act will be reduced by the extent of any payments under the former. In any case where payments under the Compensation Act exceed entitlement under the Repatriation Act, no pension will be payable under the latter Act.
Similarly, repatriation payments will be reduced by the extent of any payments received by way of damages in respect of the same incapacity or death. In view of the widespread entitlement under third party and other forms of insurances against common law liability, the Bill recognises the possibility that a claimant may hold a right to common law damages and provides that damages received in any resultant action should be offset against repatriation pension payments. This is not a new concept. An example of its adoption is already in the Compensation Act, which makes similar provision where an employee has a right to damages additional to his compensation entitlement.
As a logical extension of this concept, the Bill provides that a claimant who may have entitlement to damages from another party may be required to pursue his case to a court of law. The Bill also provides that a right of action may be taken over from a claimant and pursued either to settlement or judgment. Payments already made by way of pension may be recovered from any damages obtained. The existing repatriation determining authorities will decide claims and determine appeals from members of the defence force using the same criteria, procedures, etc., including the benefit of doubt and onus of proof provisions, as now apply to ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen generally.
Within this context, the repatriation benefits being made available under this Bill to regular servicemen and women are broadly those available” to 1939-45 members of the forces who did not serve on active service. Specifically, where incapacity or death arises out of or is attributable to service in the defence force, or the condition leading to that incapacity or death is contributed to or aggravated by such service, the existing range of war pensions, allowances, and treatment will be available to the member, his wife and children. Other repatriation benefits will also be available, including benefits to eligible children under the Soldiers Children Education Scheme.
The second non-Budgetary item in the Bill will authorise determining authorities appointed under the Repatriation Act to record and advise claimants of the reasons that led them to make the particular decisions. The Government takes the view that it is unreasonable to expect a person to prosecute a claim through an entire determination and appeal structure without at any stage giving him a reason for a decision. Armed with the reason for an adverse decision, a claimant would be in a better position to decide whether to accept that decision or to proceed with an appeal.
The Bill also contains provisions to protect members of determining authorities, witnesses and others from proceedings, either civil or criminal, in respect of the determination made by the authority or in respect of evidence presented or provided to that authority. So that claimants and appellants are not inconvenienced by delays in the determining process, it is proposed to introduce the giving of reasons for decisions gradually, having regard to the additional work-load involved. The Bill therefore provides that regulations may prescribe which determining authorities will be required to give reasons for decisions and, also, the provisions in the Act on which they will be required to give reasons. This phasing-in will provide the authorities with time to adjust to the new requirements and will also allow for assessment of the extent of administrative and other changes required in the light of experience. Honourable members may be assured that the whole system will be carefully monitored, so that delays will be avoided. If necessary, additional determining authorities will be constituted.
The remaining matter to be dealt with in the Bill, Mr Speaker, is to give legislative authority to make regulations to allow the Repatriation Commission to make its hospital beds available free of cost for non-repatriation patients if capacity is available. The same authority will provide for the supply of artificial limbs to all in the community who need them. But I emphasise that these facilities will be made available only after the needs of entitled repatriation patients have been satisfied. After entitled patients, priority will be given to ex-servicemen and women if, while in hospital for a war-related disability, it is considered medically desirable that they receive treatment for a non-accepted condition. Any remaining capacity could be made available to non-repatriation patients such as those attending the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres who require treatment associated with the amputation or, for that matter, for the actual amputation. Other patients could be admitted where it is considered specialised treatment can best be provided in repatriation hospitals or patients whose cases are of special interest for teaching purposes, and who are being treated privately by specialist repatriation consultants. It may also be possible to admit suitable patients who live in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. Treatment of nonentitled patients would not be automatic but would depend upon the circumstances that exist at the time at each particular hospital and would be subject, where necessary, to agreement with the various State health authorities. (Extension of time granted.)
Generally the Bill provides that increased rates of payment will be effected from the first pension pay day after Royal Assent is given to the Bill and that other provisions will apply from the date of assent. However, entitled members of tht Regular Defence Force will be eligible for benefits with effect from 7 December 1972. Mr Speaker, this Bill encompasses a wide field of repatriation activities and in order to assist honourable members in their consideration of it, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) has prepared explanatory notes for each clause of the Bill. A copy of these notes will be made available to all honourable members. It is my pleasure, Mr Speaker, to commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make the changes necessary in what will become the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act - in lieu of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act - to complement the new provisions to be included in the repatriation legislation that will put into effect the Government’s decision to extend repatriation benefits to members of the Defence Force in respect of disabilities related to defence service on and after 7 December 1972. The members of the defence force who will benefit from the extension of repatriation benefits to peace time service were described in general terms by my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the course of his second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973. Technically speaking, they are members of the forces within the meaning of the proposed new division 10 to be inserted in part 111 of the Repatriation Act, and the dependants of such members. Honourable members will recall that complete details of the new benefits to be provided by this Government for members of the forces and the necessary requirements to be fulfilled for eligibility were given by my colleague when he was introducing the Defence (Re-Establishment) Bill on 22 May 1973.
The Deputy Prime Minister has explained that while there will be dual eligibility under the compensation and repatriation legislation, double compensation will not be payable. To provide for this dual eligibility it is necessary to amend sections 7 and 98 of the Compensation Act. The former provides that the Compensation Act does not apply in relation to service of a member of the defence force in respect of which provision for the payment of a pension is made by the repatriation legislation. Section 98 of the Compensation Act provides that where an employee, or a dependant in the case of his death, is entitled to repatriation benefits, other than a service pension or funeral benefit, compensation is not payable under the Compensation Act. The amendments provided for by clauses 3 and 5 of this Bill will remove the foregoing restriction in relation to members of the forces within the proposed division 10 in part 111 of the Repatriation Act. At the same time, because specific provision is to be made in the Repatriation Act, in relation to pensions payable under division 10 of part 111 of that Act, to take into account a payment under the Compensation Act, it is necessary to provide in the latter Act that such pensions be exempted from the operation of section 52 which allows other payments made by the employer to be taken into account in the determination of what weekly compensation is payable. The necessary amendment to section 52 for this purpose is provided for in clause 4 of the Bill.
Honourable members will appreciate that if a person wishes to rely solely on repatriation benefits for his disability, he may achieve this simply by claiming under the Repatriation Act and not under the Compensation Act. On the other hand, having submitted claims under both Acts and qualified for benefits under both Acts, a person may decide that it would be in his best interests to take a repatriation benefit rather than a compensation payment. The Bill will therefore allow a person who has qualified for a benefit under the Compensation Act and also for a similar benefit under the Repatriation Act to request that an amount of compensation not be paid so that he may receive the repatriation benefit in full. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the necessary amendment to this effect.
The Compensation Act at present requires that the compensation paid or payable under that Act be recovered from, or offset against, damages recovered by an employee or the dependants of a deceased employee. The provisions of the proposed new Division 10 of Part III of the Repatriation Act will require an offset against repatriation pensions of damages recovered by a member, or his dependants, in the case of his death. So that damages recovered will not be taken into account twice, it is necessary to provide that damages taken into account in the assessment of a repatriation benefit will not be taken into account to reduce the compensation otherwise payable under the Compensation Act. Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of this Bill will provide the necessary safeguards in this respect.
I come now to the new recovery provision proposed to be inserted by clause 10 of the Bill. My colleague mentioned during his speech on the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973 that claims may be made under both the Compensation Act and the Repatriation Act but any pension payable under the latter Act will be reduced by the extent of any payments under the former. He also explained that where payments under the Compensation Act exceed the entitlement under the Repatriation Act no pension will be payable under the latter Act. The retrospective grant of compensation after payment of a repatriation pension had been commenced could result in there being an overpayment of the repatriation pension and also the cessation of such a pension, thus preventing recovery of the pension overpayment by the Repatriation Commission. To meet this situation provision is being included in this Bill to enable recovery of an overpayment of a repatriation pension from compensation payable. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill relates closely to the Repatriation Bill. It is to give effect, so far as seamen are concerned, to the Budget decisions that provide for increases in war pensions and allowances, and also will require authorities determining claims for benefits under the Act to give reasons for their decisions. Under the Bill the existing general rate pension is increased from $16 to $19 a week and the war widow’s pension is increased from $21.50 to $23 a week. The ‘intermediate’ rate of war pension is being increased by $2.25 a week to $38.80 a week. This is the rate paid to seriously disabled persons whose war-caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a part-time basis or intermittently.
The Bill also increases the pension rates in respect of the children of deceased seamen coming under the Act. The weekly rate for each child is increased from $7.35 to $9.25 a week. Where the mother is deceased also, the rate goes up from $14.70 to $18.50 a week. The Second Schedule to the Act prescribes allowances where attendants are needed by specially-handicapped seaman pensioners. The weekly rate of $10.50 is increased to $13 and the rate of $17.50, payable where both arms have been lost, is increased to $22.
In line with action being taken in the Repatriation Bill, the opportunity is being taken in this Bill to remove the remaining instances of differential general pension rates based on the rank or rating the seaman held in the Merchant Navy. This Government sees no justification for different payments being made for similar circumstances. The highest of the rates will now apply, regardless of rank or rating. The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $4.50 a week in the special totally and permanently incapacitated rate, which brings it to $55.60, or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the serious disabilities set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, as the increases in rates under that Act will apply automatically to seamen pensioners by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated in his Budget Speech, the increases now being made to various war pensions will be repeated during the autumn sittings. These are mainly the special, intermediate and general rate pensions and the war widow’s pension. The special compensation allowance introduced by the previous Government in 1968 is regarded as an anomaly in the pension structure and will be removed in 2 stages. It is payable to seaman general rate pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range. The allowance is being halved under this Bill, but the loss will be offset by the increase in the amount of general rate pension that will be payable.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the Bill will require authorities determining claims for benefits under the Act to give reasons for their decisions. This is in line with an amendment being made by the Repatriation Bill. Under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act the authorities concerned are the Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committee for each State and the Repatriation Commission. Those authorities will be required to set out the grounds upon which each decision is reached. That statement will become part of the claimant’s official record and he will be supplied with a copy.
Increases in the widow’s domestic allowance and the clothing allowance will be made by regulation. The Bill does not appropriate the funds required to cover the increased benefits, as they are included in the appropriation under the Repatriation Bill. The increases in pensions and allowances will be payable on the first pension pay-day after the date on which the Act receives the royal assent. Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give effect to the Budget proposal to increase the rate of pay-roll tax in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The present rate of 21 per cent will be increased to 3) per cent from 1 September 1973 and to 4i per cent from 1 July 1974. Since the transfer of the tax to the States in September 1971, pay-roll tax has been payable in respect of salaries and wages related to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory under legislation applying only in the Territories. The rate of 2i per cent at which the tax was levied before 1 September 1971 has continued to apply in the Territories although each of the States imposed tax at the rate of 3i per cent from that date.
Following the Premiers Conference last June the Premiers foreshadowed an increase to 4i per cent in the rate of pay-roll tax in the States. Legislation to bring the rate up to that level as from 1 September 1973 has already been introduced in some State parliaments. There is no good reason why territory employers should not be called upon to meet taxes and charges comparable with those borne by employers in the States. Accordingly this Bill will, in 2 steps, bring the territory rate into line with the rate applying in the States. The immediate increase to 3i per cent will apply to wages payable on and after 1 September 1973 and included in payroll tax returns due for lodgment on 7 October 1973. I just add that I have also circulated an explanatory memorandum. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on morion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. In introducing this Bill I remind all honourable members that it is completely identical in all respects with the measure which was introduced by me in this chamber on 10 May 1973 and which was carried in this House by vote on decision without amendment on 17 May 1973. It was introduced into the Senate on 22 May 1973 and its consideration was there adjourned, by vote on division of the Senate, until after the first day of sitting of the Senate after 1 August 1973. As an interval of over 3 months has new elapsed, during which the Senate has failed to pass this measure under the terms of section 57 of the Constitution, the Bill is being introduced so that it may be again passed by this House without amendment, and returned to the Senate for its further consideration.
The objective of the Bill, as announced by His Excellency the Governor-General in his Speech at the opening of the Twenty-eighth Parliament is to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of the sea bed, off the coast of Australia and its territories, from low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf. The Bill, in addition, provides the legislative framework to govern the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources, other than petroleum, of these submerged lands. By the reintroduction of the Bill, the Government demonstrates its determination to adhere to its policies, as announced before the last election, and to which the Australian people gave their stamp of approval on 2 December last. I do not propose to explain further the provisions of the Bill, as these have been fully covered in my second reading speech delivered in this House on .10 May last. The current stalemate over this Bill has resulted in a truly Gilbertian situation, in which members of the former Government have frustrated and delayed the passage of legislation which virtually in all respects repeats their own proposals of 1970.
The announced support of the Liberal Party Conference for Parts I and II of the Bill is not acceptable to the Government. It is merely a repetition of the tactics used in 1970 when the Bill as introduced, without a mining code, would have been merely declaratory without imposing obligations or providing for their enforcement. The States and other bodies, interested in the preservation of the present stalemate would merely stifle a metaphorical yawn and” state how interesting the academic situation was, and continue unimpeded their present conduct. Honourable members of all parties will recall that the Government when in Opposition gave full support to the Territorial Seas and Continental Shelf Bill introduced by the former Government in 1970. Despite that support the former Government, after debating the measure, deliberately moved and secured an adjournment of the debate. It lacked the courage and foresight to pass this vital legislation. The Government’s views on the matter can hardly be better expressed than by the speech of the former Minister for National Development who, when introducing the Territorial Seas and Continental Shelf Bill in April 1970, on behalf of the Acting Minister for External Affairs said:
The Government’s view is that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable.
If the Opposition had the courage of its convictions it would support this legislation instead of conniving with certain of the States to frustrate the Government’s wishes in this most important matter. Passage of the Bill will open the way for any doubts or issues to be challenged. This is precisely the Government’s intention, as stated by me in my second reading speech on 10 May last, when I said:
If there are parties - individuals or governments - who would dispute our right to take the course I now propose, let them challenge this legislation in the Australian courts.
I repeat the invitation and the challenge. With the advances of marine exploration technology, there have been amazingly rapid developments in the capacity to search and exploit offshore resources to depths which were considered impossible, in the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf. Already there is a drilling vessel off our coast, capable of operating in water to a depth of over 1,500 feet. Major exploration interests are already preparing to drill in depths of 4,000 to 6,000 feet. The Australian Government negotiates and ratifies treaties with adjoining national states. It is responsible for the bathymetric survey of the continental shelf. It has the undoubted responsibility for the defence of the superjacent waters, the control of navigation and the apprehension of smugglers and wrongdoers in these waters.
The conspiracy, based on petty parochialism to frustrate consideration by the highest tribunal of our land of these matters is the measure of the backwardness and the foolishness of our little Australians. The present situation is an intolerable one, where certain sovereign States claim the right to prevent Australia’s own High Court from adjudicating in Australia on an issue of sovereignty which is the sole concern of the Australian people and their nation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, which is consequential upon the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 (No. 2), was also introduced into the House on 10 May and passed on 17 May and has since been frustrated in another place. I now introduce the Bill again and commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the House amends the Excise Tariff 1921-1972, as amended by the Excise Tariff 1973 and by the Excise Tariff (No. 2) 1973, in accordance with Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 which I tabled on 21 August last. The changes which operate on and after eight o’clock in the evening on 21 August 1973 give effect to the Government’s Budget measures which increased the excise duties on potable spirits, manufactured tobacco products and refined petroleum products. A summary of the changes is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for increases in customs tariff rates and is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill I have just introduced. The Bill is necessary to give effect to the Government’s budget in relation to spirituous beverages, tobacco products and certain refined retroleum products. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30 August (vide page 718), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Snedden had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House expresses disapproval of the Budget because it is economically irresponsible in that:
with inflationary pressures intense it fails to adopt any policy to bring inflation under control;
with resources already under strain it applies wrong economic principles by overloading resources further by expansionary public sector spending;
it permits the tax burden to accelerate to an unprecedented level;
it is a further step in the attack on the Federal system of government by Labor which aims to centralise all decisions in Canberra;
it jeopardises the future growth of living standards and economic development of the nation;
it unfairly discriminates against the rural community and discourages decentralisation;
it does not provide a framework of social equity, and
it fails to honour election promises’.
– Honourable members will recall that, due to the time limit imposed by the House, this debate was interrupted on the last day of sitting. I have only a few minutes in which to conclude my remarks. When the debate was interrupted I was enjoying the praise of my Government in connection with the first Labor Budget in 23 years.
– It will be the last, too.
– The Opposition has given a false impression of the Budget. Members opposite believe in misleading the people but they will not get away with it.
– Order! I invite the honourable member to address his remarks to the chair.
– I will do that, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Budget is one of the most progressive Budgets brought down in this Parliament since Federation. It is a great credit to the Treasurer (Mr Crean). He has given consideration to those sections of society that have been deprived and overlooked for so long by the Tory-Country Party coalition. An increase in the handicapped child benefit, which my Government is doubling to $3 per day, was long overdue. Other benefits which this Government has proposed include an increase in the orphan allowance to $10 a day; the upgrading of home nursing care, education, dental health and housing; hearing aids for the poor; curbing privileges to ‘Pitt Street’ farmers; upgrading the conditions of the armed Services, provision for hospitalisation and a national health scheme for which the nation has been screaming for the best part of half a century. By its contribution to the anti-smoking campaign the Government has made a sincere effort to discourage smoking in our community. Is it any wonder that this Budget has been praised as one of the most humane budgets that has been introduced in this Parliament?
I sometimes wonder whether the Treasurer had read or heard of the remarks of an
American who years ago, said: ‘I hear the wailing call of millions’. Millions of people in Australia will benefit as a result of the Labor Government’s progressive Budget. I believe that its practical approach to immigration, by curbing the number of immigrants to Australia to 110,000, was long overdue and should have been adopted by the previous Government. Facts disclose that in 1968, 23,814 migrants permanently left Australia. In 1969, 24,739 migrants returned to their homelands, leaving our country permanently. In 1970, 26,756 people permanently left Australia, in 1971, 29,449 and in 1972, 33,172. These were obviously people dissatisfied with the administration of this country by the LiberalCountry Party Government. The Labor Government has taken a practical approach by curbing the number of migrants coming to Australia and by assisting those who are seeking assisted passages. These are the sorts of things on which the previous Government let the people of this nation down. How true are the remarks made by the Treasurer in the Budget Speech, when he said:
In Australia we are much better at selling cars than providing decent public transport; much better at building houses than providing sewerage services. . . .
I assure honourable members that the people of my electorate of Hunter are happy to know that the Government has earmarked $30m to overcome the backlog of sewerage services throughout the country. Sewerage is very important to a modern country such as Australia which enjoys, or is supposed to enjoy, high standards of living. These matters were overlooked by the previous Government.
Members of the Country Party have complained about injustice to farmers, but the farmers do not agree with them. I have many friends in rural areas and they say: ‘We have been existing on handouts for too long. We are able to stand on our own feet.’ It has hurt the dignity of decent farmers to be continually subsidised. The farmers do not want the subsidies that have been handed out to them by the previous administration because of the pressure applied by members of the Country Party. The man on the land has dignity and pride and he does not want to be propped up any longer. He welcomes the action of the Labor Government in withdrawing some of the unnecessary subsidies so that he can now live in dignity and say: ‘We have the capabilities to earn our own living and we are not imposing on the people in metropolitan areas any longer. We are not bludgers. We graziers are capable of existing without the handouts that the previous Government has been giving us.’
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry to follow the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and deprive him of the opportunity of extolling the virtues of the country people who have just had their guts kicked out by this Government. However, I want to make one or two comments about the Budget which has recently been presented by the Treasurer (Mr Crean). After the election last year there was a general air of expectation in the country. People were still a little taken aback with their daring in flirting with a Labor government after so many years. They were trembling with anticipation to see what this great Government would do. The euphoria rapidly evaporated. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his team quickly went to work to insult our traditional overseas allies and trading partners.
On the domestic front it soon became apparent that the Labor Government was committed to advance the policies of the trade union movement at the expense of the community at large. It has advocated a 35-hour working week and has encouraged enormous wage rises. It supported the national wage case claim of an 11 per cent increase, irrespective of productivity. The claim that was made before the election that there would be fewer industrial stoppages under a Labor Government has been proved by events to have been completely unfounded. In fact a new element of violence has emerged in union affairs - coincidentally, I suppose, with the introduction in this House of a Bill to remove penal clauses from the arbitration legislation and to exempt unionists from any form of legal punishment for civil wrongs. The Government has demonstrated over and over again this year that it has neither the power nor the will to restrain its union cronies. The policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister last December gave the impression that the millennium would arrive the moment the Labor Government took office. The Prime Minister posed as some sort of New Guinea cargo cult leader. On Budget night the Prime Minister was exposed for the fake he was. The cargo did not arrive.
I do not want to say anthing about the economic consequences in the larger arena. I leave that to those who have more expertise in economic matters. But I want to make one or two plain comments on the Treasurer’s proposals. He has said that the over-riding theme of the Budget is one of reform. Let us have a look at some of the reforms that he offers to us. First of all the Government has accepted an annual inflation rate of about 10 per cent. The figures that are coming in at the present time would lead one to suggest that the inflation rate will exceed 10 per cent before Christmas. Nevertheless, that is an innovation because never before has the Government accepted a situation where inflation will run riot, and accepted it at 10 per cent, which has previously been held to be a most unacceptable rate at which the purchasing power of the dollar should decline. I remind the House that $1 in the pocket last December is worth something less than 90c today, and if this wretched Government runs it full distance $1 before it came in will be worth something less than 50c. That is certainly an innovation and a reform of which the Treasurer can be truly proud.
Let me mention his reforms on pensions. I believe the $1.50 increase in pensions which has been granted by the Budget and which has been introduced in Bills today is a creditable performance. However in view of the Government’s own activities in accelerating prices rises in. the last 9 months it does not go anywhere near keeping pa.ce with the rise in prices. Some statistics were introduced by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) this afternoon when he introduced the Bill to increase pension rates. All I want to say about that is to refer to the comment of an American statesman who said: There are lies, damned lies and statistics’. Statistics can be made to prove whatever one wants them to prove, but everyone on a fixed income knows that every time he goes to the supermarket to do his week’s shopping lc or 2c has been added to every item he buys, and his pension is not keeping pace with the general rise in wages. If the Government is to have any credibility at all in its promise to increase the pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings it should immediately link the pensions to average weekly earnings so that when there is an increase in average weekly earnings there will be automatic increase in pension rates otherwise the pension will fall behind in the period of rapid inflation that we are coming into at the present time.
John Citizen might have been forgiven the day after the presentation of the Budget for thinking he had come out of this particular period reasonably well. If he did not drink spirits he could say: ‘This will affect only those toffy people who drink Scotch. They have to pay an extra 3c a nip’. If he did not smoke he could say: ‘That is all right. Those people who are driving themselves into the grave with lung cancer will have to pay another Se a packet for their cigarettes, but of course that does not really affect me’. But of course he has not read the small print. When we read the small print, and as day by day more revelations are brought to us, we find that John Citizen’s pocket has been hit very hard by this Budget. We were not told that there is to be a rise in the excise on beer. That was cunningly concealed in the Coombs report, and all the Treasurer told us was that the Government would change the measurement of the kilderkin. That sounds all very nice but now we find that an extra $7m is to be raised from excise on beer. If anyone imagines that breweries can carry that sort of a sock he is either a fool or something else. Price rises have already been hinted at. In fact in his report Dr Coombs says that the change in the measurement of the beer kilderkin will result in a price rise of about lc per 10 oz glass of beer. Typical of the Labor Government since it came to office, it has not told the people the straight facts all at the one time. It hopes that by telling the people one piece of dis.asterous news today and by leaving the next piece of disastrous news for a week nobody will ever put all the disasters together and realise how terrible this Government really is.
John Citizen might have thought: ‘That is all very well. I am still on the up and up. I have an increase in wages and all is well’. Then he comes to the Se a gallon increase in his petrol. That does not matter to the businessman because the businessman will pass it on, but it matters to John Citizen. The man who has to drive his motor car to work will find his petrol bill going up each week. It might go up by $1 a week depending on how far he has to travel in his motor car. If he wants to take his family for an outing on the weekend it will cost him more because of the increase in petrol tax. If he has to leave his car at home for his wife it will cost him more on the bus and more on the train. Every time his wife buys the food she will find that prices have gone up on all those items that are delivered by motor transport. If he happens to be one of those thousands and thousands of people who are waiting to have a telephone connected the Treasurer has more good news for him. When he eventually gets connected in several months time he will have to pay another $10 for the privilege of having the telephone connected. If he reads the fine print in the Budget he will also find that if he has a holiday home or a weekender somewhere the rates on that property will not be deductible from his taxable income next year. This is another one of the small print parts of the Budget.
