28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 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 undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost 4 out of 5 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 and Mr Wilson.
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. by Mr Coates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment.
That in close proximity to the proposed Galston Airport Site are the Berowa Reserves, the Hallstrom Nature Reserve, and the Muogamarra Sanctuary which would be so effected.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site a second International Airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding North-Western suburbs of Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards.
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 elimination of privately operated nursing homes in favour of large State operated institutions is against the welfare of nursing home patients.
That chronically ill citizens of this country are entitled to be free to exercise a choice as to their surroundings and accommodation.
That the intended large impersonal institutions are a retrograde step in the total health care of all citizens.
That the extra expense entailed in the establishment and maintenance of the proposed large institutions cannot be justified on either economic or social grounds.
That the citizens of this country who are entitled to a nursing home subsidy should be allowed to have the subsidy applied towards the cost of their maintenance in the nursing home of their choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the continued existence and viability of private nursing homes.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton,
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned respectively showeth that your petitioners oppose the proposed reduction of Commonwealth per capita grants to independent schools on the following grounds:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to a statement made by Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party, at the recent conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the effect that the Government had agreed to give on very special and advantageous terms a large area of land upon which the trade unions would build houses. Was this statement correct? Is it a fact that the ACTU proposed to enter into a partnership arrangement with a multi-national organisation to build the houses and that the Government or this Parliament will have no authority or direction whatsoever in the matter? Does the Prime Minister think it is just and fair to the people as a whole that such favoured treatment should be given to Mr Hawke or to the ACTU?
– The statement is accurate. My colleagues the Treasurer, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Minister for Housing are considering the proper conditions upon which Crown land in the right of the Australian Government should be made available to develop appropriate housing communities. The pioneer proposal comes from the ACTU. The proposal is made in association with a very great Australian company. I am not aware that it is a multi-national or an international corporation. It is true that the head of it is a migrant, a migrant for whom Australia can be very grateful indeed. He is one of the most effective residents of this country and a man who is already, as the honourable gentleman would know, serving the Government in association with some other distinguished people as an adviser in this field. The arrangement which is being made with the Australian Council of Trade Unions with respect to Australian Crown land certainly will not be confined to that organisation. It will be available for other co-operative organisations such as the ACTU. I hope that State Crown land will be made available on similar conditions. We ought to recognise that Australian governments - both the Australian Government itself and the State governments - can take many more initiatives than any governments hitherto have taken in making land available at reasonable cost.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, by referring to an article in the Brisbane Press of 11 September which indicates that the Queensland Government proposes legislation to enable local authorities to provide cheaper land for housing. The article points out that the Townsville City Council intends to subdivide 1,000 acres of land for auction under this proposal. I ask the Minister: Has the Australian Government any land in Brisbane and/ or other Queensland cities which is suitable for subdivision and which could be made available to local government authorities for development for sale as home building blocks? If such land is available, will the Minister consider taking steps to negotiate arrangements with the authorities concerned in order that cheaper land may be provided and the activities of speculators and land sharks curbed?
– I have seen the newspaper reports referred to by the honourable member, but I have not been informed of the full details of the Queensland Government’s proposed plans to try to bring land on to the market so that young people can obtain land at a fair price. My officers are seeking details from the Co-ordinator-General’s Department in Queensland, and when I am in possession of the facts, I will be able to report to the Parliament. In regard to the matter of land being subdivided in the Townsville and Moreton areas, studies have been carried out by the Cities Commission. The reports in respect of those areas will be tabled late this month. We are seeking the co-operation of the Queensland Government by joining with us in a joint venture so that land can be acquired in the Townsville and Moreton areas and made available to people at a reasonable price. In the Brisbane City Council area the Australian Government has land which is under the administration of the Minister for Services and Property, and that land will be examined. Discussions in regard to land also have taken place with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Of course, the Brisbane City Council already is a large landholder. Further negotiations are going on with the Brisbane City Council to try to make land available to the people of Brisbane at a reasonable price.