So it is not only what appears on the surface but also what comes later that is important to the pocket of the ordinary citizen of Australia. I think it. is disgraceful for the Treasurer to make a Budget Speech that gives only half the truth and half the facts. He mentioned also that there will be some restraint on private building. He did not say what it will be but we can make a pretty good conjecture at the present time because a few days after the Budget Speech he said in answer to a question in the House that he was proposing to introduce legislation which would place restrictions on all forms of non-banking credit. Building societies will be among the organisations he seeks to control. So if a person does not qualify under the means test for a housing commission home his prospect of getting a home in the near future looks bleak. We were blistered again this week by an increase in interest charges. Once again the Government adopted the approach of announcing a little bit at a time. We are told that interest rates will go up but the Prime Minister does not have the intestinal fortitude to tell us by what amount they will go up. I suppose that will wait for next week until we get over the shock of being told that interest rates will go up.
– On Sunday afternoon.
– Yes. I am told that possibly we will be informed on Sunday afternoon when nobody is around and when the Prime Minister hopes everybody is away at the beach. We have not only the tax slugs provided for in the Budget but also the blueprint for better things to come - wonderful reforms that the Treasurer has in store for us next year. He foreshadowed a few of them in his speech. One was a national health insurance scheme. This is the marvellous creature that the honourable member for Hunter said the people of
Australia were waiting for. In this Budget, $8m has been allocated for a computer so that we can all have our medical histories and details of our private lives fed into it. If this computer is to run the health system, heaven help the patients, because recently the computers in the Department of Social Security broke down and thousands of pensioners did not receive their cheques, files were lost and computer print-outs told people that their pensions had been reduced or stopped. That is the sort of thing that is happening at the present time in the Department of Social Security. One can imagine what it will be like when this computer for the national health program gets under way.
Next year there will be another levy on our taxable income to finance the Government’s grandiose national health scheme. It will be a 1.35 per cent levy on all taxable incomes, including those of wives if they happen to go to work.
– That will not cover it.
– No, that will not cover it at all. There will have to be an increased amount coming out of Consolidated Revenue which, of course, comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket. There will also be an increased amount coming out of motor vehicle insurance funds, and that means that motor vehicle insurance premiums will rise as well in order to finance indirectly this magnificent scheme.
– Things look grim, don’t they?
– They certainly look terrible. Quite a number of people to whom I have spoken have been looking for places to which to migrate. This is quite a serious suggestion. Not only do we have these clear indications of what is to come but we also have a blueprint in the Coombs report which the Treasurer tabled with the Budget Papers. The report recommends cunning and sneaky ways of introducing extra taxation to make it look not like taxation at all. But eventually it comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket. If one has a report such as that tabled with the Budget Papers, if one finds that all the sneaky methods of increasing taxation which the Treasurer used this year are taken directly from the Coombs report and if no comment is made by the Treasurer as to whether the Government proposes to use the other items in the Coombs report, one must be left with the impression that the Government proposes to use some more of the Coombs report delights next year when it is short of cash. I can assure you, Mr
Deputy Speaker, that in view of the way this Government is spending money it definitely will be short of cash before next year.
Let me look briefly at one or two of the delightful suggestions that appear in the Coombs report. Firstly, there is the question of life assurance deductions. It is suggested that these be abolished. Of course, this will be a tremendous slug for the middle income group - the people to whom before the election the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was so concerned about giving tax relief. That concern seems to have evaporated with the summer dew. It is also suggested that the Government tax child endowment. It is running at 50c a week - it was not increased this year by the Treasurer - and the Government is going to tax it. It must give the Treasurer tremendous comfort to know that he will have the possibility of introducing that reform next year!
One of the most interesting proposals in the Coombs report is to reduce the minimum taxable income. Only recently the LiberalCountry Party Government lifted the minimum taxable income to $1,041. The Coombs report suggests to the Government that if it reduces the minimum taxable income to $417 it can pick up another >$10m. What a marvellous reform! The Government will be able to pick up another 600,000 taxpayers, according to Dr Coombs. Those people comprise working wives, university students who work during the holidays and school leavers who work for only part of the year. What a marvellous way to get money out of the pockets of people and to hit at them when they earn such a pitiful amount of money in a tax year! But this is the era of reform and I suppose that the Treasurer has to scrounge around to pick up every cent he can to finance the grandiose schemes of the present Government.
I want to comment very briefly on two of the programs introduced in the Budget. The first is the education program. This was introduced with a great fanfare by the Treasurer who told us that it represented a 92 per cent increase on the education budget last year. That is all very well, but if one looks at the fine print once again one sees that it is simply a sleight of hand or book-keeping juggling. More than half of that increase has been taken directly out of the States’ allocations for universities^ - a responsibility which this Government has now taken over. Most of the educational expenditure is for programs to which the former Liberal Government had been committed before the election period. So the increase in educational expenditure would be a natural follow-on from that. The only novelty is the classification of independent schools and the distribution of money on a needs concept. If this concept does not get the Government into a tremendous stew and a tremendous pickle before the end of the year, I do not know what will. One can see from the classifications of independent schools that the formula used by the Karmel Committee is hopeless. It takes no regard of the facilities of a school or what is required to give children at that school a decent education. When this is applied to Government schools as well - we are told that it will be - one can imagine the chaos and the mess that the Government will get itself into.
The other matter I want to mention briefly is urban programs. We were told that this was an historic move. It may be historic, but if one looks at the figures from a Queensland’s point of view, as I am bound to do as a representative of that State, one finds that something like 72 per cent of the money allocated in the Budget by this Government for urban programs has been allocated basically to Sydney and Melbourne. If the Treasurer thinks that this Budget has increased the popularity of his Government he should stop reading Mickey Mouse comics, come back from Fantasyland and get down to reality.
– I have quite an affection for the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), but I do not think he did any better job today than he did recently in Brisbane at a meeting which he attended. Today’s ‘Courier-Mail’ reports as follows:
Question time was a tame affair with the main dissenting voice that of former State Liberal MLA, Mr Ray Smith.
He said he had been disappointed that the 3 Liberals had spent so much time discussing aspects of Federal Labor policies, particularly the national health scheme.
If they were discussing that matter, they should have been giving it a little more advocacy. The article continues:
He said he believed the men should have talked more about local issues.
It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Petrie has not realised the import of this Budget.
I compliment the Treasurer (Mr Crean) because this Budget, together with the recently announced monetary and fiscal measures, will bring about a very necessary transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector. I say that it is a very necessary transfer because the public sector in this country was neglected for 23 years. The private sector was allowed to run on virtually unchecked. All the checks were placed on the public sector. The result was that we had the very serious local problems about which the former State Liberal member of parliament spoke. For example, the amendment moved by the Opposition suggests that public sector spending is inflationary but private sector spending is not. In each case further expenditure is involved. If we are to spend more in one sector because it is absolutely essential in order to meet community needs, obviously we have to spend less in the other sector. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who used to be a Treasurer of this country, should know this.
It is very important that far greater emphasis be given today to the public sector to meet the need for schools, hospitals, local government works, roads and sewerage. Attention should be given to the fact that there are extreme shortages in the building industry and that far too much emphasis is given to commercial building. In a suburb in my own electorate, let alone in the city of Sydney, all space in commercial buildings which went up 3 years ago still has not been let. I know of another building of which one floor has been completed. Less than one-third of it is filled, yet the owner is going ahead with the construction of another 4 floors. This uses up men and resources in a very crucial and important industry which, when it is working correctly, shows that the economy as a whole is working correctly. It has always been said that the building industry is the yardstick of the economy as a whole and there is a great deal of truth in that statement. But when it becomes unbalanced like it is today, when all the resources are going into buildings which are not being used, a transfer of capital must be brought about.
We have spiralling land costs today brought about undoubtedly because everybody is trying to put money into land as a result of the cheap credit which is available and the easy availability of this credit for the purchase of land. I know of one family of 3 people, each member of which is between 25 and 35 years of age, each of whom paid a 10 per cent deposit on a block of land in addition to purchasing a home. If this goes on, naturally it will bring about a shortage of land and a spiralling of land costs. Nobody with any commonsense will suggest that this should be allowed to continue indefinitely. The private sector, as everyone will agree and as the business community certainly knows, has been overheated for some time. For the last 23 years there has been insufficient emphasis upon the public sector with the result that we have these extreme shortages now and are faced with the necessity for the Commonwealth Government to move in to help finance local government. This should not have been necessary, but after 23 years of neglect by the previous Federal Government this Government had to do something in this field. We have very excessive overseas reserves which today - let us be quite frank about it - are quite embarrassing because they have brought about far too much liquidity. There is far too much finance in circulation, once again overheating the economy and certainly bringing about very great problems in respect of land speculation and commercial buildings.
The Leader of the Opposition speaks about price and wage freezes, but he is not being fair dinkum because he knows as well as any other members of this Parliament that the Government has not the power to control prices. We heard of the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, crying his eyes out about inflation, but he will not take one action to control prices although he has undoubted power to initiate control over prices. We have to look at future needs. No one can say that this Government is doing nothing about inflation. It has moved in to take an active part in controlling it. I sincerely hope that when the Leader of the Opposition and honourable members behind him say that something needs to be done about inflation and that there needs to be price control, they will support the Government if it goes to the people and asks for power to control prices. I hope that the Government, supported by the Opposition, will be able to go to the people of Australia to ask for the power to control prices.
– When we were in power we did not need Federal power to control them.
– Order! The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting.
– He is provoking us.
-Order! Other speakers were heard in silence. Now that the honourable member for Griffith has entered the chamber the honourable member on his feet is not being heard in silence. I think there is a lesson to be learnt.
– He was so agitated that I found him quite incomprehensible, Mr Deputy Speaker. In this country we need many more measures if we are to have any sort of planned economy. The worker, the wage earner and business today want to know where they are going. They want to have some idea of what the future holds. This is true of every section of the community. And let us not kid ourselves, the day has gone when the business community wants a laissez-faire economy such as existed for 23 years under Liberal-Country Party governments. The day has come when the community wants to know where it is going. It wants some idea of what the future holds. If this Government were to take action along these lines - very necessary action if inflation is to be controlled and if we are to have some idea of where the economy is headed - if it said that it would Introduce legislation to control fringe and merchant banking and would introduce legislation to control capital issues, and if it were to put teeth into the restricted trade practices legislation, would Opposition members support the Government or would they once again get up with a bit of calamity howling and squeal about inflation, forgetting that inflation started 3 years ago when they were in government? That is when the growth in inflation commenced.
Honourable members opposite forget that. They squeal about inflation but when they have an opportunity to do something about it by supporting measures which will bring it under control they are the first to run out and scream as hard as they can to the public. Is the Opposition prepared to support at a referendum a reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth to control prices? Is it prepared to support legislation for the control of fringe and merchant banking to bring it under the same umbrella as the conventional banks? This is a commonsense approach. Is it prepared to support legislation to control capital issues? Is it prepared to support legislation which will put teeth into the restrictive trade practices legislation? That is the issue. Is the Opposition prepared to do anything worth while towards the management of this economy or will it adopt the completely negative approach that it is adopting today?
It is time that a Federal government agency once again entered the field of general hire purchase. It is often forgotten that under the 1949 Commonwealth Bank Act introduced by the Chifley Government the Commonwealth Government was given power to enter the field of hire purchase. In 9 months it grew to be the biggest hire purchase house in Australia, lending on new motor cars at 4 per cent flat and making a tidy profit. One of the first actions of the Menzies Government when it came to power was to introduce legislation to restrict its ability to raise fresh capital. Finally, when that did not work, the Government ordered it out of the business altogether, except in relation to farm machinery and equipment. In other words it was a bit of public competition against the private sector. Are Opposition members prepared to support it or do they want to ensure that there is no competition and to continue the present system? I believe very strongly that the Commonwealth should bring in public competition against the private sector. A little competition of that kind is good for the soul. The advocates opposite of a free enterprise economy and of competition should be the first people to support such a proposal. But the reason they do not, of course, is because of the friends from the industries they protect who finance their parties. Why do honourable members think that the hire purchase companies were given that protection, one of the first pieces of protection given by the incoming Menzies Government?
I think also that it is time that people looked at the question of doctors fees. The day will come when the people will have to be asked whether they think the Commonwealth should have power to control doctors fees. I am concerned, as are many other honourable members, because I have received a few letters recently which obviously indicate that some members of the medical profession - I do not say all members of the medical profession - deliberately, in the privacy of the surgery, are giving misleading information to their patients.
– We will just have to picket their surgeries.
– Yes. As a matter of fact I have replied to each of the letters I have received. Each letter to me states that the proposed health scheme of this Government will remove the freedom of the individual to choose his doctor.
– I agree. It is utter and complete rot and nonsense. The scheme to be introduced by this Government will provide, first of all, complete freedom for the individual to choose his or her doctor. It will also provide freedom for the doctor to decide whether he or she wishes to practise in private practice or under the health scheme in public practice. In other words, it will put a little competition into the medical profession. Once again, members of the Opposition should be the strongest advocates of the scheme - those advocates of free enterprise. It will put some competition into the matter. In each case in which I have written in reply to those letters I have given that explanation. I have asked that the people who wrote the letters should reveal who is the doctor or the person giving the misleading information. I say here and now that if I can find the names of those doctors who are giving misleading information of this type to the public, I will nominate in the House each individual doctor. I do not think that that would hurt. Also in regard to doctors fees, I believe that the time will come when the Government should publicise a registered list of doctors who charge the common fee. I believe that those doctors who charge the common fee and those who do not should be identified. I think that the public will make its own choice between them and once again put a little competition in the industry.
This Budget for the first time enters into fields which have never been touched by the Commonwealth before. For a start, it provides finance for the establishment of the Westmead Hospital in the western suburbs of Sydney. An independent report last year estimated that by 1980 there would be a bed shortage of over 2,600 in that area. For years a hospital at Westmead has been promised by the State Government. No funds have been allocated towards it. This Government has now taken the initiative and allocated $4m towards the building of that hospital. It has allocated $5m towards local government in the western suburbs of Sydney. These suburbs have been experiencing very massive growth and this has brought about grave shortages in community needs.
This is a pilot project and I hope shortly to see a task force determining the needs of the area, the priorities and the financing of them. This is the first time ever that the Commonwealth has allocated funds for local government. Also for the first time it has allocated funds for urban transport. It will mean for example that the railway line between Penrith and Parramatta will be quadrupled. There has been chaos on those lines for many years and no action whatsoever was taken by the State Liberal Government to do anything about it. The Commonwealth for the first time has entered this field. It has allocated a further $8m for child care. It has allocated $10m towards pre-school education with the object within 6 years of giving every child who requires pre-school education one year’s preschool education.
Another first by the Commonwealth is the provision of funds for the establishment of a land commission for the Commonwealth to acquire, subdivide and develop land. Surely, once again, this will give some competition to the private land developer and help to control the spiralling cost of land. For the first time the Commonwealth has given funds for medical health centres in areas which lack these facilities today. This will be of great benefit in those areas where once again the public sector has been neglected. The latchkey children can expect assistance from the funds allocated for sporting centres, etc., in schools. The centres will be for the use of the whole community. These are very important projects. This is a reallocation of resources from the private sector to the public sector which is long overdue and essential.
I congratulate the Treasurer on his Budget. I believe that together with the monetary and fiscal measures recently introduced it will bring about that very necessary reallocation of resources from the private into the public sector, and that will mean a better way of life for all Australians.
– The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) towards the end of his speech referred to the matter of the allocation of funds for a hospital in the area covered by the Paramatta byelection and to local government funds also for the western suburbs,
– I rise to order. The honourable member has just misled the House insofar as he said that I referred to an alloca tion of funds in the area of the Parramatta election. They are not for that area; they are for the western suburbs as a whole.
– If I have misled anybody I correct it by saying that it is in an area which is greatly influenced by the Parramatta byelection. I shall also refer to the allocation of local government funds in the western suburbs of Sydney. These to me are some of the cheapest political motives one could possibly bring forward. I know that the people in the Parramatta electorate will express their opinion on them on election day. I say immediately that I oppose the Bill and support the amendment for the 8 good reasons which have been laid down in the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and for other reasons also. It would be absurd, I am sure, to deny that sections of the Budget would meet with the approval of the Australian public. I point to the question of education where there has been an increase of 92 per cent in the total funds made available. I will make further comment at a later stage on the spending of those funds.
Quite a substantial change is proposed in some aspects of social services, or social security as it is known nowadays. Surely the change in name was an exercise in semantics. Given those 2 factors, in the Budget Speech several matters stand starkly outlined. ‘First of all, there is evidence of an unbelievable antipathy, amounting almost to a hatred, on the part of the Government to those people who have not been attracted by the drift to the cities and who have elected to carry on their lives work in non-metropolitan areas of the Commonwealth. As I say, this attitude amounts almost to a hate of country areas. This is the feeling that is coming through to people in nonmetropolitan areas.
The second aspect highlighted in many phases of the Budget Speech is the penalty which is inflicted by this Government on success in any form at all. We pride ourselves in this country on our independence of spirit. We pride ourselves on our ability or desire to have a go. We are quick to encourage the underdog and to see him come through and get up and triumph over whatever handicaps he has faced. As I see it, many of the provisions of this Budget react against success. It penalises those people who, by their own ability and sacrifice, have won their way to a more secure position. To me this latter tendency is a most dangerous one for the future of our nation. If I were asked to illustrate a third factor I would quickly indicate the acceleration towards centralisation in government - the erosion of State rights. The fourth aspect I would highlight is the deception, almost dishonesty, which is now apparent in respect of some of the election bait which was cast out on 2 December last.
Taking these matters out of order I will deal first with centralism. The Commonwealth Constitution lays down very clearly that the Commonwealth has 39 powers. Following the last referendum the number of powers may now total 40. The figure that I have given is substantially correct. The powers are very clearly outlined and expressed. I know that the States have power to delegate responsibilities. I am not saying that the Government has acted against the provisions of the Constitution - that is something which is challengeable at law - ‘but I do say that the Government acted very much against the spirit’ of the Constitution. The tied grants, as they have grown in this Parliament over the years and as they are being perpetuated very strongly by this Government, in fact amount to a form of duress on State governments to hand over some of their rights.
In my term in this Parliament, since 1960, I have seen at least 3 new departments set up under the previous Government. One was the Department of Education and Science which grew from the Office of Education. The others were the Department of Tourism and the Department of Housing. But the creation of these new departments was just playboy stuff compared with what has happened since 2 December. I do not know accurately the total number of departments. I did not do my homework on it. But I think it runs to about 37. A tremendous increase has occurred and a number of the new departments deal substantially with matters which are the prerogative of the States under the spirit of the Constitution. I am reminded of a speech I heard in Kings Hall when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was welcoming a New Zealand delegation to this Parliament. The Prime Minister - and this should be known by everyone - complimented New Zealand on its outstanding democratic system - one Parliament, no states; one House, no bicameral system or House of review-
– Hear, hear!
– That is right. I hope that interjection is recorded. The Prime Minister complimented New Zealand on its 2 party system with no minor parties and its first past the post voting. Let Australia, as a nation, never forget that. I acknowledged earlier the advances proposed in education. The allocation made in this field this financial year is 92 per cent greater than the amount appropriated last financial year. This nation seethes today about the injustice of some of the new provisions contained in legislation emanating from the Department of Education. It seethes with indignation at the proposed methods of distribution of funds by way of aid to independent schools. I think that the Government should note that all of the criticism does not come from those people who have been deprived. It comes from others who are ready to admit, have admitted and continue to admit, that the present arrangement is discriminatory.
I enjoyed 12 years of service as a lay representative of a synod of my church before I entered this Parliament. I mention that fact for this reason: Every year in that synod we were confronted with the tormenting problem of trying to balance the statements of receipts and expenditure and the balance sheet for the 2 schools of the diocese. The 2 schools are still functioning. The 2 schools are not in my electorate. I am not being parochial. But I mention them as examples from my experience. They are All Saints College in Bathurst and the Marsden School for Girls. I am glad to say that these schools through good management, through dedication on the part of many, including the school council, the staff and those supporting them, through sacrificial giving and by the grace of God have lived through the times that they have been called on to survive. The schools have lived through a tremendous rural recession in the course of which it was quite common for children to be taken from their school and to remain at home. If it had not been for the fact that more city children than usual were attracted to these country schools and for the many instances of the influx of Asian students to these schools, the schools would have gone to the wall before now.
I remember the election promise of the Australian Labor Party that there would be no reduction in the aid to independent schools. Government supporters can say that the total allocation may or may not be more than last year. But why has the Government departed from the most equitable system that we can possibly have in which we think of boys and girls intead of bricks, mortar and buildings for the per capita basis of allocation of funds. I say that this has been a deception. Once again we see the penalty for success.
The ramifications and the probable repercussions of the universal health insurance scheme are too wide to cover at the moment. I should like to touch upon them in the debate on the Estimates. However, there are one or two things I would like to say in passing. Why should the higher income groups pay more for the cure of the same illness? Here again is the penalty of success. It might not be a very big point, but why is the Government discriminating against radio and television in the banning of the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco? Why was not such advertising banned in the Press, the glossy magazines and with respect to the great sporting features including golf tournaments, football knock-out competitions, tennis tournaments and all the other gimmicks used to advertise cigarettes? Why did the Government discriminate in that manner?
I have always opened my election campaigns on the subject of defence. The defence and the feeding and clothing of people, I feel, are the first duties of any government. I have much to say on defence. I prefer to leave my comments at the moment until the estimates for the Department of Defence are considered. I should like to refer now to two other matters. It is hard to place them in order of importance. The priorities are hard to distinguish. I will refer firstly to the education of the young and the care of the aged and then pass on to economics, particularly the economics of our great export and primary industries and the hate which is seen to develop against anybody involved in those pursuits.
It was quite apparent in the Budget and also from replies given by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to questions that the belief in the mind of the Government today is that one good season for primary industry will solve all its problems. The people in the western area of my electorate have had little income for 3 years. They had great stock losses and today they have to re-stock at a time of high market prices. There is a really strong indication right through that the attitude of the Government is that all is well with primary industry. What is the situation?
There has been a change in seasonal conditions in areas which have been drought stricken for some considerable period. This Government, despite its claims and despite some of the rude jokes which are going around about walking on the water and so on, has had nothing to do with the change in the seasonal conditions. The price of meat has gone up. Again no claim could be made by this Government for a change in that field. It is due to a world shortage of protein foodstuffs. In regard to the price of wool, again no claim could be made by this Government because the price of wool started to turn when the previous Liberal-Country Party Government established, against much opposition in this House, the Australian Wool Commission. The price of wheat has risen. Again the Government can make no claim for that because it is due to a world grain shortage. At last there is a situation in which people can get a turnover in agricultural and pastoral land. Those people who were so near the bottom that they elected to get out could at least get out with some equity and some dignity.
I would like the country haters just to take notice of the total gross rural indebtedness. In June 1971 it was $2,973m. In June 1972 it had jumped to $3,293m. The figures for this year are as yet unpublished. The Treasurer in a speech to the Co-operative Federation of Australia on 25 August last said:
In the Budget Speech I indicated that a fresh, direct approach was to be taken to problems in these rural areas.
He used the words ‘fresh’ and ‘direct’. What have we got? We have a 1-year wheat stabilisation scheme, for some remarkable reason.
– We have not got any stabilisation at all now.
– That could be correct. There is a 1-year scheme instead of the normal 5-year scheme which undoubtedly would have come forward by arrangement with the Government and the industry if the LiberalCountry Party Government had been in office. The people have seen continued revaluation. There was the 7.05 per cent in December last. The Government waited for 2 months and gave us another 11.1 per cent and now there is a 5 per cent revaluation. We are faced with the phasing out of the bounty on the production of butter, cheese and processed milk products, a tax on the export of meat, the recouping from the beef industry of the cost of the eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis and today we see in the Press - it is remarkable that we get our information from the Press rather than from statements made in the House - an announcement on the abolition of export incentives for one of our major export income earners, meat. Is this a fresh, direct approach? I say it is direct but as for fresh I think there is an unpleasant aroma about it.
The Australian primary producer is acknowledged - and we make the claim here and we keep on making it because it is never denied - as the most efficient producer in the world on world standards. He cannot control all his input costs irrespective of how efficient he is. He sells on the open market. While those conditions apply he has to stand up, hold his head high and fight for bounties, price supports, subsidies, disability payments - call them what you like - and I say that they must be continued. He is not on his own in that regard. It is not just the Australian farmer who is in that situation. He joins producers in other parts of the world who are acknowledged as having particularly highly efficient producers. The United States of America has a history of assistance for its wheat industry, flour, lard, poultry, some of the cotton varieties - the longer staples I think they are - rice, tobacco, certain oil seeds, the production qf non-fat dried milk and some feed grain. Assistance is given in respect of all those things in the great country of the United States of America. In the United Kingdom there is a history of guaranteed prices and deficiency payments. The entry of Britain into the European Economic Community, of course, will rapidly change the method of assistance into reliance on minimum import prices and substantial import levies. Nevertheless it will be Government assistance.