– Is the Treasurer aware of reports from Kalgoorlie, which appeared in the ‘West Australian’ of yesterday, 12 September, of the sacking of 30 men by a Kalgoorlie mining company, North Kalgurli Mines Ltd, and the review of development plans by the largest miner on the goldfields, Kalgoorlie-Lake View, both of which actions are said by the companies to be the direct and immediate result of the Treasurer’s Budget decisions affecting gold mining? Does the Treasurer now realise the serious and damaging effect of his Budget decisions on the future of Kalgoorlie? Will he therefore urgently review those decisions with the object of revoking them?
– I am aware of this situation, as usual, via the zealous honourable member for Kalgoorlie - not the pale voice from the city representing the shareholders, but the person representing the workers. I gave an assurance in this House before that I was willing to listen to documented representations about this issue. I think it is a breach of faith on the side of those people who want some mercy, if you like, from the Government that they are trying to pressurise us by sacking the workers. I suggest that the honourable member use his good offices, if he has any, to call upon the board of management to reinstate those members of the staff pending the result of the representations being made.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Since, the announcement by the Minister of financial assistance to be made available for recreation and youth centres many organisations within my electorate have sought details of the scheme. Provision has also been included within the Victorian Budget for increased finance to be made available for community youth, sport and recreation facilities. To what extent are the States and the Australian Government co-operating in planning youth and recreation centres?
– The honourable member for Bonython is not the only honourable member to receive many requests for assistance for sporting, youth and recreational facilities since the Budget was introduced. As a matter of fact, the requests started as soon as my portfolio was formed. There is an increasing interest in recreational, sporting and youth facilities within Australia. The co-operation that I am receiving from State Ministers is excellent. I have had one meeting of the recreation and sports Ministers of the States; a Ministers Council is being formed; and a 2- day meeting of the permanent heads of the various departments was held in Canberra this week. The report that has come to me from that meeting is that again the co-operation is excellent. An early meeting of the Ministers Council is planned and generally it is my intention to co-operate very closely with the States to allow them to consider the projects that are in need of assistance, to ask them to be certain that expenditure on those projects will take place in 1973-74, that the projects will be in the areas of greatest need and that there will be continuing management of the projects that are assisted by the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that Australia’s primary producers as a result of several years of bad seasons and low world market prices are in debt to a record extent of more than $2,000m? Because more than half of this money is owed to trading banks and because of the Labor Party’s view as stated in the publication ‘Rural - Its Time’:
There is ample proof to show that high interest rates are imposing severe burdens on export rural industries just as they are on other sections of the community such as young house owners.
I ask the Treasurer: Can we expect from the Government the same enforced solicitude for debt burdened primary producers as we are told we can now expect to see for home buyers?
– It is a fact of course that farmers are in debt as are many other sections of the community and none should get unfair treatment as against the rest. All I would suggest is that farmers are probably less in debt now than they were 12 months ago. They are certainly in receipt of better incomes now than they were some months ago. (Opposition members interjecting) -
- Mr Speaker, Opposition members are a bit more lively today than they have been for days. It seems that it takes a little bit of dissension in the Government side to stir the Opposition into any kind of activity. This morning I said to one member opposite, whom I will not name, that as yet I have not had an intelligent question bearing on my portfolio asked from that side of the House.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I see no need for these offensive remarks. My question was straightforward and direct and deserved a polite and courteous reply from the Treasurer.
– If the Leader of the Country Party is offended. I withdraw the remark or the implication that it was an unintelligent question.
– It is a sensible question.
– Try to answer the question. Let us see how you go. What about an intelligent answer for a change?
– If honourable members will do me the courtesy of listening, I will answer the question. I submit that when rebukes are sometimes handed out about the length of answers, some sort of rebuke could be made about the questions. Often the question that is asked is not a question but a series of questions and it is not always easy ito give a simple answer. After all, I do not think the Leader of the Country Party would deny that his question was asked with a little political loading.
– It is your policy. Here is the document.
– At least it is a political document. We can agree on that. If I may return to the question of the level of interest rates, I am as concerned as anybody about the level of interest rates which prevails in the community. If I had the time I would endeavour to indicate to honourable members, and it ought to have been obvious for some time, that recent moves that have been taken on what are called open market operations are taken primarily in the first instance about inflation and the volume of money. As yet there has been no variation in existing rates elsewhere. I think what the honourable gentleman is suggesting is that there should be selectivity in approach and I have no objection to that. The previous Government did that in relation to rural lending, but occasionally it has to be suggested that a concession given in one direction may mean, if one is not careful, a burden placed on somebody else. We are doing no great favour to people if we allow inflation to rage. The price of a farm may double and a new purchaser, while he may be consoled about the interest rate being kept separate or selective, would be a little more concerned if the price of his farm or of his house had to be less. One has to weigh all considerations. If inflation continues at the rate of 10 per cent-
– It has been under your Government.
– It was raging pretty well under other governments. I simply say this: If inflation continues at the rate of 10 per cent, let us say, 10 years - I am not saying that it should continue; I am saying if it continues - it would mean that the house a person bought now for $15,000 would cost him $40,000. Therefore the interest rate is not the only thing about which one has to be serious. One has to be serious about reducing rising prices. At least that is under consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, relates to the plan of the Berwick Council to establish a metro-town in the Berwick area. Is the Minsiter aware that it was reported recently in the Victorian Press that the Berwick Council had asked the Victorian Government to freeze land prices in the area around the Berwick township imme- diately? As the Minister is aware, the Berwick Council has carried out extensive feasibility planning in relation to a metro-town in that area. What are the prerequisites for the Australian Government to become involved in supporting the Berwick Council in its metrotown project?
– I am aware that the Berwick Council wants to create a metro-town with a population of something like 70,000 on the south-eastern corridor. Basically this is a good concept. Discussions have taken place between the Australian Government and the Victorian Government. We have sought a stabilisation of land prices before any decision is made. Unless this area, which is a rather beautiful area, is contained it will be badly ruptured by land speculators and by ad hoc development. Therefore we are seeking the co-operation of the Victorian Government. In the near future there will be discussions between the Minister for Local Government, Mr Hunt, and myself, and certain decisions will be made in regard to growth areas, whether they be systems cities - that means cities that will be developed on the fringes of Melbourne - or regional growth centres, which also will be discussed with the Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, Mr Murray Byrne. So I will be talking with 2 Ministers in Victoria. The prerequisite will be stabilisation of land prices before any major study is undertaken. When the study is completed a decision can be made in consultation between the 2 Governments on whether to develop these areas.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Following the overruling of the 3-man Cabinet decision on interest rates, can the Prime Minister say when the 90-man cabinet will inform the nation what interest rates will be?
– Neither the Cabinet nor any members of the Cabinet made any decision on interest rates. Some members of the Cabinet - the 3 senior members - concurred in a proposal by the Reserve Bank concerning the sale of government securities. Surely honourable gentlemen should recollect, because it is their own Act of Parliament, that any bank interest rates, for instance, can be the subject of regulations which the Reserve Bank makes with the approval of the Treasurer. The honourable gentleman belongs to a Party which 3 years ago, under the last Liberal who had any economic expertise as Treasurer - the honourable member for Wentworth - did in fact give selective interest rates in favour of rural debtors. The Government is considering, in accordance with its policy announced at the last election and in accordance with its attitudes expressed by me and many others for many years past, selective interest rates in favour of mortgagors if bank interest rates go up. But bank interest rates will not go up unless the Reserve Bank’s proposals in that end are approved by the Treasurer. That is what the law says. The law will be observed.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that there is no national aircraft museum and that many of the sole remaining examples of various types of service aircraft adorn the entrances of our defence establishments? Has the Minister any plans to establish such a museum for the preservation of our aviation history?
– I have received a number of representations both from members of this House and from interested people outside it asking me to consider the establishment of a museum for aircraft that have been used in this country. I have asked the Department of Air to look at the question to see what can be done and what provisions can be made for facilities of this nature. As soon as a report is available to me I will inform the honourable member and the other people concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Assuming that the law is observed in the fixing of interest rates as the Prime Minister indicated, will the Prime Minister say how he expects savings banks and building societies to be able to attract funds from lenders if the interest rates they can pay on deposits are to remain the same or little changed compared with a bond rate rising from 7 per cent to 9 per cent or beyond? If these institutions cannot attract deposits from lenders how will they have funds available to make loans to home builders and buyers?