In Canada massive assistance is given by way of subsidised freight and subsidised storage costs for feed grains. There is also crop failure assistance, quality premiums on hogs, as they call them in that country, and lambs. There are also support programs for wool and dairy production, fruit and vegetables, eggs, poultry - this is not assistance for just one industry but practically the lot - sugar beet and a number of other products. In Japan there are also special support measures in respect of rice, wheat, barley, sweet and white potatoes, sugar, soya bean, rape seed, raw silk, milk products and pork. Once again assistance is given practically right across the board. In Denmark, a country which people put forward as being such an efficient producer, there are substantial cash subsidies on milk production, fertiliser costs and other support measures on various meats, eggs, various grains, skim milk powder and so on. I have not dealt with France or other countries. That is just a selection. That is the pattern throughout the world and it is a pattern which we must continue to follow in this country and one which this Party is anxious and willing to preserve and will continue to fight for on behalf of the great people engaged in those industries.
I think there has been quite a bit of dishonesty in regard to the election promises. One promise was the abolition of the means test during the life of this Parliament. Today legislation was introduced abolishing the means test for people 75 years and over. But a means test will still apply by way of taxation on pensions. There is a means test on education. This was mentioned in the Karmel report. There is a means test on the secondary allowances scheme in the field of education. Finally this Government has come down to the low ebb of putting out its hand and placing a means test on the kids’ milk. I oppose the Bill and I support the amendment.
– I do not want to talk about the church. I do not want to talk about the things the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) wanted to talk about. I do not want to talk about those issues that have dominated conservative parties since Queen Victoria’s era. I want to ‘talk about people and urban living. This Budget has begun the long term process of restructuring the Australian economy and reforming Australian society. Unlike the Budgets of our predecessors, it is not designed for short term political gains. Rather, it begins a process which the Australian people elected us to carry out.
Last November we promised to re-create our nation. In opening the Australian Labor Party’s campaign, the Leader of our Party said:
It’s time for a new team, a new program, a new drive for equality of opportunities; it’s time to create new opportunities for Australians, time for a new vision of what we can achieve in this generation for our nation, and tide region in which we live.
We as a Government are therefore committed to change. This Budget symbolises a first step in that commitment. It begins the long term restructuring that was so clearly necessary to the majority of voters in the last election. It should be seen as a first step in this long term process. Nowhere is this process better demonstrated than in my own area of urban and regional development. Under the heading of ‘Cities’, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has announced an allocation of $136m for the next financial year. Most of the programs under this heading are historic for a national government in Australia. This is the first time they have been attempted or for which allocations have been made in a budgetary program such as this.
I do not want to try to deal with the whole range of our program in the short time available to me. Rather, I want to concentrate on our policies relating to land and land commissions. There are 3 great principles which underlie our policies on the cities: Firstly, this Government believes that the national Government must involve itself directly in cities; secondly, this Government believes that we must bring about changes in our cities which will make them more efficient; and, thirdly, this Government believes that we must bring about changes in our cities which will give more equal opportunities for people to enjoy living in them.
In Australia the pattern of urban growth has been determined largely by the accidents of history and the activities of the market-place. The development and growth of our cities has resulted in real income being transferred from the poor to the rich. In recent years, these income transfers have become massive. Only last week I read where it is claimed that Melbourne’s land boom has made 30 people millionaires in the past year. This has been achieved through no effort of their own, but simply by being in a position to exploit people’s basic need for shelter. An example could be given where this has happened in every State, particularly in the capitals of the States. The faster the population growth, the greater the fortunes amassed. This situation reminds me of a learned parliamentarian who once said:
Unearned increments in land value are not the only form of undeserved profit but they are the principle form and they are derived from processes which are positively detrimental to the general public.
And at last the land becomes ripe for sale, and that means the price becomes too tempting to be resisted any longer.
And then . . . and not until then … is it sold by the inch or by the yard at 10-50 times its true value.
This evil process strikes at every form of activity.
The more a municipality has improved the area, the more it will have to pay, for any land now required for future improvements.
And no matter where you look or what examples you select, you will see that every form of enterprise, every step in material progress, is only undertaken after the land owner has skimmed the cream off for himself.
And everywhere today the man or the public body who wishes to put the land to its highest use is forced to pay a preliminary fine to the man who is putting it to an inferior use and, in some cases, to no use at all.
And its owner is able to levy toll upon all other forms of wealth and any other form of industry.
Land which is a necessity of human existence, which is ‘the urban source of wealth, but is strictly limited in extent, and which is fixed in geographic position, differs from all other forms of property.
A land owner who happens to own a plot of land on the outskirts of a big city, watches the busy population around him making the city larger and more famous every, day and, all the while, he sits still and does nothing.
Roads are made, services are improved and water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles away.
He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.
The population of the city grows and keeps on growing.
I have heard this learned parliamentarian quoted with great respect by members on the other side of the House. The words are those of Sir Winston Churchill. I ask the honourable members opposite: Do they disagree with this point of view? I believe his remarks are just as relevant in Australia today as when he made them in Britain over 50 years ago.
For those who still question why the Government wants to be involved in urban development, the short answer is that Adam Smith died 183 years ago. The conditions for the success of the old laissez-faire doctrines have long since disappeared. Private enterprise no longer goes unchecked, nor does it go unaided. There is no going back on this. A classically competitive urban land market is inconceivable. The public sector must give leadership. It must play a leading role in determining how a metropolitan area should develop. The whole process of urban development involves location. Therefore land values and land use are key elements. The rapidly rising price of land in our capital cities is something which disturbs this Government and distresses the young people over the length and breadth of this country who are saving for a home.
There is an alternative. That alternative was on show here in Canberra - until the Gorton.McEwen Government destroyed it in 1970 and 1971. Properly managed, we believe that the method of urban development used in Canberra is the most efficient and most equitable available in this nation. This is why the Government is negotiating with each State to establish land commissions which will buy substantial tracts of land needed for urban development. Land acquired by these commissions will be made available fully serviced at a fair price. South Australia and Western Australia have already introduced legislation to create land commissions. Our policies on land form part of our urban policies. What we have to do is to change the rules of the game. Urban development needs to be planned so that it does not take place simply as the consequence of pressure by major landholders for rezoning.
One of the chief characteristics of the growth of our cities is that often the sequence of development is private initiative for profit followed by a harried and strained public investment in basic infrastructure. If the honourable member who has been interjecting wants an example of this, he should look at the Gold Coast of Queensland. In the Gold Coast, there is private affluence and public squalor. Over 84 per cent of that area is unsewered, yet private speculation still runs rife. So, there is a great need for governments to be able to co-ordinate the provision of services to developing areas. In order to get an efficient co-ordination and provision of services, governments ought to be able to identify specific areas for development.
Before these areas are publicly identified, the price of land should be stabilised. Under the freehold system the present planning system is a blueprint for speculation. This is one of the major reasons why we in the Australian Government must change the rules of the game. Land commissions and the land price stabilisation legislation which we are encouraging the States to pass are the means by which we can achieve better co-ordination and better planning. Ultimately, they are the means by which we will enable young people to enter the land market at a cheaper price. This Government does not believe that speculative profits are just.
The whole problem of land prices is one in which the States have the power to provide some of the solutions. Until now they have not chosen to do so. The Australian Government has no power to freeze land prices or even to stabilise land prices. However, the States have the power to do both. The Aus tralian Government is not asking the States to freeze land prices. The land price stabilisation legislation which we are urging the States to adopt should set out a formula for the price to be paid for land which is acquired within a designated site.
There are 2 essential components of the acquisition price. The first component is the base value’, that is, the value of the land at the date of the initial proclamation. Secondly there is a value increase factor which can be expressed as a percentage of the base value and should be tied to an index of inflation. The aim of land price stabilisation legislation therefore is to identify general areas where urban growth is being considered by a State government, apply land price stabilisation legislation for a specified period, conduct a study of the area and if the study is successful proclaim a designated site. This of course is being done in the Albury-Wodonga area and we hope that it is also being done in the Bathurst-Orange area by co-operation between the Australian Government and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria in the first instance, and co-operation between the Australian and New South Wales governments in the second instance.
In this way we hope to reduce the high level of speculation which occurs in possible future growth areas. If this can be done, the average home seeker will have a much better chance of buying a block of land at a fair price. The land commissions program and the new cities program are joint Australian and State government programs. They are programs to provide the States with funds for land acquisition which they have never had before. This is the first Budget allocation to the States for this requirement. They now have no excuse to avoid taking positive action. In addition, there is much the State governments could have done towards meeting the problem of the high price of land for housing. If the States are really serious about the problem of inflation, if they are really serious about the problem of young people trying to buy a home, these are the sorts of policies they could adopt. Not only that, they could do it within a few months.
Firstly, they should show what is happening in the land market. They can do this by simply publishing the appropriate statistics on land prices, on the rezoning of land and the subdivision of land. Secondly, they should identify to what extent the present inflation is caused by a real shortage of housing land relative to the volume of new housing commencements and to what extent the inflation is caused by excessive demand through land speculation. Thirdly, where the land price inflation is caused by a real shortage in housing land, the governments could adopt a number of measures to increase the effective supply of land. They can do this by streamlining their present machinery of planning, thereby reducing delays in the development process. They can do it by encouraging the land owners sitting on land suitable for subdivision actually to subdivide it and sell. Fourthly, . the States can assist in reducing the amount of trading in blocks of land. For example, one public-spirited developer has suggested curtailing the transfer of subdivided blocks until a home has been built on it.
These are all examples of policies which the States could adopt where land price inflation is caused by a real shortage of housing land. These are State powers. They are not Federal powers. We do not possess them, but the States have ample powers to take such action. They are measures which any State which is serious about its concern for land price inflation can quickly bring to bear on the market. Where land price inflation is being caused by excessive demand through land speculation the State governments should adopt land price stabilisation legislation.
Mr Speaker, I have outlined the principles behind the policies which this Budget has set in train. Altogether the Budget provides for up to $8 8m for land acquisition alone in the current financial year. Through our negotiations with the States we are seeking a better way to develop our cities, old and new. We are also allocating $62m to catch up on the backlog of sewerage services, and improve urban public transport. The Australian Government seeks the co-operation of the States to work as a partnership in order to achieve a more efficient allocation of resources, and to achieve a more equitable form of urban development. It is the States which can make a real contribution. The States could do it in their own right. We, however, regard the problem as so serious and so urgent that we consider the best way of dealing with it is a partnership between the Australian Government and the State governments.
Through the process of co-operative federalism the Australian and State governments together can solve these problems. Together, the Australian and State governments can achieve what all Australians would want them to achieve - to give Australian families access to land and housing at fair prices. The financial allocations of this Budget demonstrate the willingness of the Government to achieve this goal. What is now necessary is that State leaders act for people, not land developers. They must take an enlightened approach to the problem. The crisis we face in land prices requires that all responsible political leaders try to break down barriers of distrust and work together so that young people may have an opportunity to acquire a block of land on which to construct a home.
The State governments have the opportunity of joining with the Australian Government in setting up land commissions and in the development of our new cities. There are no immediate solutions to the land crisis in Australia. The mishandling of 23 years cannot be corrected in 5 minutes. There are no ‘instant coffee’ solutions to any of our urban problems. But the land commissions and new cities programs are only a beginning. They are an alternative. There is another way. Let us begin through this Budget the other way - the way that is more efficient and fairer for all the people of our land.
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) joins in a very interesting way - I am not sure whether it is a happy or uneasy partnership - that other great follower of the doctrines of the 1890s put forward by Henry George. I refer to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who obviously also is taken in such a solid grip by those doctrines. It will be interesting to see how the 2 honourable gentlemen in combination develop their new ideas and tracts. As to the Budget, we have learned that it confers upon the Minister for Urban and Regional Development huge sums of money to spend. He has busied himself by providing his alibi in advance; that is, if instead of this grand scheme we get a grand mess he will be able presumably to blame the States and other authorities for their lack of co-operation.
I rose primarily to address myself to the Budget and the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). I congratulate the Treasurer on presenting his first Budget. For almost a generation he was the shadow Treasurer. I can remember year after year how he contributed his ideas to this House. Yet, like so many shadows that come and go, that whisk in and out, the Treasurer his in fact proved to be a very solid shadow. At last he has gravitated to a position of power. Over the years when he made his contributions to this House a large number of people were not inclined to take very much notice of him, but now they realise when they study the question that year by year, little by little, he enunciated much of the policy which is now being embodied in the policy of the new Government. Perhaps they did not listen at the time because they thought that nobody could be as silly as that, that such ideas were not to be taken seriously. Now they await the next onslaught coming to rob them of something or other. Perforce, they have to take the Treasurer very seriously now.
I congratulate the Treasurer on bringing forward various matters which have been under way for some years in the Treasury. I have in mind program budgeting and all the other things which to some extent appear to have been taken over by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Whether that is so I do not know because, despite open government, it is very difficult to follow these matters. I hope that by now the Prime Minister realises the limitations of open Government. He has recognised these limitations because on several occasions the exchange rate has been varied. Quite clearly this is a case where discussion by the whole Cabinet with more entering such discussion creates more mess and confusion. The only way to handle these matters practically is to confine them to the very few even if at times it does mean excluding Ho Chi Jim and leaving out someone who might consider he should be consulted. Historically it has always been the position that the decisions must be made by a limited number of people who by the time such discussions arise are pretty well primed with all the main considerations which must be taken into account.
As has been stated by a number of people recently, this Budget is notable in that it provides for a huge transfer of resources away from the private sector to the public sector. Whatever view one takes of this situation, it does lead to many practical consequences. Some may rejoice and think more should have been spent on behalf of the public and less on behalf of the private sector but the fact remains that basically it is the private sector which produces distributive income and builds up living standards. What the Budget does particularly is basically to ignore the problem of inflation. When the Treasurer is charged with this or is asked questions about inflation he prefers to reply fairly blandly that inflation did not start with the Labor Government or his custody of the finances of the country. This is perfectly true. Inflation has ‘been developing in many ways throughout the western world and taking different forms in different places. Certain serious problems for which the Treasurer and the Government cannot be blamed have played a serious part in our own dislocation. For instance, the Treasurer can hardly be blamed for the recent trend in world commodity prices which have gone up and down like a switchback and dragged the economies of the world in their wake. Nothing done in Australia could avoid the tremendous crisis which has come from this flow of commodity movements and prices nor the movement in capital which has flowed around the world and come into Australia in large quantities.
Other matters also have been beyond his power. For instance, fixing an appropriate exchange rate for Australia has become a complicated business. Of course it is simple enough for any particular group to look around and decide fairly quickly how it would be better off or worse off according to what action has been taken. For several generations we have had sterling to latch on to and we adjusted our exchange rate in accordance with the basic movement in the value of sterling. More recently we have changed from sterling to the United States dollar and now we face confusion. Not only is sterling dragging very badly and its value continually plunging but the United Sttes dollar also is dragging its anchor, if anything, worse. They are continually changing relationships with each other and the other leading currencies of the world have all been changing inter se. This provides a set of circumstances in which it takes a fine degree of judgment to decide the sensible course for Australia to pursue.
One thing that can be said is that by appreciating our currency the Government has followed what might be dictated or suggested by current movements in the exchange rate and in our external trade. The fact is that while the external value of the Australian dollar is being steadily appreciated, its internal value has been steadily weakened by the process of inflation which hitherto has not been as bad in Australia as it has been elsewhere. However this position is rapidly being undermined and changing. It is not a simple judgment to make nor should we come to a simple minded conclusion which is easy to come to in terms of particular interests involved but which does not really add much to the total understanding of the situation. What we must do is follow the notion that the Government is pursuing a high external value for Australian currency but by its conduct is constantly eroding its internal purchasing power. In the end - in the long pull - it will be the way we manage our affairs in Australia which will decide whether, in fact, Australia really has a strong currency or a currency which will steadily become weaker and weaker.
Whatever is done about dealing with inflation certain things must be done and these are difficult for any government of any persuasion to achieve. Firstly, something must be done to limit the constant growth of incomes at such a pace. The constant putting up of incomes, irrespective of what is produced and the productivity involved in the process, must be slowed down. It is essential to bring government expenditure under much closer control and also to pursue sound management policies in regard to Budget deficits and generally to contain the local fiscal situation. Unless government expenditure is controlled, limited and curtailed no system of price fixing has the least chance of success, except for a very short period. It is also vital that the Government take charge of the monetary policy - the supply of money. We have had considerable growth in this respect partly from overseas - something has been done to curtail this - and also by internal domestic expansion. This growth was well under way before the Government came to power.
With respect to inflation it is no good referring back too far historically and saying that somebody else has had it worse. The really guilty party with inflation is the last person who had reasonable control of averting the disaster. So whatever has happened so far, the present responsibility now fastens directly and primarily straight away on the Treasurer. It is a difficult responsibility to take but the Treasurer cannot avoid it. He has to defend himself. Is he doing everything he can to curtail and inhibit this process? I would suggest that at least in one respect he has now come to realise this situation with respect to the money supply. He has announced what used to be abused as most horrible when the Opposition was responsible for running the country, namely, that a credit squeeze is about to be instituted. I personally believe that something of this kind is really required, but it will have some very unpleasant consequences.
Today in the House we heard certain statements about the bond market and putting up rates of interest. If the economy is to be slowed down and if we are to slow down the rate of growth obviously there must be a rise in interest rates. This will have a number of other effects on the economy which will not be pleasant from the point of view of anybody. As has already been pointed out today, it will affect the housing situation, the ability to go on constructing houses and the ability for young people to pay for their houses. As indicated in the Budget Speech, the Treasurer is already well aware that housing is so crucial to the total economy that it becomes a very sensitive indicator. If the economy is to be slowed down, housing is the most effective area in which to start doing this. Clearly this has to be done.
Despite this, huge sums of public money are earmarked in the Budget for State housing, so there will be a continued huge expansion of housing in the public sector, and the private sector will find it very difficult with the impending and increasing credit squeeze which will be applied month after month from now on. This is an unpopular tiling for any government to do. It is rather amusing now to see the Treasurer changing sides, and instead of talking of a great credit squeeze, as he used to describe this kind of policy, inventing a slightly more euphonious term for it. But in fact it remains a credit squeeze.
We have begun - and it must be continued - a progressive tightening of money. The money supply has become much too large and ill disciplined. Presumably from now on interest rates will rise, on whatever day the increase takes effect. If this process is to make any impact on inflation it will have to be applied progressively. It will make it more and more difficult to operate profitably in the private sector. As it passes around from one to the other it will gradually have the effect of slowing down activity. This is the first real, effective move that the Treasurer and the Government have made towards inhibiting the process of inflation. This is utterly essential for Australia’s future.
The Minister for Urban and Regional Development said that the Australian Government must have power to control prices. This is now the current cry. One can see that the idea of the Government is that prices will rise higher and higher under the impact of what it is doing, whatever inhibiting effect the curtailment of money supply and credit restrictions will eventually have. Many price increases are now in the pipeline, and the simple theory put forward is that if the Government has power to control prices all will be well. As I said earlier, without limiting incomes, without curtailing Government expenditure and controlling money supply, no measure of price control has the least prospect ultimately of being successful. This is the basic reality. The other things are mere trimmings.
Price control as such we experienced in the closing years of the Second World War and just afterwards. When it is really attempted on a large scale by the Government it becomes rapidly evident that you cannot have price control by public authority unless in turn you can control all the ingredients which go to make up prices. They include wage rates, raw materials and so on. To control prices by edict you have to finish up with iron-clad control over the whole economy. That is why I personally resist any idea that power to control prices should be transferred to Canberra on a permanent basis. Ths power is not really wanted for price control. Price control is merely the deception to get a favourable vote to transfer power to Canberra. I believe this is a snare and a delusion. It will not be properly worked. We will get involved in all sorts of tangles. There will be detailed control by and through the bureaucracy and the Ministers. There will be personal interference according to preferences which people express, but we will end up with an iron-clad control over the whole of the Australian economy. This is why I believe we should resist any process of legislative price control.
We have a little time to watch what happens in Canberra with an experiment in price control. If price control had a chance of being successful anywhere in Australia it would be in Canberra, which, is full of the necessary control and administrative ingredients. But we should set our face against any idea of transfer of direct powers over prices and all the ingredients necessary to maintain price control from the States to Canberra on anything but a very short term basis.
Debate (on motion by Dr Jenkins) adjourned,
Bill presented by Mr Grassby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia in order to recoup the cost to the Government of export meat inspection. The charge will be payable by exporters. Exports of meat and meat products which have been inspected and declared fit for human consumption will be subject to the charge. The charge will be 1.6c per lb on meat and edible offals derived from cattle (including buffaloes) and calves, and lc per lb on meat and edible offals derived from sheep, lambs, goats and pigs. The charge is to be imposed on those meats and offals whether exported in fresh, chilled, frozen, canned, dried or otherwise prepared form and on mixtures of meat with other food products. For products containing mixtures of meat and other food products the charge will be payable on the net weight of the mixed product. For mixed products containing beef or veal the charge will be 1.6c per lb and for mixed products containing other meats the charge will be lc per lb. The legislation provides for the charge to operate for a period of 33 months from 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976. The charge has been calculated on the basis of the estimated expenditure of export meat inspection over the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1976, and the estimated quantity of meat that will be exported over the 33 month period.
The legislation provides for regulations to be made permitting total or partial exemption from the charge. The major part of the cost of export meat inspection has been met from Consolidated Revenue since 1927 and it has become a large item of expenditure in the Budget. The measure was originally introduced to offset low export prices and has been maintained ever since. This is in contrast to the present situation in which world demand for meat is particularly strong and prices are at high levels. The cost of export meat inspection has grown rapidly in recent years, rising from $5.3m in 1968-69 to $11.4m in 1972-73. A significant part of this increase can be attributed to the need to expand the inspection staff to meet requirements of overseas countries. In this regard it is to be noted that over the period December 1969 to June 1973 the number of veterinarians and meat inspectors in export establishments has increased from 1,128 to 1,726.
It should also be noted that, in effect, overseas consumers have been subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. Furthermore, local consumers bear the cost of meat inspected for local consumption as State authorities impose inspection fees on wholesalers in respect of meat destined for the local market. It is emphasised that the export charge is not intended to be a means of diverting supplies of meat from the export to the domestic market. Currently there is a very strong export demand for Australian meat and in these circumstances it is not expected that the charge will be passed back to the livestock producer. Clearly there is every justification for charging for the export inspection service instead of perpetuating the position of the overseas consumer being subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Grassby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill, which is complemen tary to the Meat Export Charge Bill 1973, is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the export charge imposed by the Meat Export Charge Bill 1973. The Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on the same day as the Meat Export Charge Act. It defines the types of meat and meat products subject to the charge which will be payable within 28 days after the end of the month in which the meat is exported. Provision has been made for remissions or refunds of the charge should the meat be condemned or rejected for human consumption. The remaining provisions of the Bill are related to the administrative procedures necessary to collect the charge. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 784).
– In participating in this debate on the Appropriation Bill one can follow 2 courses. One can discuss the Appropriation Bill and the Budget Speech or one can discuss the amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). It is rather interesting to note that the amendment is such a mess of nonsense and contradictory terms that the majority of honourable members on both sides of this House have concentrated on the Budget, as well they might because of the trivial nature of the amendment. During the course of the debate a number of Opposition members have made accusations against the Government in regard to its conduct of foreign affairs. This shows the development or retention of their colonial and gunboat mentality. They suggest that because Australia has disagreed with the United States of America relationships with that country have been affected. They misunderstand the basic characteristic of the American people, which is a strong sense of independence. Whilst Americans might not like being disagreed with, they do respect a country that stands up for itself. They respect independence.
It has been suggested that the Government has severed ties with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has shown that it believes its future is in the European Economic Community. Our relations with countries such as Canada and Mexico have been vastly improved. New relationships have been established with countries such as the People’s Republic of China and the German Democratic Republic. These relationships face the realities of the world scene today. Indeed, the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and many other international associations are recognising those countries as this Government sensibly has done. The Government cannot stand accused of worsening relations. If the Opposition intends to rest its case on our disagreement with Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, one can only ask whether, whilst one respects his high intellect and the vast program of public works he has carried out in Singapore, the Opposition would like to have his powers of gaoling political opponents without trial and without appeal for 3 years and locking them up again when they emerge after those 3 years, or of suppressing any newspaper that disagrees with him. Is this the sort of thing honourable members opposite support?
Members of the Opposition have said that this is a socialist Budget. As a socialist, I have examined it. I cannot find that it is a socialist Budget. It is certainly a social welfare Budget dealing with the quality of life and with a great deal of public expenditure. I regret that more notice has not been taken by honourable members opposite of the descriptions given by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) of the economic context in which the Budget has been presented and of the budgetary objectives. The favourable features spoken of, such as strongly rising demand, vigorous growth in output, full employment and external strength, have been overshadowed by the persistent cry of inflation. They are worth more than that. The Treasurer is to be congratulated on this his first Budget. He pointed out that the Budget was not and would not be the only instrument used to maintain a favourable economy in Australia. One can sympathise with him in the problems of the presence of increasing inflation and of combatting it. It is not a new phenomenon, as many honourable members have said.
Many factors other than the Budget are being used to damp down inflation. For instance, there have been the revaluations of the Australian currency, tariff reductions and the introduction of the Prices Justification Tribunal. One of the problems which are difficult to combat in these circumstances is the build-up of an inflationary psychology. The Leader of the Opposition and his myrmidons have certainly done much to build up this inflationary psychology in the community. With wide publicity and discussion, the community is saturated with a pervading inflationary expectation. The result is that the rate of inflation accelerates. Employees take appropriate steps to seek ever higher rates of wage increases with the view that such increases will compensate for expected inflation. Along with this, employers are more ready to grant increases because, with an atmosphere of expected inflation, they know that the prices they charge can readily be adjusted. So it snowballs and goes on in other areas.
One of the other great factors - this was mentioned by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) - is the overwhelming question of imported inflation. This reflects the situation in many other countries. The role of the United States in world trade has a great influence on many other countries. Australia seems to have been affected much more by the attitudes taken by the previous Government. I believe that appropriate steps have been taken in this field of imported inflation, in the form of the up-valuation of our currency and the tariff measures. There is no doubt that the Australian currency was under-valued. The question of incomes policy and wage and price controls has received a great deal of attention in this debate. The advantages and disadvantages have been revealed. One thing is certain, and the Government has made this quite clear: It is not prepared to accept unemployment as a necessary factor to control inflation. Where measures that would appear to lead to unemployment have had to be taken, compensatory measures have been instituted to supplement employment. The employment figures speak for themselves. If a purely incomes policy were to be instituted, as has been suggested by the Opposition side, unemployment inevitably would follow.
The Budget in its revenue producing section has relied in a major way on disguised expenditures- that is, revenue concessions. The Treasurer is to be congratulated in this area. When in Opposition he was consistent in his claims that this area was the one that needed the utmost attention. The honourable member for Wentworth at least agreed that when the Treasurer was in opposition he was honest and consistent in putting forward some of the rackets and ramps that he saw and felt should be corrected. He has, as Treasurer, wielded the broom with vigour and removed many of those loopholes, ramps and rackets which have provided tax dodges for many years and which had provided income to authors who wrote books about loopholes that people could use to dodge taxation. The Treasurer has to be congratulated for closing these loopholes. His action is entirely consistent with the attitudes he has taken in the past. We hear objection because the Treasurer has the temerity to suggest that the volume of beer should be correctly measured. Apparently being an honest man is a bad thing in this country!
Among other revenue producing measures he introduced was the impost on petrol. It is amazing to see throughout our country the number of signs on petrol stations advertising 8c off or 7c off. What a racket and ramp must be going on in the fixing of prices for petroleum products in Australia. Is it any wonder that this is seen as a fruitful area for raising revenue? Among the things that this Budget is about are the realities of Australian life. I would like to refer to an article called ‘Australian Society: The Realities’ which appeared in the July-August 1973 ‘Development News Digest’, a publication of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. It talks about the things which this Government has tried to correct, about the problem of the majority standard in our community. It states:
Thus it is said ‘that Australia has perhaps the highest standard of living in the world because 70 per cent of the population live in ‘owner-occupied dwellings’. But what about the other 30 per cent?
The fact of the matter is that housing is one of the greatest causes of poverty for this other 30 per cent and if you are one of the 30 per cent it is not much satisfaction to be told that 70 per cent of the people are all right. The article continues:
It is said that Australians have a high per capita income. This is an average; which means that there are plenty of people who have below average income.
At least 5 per cent of Australian families earn less than even the basic wage, whereas more than 5.000 Australians earn in excess of $20,000 a year - a combined income that would be greater than that of over 420,000 pensioners.
Is this what we want to see?
A supposed sign of universal affluence is that there is about one car for every 2 people in Australia, yet a Melbourne transportation survey discovered that 63.2 per cent of low income families did not own motor cars whereas 42.8 per cent of high income people owned at least two cars per family.
The majority standard creates a false impression of equality and universally good standard of living . . .
What the majority standard conceals is that there are definite extremes in Australian society.
We talk about Australia being a middle class society. One could accept that about 50 per cent are middle class, but there is the other 50 per cent. The article states that above the middle class are the people who have an excessive share of societal goods; below it is the working class which has some difficulty in keeping up with the accepted standard of living. Further below are the poor who have to struggle for the necessities of life. On a modest sociological estimate they comprise about 8 per cent of the population and number about 1 million people. There are some who have an extravagantly high standard and others who have a totally inadequate standard. The general attitude towards these 2 extremes seems to be extremely permissive or apathetic. It is suggested that in Australia we were developing an under-class, a section of society that is denied access to those goods, opportunities and services that even people in the working class enjoy. In Australia the likely members of such an under-class are mainly Aborigines, deserted wives and widows with young families, pensioners and large low income families. The article points out that the only 2 things they have in common are that they live in poverty and that they are such a desperate and neglected group that they lack the means, opportunities, political influence and popular support for effective action to change their disadvantaged situation.
As well as looking after the rest of the community this Budget has done something for those people too. One of the things that basically they suffer from is lack of opportunity in education. We see in the Budget a doubling of Federal money spent on education. It may be said that the abolition of fees for attending universities has not affected this group so much, but we should look at the way this money for educational assistance will be expended. To enable children in this group to attend the last 2 years of secondary school an allowance will be paid to low income families. In primary schools, according to the need of the areas, there will be proper library and other teaching facilities for these people. It is realised that this Government is looking across the wide scope of Australian people and is determined that an under-class shall not develop, even though the majority standard may be said to be so high. There are many other aspects of the educational part of the Budget which I trust one will have the opportunity to discuss later.
I want to make some passing remarks about the health field. It is with absolute disgust that I see the process of misrepresentation and dishonesty with regard to the Government’s health scheme. The other day I went to collect a refund from the Hospitals Benefits Association of Victoria. When I was handed back my book and refund I was handed also a politically oriented health scheme pamphlet on which had been spent part of my contributions for the more than 22 years that I have belonged to this health fund. I resented that greatly because the pamphlet was full of dishonesty. I have heard the argument about the use of the computer in the new health scheme. The computer is to be used to keep records of usage throughout the community. As a member of a voluntary health insurance organisation my family unit has a number. It is stored away by the hospital benefits organisation which keeps on its records the number of claims I have made, the complaints that there have been in my family and the categories they come under. In fact the Hospital Benefits Association has just bought a computer to carry out a function in respect of which the Government is being criticised. I would rather trust the integrity of governments than private organisations like that.
They are supposed to have contributors on the boards controlling them, but they run their annual meetings in such a way that their contributors do not know that meetings are being held. If they think they are short of numbers they get the employees of the organisation to go to the annual meeting to elect their puppets to the Board.
Perhaps the Opposition wants to return to the use of the abacus in recording health finances. This is the way that members opposite talk. Does the Oppoosition not know that in developed countries computers make a real contribution not only to recording but also to the practice of medicine itself. It we are to have this smear, scare and feat campaign Australia will be denied the benefits that computers can give. Let some honourable members opposite and their medical friends who are indulging in such misrepresentation look through the work that has been done at the University of Missouri on the use of computers in the diagnosis and sorting out of complaints. They will find that by proper use of those computers there can be correctness and accuracy of diagnosis and that better treatment can be carried out very effectively. After all, in one city in America, by using a computer in its social welfare agency it was found that a woman who had been receiving social security payments for 15 years had never had a medical examination. It was only the computer that revealed this, not the human beings concerned. When she was examined she was found to have a minor complaint which was treated. She is now in full employment, looking after herself. So let us have done with this hogwash, this dreadful hypocricy that is going on in this field. Let us settle down and realise that people want decent health facilities and can get decent health facilities. Let us stop this fear and smear.
Another item which is mentioned in the Budget is the question of legal aid. It is mentioned with regard to the Aboriginal people. I am pleased to see that it is to be provided for Aboriginal people. My one regret is that at this stage the Government has not been able to go to the extent of offering legal aid to another class in the community, the under-privileged, those who are too poor to have proper legal representation in so many fields. I congratulate the Treasurer on his first and perhaps one of the most significant Budgets that this country has had.
– The Treasurer <Mr Crean) has stated that the task of this Budget is to reconcile the Government’s determination to carry out its program with wise management of the economy. He has failed and failed badly. It is understandable that after 23 years in Opposition, Labor’s first Budget would seek to implement as many of its policies as possible but there is a fundamental requirement that any government in framing its budget must have a regard for priorities and implement policies and reforms which it believes are desirable within the context of national economic responsibility. But this is a document which lacks responsibility and in some statements is guilty of deception.
The Australian Labor Party inherited an economy in good shape, moving ahead towards full employment and with the rate of inflation in the last quarter of 1972 down to a level which was getting very close to manageable. Now we have enormous increases in public expenditure and an unacceptable inflation rate. Labor will discover that Australians after 23 years of growth and progress under the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition, with real improvement in living standards, will not tolerate a government which clearly demonstrates its inability to manage effectively the financial affairs of the nation.
Of course, not all the decisions are bad. Some should and will be supported, but the Budget’s inflationary impact will create immense problems and much hardship to many sections of the community, particularly to those groups which Labor pretends the Budget is designed to assist. The Government will of course delay facing up to the inevitable day of reckoning as long as it can - certainly, I believe, until after the Senate election - but Australians should realise that bruised though they are by this Budget, the worst is yet to come. The weekend decision on currency revaluation and interest rates indicates this only too clearly. The Government will be forced to take further corrective action next year which will only further damage the nation’s confidence and growth. We are dealing with an expenditure of SI 2, 168m, an increase of 19 per cent over last year. This is a dangerously high increase, particularly in the context of today’s economy and a decision which will ensure a rate of inflation higher than 10 per cent. Australia cannot afford a Treasurer who for short term political advantage delivers an expansionary and inflationary Budget at a time when the state of the economy clearly calls for different decisions and emphases. But first of all, let me give credit where it is due. The increased allocation for cultural activities including the National Library, the National Gallery and collection, and the Australian Council of Arts is desirable.
In recreation, the decision to provide community and school centres in co-operation with State governments, the increased vote to the National Fitness Council and the allocation of funds for national park development is equally desirable. In welfare, I commend decisions on Aboriginal advancement, road safety, the increased subsidy to senior citizens centres and Meals on Wheels organisation and assistance to handicapped children. The total expenditure on these measures is not large but regrettably, they are reduced to lesser importance when the duplicity and deception in vital areas is unmasked.
In education, Labor has dishonoured preelection and election promises. Its attempt to claim an increase of more than 90 per cent in education expenditure is phoney. Whilst taking over responsibility for tertiary education, tax reimbursements to the States were adjusted to allow for this - close on $200m. The credibility of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has been severely damaged by the unjust treatment handed out to independent schools. The categorisation of schools on unacceptable grounds after superficial inquiry indicates the Government’s preparedness to accept discriminatory advice. Labor has created justifiable anger in the Australian electorate because of its basic injustice in this matter to parents, children and schools. I sincerely hope that the Minister does not hesitate to review some of the decisions arrived at, which are so obviously unfair.
In health, despite the remarks of the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) Labor continues to state without either convincing argument or proof that the present health scheme is inequitable and inefficient. Whilst the present scheme has some imperfections which will require attention, this Government is obsessed with socialist and centralist policies, and against growing public concern it allocates in the Budget funds to commence the implementation of its national health scheme. The Government and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in this vital area, continue to attempt to force on Australians a scheme which will result in a poorer medical service and at the same time restrict - I use the word restrict deliberately - the freedom of choice of doctor and hospital. Labor would serve the interests of the nation if it looked at the question of dental care and made some positive contribution to what is required in this nation.
There are approximately one million Australians who are entitled to pension payments. Many of these people depend substantially or solely on these payments. Surely they are entitled to enjoy an improved standard of living and to be safeguarded from policies which erode their personal savings. Our senior citizens have been sold short in this Budget. Labor’s announced policy is to increase pensions twice a year until they reach 25 per co] of average weekly earnings. The Budget lifts basic pension rates by $1.50 and at the same time unleashes the forces of inflation which will negate the purchasing power of the pension increase and decrease the value of savings.
This section of our community is unfairly disadvantaged, not just those on old age and other pensions but everyone on superannuation and fixed incomes who are not in a position to take any steps to protect themselves and their families from the ravages of inflation. One clear result of this Budget is that every Australian, old or young, wealthy or poor, will find that within a year each $100 of savings will be worth no more than $90, and probably closer to $80.
In the field of housing, Labor is guilty of duplicity. The Budget gives effect to a scheme for deductibility of mortgage interest. But with sleight of hand, after no indication of this action in the course of the election campaign, the Labor Party is to end the valuable homes savings grants scheme, which has been of great assistance to young married couples in helping to provide a deposit on the purchase of a home. The deposit is surely needed before any advantage can be taken of interest deductibility. Sunday’s monetary policy decision will now force up interest rates and further disadvantage young Australians. Sunday’s decision was an attack upon home ownership in this country. In addition, the housing industry with all its national significance and importance is already reflecting the problems of costs and shortages which will occur with increasing ferocity from Labor’s irresponsibility in economic management.
We heard a lot about cities during the election campaign, but the proposals in the Budget were not a very inspiring first effort to tackle some of the real problems of urban life. The national backlog in sewerage - despite the comment of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) - is given limited attention only. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development comes into the House and makes comments, almost bordering on insult about the Gold Coast and sewerage. What I hope the Minister will do is make some contribution to solving the problems of the second fastest growing city in this nation. Making cryptic and insulting remarks does not require much ability.
A more enterprising approach to the tourist industry would have repaid the Government. Obviously the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) - and I feel a little sorry for him - is finding it difficult to convince his socialist colleagues that the private enterprise tourist industry properly encouraged can contribute handsomely to the national economy. The relatively small allocation to the industry for promotion purposes is not good enough. A bolder imaginative approach, including depreciation allowances on tourist income producing buildings and a rethinking of some civil aviation and transport policies would have not only assisted the industry but repaid the national purse.
There are many other examples in the Budget of discriminatory and deceptive attitudes. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, the overriding problem is we have government expenditure up by 19 per cent. Increased costs include those of the Public Service new departments, commissions and committees to carry out Labor’s socialist policies. They include public expenditure on projects like the pipeline authority - over $100m of taxpayers’ money - which could have been financed by private enterprise. To finance this type of exercise and to help towards balancing the books, we have action on one hand to disadvantage private enterprise, which really generates the nation’s wealth, to discriminate particularly against the primary producer and the mining industry and to downscale the defence capacity and, on the other hand, to inflame inflation further by increasing indirect taxes.
For the rural producer, bounties on cheese and butter are being phased out, investment allowances discontinued and telephone charges increased. In addition, other undesirable measures have been taken against the wine and fruit growing industries and, of course, the mining industry, which has contributed so much to the nation’s growth in recent years, as well as being singled out for continuous and vicious attacks by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor).
Whilst no one believes there is an external threat to Australia at the present time, Labor has a responsibility to maintain adequate defence capacity. Surely we are realistic enough to accept that it is essential to back up foreign policy. The nation’s security is the prime responsibility of government. Labor has deliberately downscaled our defence capacity particularly in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force in order to assist it to pay for its socialist policies.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had given the House some detail of Labor’s duplicity in key policy areas particularly in housing, education and health, and its irresponsibility in increasing Government expenditure this year by 19 per cent and thereby unleashing the forces of inflation, disadvantaging many sections of the community and attacking private enterprise, particularly the primary producer and the mining industry. But of course that was not sufficient in itself. The Government had to look at taxation. We now have a Labor government which because of inflation will reap an increase of over 25 per cent in personal taxation. In addition it deals severely with private companies - and they have made a very real contribution to the growth of Australia - and increases indirect taxation on fuel, tobacco and spirits. The increased tax on fuel is a particularly unjustifiable decision in the context of today’s economic conditions.
In the final analysis we have a Labor government which accepts inflation at an annual rate above 10 per cent - and there are very good reasons to expect it to be considerably higher than 10 per cent. The Budget document itself accepts that wages will increase by 13 per cent and productivity only between 2i per cent and 3 per cent. The Liberal Party rejects this attitude and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) stated very clearly the unanimous approach of the Liberal Party throughout Australia to combat this menace. What is needed is a capacity to identify all the components operating within the economy and a determination - a genuine determination - to take wide-ranging appropriate action to counter inflationary pressures on prices, incomes, interest rates, working hours, industrial relations and Government expenditure, together with other monetary and fiscal policies. We support a prices-incomes policy, after consultation and discussion with all the responsible elements in the Australian community. We realise that this is not a permanent solution but it would serve a useful purpose in the short term and it is becoming increasingly obvious that some decisive, effective action needs to be taken.
Labor’s superficial approach on prices and its irresponsible attitude on wages are unacceptable. We believe that the common sense of Australians will accept an attitude that productivity must be taken into account when wage demands are considered. Labor, by its support of excessive wage demands in some cases, by its tolerance and regrettably at times by its encouragement of industrial unrest, by its posturing on prices and with its enormous increases in Government expenditure has set in train inflationary pressures which will create hardships, inequities and injustices in every section of the community. The Treasurer speaks of needed reforms and of clearing the deck so that these reforms may be implemented. But because of the Budget’s excesses and lack of responsibility we are not debating what could be claimed in any way to be a document of reform. Rather, it is a regressive socialist approach to the management of the financial affairs of a nation which holds such promise under different direction of harnessing individual initiative and enterprise and controlling the growth of bureauracy.
The Labor Party now has in its hands the justification to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament. But there will not be an early double dissolution. The Labor Party knows that Australians will not tolerate a government which tries to enact legisaltion to allow it to draw electoral boundaries in its own favour. The Labor Party knows that Aus tralians will reject a government which tries to enact legisaltion which gives to trade unionists privileges not enjoyed by the community at large. We now have this Budget, a deceptive document containing a number of deplorable and discriminatory decisions. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will not seek an early double dissolution. The Budget does not deserve the support of or acceptance by the Australian community and as this debate continues more and more Australians are becoming aware of this.
– At one point during the speech made by the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson) I was about to commend him for his rather keen appreciation of the expenditure on cultural activities, tourism, social services and so on, but then he went on to say that the expenditure was far too high. I became a little disappointed because I know that the people in Western Australia appreciate the benefits which they have received in the city areas particularly in regard to sewerage facilities, which were so sadly lacking in my electorate where developers had been allowed to develop without any responsibility in this field. I thought for a moment that it would be pleasing to note that somebody on the Opposition side had a similar viewpoint. However, he was only building up to an argument in relation to an amendment to which we are all opposed.
It is to me a moving experience to be speaking to the first Labor Budget for so many years, for it is not only a budget from a government of which I am a supporter but to me it is a commemorative budget which sets out to bring about many of the social changes which this country has looked forward to for so long. More importantly, as a Western Australian, when I cast my mind back to this time last year I recall that I had to speak in a manner deploring the economic situation of the country, the widespread unemployment in Western Australia which had been caused by the then Government’s failure to manage the economy and the human misery that was being caused. Let us not forget that after such a short period. It is pleasing to note that all these problems have now been eliminated by the change in administration. This country is amazed to find a government which is keeping its promises, and perhaps this would be one of the reasons for criticism of it. It is incredible to have people say that we are doing too much too quickly.
We cannot do enough quickly enough because of the terrific vacuum which has been created by the 23 years of maladministration.
In the last Budget debate I spoke not only of the unemployment but of the record number of bankruptcies and companies in voluntary liquidation or in receivers’ hands. This situation has been mainly eliminated. I spoke of the excess migration which was crowding into our already overcrowded employment market. That too has been eliminated. As I look around I find that there are few problems left which need to be dealt with to solve the human problems which were looming so greatly at the time of the last Budget. The major one that is left is the question of inflation. With the co-operation of the States and perhaps of the Opposition it may well be that when the next Budget is presented this problem will have been grappled with to bring about a stronger measure of control. But I do not think that anyone in Australia would doubt that if this Government is given the power and the mandate to do something in that field, or any other field for that matter, that it will act. For it has proven in a few short months of office that it is a government of action, not of the promises and inaction which the Australian public has become so used to.
The commencement of the program to abolish finally the means test is something this nation has waited for since 1928. It is something which has caused much politcal campaigning over the last few years - unfortunately done by people who had already retired and who were personally affected by it. There are few who started initially to campaign in this field who have lived to see the day when what they set out to do has at last been achieved. I feel that this is something that we should cast our minds to. It is something over which we should feel deep personal regret. It is an indictment of the politcians of this Parliament that the campaign- was ignored for so long. It is to be hoped that the program can be accelerated so as to eliminate the possibility that the few remaining people who campaigned so vigorously do not pass from this world before seeing the fruits of their efforts to bring the social conscience of Australia to bear on the need for all aged people to receive social justice. I have known many people who spearheaded the action, and it was always my deep regret that they could not see the fruition of the many promises made to them so glibly by poli ticians and political candidates alike. Let this not be another field of always too little too late.
For the first time, the age pensioner has the assurance of a fixed increase in his pension, with a fixed amount in view. No doubt, the amount that has been set by the Government does not comply with the amount which has been outlined in petitions presented to this Parliament by hundreds of thousands of pensioners throughout Australia, namely, 30 per cent of the average weekly wage. The setting of pensioners’ incomes needs to be taken away from the Parliament. If the average pensioner is below the poverty line on today’s standards, that position should not be tolerated. If inflation continues to erode the very many advantages gained for the pensioner under this Government, there should be an appropriate independent assessment tribunal to set pensioners’ wages. I have said for many years that the politics should be taken out of pensions, and I feel that this still applies. This is only my personal feeling; I only hope that the day will come when this will be accepted generally.
It must be dreadful for any worker who has no superannuation scheme and who is accustomed to living on the inflated wages of today to know that he must retire within a week or so and receive and make do on the pitiful amount in relation to his current wages that the pension would represent, even with the generous increases made by this Government. If retirement is not something to look forward to, it will become a dreadful limbo of merely existing. Those sections of the community which must bear further personal charges and increased indirect taxation and be asked to forgo some of their income to assist the pensioner will appreciate that the standards that are being set today are those that will apply to them tomorrow and that their sacrifice today is not only something for the pioneers of our country but also something to which they can look forward when they too become pensioners.
It is in this light that the actions - the overall actions - of this humane, socially orientated Budget must be looked at. It goes so far in the field of pensions, yet it still has a long way to go. This is because there have been heavy commitments to the easing of the means test, to education and to Aborigines. In regard to the easing of the means test, I know that the country people who at this point are enjoying prosperous times and who can survive without the many subsidies will appreciate that, in a large number of cases, the people “who will be assisted by the easing of the means test are the retired country people who have suffered many grave injustices and who very often have been forced to live in circumstances in which they would have preferred not to live, due to the lack of cash income and, no doubt, the so-called book assets. No doubt, this easing of the means test, with the consequent payment of a pension, will make their lives just that much more bearable. It is with this thought in mind, perhaps, that the country people, who are so generous in their nature, will look at that aspect.
No longer will they have to tolerate the thought that for year after year the situation of counry Aboriginal reserves and shanty towns blighting the social scene of their country centres with a deprived Aboriginal community will continue. They know now that some positive action is being taken in this field, that this matter will be looked after for them in a proper and progressive manner and that they in turn will receive in their community the benefits of the improved standards of the Aboriginal section of their community.
Of course, it is to be expected that this Budget or, for that matter, any action of this Government, will not satisfy certain critics within the community because of their political stance or their vested interests. But then, of course, we must remember that these people do not represent the majority of opinion, even though they set out to mould and/ or to pretend to represent that majority. This is particularly so in Western Australia where certain sections of the Press can be expected to be critical with monotonous regularity. In fact, if their editorials were any other way, possibly Labor politicians would wonder where the devil they were going wrong and why they were serving the vested interests and not the community. This is to be expected. (Quorum formed) I appreciate the opportunity to address more people. I regret the lack of Liberals in the House. However, this is normal. It is interesting to note, of course, that when I started to speak of the vested interests of the newspapers it drew some reaction from honourable members opposite. I am pleased to see that at least it has brought them out of their usual inertia.
When I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to say that if one were to waste too much time listening to members of the Oppo- sition in the Western Australia State Parliament, one would wonder whether one’s party lacked any State policies or State parliamentary aims, because the number of criticisms levelled at Federal matters and the number of times they talk about Federal matters is beyond comprehension. One often gets the feeling that they have not even read the Bills that they are criticising. I feel, when looking at newspaper comments, that we must have a particularly efficient air mail service to Western Australia which enables the local newspapers to approach leading State Opposition spokesmen in Western Australia who are then able to come out and say - no matter what the Bill is - that it is a disaster for Western Australia and that what the Minister presenting the Bill in the Federal Parliament said was all wrong. Perhaps, having so little to do, they are able to spend their time with their ears glued to the radio; I do not know. But the monotonous regularity of political statements made on Federal matters by people who obviously have not read in full either the statements made in relation to those matters or the content of the Bills, and who are relying only on newspaper reports, gives rise to much amusement on the part of the people who have read both the statements and the Bills in question.
It is little to be wondered at that the public very often is ill informed as a result of this type of misrepresentation, and it is pleasing to see that some provision has been made in the Budget to allow for the proper informing of the public, in a factual manner, of what the Government policies are and how they will affect the public. This may solve the problem that has been brought glaringly to my notice by young people in the community who said that they were in a position where they could believe only one-third of what was in the Press, whereas before the saying was that one believed only half of what one read. It is alarming to think that this attitude can arise in the community, and no doubt it would be to everyone’s advantage if factual reporting such as our national newspapers have been able to achieve were to be extended to all sections of the Press.
One section of the community, particularly within Western Australia, which would not appreciate a Labor Budget is the people who are State-righters. One must bear in mind that Western Australia once voted for secession, which never came to fruition. Because of Western Australia’s isolation, this feeling - whatever government may be in power - remains today, not so much in the younger generation but in the people who perhaps are in my own age bracket and beyond. When people refer to them as members of a colony they do not look on it as an insult but regard it as a compliment. In fact, we Western Australians are proud to be called Sandgropers We are proud to be Western Australians and we believe that no other State has the wealth of resources to prosper as a nation that Western Australia has. Thus I can understand the angry reaction of the people of the gold fields at the removal of something which they firmly believed they would retain for some time to come, probably because it had been fought for so vigorously by their Federal member, who at that time was a member of the Opposition. They believed that the matter would be carried on indefinitely.
Unfortunately, in the first Labor Budget for many years these benefits have been removed. Personally, I would like to see them reinstated or at least reviewed with a view to their reinstatement or to some early assistance being given. But all people when they have their backs to the wall and are fighting for what they believe to be their future become desperate and united, even if their political views differ. Freedom or the right to work has never come cheaply in any area but these matters are the same as in an industrial situation where the processes of conciliation and arbitration operate. Above all there must be personal contact and discussion to bring about an early settlement to all problems. It is only when a slanging match develops on one side or the other, based on politics, that matters are unresolved.
It is to be hoped that the unity of purpose shared by Western Australian colonists, sand.gropers, or call us what you may - Australians - will result in conciliation at an early date. It is unfortunate that some community dissension should occur as a result of a Budget that was aimed towards assisting the underprivileged, educating the young, healing the sick and sustaining them in their old age, and the housing of the aged and the young. It is a pity that one aspect should affect people in a State in such a way that they should think that action taken in Canberra in the interests of the nation followed an inhumane decision. That was not the intention. It is reassuring to see so many people co-operating to bring about a solution. I support the Budget.
– We are discussing the first and I trust and believe the last Budget of this Labor Government. It is a national disgrace. It is the blueprint of a Government which is committed to worshipping at the shrine of national irresponsible economic management. It comes at a time of record inflation and does nothing about it, in spite of the iniquitous effects of inflation on all Australians - on the working man, the housewife, the exporter and particularly people with small financial resources. For people on pensions, low incomes and fixed income inflation leads only to economic destruction. The Government claims that it is conducting a war against inflation. It is a phoney war. In this phoney war the Labor Government, in addition to the provisions of the Budget, has allowed an effective series of dollar revaluations which have appreciated the Australian dollar against the United States dollar by more than 20 per cent, thus putting into jeopardy millions of Australians whose economic livelihood depends on the growth and prosperity of our wealth producing industries.
These moves have affected all Australians who depend on the servicing or producing industries for the generation of money to finance the growth on which this country has developed. The steps that this Government has taken through revaluation have particularly affected the farming and mining industries. The Government has also slashed tariffs by 25 per cent thus placing at risk Australia’s manufacturing industries the output of which allows for considerable import savings. These industries offer the major scope for employment in this country. Without reference to the Tariff Board the Government has adopted a long term economic strategy for short term and expedient political objectives.
The Government has initiated a rise in interest rates which will discourage investment in Australian development and hamper home buyers seeking homes with funds advanced to them at reasonable interest rates. Costs have been added for every individual in this country who depends on money borrowed in one way or another. The cost structure has been added to and every Australian is faced with difficulties because of the maladministration of our present Labor Government. Yet the principal economic weapon in the Budget will be not to contain inflation but to aggravate it. The rate of inflation on present trends could easily pass 20 per cent before the end of this. year because of the Government’s lack of economic expertise.
Immediately before the Treasurer (Mr Crean) introduced the Budget he released a Treasury White Paper that identified the degree to which demand-pull was already becoming a significant factor in the economy. But what did he do about demand-pull? He ignored it. He introduced a Budget designed supposedly to implement the policy program of the Government but which ignored the economic costs which will result. The Treasurer ignored the economic trend of which he spoke and as a consequence the Budget will aggravate that trend. Fuel slugs, increased charges on cigarettes, beer and spirits, increased post office and telephone charges, tax increments - these are the stuff of the Crean Budget. It is all very well to turn to the few areas of benefit but each one has to be studied to see how it will affect the intended recipients.
The Budget has directly lifted the cost of living of all Australians. For the average family man the increased tax slug of the Budget will be at least $3 a week before the end of the year. As with ‘No. 96’, each day we wonder what the next series will bring. On Sunday last a further revaluation was announced together with a rise in interest rates. What will tomorrow bring forth? Perhaps the share market will collapse again and the hard earned savings of many thousands of Australians who have invested in shares will be further eroded. This is the product of a Labor Government. The Budget and the Government’s subsequent economic decisions have already caused the biggest shakeout on Australian stock exchanges for more than 12 years. Make no mistake, it is not the little man who bought in today. It is the big man. The people who are selling their shares are not the little men. The people who are frightened are not the big people, those with a lot of money to spend; not the people who are able to put in their millions and take over shares when prices fall. The people who are hurt by the shakeout that this Government has caused are the men and women who have turned to the stock exchange because of their past faith in the future of this country. How rudely and sadly has that faith been shattered.
For the small investor the shakeout means financial peril and there is no solace in past fluctuations as the Treasurer seeks. Today’s movements are his doing. Where does advice not to sell take the small investor? It might give the institutional investor an opportunity to attract a profit but it does not give the small investor a chance to hedge against inflation or to build up his savings. The spending licensed by the Budget has led the Government into further unwise decisions. Government supporters claim that they have a licence to do all manner of things. I wonder where the licence for the Galston airport decision originated? Did they take into account a comparison of costs of the Galston extension with other alternatives that were before them? I doubt it.
The whole tenor of the administration of the present regime is towards the spending of money if the Government believes that some short term political objective can be met. There is no indication that the Government has considered the way in which public funds should be spent or how the little man should be protected. The Budget allows for a massive increase in the Public Service. It allows for an annual growth rate of 10 per cent, if the trend continues, while the national work force will grow only at the rate of 3.3 per cent. Do we honestly need all these extra public servants? Who will pay for them? What of the high cost of the flow-on of salary rises of between 12 per cent and 16 per cent and the extraordinary generous pay and conditions which have been handed to public servants? I refer to furlough, maternity leave, paternity leave, annual leave and the 35-hour week. These are all desirable and we would like to see them, provided that they are related to productivity and there is some way in which the community will benefit, but the old concept of service has gone altogether.
The Budget has set the tone for the socialised Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) espouses and for a build-up in Government sponsored cost pressures which will deny the value of the benefits provided for pensioners, scholars and pedestrians for whom the Budget seems intended. The Government argument that its massive misuse of Government money in many areas of public involvement was well researched by the task force report on continuing expenditure - the Coombs report - is of course false. It is a budget of discrimination. Perhaps the Prime Minister will wind down the window of his new Mercedes and ask for the reaction of a few average Australians who are facing their own battle against the inroads of inflation.
At question time today in reply to a question by me the Prime Minister indicated that the Government does recognise the impact of public sector spending on the inflationary pressures in the community.
It is a pity it does not demonstrate it. What, of course, he intimated today was mat far from the Budget being the conclusion to the economic management of this Government, it is the beginning. It is not the end. In the Coombs report there are something like 141 recommendations of which only a few have yet been tapped. How many more of these are to be implemented? What are the implications for al] those covered by all these successive recommendations contained in the Coombs report? Let it not be forgotten that those recommendations cover areas where there are already quite severe impacts because of changing pressures. For example, one of the areas referred to concerns concessions in postal rates for servicemen. Apparently that is an area which the Coombs task force believes is expendable. There are others. Perhaps the Prime Minister will increase further the tax on pensioners. For the first time in Australia he has introduced a tax on pensioners. Perhaps that is another area into which he can move. Of course the problem is that nothing this Government does can engender confidence in the future. This Budget is intent not on the management of the economy but the so called management of its political short term objectives. It is designed rather to the destruction of the economic environment within which business operates. It is designed rather towards socialisation, which is the fundamental objective of the Government’s policy. One wonders just where we go from here The lack of public confidence in national economy management is the hallmark of this Government. It is the hallmark of disgrace.
One of the disturbing aspects of the Labor Government is its chauvinism. Let us consider the actions of the Government in relation to rural people. It has been said in this House that the Budget changes for rural industry affect only Pitt Street farmers. What nonsense! It attacks all sections of the rural community - city dweller, town dweller, ‘farmer, big landholder and soldier settler alike. Past LiberalCountry Party governments have given all these people an opportunity to live in an economically strong Australia in spite of disabilities that geography and export opportunity present for them and in spite of problems of seasonal fluctuations and ite swing of the economic pendulum. We in the Country Party share the concern of our colleagues on this side of the House that the strength of these significant producing sectors will be forever eroded by the Government’s economic outrages which will remain a scar on the products of the producer’s labour. We in the Country Party believe that the equality of opportunity afforded to people in Labor bastions should be afforded to country people. We believe that country people should not be discriminated against any more than their city cousins, whether they be isolated children seeking an education, country women who have to travel long distances to seek medical help, farmers seeking to improve their productivity and thus contributing to national growth, or rural city and town businessmen and wage earners providing necessary goods and services and some offset against the -growth of the major metropolises of Australia. These are all people for whom our past policies have been designed. These are all people against whom this Budget discriminates.
There is one Australia, not two as the Government seeks to delineate in this Budget. The 2 Australias Labor seeks is one a rural Australia, faced with crippling added tax and disincentives to production, and the other a city Australia, with a Pandora’s box of promises - a Pandora’s box which, I suspect, will have nothing much but hope left by the time they have been disclosed in their full impact. Is that a good thing? The answer is no. Australia needs to grow, and it needs to grow most in the rural areas to offset the problems of the metropolises. We are told of a city policy - a city policy not designed to provide help for all city dwellers but selectively for only a few. Under this Labor Government the added cost of the Budget to rural Australia will be $160m. With inflation it most probably will be $200m in added taxes and loss of assistance by the end of this year. The Budget strikes at every country person, every person in a producing industry and every exporter. In the rural sector there is a recitation of impact in areas which definitely will be disadvantaged in terms of relativity to other areas of the economy - from postal concessions and telecommunication concessions to those who use country newspapers and magazines, from telephone rentals in country areas to the metric variations in postal charges. All these are selected areas picked out by the Treasurer ia order to ensure that the country will find it more difficult to survive.
We hear nonsense of how the changes will perhaps affect some in a beneficial way. Let us consider one matter - rural reconstruction. We are told that this year rural reconstruction will cost $47.2m. This has been related to the 19 per cent increase in Government spending. Of this $47.2m an amount of $18m was already committed in the previous Budget by the previous Government. In other words something like $29m additional is being provided this year. Never before has there been a need to ensure that people in country areas consolidate on the advantages that they have because of good seasons and good marketing conditions abroad. But we hear none of this under a Labor regime.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said that from 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976 there will be a meat levy of lc a lb on meat exports. That charge is expected to yield $40m in 1973-74. How constant is the Government in its policy? We heard one nonsensical remark this afternoon by one member opposite suggesting that this Government can be trusted. Immediately prior to dinner the Meat Export Charge Bill was introduced. According to that Bill the charge will be 1.6c a lb on meat and edible offals derived from cattle, including buffalo and calves.- For mixed produce containing beef and offal the charge will be 1.6c a lb. The Government already has revised its Budget but it has told nobody about it. The Treasurer did not mean what he said. On each occasion when we have introduced into this House a Bill concerning another Budget proposal we will hear of another increment which will affect country people? The Government cannot maintain its economic policy week by week. What sort of economic management is this? What sort of discrimination is it against country people?
The fuel excise is to be increased and there will be fuel equalisation discounts. We have heard much of the South Australian wine industry. On 25 May 1972 the honourable member for Riverina, the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), said very diabolical things about a wine excise which the previous Government imposed. That excise was designed to produce $12m in a full year. On 25 May 1972 the honourable member for Riverina committed himself to ensure that never again would there be a measure of this sort affecting the wine grape producer. I wonder whether he has looked at the Budget. Perhaps he was not present when the Budget was considered. Perhaps he does not know what it is all about. However the brandy differential and the changes in the value of trading stock of grape producers manufacturing for wine are designed to produce $20m to this Government in a full year, yet when the previous Government proposed an excise to produce $12m the honourable member for Riverina said some terrible things. What utter nonsense! What hypocrisy! But this is the type of economic management for which this Government is responsible.
The Budget has been based on the premise that the rural community can absorb the costs because it has had a good season. No account is taken of droughts or of falling commodity prices. What happens if things go bad on the farms? Can people rely on the Government to help the rural community? Surely not! What of the activities of the Australian Wool Corporation? Last week for the first time the Australian Wool Commission was called on at an auction sale to buy 14 per cent of the wool offered. I wonder for how long the Government will allow the Corporation to continue. I wonder whether it will be prepared to demontrate intestinal fortitude in respect of the future of Australia’s major export industry. I doubt it. Will the Government help those farming industries which get into trouble. Do not forget that it is the wealth producing industries, the export industries, that contribue so disproportionately to Australia’s growth and to the prospects of a better quality of life for us all.
It is not only the rural industries, all the producing industries, that are affected by the tax changes. The Treasurer has outlined tax changes for the private companies. An expenditure of $100m has been earmarked for a pipeline authority, destroying for private enterprise the opportunity to do its own thing for the advantage of the Australian people. Instead of private investment we are spending taxpayers’ money for that purpose. The mining industry has been affected by the removal of tax exemptions for gold mining and mining for prescribed minerals and also by revaluation. These measures are diabolical in their impact.
In my own electorate Woodsreef Mines Ltd is mining for asbestos. It is the only company producing asbestos in Australia. There are over 280 families in the Barraba community, a small country community, dependent on this industry. This Government is driving these people out of business. It could not care less about the unemployment that will be generated there. It has provided no compensation for revaluation. Woodsreef Mines Ltd sells its asbestos on a United States dollar base. There is no alternative price structure in the world. This Government shows no sympathy for them. They are. allowed to wither. They do not matter. They live in the country. Now the Federal Labor Government is arguing for price control. For how long does it want these powers, and in what way? Should it have them when one recalls the litany of economic horrors it has already brought down on all our heads? The Government’s increased spending and taxing in the Budget is aggravating recent rises in the cost of living. If it wants to reduce the cost of living why does it not cut back its own charges?
Then there is the deplorable defence vote. It is a national tragedy being acted out by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). To his shame it is on his own initiative and not at the behest of a Treasurer concerned with Government spending. Re-equipment programs have been shovelled aside to the detriment of national security.
This Budget is contemptible and irresponsible. It ranges from taxation of old age pensioners to sociological and economic discrimination against Australians in country areas to promotion of greater inflation and reduction in our defence effort. It is a Budget of destruction, not construction. In the advocacy of Australian nationalism it denies the capacity to assert it. Above all it sets the parameters within which the initiatives of the individual will be contained, and under the guise of public interest Government involvement in every sinew of commercial activity will be progressively extended. I support the amendment and reject the Budget in its entirety.
– I rise to support the Budget. I do so at a stage of the debate at which most of the Opposition big guns have been fired. What a feeble barrage it has been. What small impact it may have had has been dependent on misstatements of facts relating to pensions and after-tax wage rises, on misuse and misrepresentation of economic analysis concerning the economic impact of a Budget and on a misguided refusal to look beyond Australia’s shores for the principal causes of inflation in this country.
In the course of my address I will be looking to each of these points. I will deal firstly with the Opposition’s misstatements of fact. The principal example of these was the repeated insistence by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) that the 2 increases of $1.50 in the single age pension, which would increase it from $21.50 to $24.50 in this financial year, would represent an increase of 11.4 per cent. He then compared this with the projected 13 per cent increase in average weekly earnings in this financial year and concluded that pensions would fall behind earnings rather than begin to catch up with them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) made much the same point but he said that the pension increase would be 11.5 per cent, compared with his Leader’s 11.4 per cent. Both of them were quite wrong. An increase from $21.50 to $24.50 is a 14 per cent increase, not 11.4 per cent or 11.5 per cent, which puts the whole exercise in a different light. The true position is that pensions will rise faster in this year than the 13 per cent rise in average weekly earnings and so the various assertions by the Leader of the Opposition and his Deputy that pensions would fall behind earnings, that pensioners would be worse off and that Labor was not moving towards its objective of a pension rate of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings are all shown to be quite false.
The Leader of the Opposition indulged in a couple of exercises designed to show that a wage earner with a wife and 2 children to support would be worse off, or at least no better off, in real terms in this financial year than he was last year. His calculations showed that despite a 13 per cent increase in earnings this year a man on $100 a week would have only a 10.2 per cent rise in his actual after-tax income. He then said this would be less than the price rise of 10.5 per cent that would follow from a rise in earnings of 13 per cent compared with a productivity increase of 2.5 per cent. The fact is that this exercise is quite misleading as a result of both the method of calculation used and the assumption on which it is based. The method of calculation ignores all tax deductions other than those for dependants, and if allowance is made for the quite substantial additional deductions the picture is considerably different. Allowing for other deductions equal to 10 per cent of gross income the real after-tax income of the man on $100 a week last year would increase by 10.7 per cent this year, not the 10.2 per cent arrived at by the Leader of the Opposition. This 10.7 per cent is slightly above the 10.5 per cent price rise he says will eventuate if earnings rise by 13 per cent and productivity by 2.5 per cent.
But even here he has the arithmetic wrong. If, as he insists, the difference between the earnings increase of 13 per cent and the productivity increase of 2.5 per cent will be made up of a price rise, that price rise is 10.2 per cent, not 10.5 per cent. You do not deduct one from the other. It is a compound sum. If he wants to know the exact arithmetic it is 113 over 102.5 multiplied by 100 over 1. Thus the after-tax income rise is 10.7 per cent, not 10.2 per cent, and must be compared with a price rise of no more than 10.2 per cent, not 10.5 per cent. But even this 10.2 per cent price rise is probably too high. The Budget estimated a productivity rise of between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent. The Leader of the Opposition used only the lower productivity figure so as to obtain a higher price rise. If productivity rose by 3 per cent the price rise on his assumption would be 9.7 per cent, so the actual after-tax income of the man on $100 a week would increase notably faster in this year than would prices, and he would in fact be better off, not in the same position as before, as the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe.
However, this exercise was remarkable not only for its arithmetic inaccuracy but also for the assumption on which it was based. The suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that a particular rate of wage increase and productivity increase implies a price rise to make up the difference indicates the adherence of the Opposition to that old shibboleth about the rate of inflation being determined by increases in wage costs. It probably never occurred to the Leader of the Opposition to consider what the position of the man on average weekly earnings would be if his wage rose by less than 13 per cent this financial year. In fact, as I will show later on, much of our inflation is determined by forces outside Australia and it does not follow, as the Leader of the Opposition implied, that with a lesser percentage increase in average weekly earnings the price rise would be correspondingly less. If earnings rose by less than 13 per cent the real after-tax position of wage earners would undoubtedly be less advantageous than will actually be the case.
A keynote of the Opposition’s attack in this debate has been that the Budget will be inflationary. The Leader of the Opposition set the pattern for this attack in his address, and to substantiate his claim he quoted a couple of sentences on page 10 of statement 2 of the Budget papers, from which he concluded:
On the Treasury’s own approach the Budget is therefore inflationary and expansionary - not neutral.
In fact the Treasury made no statement in the Budget papers which indicated that that was its opinion. Indeed, in the same section of the Budget papers as that referred to by the Leader of the Opposition the Treasury gave quite a different impression. The first paragraph on page 11 of statement 2 of the Budget papers states:
The’ taxation measures proposed by the Government in the 1973-74 Budget have been formulated, for the most part, to steady the pace of growth of private sector activity, and thereby modify the pressure of total demands on available economic resources. Such a check now, designed to counter over-rapid expansion in a period of widespread economic recovery, would be generally seen as preferable to deferring action to a time when much stronger corrective measures would be required.
This hardly seems to be saying that the Budget is inflationary or expansionary. Indeed, it says it is checking growth now rather than having to do it later on. Having falsely attempted to portray the Treasury as supporting his attitude, the Leader of the Opposition then sought to clinch his case by supposedly relying on the approach to budget analysis advocated by Professor J. W. Nevile in his book ‘Fiscal Policy in Australia: Theory and Practice’. The Leader of the Opposition contended that if we take the increase in domestic outlay and subtract from it that increase in revenue which results from new tax proposals the resultant sum is a measure of the budget impact. He theft said that Professor Nevile ‘measures the net stimulation of budgets by calculating budget impact in this way and relating the result in percentage terms to the gross non-farm product’.
An analysis of Professor Nevile’s book will reveal that he did not measure the net stimulation of Budgets in this way at all. What he did was to calculate the initial year multiplier for various classifications of government expenditure and the negative initial year multiplier of tax revenue resulting from increased rates of various taxes, and then apply the appropriate multipliers to the respective increases in government expenditures and tax revenues resulting from increased tax rates and relate the resultant sum to non-farm national product. The Leader of the Opposition has taken no account of Professor Nevile’s multiplier analysis at all; so he cannot possibly be correct in his claim to be using the Professor’s method. Obviously he has never read the book.
But, not content with this substantial blunder, he then produced an even greater one. He went on to explain that Professor Nevile related his calculations of the money amount of Budget stimulus to non-farm gross product, and quoted Professor Nevile as saying: ‘We can define any increase greater than 2.9 per cent as inflationary’. The Leader of the Opposition then declared that on this measure the Budget represents an increase of 4.2 per cent and is therefore one of the largest stimulants ever. However, what he in fact did to obtain this 4.2 per cent figure was to apply his incorrect calculations of the amount of Budget stimulus to the wrong figures for non-farm national product. He applied his Budget stimulus figure to the amount of gross non-faim product for 1972-73 - the previous financial year - whereas what Professor Nevile did was to apply his calculated Budget stimulus to the figure for non-farm national product in the financial year covered by the Budget - not the previous year, as the Leader of the Opposition has done.
Of course, the effect of using gross nonfarm product for 1972-73 rather than an estimated figure for non-farm national product for the current financial year, which he would have to do if he were using Professor Nevile’s technique, is to overstate considerably the percentage that the Budget stimulus bears to nonfarm national product. Thus his calculations can be seen to be an awful mess and his comparison of the resultant 4.2 per cent figure with Professor Nevile’s average figure of 2.9 per cent becomes utterly meaningless and tells us nothing whatever about the impact of this Budget on the economy. From what I have said to this point it is clear that the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to show that this Budget is inflationary, by supposedly using Professor Nevile’s technique, is an absolute shambles. There are in fact other deficiencies in his calculations, but I do not think it is necessary to deal with them. He has clearly not used Professor Nevile’s technique in any essential respect, and the House should completely reject his calculations and the conclusions that flow from them.
Even if he had followed Professor Nevile’s technique exactly, he would have found that there were numerous economists Who would not have agreed with him that that was the correct approach to measuring Budget stimulus. The fact is that this is one of the most difficult and contentious areas in a notoriously inexact science. For instance, some economists would argue - correctly so, in my opinion - that the increase in average income tax rates which occurs as incomes increase in the face of a progressive tax schedule is just as relevant to the question of Budget impact as an increase in .the schedule of income tax rates. There is no generally accepted measure of Budget impact, and different economists have different notions of how to go about measuring it.
In this debate the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to an alternative measure of Budget impact, which is to relate the Budget deficit to total Budget receipts. However, he tried to make out that such an analysis showed this Budget to be inflationary by comparing the percentage that the deficit bears to receipts in this year with that for the years 1969-70 and 1970-71. He neglected to mention, though, that in those 2 years the ratio was quite unusually low. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the ratio of Budget deficit to total receipts for a period of years.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. The table shows the average ratio for the decade 1963-64 to 1972-73 to be 6.1 per cent. For this year 1973-74 the ratio will be 6 per cent - that is, about the average level. Thus, if we use this simplified approach to measuring budgetary impact referred to by the honourable member for Wannon, this year’s Budget looks decidedly neutral. Apart from the material to which I have referred, the Opposition has produced nothing to support its basic contention that this Budget is inflationary. From my analysis to this point it can only be said that the Opposition has failed dismally to prove this central facet of its case.
However, what does remain very clear is that the Opposition is firmly of the belief that our inflation can ‘be brought under control by budgetary policy acting in association with an incomes policy. The faith of honourable members opposite in such policies is indeed remarkable in the light of experience elsewhere in the world. They seem not to have heard of stagflation which has been a feature of world economic experience in recent years. Countries all round the world have tried to cut back inflation by reducing demand; but the result, in contravention of previous economic experience, was continued inflation despite greater unemployment and reduced economic growth. To adopt a policy of moderating the growth of government expenditure now, as the Opposition would have us do, not only would deprive this nation of desperately needed social reforms but also would be a quite ineffectual means of combating inflation.
Just as futile and dangerous is the plan of the Leader of the Opposition for a 90-day wage-price freeze as a means of breaking the circuit of inflationary expectations. This also has been tried in other countries and has been proved a failure. In 1971 the United States had just such a freeze and followed it with wage and price guidelines, but it is still struggling with an inflationary problem. In this connection it is rather ironic that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech in this debate with a nebulous quotation from a man to whom he referred as the distinguished American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith’. A few days later that same distinguished economist arrived in this country and immediately said that a 90-day wage-price freeze would not cure Australia’s inflation. The Melbourne ‘Sun’ of Tuesday, 4 September, reported him as saying that the practice of a wage-price freeze, of using phases of the moon, was the wrong way to go about it. So much then for the Oppositions’s prescription for the prevention of inflation.
The Melbourne ‘Age’ of 3 September reported the same distinguished economist, on whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition relies, as making some even more pertinent remarks. The article reads, in part, as follows:
Professor Galbraith, who arrived in Melbourne yesterday, said he doubted that any action taken in Australia alone would control inflation.
The decisive question is that it be brought under control in my own country - the United States,’ Professor Galbraith said at an airport Press conference.
Inflation is a world wide problem, and it’s going to be serious as long as it isn’t tackled in the metropolitan economy.
As long as inflation is out of control in the US, it is likely to be out of control in those countries that do a lot of trade with the US- like Australia.
These remarks by Professor Galbraith should be studied closely by the Opposition because they are indicative of the increasing acceptance by academic economists around the world of what we on this side of the House have been saying for some time - that is, that in the current situation of substantial world inflation it is not possible to prevent inflation in a relatively small open economy such as ours.
The truth of this proposition has now been recognised not only by many economists but also by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Incredibly, the Leader of the Opposition tried to use the OECD to support his argument that budgetary action and an incomes-prices policy were the way to control inflation. But he was apparently relying on a report by the Secretary-General of the OECD, which report is almost 3 years old. Things have changed considerably since December 1970. Inflation is now a much more severe problem throughout the world. The July 1973 edition of the OECD publication Economic Outlook’ had a special section headed The International Transmission of Inflation’. This article examined the complex mechanics by which inflation is transmitted around the world. It specifically made the point that Australia is comparatively heavily exposed to international inflation. It said that it is clear that no open economy can in the long run maintain a lower rate of inflation than its trading partners under conditions of fixed exchange rates.
The article also mentioned various devices by which countries can attempt to protect themselves against imported inflation. These are: Revaluation of the exchange rate, cutting tariffs, preventing large foreign capital inflows through the imposition of high deposit requirements, taxing of exports, and the introduction of price controls. With the exception of taxes on exports, these are policies that this Government has initiated while it has been in office. It has twice revalued, it has cut tariffs and has done everything except tax exports. All these measures have been sneered at by Opposition members who are years out of date in their economics. Throughout this debate the Opposition has made virtually no mention of external inflationary factors although the OECD, on which its leader relies, says that they are clearly of importance in determining our rate of inflation today. An obvious example is meat prices. In the June quarter of this year two-fifths of the consumer price index increase of 3.3 per cent was accounted for by -the increase in meat prices, but these increased meat prices have nothing to do with the overall level of demand in Australia or the increase in wage costs. They are substantially due to increased overseas demand for our meat, particularly from the United States.
This debate has revealed how bankrupt the Opposition is in policies to fight inflation. It would apply the policies which have failed elsewhere and been abandoned because of the stagflation which has accompanied them. There can be no doubt that the economic policies being applied by this Government are the ones which will produce for this country full employment, rapid economic growth and the minimum amount of inflation which is consistent with those objectives in a world increasingly troubled by rising prices.
– The ‘Australian’ of Monday, 3 September last, in a report on Professor Galbraith said:
The author of ‘The Affluent Society’ and The New Industrial State’, here to lecture on the world’s economic ills and his solutions to them, pounced upon a reporter who asked if we could live with a 10 per cent inflation rate.
Certainly not. Inflation is a mean thing which causes an arbitrary and uneven redistribution of income from the poor to those who are fast on their feet. No decent economist should stand for an inflationary policy.’
The 1973 Crean Budget is already proving itself to be an abysmal failure as an instrument for controlling inflation. Rather than control it, there are many aspects of the Budget which will fan the fires of inflation already burning in an overheated economy. History will condemn this Budget as a Galbraithian mean thing. Those benefits, which it is proclaimed to have by the Labor
Government, will prove themselves to be illusory. They emanated from a document formulated in the fantasy land of doctrinaire socialism. The Budget seeks to create the illusion of increased concern by the allocation of increased money, but more and more people are coming to understand that this is no more than a cheap political trick. Unless the increased money allocation means an increase in the allocation of resources, when measured in real terms, increased money incomes can coincide with a withdrawal of aid or a reduction of support for worthwhile projects.
Despite its protestations and sham concern, Australia’s socialist Government has a vested interest in inflation. It seeks to delude people into believing that they are better off as a result of rapidly rising money income. The Government not only condones but also actively encourages extravagant wage demands. It pays little heed to the significance of the relationship that should exist between wage demands and productivity. Though money incomes are rising, those who receive them in this economic climate find themselves worse off. They are worse off not merely because of spiralling prices but also because the higher money incomes go the higher is the proportion of those incomes which is taken in tax. There are some who earlier on speculated that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) would introduce a Robin Hood budget. People soon came to realise that this was not an apt description of the document he presented to the House. In view of the fact that so much of the Treasurer’s economic theories belongs to the 1920s and 1930s and not to the 1970s and 1980s, it is surprising that he has taken no notice of the views expressed by Mr Scullin, a famous Labor Prime Minister of the 1930s, who said: Inflation robs the worker of his wages’. The consequences of this Budget will be to do just that.
It is a robber budget. It will rob the school children of the nation of the real improvement in education that all would like to see and and that many have come to expect will be achieved by this Budget. They will be disappointed. It will rob young men and women of their earnings and of the opportunity to establish homes of their own where reasonable standards of living and adequate opportunities can be provided for their children. It will rob the pensioners of their savings and, if present trends continue, will reduce the real value of their pensions when we should be increasing it. It will rob all who pay tax of some of their freedom of choice. They will have less of what they earn to spend in the way they choose. More will be taken by way of tax, compulsory levy and special purpose contribution to be spent, and sometimes misspent, by a big brother socialist government. In his policy speech prior to the last general election the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into high tax brackets.
He promised not to increase income tax at any level to implement his Government’s program. He gave an implied assurance that he would reduce the tax burden borne by modest income earners. He claimed that earners such as those receiving $6,000 were being taxed at rates previously applicable to high income earners. But what has he done to reduce the tax burden on modest income earners? What has he done to retard the trend by which inflation forces into higher tax brackets the low and middle income earners, the great majority of Australian families?
– As my colleague has said, the Government has done nothing. It appears that the lower and middle income earners are the ones being called upon to pay for Labor’s failure to control inflation. It is they who are being required at an average rate of $10 a week per taxpayer to foot the wages’ bill for Labor’s expanding army of boffins and bureaucrats. Finding that it has promised not to increase tax rates on incomes, the Government has found it expedient to forget its assurance that it would tackle the pressing need to retard the process whereby inflation forces lower and middle income earners into higher tax brackets.
The Prime Minister’s several promises on taxation must be read together. To dishonour one is to dishonour all. The Whitlam Government has dishonoured these promises and in doing so has worked a confidence trick on the Australian people. It has deceived the taxpayers in the manner in which some rating authorities seek to deceive their ratepayers when they draw the ratepayers’ attention only to a 10 per cent reduction in the rate charged whilst being secretive about a 20 per cent upwards movement in valuations due to a changed basis of value calculation. The Labor Government’s election promises on taxation were no more than a classic illustration of the 3-card trick, and more tricks are yet to come. Many proposed schemes are, we are told, to be financed by imposts and levies to be described as contributions, but the public will not be so gullible as to fall for this deception.
I think I am justified in labelling for the benefit of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who has been interjecting, these imposts and contributions as a tax on income, a tax which his leader undertook not to increase. The public will recognise that these charges are another form of income tax, the imposition of which will amount to a breach of Labor’s election promise not to increase rates on income tax. An examination of the income tax rates scale reveals that the average net tax paid by income earners increases at roughly twice the rate of increase of most incomes. Thus, if there is a 10 per cent increase in incomes the impact of the progressive rate scale is such that tax paid will most probably rise at a rate in excess of 20 per cent. This year’s Budget forecasts that average weekly earnings will rise in 1973-74 by 13 per cent. If wage earners receiving income equal to average weekly earnings receive a 13 per cent increase in earnings the amount of their tax liability will be increased by approximately 30 per cent and the proportion of their total income paid in tax will rise from one-seventh of their income to one-sixth of their income.
In an inflationary economy failure to adjust the rate scale is a method whereby through default a government can increase the community’s tax burden. The present rate of inflation is so fast that the increased proportion of incomes being clawed into Government coffers by the progressive rate scale is greater than the increase in incomes attributable to increased productivity. As the Government takes higher and higher proportions of personal incomes so people’s freedom to choose how they will spend their money is progressively reduced.
When one reads the writings of economists known to be advisers of the Australian Labor Party one cannot but be concerned. For example, on his own admission in a paper delivered last year, Profesor Downing, in support of his proposals for a nationalised superannuation scheme, said that it would involve a massive transfer of gross national product from the private sector to the public sector. In his paper he indicated that he favoured the increase in Australia’s total tax take from 24 per cent of gross national product to closer to the western Europe tax take of 35 per cent, if not to Scandinavia’s tax take of 41 per cent of gross national product. He acknowledged that the greater proportion of this transfer would come from the middle and lower income earners.
To make the tax pill less bitter he suggested that the scheme be financed out of rising real incomes. Present indications are, however, that expected increases in real incomes have already been seized by this Government. Health schemes and superannuation schemes yet to be introduced for consideration by this House can be financed only by increased taxation, whether labelled so or not. Labor will increase the tax take by fostering and fanning inflation and by retaining the present rate structure in breach of its election promise to retard the increase in tax payable by middle and lower income earners. The tax structure is in urgent need of overhaul. The social objectives sought to be achieved through it must be redefined to take account of contemporary needs and present circumstances. It needs to be restructured to achieve social equity for the normal taxpayer and the normal family. The whole tax and social security system must be comprehensively assessed to remove features counter-productive to the principal goals.
If the impact of inflation on a progressive rate scale distorts the operations of other mechanisms designed to achieve equity, the rate scale must be revised. Any study of the system must be comprehensive and in depth. A national taxation philosophy needs to be defined. Much more care needs to be taken in the study than appears to have been taken by the Coombs task force in its rather superficial examination of such questions as the degree to which social security payments by way of child endowment and existing concessional deductions such as those for dependants, education expenses and others, achieve their social objective.
To treat revenue forgone due to the effect of concessional deductions as hidden Government expenditure is absurd. To do so implies that the rate scale has been perfectly devised in its degree of progression to equitably achieve its social objective. If the Coombs task force logic is applied to the rate scale for personal income tax as it was applied by thai body to company tax, there is a massive amount of hidden and disguised Government expenditure. The application of the Coombs reasoning to the rate scale involves treating as revenue forgone the amount by which any taxpayer’s average rate of tax is less than the highest marginal rate of tax charged.
The absurdity of such a conclusion demonstrates clearly that the rate scale, concessions, rebate systems and all other features of the tax and social security system need to be assessed as a whole. Under the present inflationary pressure growing numbers of families find themselves unable to reconcile the financial difference between the childless 2-income situation of early married life and the single income situation that comes with parenthood. We must recognise that contemporary circumstances require that income be distributed not just between .the affluent and the needy groups but also between the affluent and needy periods of people’s lives. The financial commitments for young families are heavy and by this Budget they have been made heavier. There is a case for paying child care allowances to mothers of young children as there is a case for restructuring the tax system in order to achieve equity for the normal family.
The low and middle income earners comprise the great majority of young Australian families. What has the Budget done for them? They will pay more tax because of inflation. If they work harder and longer to pull themselves out of the financial mire their tax burden will be further increased because it brings into operation the theory of diminishing returns. They will pay more for the houses they want to live in because of rising land prices and escalating building costs. Many will be discouraged by the phasing out of the homes savings grants scheme. If they have already purchased their homes they could now find themselves, as a result of the Labor Government’s high interest policies, liable to pay an additional $20 a month in interest charges. They pay more for petrol, cigarettes and spirits, if any of them can afford to buy such drinks. Some will pay more for the freedom to choose to have their children educated at independent schools. All are uncertain as to whether they will be further burdened by the withdrawal of concessions now available for education expenses and for the cost of insurance which enables them to protect their families.
I turn now to the pensioners. The Australian Labor Party promised to improve their real incomes. It promised to take the determination of pensions out of the political arena. It indicated that it would do this by relating pensions to average weekly earnings. It promised pensioners that it would increase pensions to a level equal to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Having achieved this goal pensions would be automatically adjusted. As average weekly earnings increased so pensions would be increased. The Labor Government, by repeating its promise, has endeavoured to create the impression that it has performed. The Australian Labor Party seeks to deceive the pensioners and the public into thinking that it has carried out or is carrying out its promise. It has done neither. Pensions are not index related. Pensioners are not getting 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Pension increases are not even linked in any way with increases in average weekly earnings.
Labor promised to increase pensions by $1 .50 every 6 months. At the time, this appeared an attractive proposition. At the rate of inflation being experienced when the promise was made pensioners would soon have been in receipt of pensions at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and pension determination would have been taken out of the political arena. Events have proved that it is not the quantity of money but rather its quality that counts. The Liberal dollar was worth more to the pensioner than the Labor dollar. The pensioners are being doublecrossed by Labor. They, along with the family man on the middle or low income, are being made to pay the price for Labor’s inflationary policies.
The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), like the dishonest milkman who waters down the milk, has given the pensioners an increased quantity of money but it is of rapidly declining value. Let me illustrate. If average weekly earnings are assumed to be $100 a week and are rising at 12 per cent per annum, a pension increase at the rate of $3 a year will do not more than give pensioners increased pensions to take account of increased average weekly earnings. Such an increase will not bridge the gap between current pensions and 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Average weekly earnings are rising faster than this rate and the pensions are not being increased at a rate commensurate with the current increases in average weekly earnings. Because of the way in which this Budget bears down upon the pensioner and the family man, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) disapproving the Budget for the reasons outlined in that amendment.
– 1 have listened attentively to speeches submitted in this debate by members of the Opposition and the kindest remark that I can make is that I sympathise with their endeavour. As a member for the past 9 years in Opposition when previous Budgets were debated, I cannot recall a more half-hearted, futile attempt to criticise the Government’s Budget. Although I understand the ideology which motivates conservatives’ action, it is always disheartening to them when socialist parties present a Budget. So, as a socialist, I wish honourable members opposite well and, for the future advancement of Australia, may they have many more years on the Opposition benches.
I rise to support the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The Treasurer (Mr Crean) deserves the congratulations of this House for submitting a positive and constructive Budget in the interest of Australians generally. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition seeks to achieve nothing but cheap, political kudos at the expense of Australia’s future. The Leader of the Opposition advocated a 90-day freeze on all incomes and prices in Australia. He urged the Australian Government to convene a national conference with State governments, unions and employer organisations to reach an agreed program to fight inflation, the conference first to agree on an income and prices freeze and then on guidelines for the control of future wage and price increases. This is the man whose Party, as the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government, administered the affairs of the Australian Parliament for the past 23 years. In 1944, the Curtin Labor Government put to the Australian people a referendum seeking Federal powers to control prices, and it was the Liberal Party attitude on that occasion to campaign for a ‘No’ vote. It was the Liberal-Country Party’s action, when in Government, to sit idly by when the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission removed the quarterly cost of living adjustment. These same people, when in Government, continually blamed the inflationary trend on wage increases anc), on all occasions when the Commission discussed national wage cases, the Government of the day had legal representation at the hearing to oppose the submissions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Similarly at that time when the Australian Labor Party was in Opposition, it introduced in this House countless urgency motions seeking the Federal powers by referendum or to approach the 6 States, which on many occasions were controlled by Liberal governments, to concede the powers whereby the Australian Government could establish a Federal price control system.
It is true my own State, South Australia, has a limited price control system, but only the Australian Government can effectively legislate price control. On each occasion when these matters were discussed, our opponents opposite, by the use of their numbers, defeated our attempts to grapple with the inflationary problem. Now we see the Leader of the Opposition calling for talks between the Federal and State governments, unions and employers, to combat inflation. This conference would identify the harms and evils of inflation and set an agreed program for restraint of income and prices with the national conference to consider guidelines for moderated price and wage advances in the future. He further advocated that, throughout the period of guidelines application, it would be desirable to have a prices notification system. Companies with a turnover of more than a determined figure would be required to notify price increases.
The Whitlam Labor Government has already placed on the statute book legislation for a prices justification tribunal. This Parliament has also established an all-Party Parliamentary Committee on Prices representative of this House to the Senate, to inquire urgently into price movements. My own personal view is that, while this machinery will provide important information to the Parliament on price movements, it will have little overall effect on the general gallop of prices in this country. The only positive alternative is to clothe the Australian Parliament with the Federal powers to initiate a Federal price control system. I would hope that this Labor Government would give serious consideration to the proposition that, at the first opportunity when a national election is held, the people of Australia be asked by referendum to alter the Australian Constitution to enable legislation of this nature to be given effect.
Now, Mr Speaker, I will take the opportunity to speak during this Budget debate on 2 matters that are of important interest to me and which affect all Australians generally, namely the fiasco of the present health discussions and the criticisms by a minority of the people of the Labor Government’s policy on education. Since the announcement of the
Government’s proposal to introduce in 1974 a national health scheme to replace the present unfair, inefficient voluntary health scheme of the previous Tory governments, the doctors, together with other people who have a direct commercial interest, have unleashed a tirade of abuse, for the express purpose of creating confusion and doubt within the community as to the benefits and protections which would be enjoyed under a national health scheme. I can recall this same atmosphere when the Chifley Labor Government in 1947 introduced and passed legislation for a free national health scheme. On that occasion the same interest which is loudly denouncing Labor’s health policy - namely the Australian Medical Association - took an injunction against the legislation to the High Court of Australia.
– -What happened then?
– If the honourable member will be a little patient, I will tell him. The Court, on that occasion, ruled in favor of the AMA and its decision, in so ruling, was that it was unconstitutional to require doctors to write in triplicate a medical prescription. The High Court judges claimed that to compel doctors to perform this act was industrial conscription. The national Press has widely publicised the doctors’ case how much work they are required to do, the long hours worked, the low financial remuneration, plus the high cost of maintaining their clinics. I took particular interest in a Press article, which recently appeared in a South Australian newspaper, highlighting the case of the poor doctor trying to make an honest dollar. The article was headed: ‘$30,000 per annum, $120 per week’. This doctor, a central Adelaide general practitioner, is an unapologetic $30,000 a year man.
– How many hours a week does he work?
– If the honourable member will be a little patient I will come to that in a minute. He earned $29,000 in the financial year 1971-72. When he adds the figure for the year to last June 30th, he expects his income will be $32,000. Such a sum would appear to brand the doctor as one of the money-grabbing ogres in the public - politician - doctors battle. But appearances, claims the newspaper, can be deceptive. This doctor’s income takes on a different complexion when the surgery on practice expenses and taxation is performed. He claims practice and other costs reduced his 1971-72 income to $14,000 and income tax, which included a heavy provisional tax slug, took another $8,000, leaving him with a net income of $6,000. The same newspaper article went on to say:
I expect this year to be better’ he said. “The figure should be $9,000 . . .’
That would be a 50 per cent increase on the previous year. Recently the South Australian State Government legislated a process order. Before the order patients paid $3 for a consultation when the most common fee was $3.40. The charge for home visits was $5 when the most common fee was $5.25. Now this doctor has boosted his fees by much more than the 15 per cent laid down by the State Government. Consultation charges are now $3.80 and home visits cost $6, but he is still within the Government’s legal limit of $3.90 for a consultation and $6.05 for a home visit. That article reported that the doctor said:
I did not want to increase my fees at all, and I would not have if Mr Dunstan had not stuck his nose in.’
This doctor, by newspaper reports, bought his one-man practice 5i years ago for $4,500. The newspaper article states:
My capital has gone down the drain now,’ he -said. ‘I could not sell this practice today even if I wanted to - not with the threat of a national scheme next year.”
The newspaper further states that this doctor is not in a typical practice as it is known today. It is a one-man outfit when the plural practice prevails. He does not employ locums. He does not demand appointments and 60 per cent of his patients are pensioners. The pensioner emphasis means lower fees and more routine work, demanding regular visits to nursing homes and a mountain of paper work. The doctor claims that 8,500 patients’ visits a year are as much as he can handle. But because of pressure he finds himself doing 10,000 with some assistance. He works as much as 60 hours a week, between seeing patients and driving. Another 10 hours is spent in filling out forms, writing letters and keeping records. He is on call 24 hours a day. He claims he cannot afford the $40a-month retainer for the night emergency service, plus the $10 fee for a locum call. He drives a Honda Civic, his wife a Valiant Galant. Both cars are leased because they get a full tax deduction. They own their own home in an inner eastern suburb, and he claims he has had 9 weeks’ holiday in 5i years. He says in order to take a holiday he could not now pay the $300 a week locums demand - this is understandable; he is only getting $120 himself - and he condemns doctors who close down their practices while they go away on holidays. This doctor does not want any part of a nationalised medical scheme. He fled Britain to escape one. He is bitter about politicians, claiming they continually mislead the public by giving doctors’ gross incomes instead of their net earnings. He sums up his professional philosophy this way:
In my own practice, I am my own boss, I can use my own judgment. And I do not want to work with politicians who do not tell the truth.’
I am indebted to my good’ friend and colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) who made a magnificent speech in an adjournment debate during the last session. As usual this member who is always meticulous in his research obtained the facts from the reports submitted each year to this Parliament by the Commissioner of Taxation on people who evade tax. On that occasion the honourable member for Hunter drew the attention of the House to a doctor who in 2 years understated his income by $260,000 and a nurse receptionist who understated her income by $38,098 for the year 1966-67. Another doctor is mentioned in the taxation report as having evaded taxation of $29,368 for 1969-70. Other doctors are mentioned in the reports and various amounts of evasion are set out. The point I would like to make is that these amounts are in addition to the actual amounts that each of these members of the medical profession claimed as income.
I have mentioned these cases, not from the viewpoint of who is right or who is telling the truth because the facts speak for themselves. I do so because from the first time the Federal Labor Leader announced Labor’s policy to introduce a national health scheme - for which subsequently the people of Australia by their vote gave a mandate - the Australian Medical Association, individual doctors, representatives of hospital benefit funds and the Press have launched a campaign to vilify and abuse the scheme for the express purpose of creating an area of confusion amongst the Australian people as to the true purpose of our health scheme. Notwithstanding those critics, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will next year introduce Labor’s health policy and it will in the main provide the fundamental principle that health care is a basic right to be provided according to need and not rationed according to wealth; that 4 out of 5 people will pay less for health insurance coverage than they do now; that as patients they will be guaranteed a free choice of doctors; their doctors will be paid for each service they perform and will continue as private practitioners. Under the present scheme people have to pay a flat amount whatever they earn. This is most unfair as it means that those earning more pay less for their health care after claiming tax concessions. We will also automatically cover unemployed people, certain pensioners and large families on low incomes. Hospital care will be free in public wards of hospitals, but if they want to have private ward or private hospital treatment, or wish to have their own doctors treat them in hospital, they can do so. Part of the cost of this extra service will be paid by the Commonwealth, as at present, and they can insure privately - as now - to recover the dfference. These contributions will be tax deductible.
Now I come to the question of education, and on this issue I am proud to be a member of the Australian Labor Party. For the last 23 years children have been neglected in obtaining a reasonable education standard, other than students whose parents were in a financial position to pay, or whose parents were prepared to go without the luxuries of life. In the forefront of Labor’s election campaign last December, a better deal in education was a major plank of our election platform, and I am certain that this issue was a major factor in the Australian people electing the Whitlam Labor Government. On that occasion among the promises on education made to the elector, we stated we would establish an Australian Schools Commission to determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools. From the 1974 academic year, fees will be abolished at Universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges.
Within weeks of his appointment to the portfolio of Australian Minister for Education, Mr Kim Beazley had established the machinery for setting up an Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, from which this Parliament has already received a report. Now 8 months after the election, the Labor Government in its first Budget to this Parliament, has earmarked a total of $843m to be spent on education during the 1973-74 year, or almost double the amount provided in the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition
Government’s budget. In effect, education spending in Australia will get a $404m boost. From 1 January 1974, the Australian Government will assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education at universities, colleges of advanced education, State teachers’ colleges and other approved teachers’ colleges, including the abolition of fees at all these institutions and at technical colleges. In addition, from the beginning of 1974, a non-competitive means tested living allowance will be offered to all full-time unbonded Australian students admitted to approved courses in tertiary and approved post-secondary institutions. The allowances will be higher than those available under existing scholarship schemes.
But it is in the field of primary and secondary education, I believe, that the greatest need of assistance is required. Previous Liberal-Country Party governments have deliberately used this important section of our youths’ education for political advantage, and I refer to the various legislative Acts of science laboratories, school libraries, and sectional handouts, all announced just prior to election days for the past 23 years. So it is like a breath of cool wind on a very hot day to hear the Minister for Education stating that legislation will be introduced during this session of Parliament to establish the Australian Schools Commission. Mr Beazley has also announced to this House that the major recommendations of the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission has been accepted by the Australian Government and will mean new programs from 1974, aimed at improving the quality of education, and promoting the accessibility to education. Both government and non-government schools will receive substantial additional funds to meet general recurrent costs and for new and replacement buildings and equipment. The Minister for Education stated that special programs will promote rapid development in areas of particular need, such as school libraries, teacher development and education of the handicapped, and education in socially disadvantaged localities.
Educational strategies and techniques must of course change to meet changing needs and the Government will support programs recommended by the Committee to foster innovation and development in primary and secondary education. He further states that the special programs for socially disadvantaged schools represents an important departure from Australian traditions in public education. Supplementary funds will be made available to schools identified as being disadvantaged on the basis of certain characteristics of their cachment areas, so that they can respond to the particular educational difficulties faced by a group of relatively poor children.
The Government’s needs policy requires that special attention and resources be devoted to the education of those groups of children who, in the past, have had least public money spent on their education, because they leave school earlier and gain no benefit from expensive tertiary education facilities. If the revolution in accessibility to education is to be achieved, we must discriminate in favour of those children in greatest need. So, it is the Labor Government which will provide for all students, irrespective of whether their parents are in a financial position to afford to educate them. Provided that they have the talent, the fullest opportunity will be available to each of them to obtain the education to which they are entitled and which they will be able to receive under this Government.
– I find it extremely difficult to follow the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls). I listened attentively and, quite truthfully, I cannot find anything in his speech worth commenting on, as should be done in a debate. It was well worked ground if ever I have heard it. So, I should like to make some comments on the broad fields of the Budget and the discussion up to date of the effects of the Budget on the future wellbeing of Australia. Firstly, I sincerely support the amendment so ably moved by my leader, the Leader of the Oppostion (Mr Snedden), on 28 August and commend him for his achievement that night.
– You will get on.
– Thank you. I commend the Leader of the Opposition for the substance of his speech and the forthright manner in which he stated it. Personally, I am amazed at the Budget and endorse the comments made by all Opposition speakers during this debate. It is a highly inflationary Budget that blatantly takes away from the private sector to spend on the public sector at a time when inflation is increasing at an unprecedented rate. Of this there is no doubt. This has been well explained by my colleagues on this side of the House.
During this debate we have heard continually from Government supporters, in reply to our criticism of the inflationary trend of the Budget and the massive 19 per cent increase in Government spending: ‘OK, what would you not have spent money on?’ The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on 29 August said:
He was referring to the Premier of Victoria- and the Leader of the Opposition have both stated publicly that the Commonwealth should cut back on spending. That is a very nice sentiment indeed. It is one they do not believe for one minute, because neither is prepared to suggest what moneys should not be spent that will be spent in this Budget.
Similar comments have repeatedly been made by members on the Government benches. I believe that if ever I have seen the 3-card trick in action, this surely is it. Say, for the sake of argument, the Government had allocated in the Budget additional money for pensions, health, housing, education, social security, conservation and urban and regional development - you name it - amounting to many more hundreds of millions of dollars than has been allocated under this Budget and it had balanced its budget by dipping still further into the private sector. Would it not still be extremely difficult for an Opposition to say: ‘You should not have spent so much on any one of those projects’? It is not possible to endeavour at this stage to be selective. No matter how much is spent on, say, urban and regional development there still will be room to spend more and, once an amount of money is promised, it is not reasonable to suggest that an Opposition should selectively say, or be in the position to say, that this is too much, and that it should be cut back here or there. This would be like one person giving a bag of lollies to a child and another charged with the task of taking back half. That is completely unreasonable and I hope that we do not hear any more of this attitude during the debate.
I have no doubt that the previous Government would have liked to introduce such a grandiose budget - a budget to advance the welfare, standard of living, education and quality of life of the average Australian. There is no doubt also that there has been a tremendous lift in all these fields over the last 23 years. But the previous Government could not have introduced a budget such as we have before us today. There is one particular hurdle that the previous Government could not have avoided or overcome and that was its responsibility to bring in a responsible budget and its duty to maintain a strong private sector out of which true wealth for all could flow. It was the previous Government’s duty to lift up all the people and not to smash down some - those some’ being the people who create the wealth of this nation. It was its responsibilty not to kill the goose that, year in year out, laid the golden egg, as this Government may find it has done. So I condemn the Budget and support the amendment.
Turning to more specific aspects of the Budget, I was intrigued by the statement of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) on 28 August when, among other things he said:
The Treasurer has won the admiration of the majority of Australians. The 1973 Budget has brought an abrupt end to the stop-go, boom-bust policies of successive Liberal-Country Party governments.
– Who said that?
– That brilliant economist, the honourable member for Lilley.
– He may be so right. By the very ruthlessness of the Budget towards the rural areas, mining and private companies, one can assume only that succeeding budgets will follow the same pattern. They will have to follow this pattern for the Government to maintain its heavy programs of public expenditure into which it has entered. So, the honourable member for Lilley may be dead right. There will be no more stop-go, as he wishes to interpret the last 23 years of sound economic management; rather, it will be all stop.
Let me refer briefly to the treatment of the rural industries and, so, the rural people of Australia by this Government in the short space of 9 months. I will be brief because I realise that this matter has been well canvassed during the debate by my colleagues from this side of the House. The Government has slashed rural reconstruction funds, the butter and cheese bounty and free school milk. It has imposed an export tax on meat. Fuel will be dearer and country prices will rise by up to 7c a gallon. Telephone installations will rise and rentals will increase in the country areas alone. Postal concessions are being abolished and the main brunt of the resultant increases will fall on country communities. We have had revaluation after revaluation. Interest charges are now being forced up. Election promises, such as the promise of $500m at low interest to assist the rural areas which was made just before 2 December - not so very long ago - have been quickly forgotten and replaced with this punitive attitude. All these naturally add to the cost of living and production for the greatest decentralised industry in Australia, namely, our rural industry. This Budget makes sure that we do not have a stop-go rural economy and that it is all stop.
On top of these charges there is to be a loss of taxation incentives. I believe that it is going to be extremely difficult for an average farmer to attend to the maintenance of his property, let alone carry out improvements and developments. For many years, the rural industries, lumped as a whole, have had a hard time. Drought and calamitous prices for rural products together with the cost price squeeze have caused difficulties we have all experienced. What joy was felt when good prices returned and, I remind honourable members, this is the first year of good prices for many primary producers. For one reason or another many primary producers did not participate in good prices and/ or good seasons last year.
The satisfaction was felt of being able to put the farm in order and to catch up with the jobs that had been neglected through lack of finance. Fences were to be brought up to scratch and new haysheds erected. The yards could be upgraded. Why, Mr Speaker, people started to walk tall again. The wheel had turned and faith was seeping back into rural areas. Properties would be restored and able to utilise the resources of land for the good of all. More acres could be cleared and a modest development program entered into. These things should have been done years ago. But now it is clear that this is not to be; Assistance through taxation deductions is finished, or all but finished. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) also, that fear and confusion are abroad down on the farm and in the rural areas generally.
What of the future? Can rural areas expect this erosion to continue? Are the untouched suggestions in the Coombs report to be left on the tram or are they merely on ice for the next Budget? Are country people now expected to put up with disadvantages in relation to the people of cities? What has become of Labor’s vaunted commitment to decentralisation? That this Budget will kill the growth of rural industries appears to me to be a perfect example of the unsound manner in which the Government attacks most problems. Much is made by the Government of rising meat prices, their effect on the cost of living and so on inflation. The method of overcoming this problem would be to tax exports of meat, it seems, not as we have been led to believe in the Budget at the rate of lc per lb but 1.6c per lb for beef and buffalo and calf meat. As Mr Sinclair, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, ably pointed out, this is one of the hidden charges in the Budget that is only now seeing the light of day. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) referred to those hidden charges in his speech earlier tonight. The method of overcoming the problem is to tax exports of meat. Exporters are to be disadvantaged and it is hoped that more meat will be forced onto the home market.
Export incentives for meat have been removed. The incentive is taken away from an industry which obviously, for the good of the community, needs to expand its production. The result of such expanded production would be the catching up with the world under supply position and the earning of overseas credits. The general result would be cheaper meat on the home market. With a world shortage of all proteins it borders on the criminal to retard production as the Budget will do. The Government is gambling on the short term gain but it may well find that in the long term no one will be better off. With a slowing down of maintenance and development and orders for machinery, goods and services falling off the Government may quickly find that rural Australia is the life blood of the nation.
Export earnings seem to be dirty words these days. Who needs them? Our overseas credits are massive so that any future overseas earnings seem to be an embarrassment to us. I believe that such thinking is so wrong and misleading as to be blatantly irresponsible. For the first time in many years we as a nation have actually balanced our books. Our exports have equalled our imports. Foreign capital entering the country for investment made up the balance of our overseas funds. It is quite conceivable that foreign investors will not be breaking a leg in future to get to the land of opportunity. Without the influx of money surely Australia must stand in a position of paying its own way. It is our duty to pay for goods we receive and we need most of our imports. We are better off for them and so we need viable, strong, prosperous and expanding export industries.
I ask the Treasurer to make clear the intentions of the Government for the rural people of Australia. Farming decisions are made in the long term. Agriculture is not a month by month or even year by year business. Investment decisions may take years to implement and to come to fruition. A statement on the long term objectives of the Government is the very least that rural Australia could expect and is entitled to.
– Mr Deputy Speaker - (Quorum formed). Ten short months ago the people of Australia threw out an old government, a Liberal-Country government that was dead on its feet, and installed a new Labor administration with a mission of change - a mission to get the country moving again. The Australian Labor Party accepted the challenge of that mission. Under the Whitlam Labor Government Australia has emerged from the long somnolence of the postwar conservative dreamtime and has struck out once more on the path of social progress which our grandparents pioneered. The last 23 years have been a long and musty detour and the vanguard in which our new nation once marched proudly has been left behind. There was a time in Australia’s early years when the world looked to us for guidance in fair wage laws.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that it may be an uninteresting speech but the Minister’s colleagues might listen to him.
– Order! I suggest that the House come to order.
– There was a time in Australia’s early years when the world looked to us for guidance in fair wage laws, in looking after the old and the sick and in many other measures for achieving social justice which we pioneered and for which we obtained a world wide reputation. The Australian Labor Party in government intends to restore Australia to that pre-eminence. This first Labor Budget in 23 years is an historic step along the road to building a society which can be an example for all the world and to which all Australians will be proud to belong. We can afford it. In fact we have a profound responsibility to make good use of the riches in Australia that we have been given. We should not sit back on them or idly relinquish control of them as our Liberal-Country Party predecessors did but say that we accept the challenge and the fact that geography and history have placed our nation in control of vast resources and not waste the chance. That is our position in Australia today. Our numerically small nation controls a significant portion of the world’s wealth. I say the ‘world’s’ advisedly because the day has long passed when a nation can afford to regard itself as a single unit isolated from the rest of the world. We are all one community now - the global village, as Marshal McLuhan called it. As trustees for such a major part of the resources of mankind, we are on the cutting edge.
It is rich societies such as ours that must discover the keys to survival of our increasingly over-populated arid depleted globe and point the way to a just and viable future for all mankind. These are the responsibilities which our predecessors - the Liberal-Country Party coalition government shirked and of which it probably was not even aware. They are grave responsibilities indeed. It is a tremendous task to justify the advantages we have and to develop our society so that Australians can reap the full benefit from their inheritance and so that we, as a nation, can play our part in advancing the interests of humanity.
– Order! I am afraid that your ministerial colleagues and others are not giving you the degree of attention which they should. I ask for order in the chamber.
– Our first task is to build a just society at home. This Budget is only the beginning but it is the right sort of beginning. It points the way to the achievement of a fairer distribution within our own society. It provides assistance to the elderly, to orphans, to the handicapped, to the rich, to the needy, to education and to the cities where the great mass of Australians live. There is much more to be done but the important thing is that at last we are moving forward again. Australians walk taller because of this Budget.
We are once more assuming our proper role as a leader in the development of social welfare programs and as a responsible and forward looking member of the world economy. Of course, many of the things the Government would like to do are not feasible at present. We all remember the deficit and the mess that this Government inherited from its predecessor. We are handicapped by the antiquated structure of the Australian Constitution. But because of the particular responsibilities that I hold as Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory, I will confine my remarks in the short time allowed to us in this debate to a discussion of the relevance of this Budget to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
In the Australian Capital Territory and to a lesser extent in the Northern Territory, the Australian Government has the power to act directly for the welfare of its citizens. It is my intention that these Territories should act as beacons, pointing the ways in which our society can develop not, of course, because the Territories should be singled out for special attention in any way but merely because they can be examples where the Australian Government has the power that it lacks in the rest of Australia. Provision is made in the Budget for a community health centre in the Australian Capital Territory, in the new suburb of Melba. This is the first of its kind in Australia. Residents of the appropriate suburbs can receive free treatment on the spot by government employed doctors. Also available is a chemist to fill prescriptions, a physiotherapist if that sort of treatment is needed, a dentist and social workers. In Scullin, an adjoining suburb, a similar community health centre is operating on a different basis, using doctors on a fee for service type system to give an alternative and a freedom of choice to the people of Canberra. This is a system that needs to be extended into other parts of Australia. One would hope that sooner or later this will be done. Other centres are planned for Canberra. We would like to see these facilities in all Australian communities, along with the more traditional health centres. The model is being created in Canberra.
I refer now to public transport. The overwhelming majority of Australians live in big cities and have to battles with appalling transport facilities to get to and from work. Again in Canberra, where it is possible to do this sort of thing, we are trying to show the way to a better system. Radical new rapid transport systems are being evaluated and we are almost doubling our bus fleet at a cost of $2.4m over 2 years. We are introducing experimental free bus services in order to persuade people to leave their cars at home. We accept the responsibility of assisting people to get to and from work and we are doing something about it. We accept also the responsibility for getting them into their homes at a price they can afford.
In the near future a whole new system of land distribution and a new integrated housing policy will be unveiled in the Australian Capital Territory. We are convinced that we can get owner-occupied homes and rental accommodation on to the market cheaper than it is at present and certainly cheaper than it would have been had our predecessors, the Liberal-Country Party government, remained in office. The Budget for 1973-74 will give us a 56 per cent increase in government accommodation units in Canberra. There, will be 1,505 units compared with 965 in the year 1972-73. It is a notorious fact that under the previous administration the percentage of homes built by the government of the day declined from something like 70 per cent of all built in 1957 to less than 30 per cent of all built in 1972. We are restoring the balance.
The Budget provides also for the servicing in 1973-74 of enough land for the Government and private enterprise for the building of about 1,800 more homes than the 5,500 which were built last year. This is a significant percentage increase. I am reminded that my colleague the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) put it to me earlier this evening that the percentage increase of funds for housing throughout Australia coming from this Government is something in the order of 26 per cent - another significant percentage increase. This, again, is an attempt to redress the balance of the degree of rundown that had occurred under the previous Government. These initiatives will be welcomed by people on the government housing lists whose turn for a dwelling should come more quickly than was thought possible before the introduction of this Budget. The provision of more land should help those people in our community who prefer to help themselves with housing. Overall, the amount available for expenditure by the Department of the Capital Territory in 1973-74 will be $48m, an increase of 37.5 per cent over the amount spent on comparable functions by the former Department of the Interior in 1972-73. This is consistent with the large percentage increases that have taken place throughout the whole of Australia, whether it be on education, housing, social services, Aborigines, money spent on the cities through the Department of Urban and Regional Development or public transport.
The Government will begin work in the Australian Capital Territory this financial year on a program of civil works amounting to some $120m. These new projects include S9.2m worth of education facilities, among which will be Canberra’s first transitional colleges for fifth and sixth form pupils. This is yet another example of what can be done by a government which has the will and the determination to do it in the places where it can do it. There will be increased expenditure on social, cultural and welfare undertakings. Expenditure on social welfare will rise by 30 per cent from $518,000 last financial year to $649,000 this financial year. This will cover payments for distressed housing, for the new right of pensioners and others in need to a 50 per cent cut in rates, bus fare subsidies for pensioners, cash sustenance, food orders and clothing for people in need, and to bridge the time gap between applying for social benefits provided by the Australian Government and their approval.
The Government will go ahead with construction of an Australian Capital Territory remand centre to provide a modern alternative to the present unhappy arrangement bequeathed to us by the previous Government of holding ACT male prisoners in the Goulburn Gaol and of sending women prisoners to the Silverwater complex in Sydney. An amount of $20,000 has been allocated to extend the activities of the Family Planning Association beyond the present 2 centres for advice in Beauchamp House and the Woden Plaza to Canberra’s 2 public hospitals, to the health centres and to Jervis Bay. The Canberra Theatre Trust grant will be increased from $37,900 last financial yeal to ‘$67,000 this year. To assist old people the Department of the Capital Territory will make sites available free in various parts of Canberra to non-profit organisations interested in building homes for the aged. This offer will be open to acceptable organisations such as the usual charitable institutions, lodges and professional bodies.
Let me sum up some of the benefits the Government has brought to the Australian Capital Territory. I deal first with land. Dwelling units on serviced sites are up $1,800 on last year to $7,300, a rise of 33 per cent. Government houses and flats are up $540 to $1,505, a rise of 56 per cent. Estimated expenditure on Commissioner for Housing loans is up $14,950,000 over last year to $18,750,000. Expenditure on public transport is doubled to an estimated $2,311,000. In the area of social welfare and culture expenditure is up $166,9 15 or 15 per cent. So the story could go on. More important than money, of course, are the ideas that are being implemented in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. I instance selective price control, shopkeepers’ charters, law reform and new methods of land distribution.
Canberra is a young city, just as Australia is a young country. There is no reason for the mistakes of the past to be repeated here, and we are determined that they will not be. It is already a better place to live in than most Australian cities and it can be made better still, hut we must remind ourselves continually that in doing these things in the Territories they are being done as examples for the States, for the rest of Australia to follow. The Whitlam Government recognised the importance of the Territories when it set up the Capital Territory portfolio. It also recognised the importance of the Northern Territory when it decided to base the Department of the Northern Territory in Darwin instead of allowing it to be neglected as it had been for so many years under previous governments.
I turn to the Northern Territory. We have budgeted for a record expenditure of more than $l92m this year - clear evidence of our concern for the welfare and development of the Territory. We have further underlined our commitment to the future of the north by creating a separate Ministry to administer it, and, as I have said, basing the new Department of the Northern Territory in Darwin. This must be regarded as a major step forward. It marks the end of ‘the bad old days when the Northern Territory was just a tucked away appendage to the grab-bag Ministry of the the Interior, to be visited infrequently by its Minister and thought about even less. I am committed to creating conditions in the Northern Territory in no way inferior to those enjoyed by other Australians. Darwin and Alice Springs are growing at approximately 12 per cent per annum compound. Record expenditures are contained in this .Budget in the fields of education and health services and substantial increases have been provided for community facilities in the north. This is part of our overall plan to increase the attractiveness of the Northern Territory as a place for families to live and put down their roots. Development in its broadest sense can not be achieved unless full recognition is given to the social needs of the community.
One of the most satisfying features of the Budget from the point of view of the Northern Territory is the record amount of $53m to be spent on capital works. Here again the Government has sought to achieve a balance between the economic and the social needs of the Territory in apportioning this record figure. For example, a first step has been taken towards improving the quality of life in the smaller centres through the provision of better public utilities and town roads. We are endeavouring through a land acquisition scheme to introduce the benefits that we see in Canberra of proper town planning for the people of the Darwin area. By converting the land tenure system to leasehold - true leasehold - we will try to protect the interests of both the present residents and generations to come against speculation and misuse.
We recognise Aborigines are a major proportion of the Northern Territory’s population. They are a people who have been sadly neglected by past Australian governments. In this, the first Budget of the Whitlam Labor Government, we have outlayed more than $117m for Aboriginal advancement. This is almost double the provision made in the last Budget by the Liberal and Country Parties. It is an earnest determination to do everything we can to make up to these deprived citizens of Australia for the neglect of the past. I commend the Budget to the House.
– May I take the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory to task on something which he has just said. He could be quite right in saying that the population of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are expanding at 12 per cent per annum, but surely he must know that since his Government came to office on 2 December last the people of the Northern Territory - I do not know about the Australian Capital Territory - are now wondering whether they will stay in the Northern Territory. Under the previous Government, when the Northern Territory developed very substantially, to a great extent under the auspices and guidance of a former Minister, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), they realised what the Northern Territory was all about.
– I went there more often than the present Minister does.
– I am sure you did, and you did not just stay overnight at Batchelor and flit up to Darwin and so on. I thought I would point that out because the Minister really does not know what he is talking about. This Budget is a complete and utter disaster for the Northern Territory. The Minister said that the works program is costing $53m. That probably has something to do with the departmental people who have remained behind - they have put up the works program. But the policies that have been introduced by this Government are sadistically designed to ruin completely the Northern Territory - and also anyone who lives in any such place other than some suburb of some city in the south. This is obvious. It is also a disaster for Australia generally and for our defence system. It ignores inflation. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) escapes from every question that is asked of him by saying simply that inflation is not confined to Australia alone. Of course it is not, but he should be doing something about it. This Budget is an inflationary Budget.
To get back to the one-sixth of Australia which I represent and which the Government in its tax-grabbing attack seems to have completely forgotten or Ignored, T would like to point out a few things to the Ministers concerned. If the Minister for the Northern Territory were to go to the Territory now he would find that what is supposed to be and has been heralded by honourable members opposite as a fabulous Budget -the first of the few, I would think - is viciously aimed at the people who live in the part of Australia that I live in. It is aimed at battlers. It is aimed at ordinary people in the streets, no doubt unwittingly, because I am sure the people who compiled it were aiming it at some entirely different section of society. They did not realise that when they slapped an increased tax on fuel and then virtually doubled the increase by removing the equalisation subsidy of 2c a gallon on fuel used in outback places their action would increase the cost of everything that goes into these places, whether in outback Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory. The price of everything will rise to cover the extra 5c tax on petrol used for cartage. Once the fuel reaches these areas, the 2c long distance freight rebate has conveniently been removed.
I would like the Minister to go to places such as Tennant Creek and Katherine and see how he gets on. The people there would string him up, and not without reason. On top of all these things, some unwitting idiot has done away with the 25 per cent long distance freight rebate from the Commonwealth Railways. The Government has produced an inflationary Budget. It has decided to attack inflation. There is a prices controller wandering around the Territory. What can he do in the face of a more than 25 per cent rise in freight charges from the Commonwealth Railways?
– That is not right, surely. Is that correct?
– That is correct. Last week I sent the Minister a telegram. The Government’s actions are quite incomprehensible.
– It is sheer discrimination.
– Yes, that is right. The people who will suffer are not the ones at whom the Government is aiming - the Pitt Street farmers or whatever they are. The ones who will suffer are the men who work in the mines at Peko, Warrego and Frances Creek, to mention a few in my electorate. They will have to pay more than 25 per cent more for their foodstuffs to be brought down the road because this Government is aiming at someone who lives in Sydney. I do not know what the Government really thinks it is doing. It is quite obvious that the Minister lost his battle. I do not know whether he even fought.
– He probably never tried.
– He probably never tried. I do not think he realised what was going on. Overall, the increase in fuel costs in the Northern Territory together with the removal of the Government freight subsidy will amount to $3.5m. I have only taken out some rough figures. The Minister can check them. He will probably find it is twice that amount before it is through. Many people there rely on road transport. Automotive distillate will be taxed. Motor car fuel will be taxed. One cannot escape from the increases because aviation fuel and aviation kerosene will be taxed. People will not be able to obtain anything by air at the normal price. There will be a 10 per cent increase in airport charges. In the Northern Territory, outback Queensland and northern Western Australia every station, town and mine has an airstrip. That is the way they operate. These costs were high even before this attack was made. Living in the outback is very expensive.
I will not mention postal and telephone charges and the extra costs that no doubt will be involved in radio transmission. The Government’s actions are completely incomprehensible to me and to everyone else in the Northern Territory and such places. Apart from revaluations, opinions about who runs the mining industry and how competent they are - whether or not they are hillbillies - this Government is tending to destroy the income earning sectors of our commerce. After all, how did we get to the position of being able to afford all these social benefits that have been splashed around and the benefits that will flow to suburbanites out of this Budget? Where did that wealth come from? It came from our primary industries. It came from the mining industry, which after all is a primary industry. It came from the pastoral industry, which certainly is a primary industry.
Now this Government is calling the organisers and the people who run these industries hillbillies. They are being attacked by revaluation. They are being attacked by the disparity between the Australian dollar and the United States dollar. They are being attacked by increased fuel costs and by the slashing of freight rebates. Where does the Government expect to get the money to finance its fabulous schemes? The Government is going to finance them on straight inflation. In the meantime industries such as Peko-Wallsend Ltd in Tennant Creek - a town of some 3,000 or 4,000 people, taking in the whole mining setup - have of their own volition invested approximately $60m in the mulga or the scrub. Yet they are being attacked by this Government.
– It has Australian capital, too.
– This is an Australian company. A consortium of Ministers has tied up its business to such an extent that its uranium province cannot be worked. The company cannot meet its contracts because no one is saying anything about what is to happen out at its uranium province which is west of Arnhem Land. On top of this, the company, in the face of all the attacks through export controls and revaluations, was financing its exploration and development through the sale of gold. What has happened to that? Half of the company’s income will go in gold tax. I imagine that this Budget is supposed to be aimed at assisting the worker - the man who obviously voted this mob into government. These miners and transport men are the ones who will suffer. They will suffer more than the fat cats about whom we have heard so much. The whole thing leaves someone coming from the outback speechless. I invite the city slickers here, with their 4-square-mile or 900- square-mile electorates, to get out in the sticks and see how they are received. Most of them would be strung up if they went there.
I refer again to the 10 per cent tax on airports, aviation gas and fuel. This Government has decided to put out of business the biggest private enterprise in Alice Springs - Connair Pty Ltd. The Government can do this by all means, but 120 or 130 people are involved in this enterprise. They are all technical men. They want to live in Alice Springs and they have done a very good job. But no, it is to be shut down and handed to someone else. Whether those who take it over can run it I do not know.
At Alice Springs airport on any day of the week there is standing room only. There might be two or three jets and a couple of Friendships on the airstrip but there is no room to sit down at the airport. Yet passengers are paying through the nose for this disservice. At Tennant Creek airport there is a Friendship service but no jet service. Yet there is a 10 per cent charge. At Katherine the same thing applies. Katherine has one of the finest airstrips in Australia. It has no jets but it will be charged another 10 per cent just the same. This is ridiculous. By all means charge the people in the cities who have airports like Tullamarine to go through but in the country areas the Government is victimising the people who are living away from the cities, who have been prepared to go to the country and work for Australia. I do not know what the Government wants. Darwin airport is not airconditioned and it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit there today with 88 per cent humidity. Go there, you blokes in your blue suits, and see how you get on. The Minister goes there in a BAC 111 with his staff and sweeps in and out overnight. He does not have to sit around in these places and wait for the Friendship.
– He does not go there often either.
– Order! I ask the Country Party cheer squad to keep quiet.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that. I have not time to say all I wanted to say but I will certainly say it during the Estimates debate.
– You could cheer us up.
– The honourable member would get a nice cheer up if he went up there, I am sure. We heard the Minister for the Northern Territory say that places in the Territory would be show places. For what? For the Whitlam Government’s socialist takeover of Australia? That is exactly what they will be. Honourable members opposite ought to wake up to this. People do not want this in the Northern Territory. They do not want to be socialised and run by a mob of centralists in Canberra. They just do not want that sort of thing. We cannot comprehend the thinking of the people who introduced this Budget. The feeling of the people in the Northern Territory is that it was inspired by city dwelling socialist madmen, and that is so. They cannot understand what it is all about. What is more it is being implemented by people who do not understand. They are vindictive, unscrupulous, political crooks. This is what the people in the Northern Territory think and I agree with them. I do not know whether they are vindictive, unscrupulous crooks or simple, narrow-minded fools, but they will wreck the economy of Australia.
– I shall draw breath and reply to some of the comments made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). Ho referred to the Government as not knowing why it was doing things. But this is a Budget of a Party which believes in what it does. This Government does not shy away from unpalatable decisions. We do not believe that there should be anomalies or hidden subsidies, especially if they favour only special interested groups. We are not frightened of what a particular pressure group might say if we take away particular concessions rather than let unjustifiable concessions continue and allow further anomalies to develop. Instead of this we make courageous decisions to come out in the open, to take action and explain why even if this means receiving criticism. I believe that this is a good, forceful and decisive government. I believe that this is what people elect a government to be. The electors want a government which knows what it is doing and why. They do not want a government which is weak and frightened to do what has to be done.
It is an honour to be speaking in this debate on the first Labor Budget for 24 years. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean). I reject the Opposition amendment. It is fair enough for the Opposition to pick holes in the Budget and to criticise the parts of it with which the Opposition disagrees. The Opposition’s job is to oppose. It would be surprising if it could not find some things in the Budget which it opposed, especially considering that it has an entirely different philosophy to that of honourable members on this side of the House. But it would not hurt the Opposition now and again to be big enough to give some praise where praise is due. Some time the Opposition may come to realise that it would do it no harm if it gave some praise to the Government. In fact, it would do it a lot of good. The public becomes sick and tired of constant criticism which is not sometimes alleviated by praise. That only leads to criticism, when due, having less impact. I do not believe that anyone in his right mind could condemn the Budget out of hand. I ask the Opposition: Why not be magnanimous for a change and praise at least some parts of what I believe is a very worthy Budget.
As I said a moment ago this is a Budget of a Party which believes in what it does. I am not one to say that the Opposition did nothing right and everything wrong during its 23 years in power. But I think it must be said that in general its Budgets and policies more often than not were merely a reaction to situations and to public demand rather than means of initiating action and setting a clearly defined course. Improvements in social security and welfare, if not always parsimonious, under the previous Government often had a tinge of reluctance about them. This Government’s first Budget shows quite clearly that we have goals and priorities. We said that we would do certain things and we are doing them. Not all the election pledges are fulfilled in this first Budget. After all, it is a 3-year program. I reject entirely paragraph 8 of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) which states that the Budget fails to honour election promises. Of course there are still election promises unfulfilled. Honourable members opposite cannot have it both ways. We are accused of doing too much and then in the next breath we are accused of not implementing all our policies of the 3-year program’ in this first Budget of that period. This Budget is a beginning. It is not as far reaching in its changes to the entrenched system as some thought or hoped. But it sets the stage for these basic changes in the years to come. We must hope for basic taxation reform next year after there has been time to study the best and most equitable way of doing it.
I wish to spend some time highlighting some of the less spectacular but nevertheless important parts of the Budget to show some of the new initiatives which have been taken by this Government. No doubt in the past other governments have been saddened by the same thing but it is rather a pity that so many of these matters have become obscured by the major items of expenditure and taxation, especially the latter. People may be forgiven for thinking the contents of the Budget related only to increases in the tax on cigarettes and petrol which unfortunately were a necessary means of raising more revenue but nevertheless were justifiable on social grounds. I am pleased that so many have accepted this point and have acknowledged that if we smoke a little less because of it our health will be improved, and if we use a little less petrol because of it the resource tends to be conserved, there is less pollution, less of the costly traffic problems, greater use of public transport and so on.
These points have got home to the public and I think the Opposition ought to be a bit careful and recognise this. Even on the major items of expenditure some people would like to ignore the fact that this Budget almost doubles the spending on education. It might have been hard to believe last year that this sort of huge increase could occur, but it has. On social security benefits we are doing what we said we would do - an increase of $1.50 twice a year. All the Opposition can find to say about that is to repeat the incorrect calculation of its Leader that this is an increase of only 11.4 per cent. It is in fact an increase of 14 per cent. I would have liked the increase to be greater, but this has increased the percentage which the pension bears to average weekly earnings. I acknowledge that we will have to make the pension increase more than $1.50 at least once to meet our pledge to bring the basic rate up to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings within the 3 years of the Parliament.
– It is falling behind.
– It is not falling behind; it is moving ahead. We said we would do it and we will, within the 3 years of this Parliament. I wish now to highlight just a few of the overshadowed but important social innovations in the Budget of which the House ought to be reminded. A couple of examples in the field of education are the $304 per annum means tested educational allowances to assist the children of low income families to complete the final 2 years of secondary school, and the grants to provide additional places for much needed trainee social workers. In health, $7.5m is provided to assist the States to develop community based mental health, alcoholism and drug dependency services, and $7 .9m for the national school dental scheme.
In social welfare, we are doubling the contribution towards the capital cost of senior citizen centres and increasing by one-third the subsidy towards Meals on Wheels, back dated to the beginning of the year. The handicapped children’s benefit is being doubled. There is an overall doubling of expenditure on Aboriginal advancement in the areas of housing, health, education and employment. I notice that the honourable member for the ‘Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who has now left the chamber did not mention that area of expenditure.
– No. His was the most negative speech one would ever hear.
– That is right. In urban and regional development, finance is provided for the planning of future growth centres, including $500,000 for Tasmania. This will allow an overall assessment of how the State should develop in the future. There is $30m for the States earmarked to overcome the backlog in sewerage provision in major urban areas. There is $32m for upgrading urban public transport services. In the general area of quality of life the Budget provides $7m for the National Library, $ 14.7m for the National Gallery and $14m for the Council for the Arts. I wish the Opposition would stop for a moment and give some thought to those aspects of the Budget, which are new. The sum of $3.2m is provided for the development of community recreation complexes and $lm so that Australian sportsmen and sportswomen can be assisted to participate in national and international events. As part of our commitment to the environment and conservation $3m is set aside for the first time for national parks and the preservation of the national estate.
Of specific help to Tasmania is the Sim a year subsidy to the Australian National Line so that the important tourist link - the ‘Empress of Australia’ service across Bass Strait - can continue to operate. This will also have some secondary benefits on freight rates to Tasmania because the ANL will not have such a great loss on passenger services to be made up. The situation would not be so bad if it had been better looked after by the previous Government. An amount of S3. 2m overall is to be spent on grants for tourist attractions and for promoting domestic tourism.
Another grant to the States provided for the first time is for a $3m program of traffic management and improvement of locations with poor accident records. I do not think this matter has been mentioned yet by the Opposition. I am very pleased about this grant as it will allow urgent action at locations where road safety is bad.
-Order! It being IS minutes to 11” o’clock p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– This afternoon honourable members witnessed a very remarkable demonstration outside the Parliament. I have seen many demonstrations here. This was one of the largest and, I think, one of the most genuine that has taken place. In the past when there have been large numbers of people at demonstrations very often you see the same faces and you know that these are people who are here not because they believe in a cause but in order to demonstrate. They are reinforced by local cheer squads from Canberra. The demonstration this afternoon was not like that. It was a demonstration composed entirely of genuine people who came here to Canberra. They were not the normal crowd that has been involved in other kinds of disturbances. They were here because they had a genuine case. They were determined but orderly. I am afraid they did not have an opportunity of putting their case to Ministers who, with one reluctant and late exception, refused to have anything to do with them and who would not even see their spokesmen except, as I have said, for that late and reluctant exception.
I appeal to the Government and to the members of the Government party to see that this demonstration was not in vain and that some notice is taken of these people who have a genuine and I feel a good cause. I know very well that a decision has been taken in this matter already. I look at the Press release of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) of 28 August. It starts off with the bald phrase:
Galston has been chosen by the Australian Government to meet Sydney’s airport needs for the 1980s.
I see no reason to quote the rest of that statement. But looking at it, there is no doubt that the Minister says that a definite decision has been made and the only thing in question is the details of how to carry out that definite decision. I look also at the text of the interview which the Minister gave on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program ‘This Day Tonight’ on 28 August. Again he was quite definite. The interviewer, Mr Carleton, asked him:
Is it quite definite it is going to be at Galston?
The Minister said:
The decision was we would locate the second one at Galston.
The interviewer said:
This committee will not be looking at alternative sites or anything like that; it is definitely Galston.
The Minister said:
Galston is the site. He went on to say that if he were at liberty to do so he could state the exact position of the proposed airport. I do not want to cloak the position. I realise that the Minister has definitely announced a decision which was made. Nevertheless, in my view it was a wrong decision and I am asking for it to be changed. In spite of the fact that it is a definite decision I ask for it to be changed. There is a technical provision in the rules of the Labor Party which would allow Caucus tomorrow to overrule the Cabinet and the Minister. I ask Caucus to do just that in accordance with the technical power that resides in its members. The matter is difficult, I know, because when this Government announces a decision one never quite knows whether that decision will really be carried out. As was pointed out, suppose Caucus tomorrow decided that the Australian dollar was not to be revalued. If that happened, what would the Government do? The position with respect to the airport at Galston is exactly the same. Nevertheless, the decision with respect to that airport is such a wrong decision that I appeal to the Government to change it even at this late hour.
– Where would you like the airport to be located?
– The honourable member asks where I would like it to be located.
That is a very good question. I have stated already in this House that, in my view, no need exists for a second airport in the Sydney area. But a second international airport for NSW should be located in this Canberra area. There are good technical reasons for putting one here. As honourable members know, a site has been selected in the Bungendore district. That site would not cause any interference with any assembly of people. It would be a good site technically and would be welcomed, I think, by people in that area as noise interference would not be a problem and an additional facility of which people could take advantage would be provided.
People would take advantage of that facility particularly if the airport were correlated - again I remind honourable members that I made this point in the House a couple of weeks ago - with an upgrading of the rail system and the utilisation of the new techniques which would allow rail services at a speed which is not considered customary in Australia but which is quite technically possible even over the terrain of that area. That facility could be correlated with the desirable improvement of the railway line between Sydney and Albury. Certainly the section of that line between Sydney and Wagga is one of the worst aligned railway sections in the world having regard to its present and potential volume of traffic. So I thank the honourable member for his interjection. Yes, there is an alternative - a constructive alternative - and that is the one which I urge upon the Government at present. Even if the change is made tomorrow, as I hope it will be - in which case I think that the demonstrators who were outside Parliament House today can congratulate themselves - a need for vigilance will still exist. A decision to change, made once, can be made again.
I do not believe that the demonstration would have been as persuasive as it has been if a by-election in the Federal electorate of Parramatta were not pending. It may be for the most unworthy motives from the Government’s point of view that the change would be made. That decision might be made not because the Government believes in the need for the change but because it is worried about the outcome of the Parramatta by-election. This motive would be unworthy but, nevertheless, the action taken would be worthy and worth while. I do not think that the Government should be reluctant to take this decision even if the motive behind it were unworthy. But I do say that even when or if the Government does change its decision a need for vigilance will remain. Once the Parramatta byelection is over the Government will be able, if the motive is an unworthy one, to do as it has done so often in the past, that is, short change and deceive those who voted for it. I do ask for this change to be made, but I would point out that even if it were to be made there would be grounds for vigilance because when it made its original decision, which was an off-the-cuff decision, the Government did not really know where Galston was and probably did not even know that the electorate of Parramatta could be affected. The Government has in this instance acted in haste and in ignorance but in a way which, I am afraid, is so characteristic of its other actions.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to reply briefly to the comments of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who put forward a reasonable case for consideration. As one must always look at the reasonableness of any argument, particularly one which relates to the location of an airport, one cannot overlook the fact that the honourable member was for many years a prominent member of the previous Government. It is therefore rather peculiar that he should come forward at this stage with a suggestion as to a suitable site. That site may be a good one, but it is rather interesting to think that it was never considered at any stage by the previous Government. As professional politicians, we all use our skills during debates in this House to attract attention to what we term a good cause that is in the public interest.
There is no doubt that neither the people of Galston nor the people of any other area want an international airport in their locality, but nobody ever gave any consideration in this respect to the people of the Kingsford-Smith area. In fact, the plan of the Government of which the honourable member for Mackellar was a member was to duplicate the runways at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. It could not care less about the people in that locality. That was the whole issue.
The previous Government set up the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, which heard some rather interesting evidence as to the probable growth in air traffic. It was estimated that between 1970 and 1975 air traffic would double and that it would double again between 1975 and 1980. Evidence was given by air traffic controllers that they could not guarantee the safety of passengers flying within the vicinity of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport because of the lack of air space. What consideration was given to that by the previous supposedly responsible Government? As I said earlier today, all it did was select a site in Melbourne for an airport at which the international traffic would be at the most about one-tenth of that at Sydney.
Did the honourable member for Mackellar act responsibly, as a member of Parliament, in allowing that to happen? What was he doing while he was a member of the Cabinet which was deciding, or failing to decide, those things? What influence does he now exert over the Liberal Party which is in power in Macquarie Street and which has the ability to plan but which has so far failed to make any decision? It decided that an airport would not be built at Towra Point. That decision was made in conjunction with the then Prime Minister and present the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). That is as far as the matter went. It was decided not to put an airport at Towra Point in order to save a seat that was held by the Liberal Party at that time. That was the whole purpose of that decision.
It is somewhat difficult to appreciate that there is any validity in the argument that a particular site now ought to be considered. Perhaps it should but tribute should be paid to the present Government for having made the decision it has made. It cannot be denied that there has to be a second airport in Sydney.
A decision has to be made on the site of that airport. The matter just cannot be allowed to go on as it was allowed to go on previously. The claims of half a million people cannot continually be ignored. People who are entitled to all the amenities of life are having to put up with dreadful noise problems because of the previous Government’s failure to make a decision. This noise saturation is occurring on a site that is one of the smallest in the world for an airport. Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport which is about the 30th busiest airport in the world, is situated on a site of about 1,400 acres. The British have already planned for two or three airports and the French have constructed three. America has airports of 15,000 or 20,000 acres, which is what is needed. International airports are usually located in rural areas or non-urban development areas because that is where there is the lowest concentration of people under the flight paths.
Why did the previous Government fail for so long to make a decision? It is the guilty party in this situation. For 23 years it had a chance to do something about the matter but all it did was allocate funds on a parochial basis for the construction of an an airport at Tullamarine - and then it did not build that one properly. The people of Keilor have to suffer because the Government put that airport on only a 4,500 acre site. The Government is prepared to give consideration to any reasonable submission, but it will make a decision that will be in the interests of people and civil aviation, lt cannot be denied that there has to be progress.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Aboriginal Consultative Council (Question No. 69)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory: Belconnen
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Age Pensions (Question No. 737)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory: Growth Rate (Question No. 796)
asked the Minister for the Capital
Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory: Waiting lists for Accommodation (Question No. 797)
asked the Minister for the Capital
Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Family dwellings - 7,616
Bachelor flats - 421.
Australian Capital Territory: Sale of Government Houses (Question No. 798)
asked the Minister for the Capital
Territory, upon notice:
Is he now in a position to answer part (1) of question No. 247 regarding the sale of Government houses in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The honourable member will be aware that I have suspended land auctions in Canberra for the present. The existing policies and options available in the provision of land and housing are under review with the object of identifying principles and guidelines for possible Government action within the Canberra land and housing market.
The National Capital Development Commission proposes servicing about 5,300 blocks in 1973-74 of which about 3,800 will be available for lease for detached houses. As well, sufficient blocks will be available for lease to accommodate about 850 town house units and 1,150 residential flats. The remaining blocks will be used for Government houses and flats.
Indications are that this amount of residential land should be sufficient to meet the housing needs of over 20,000 people.
The honourable member would know however that there is an inevitable time lag between land release and house occupation. Canberra’s present land shortage relates back to supply decisions taken last year and earlier by the previous Government.
Australian Capital Territory: Child Care Centres (Question No. 803)
asked the Minister for the Capital
Territory, upon notice:
Will he, in his plan to establish small child care centres in the Australian Capital Territory, make provision for the licensing of these centres and make arrangements for social workers and pre-school teachers to make regular visits to them.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The proposed system of neighbourhood child care is essentially an arrangement between the parent and the child minder. No formal licensing requirements are envisaged partly because there is a desire to keep the costs and techniques of administration as low and simple as possible. A pre-school teacher and a welfare officer will visit the child care centres on a regular basis and instructive pamphlets will be distributed to parents and child minders.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s question:
Conservation Groups: Financial Assistance (Question No. 836)
asked the Minister for the
Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Applications have not yet been invited from conservation groups for the $100,000 allocated for this purpose in the Budget. Guidelines are being prepared and will be published prior to applications for grants being invited.
Proposed Bureau of Environmental Studies (Question No. 837)
asked the Minister for the
Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A proposal for the establishment of a Bureau of Environmental Studies is at present under consideration by the Government.
Yuendumu: Proposed Police Station (Question No. 257)
asked the Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aircraft Operations (Question No. 483)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice:
Boeing 747, Boeing 707, Boeing 727, BAC111, Douglas DC9, Fokker F28, Fokker F27, HS 125, HS 748.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No direct operating costs can be provided for the BAC111, HS 125 or HS 748 as these aircraft types are not in commercial use in Australia.
asked the Minister for Northern Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
North Eton Irrigation Project - studies commenced January 1973 - completed June 1973
Lower Dawson Weirs - studies commenced May 1972- completed July 1973.
Detailed economic evaluation studies have not been undertaken on any of the other projects.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of External Territories:
Accommodation (Question No. 622)
asked the Minister for External
Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales- 3
Victoria - 1
Queensland - 1
All offices in the States are in the respective Capital City.
Victoria - $5.20 per square foot;
Queensland - $3.05 per square foot.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The preliminary examination of 17 proposals was completed. The Government had indicated that it had no objection to 14 proposals going ahead as presented. They included a number of proposals which were found on examination not to lead to loss of Australian control, or to be related to take-overs of companies with assets of less than $lm which did not raise any important national interest considerations.’
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
At the forthcoming General Assembly of the United Nations, will he arrange for Australia to advocate the urgent collection and publication of all available information regarding:
If so, will he also advocate that once such a catalogue is compiled it should be continuously updated.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
What action has he taken
to develop and introduce environmental education programs and
to regulate automotive emissions.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My Department recently advertised for staff to conduct a feasibility study for an information retrieval system which would be directed towards making environmental information available to interested groups and individuals. My Department is also represented on the Public Awareness Sub-Committee of the Australian Environment Council.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Because my Department is concerned that applicants for pensioners are made aware of their full entitlements, a combined .pension claim form will also be available on which claimants will be able to test their eligibility for supplementary assistance, additional pension for children or fringe benefits, if they wish to do so. This combined claim form will be available at post offices and offices of the Department of Social Security.
However, to avoid possible confusion, and to ensure that claimants do not inadvertently deprive themselves of entitlements to extra benefits, the separate freeofmeans test claim forms will be available only at the offices of my Department.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730911_REPS_28_HoR85b/>.