– The right honourable gentleman used to be Treasurer, and he will remember that by statute the Commonwealth Bank has to follow certain policies; and by the terms of their charters all the private savings banks have to follow certain policies. One pf the policies they have to follow requires the investment of a certain percentage of their deposits in government bonds and in advances on the security of land. If the interest rate on bonds goes up accordingly the savings banks will derive a larger income from any investments they make in new bonds. This would presumably make it quite possible for them to absorb any frozen interest rates which they have to charge on mortgages. Savings banks in general do not get their funds by way of deposits from people who invest in government bonds or shares. Savings banks get their funds from people who want to have their money on instant call and accordingly are prepared to receive a smaller interest rate on their deposits than they would get if they were investing for a longer term.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is it correct that the property in the Territory known as Tipperary has been recently sold? Are there any unusual features of this sale and will the sale affect any minority communities that are associated with this very large cattle property?
– I have received a telex message that carries the advice that the Sydney based Sutton group of companies has bought Tipperary station for $5.4m and that the sale is associated with an arrangement that was previously being entered into with the Tipperary group of companies over a dispute with Aborigines who claim cattle rights in the Daly River area. These facts will be well known, of course, to the honourable member for the. Northern Territory. The only unusual feature I am aware of is the relationship to the sale of that arrangement that existed between Tipperary and the Aborigines in the Daly River area. One hopes that the purchasers will adhere to the arrangement.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. If savings bank depositors accept a lower interest rate, as the Prime Minister has just said they should, does this not mean that each of those depositors in savings banks will subsidise the cheaper mortgage interest rate on which the savings banks will be able to lend money for mortgages? If this is the fact does it not contradict what the Treasurer was just pointing out to the House, that when you give one group an advantage you are likely to place a burden on another group? Therefore, will the Prime Minister reconcile as to who is to receive the benefit and who is to receive the burden? Does he not now accept that the announcement made about interest rates last Sunday night was a wrong decision?
– There is no proposal to reduce the interest which is paid to depositors with savings banks. The depositors with savings banks have for many, many years made it possible for people who get savings bank loans to build houses, to do so at lower interest rates than are available to any persons other than those who receive defence service housing. Savings bank housing loans are the cheapest in Australia except for defence service housing loans. Accordingly, people who deposit money with the savings banks for the purposes which seem good to them are in fact helping people who get money from savings banks to build or buy houses. The announcement which I made last Sunday night did not make any reference to bank interest and I am not going to have it inferred that it did. It is quite easy to understand what it said. It referred to the bond market and it also referred to revaluation. It is comforting to see that at least the right honourable gentleman and his colleagues have accepted without the demur which they made 9 months ago, the fact that Australia should responsibly, for internal and external reasons, have revalued her currency.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. He will be aware that following our discussion last night it was decided that I should telephone the manager of the North Kalgurli gold mine and speak to him in relation to the matter referred to earlier by the honourable member for Stirling. Is the Treasurer aware that the manager advised me that the retrenchments referred to had to be made and that they were in no way occasioned by any decision of the Government? Is he also aware that the manager told me that the situation in that regard had been completely misrepresented by the Press? This being so, would it be correct that the honourable member for Stirling is either ingnorant of the true situation or is otherwise happy to use the misfortune of the workers to try to gain some political advantage for his own party, which only 2 years ago decided that the gold mining industry should be allowed to die and the people dependent upon it should be thrown into the large pool of unemployed that it had decided to create?
– That was a political question.
– I think the other one was, too. At least we have now heard the authentic voice of Kalgoorlie on what has been done. I am glad that the honourable member and I had that talk last night. It shows that he anticipates things, whereas the honourable member for Stirling merely picks up the unconsidered trifle. I believe that, if some mining activity in that State is in dire circumstances because of projected action in the Budget, it is about time those concerned made out the case to the Government. They have not done so as yet. I urge upon them, if they expect good faith on our side, that there should be no attempt to pressurise by dismissing workers in advance. I am pleased to have the assurance of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie that this has been done for entirely different reasons from those the honourable member for Stirling implied.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen the estimates by responsible people that the Western Australian wheat harvest will exceed the State’s wheat delivery quota? In view of the critical shortage of wheat in that State, not only for human consumption and export but also for stock feeding purposes, and the inability of the Australian Wheat Board to give meat producers any long-term assurance that supplies of stock feed will be available throughout the coming year, will the Minister consider making an early announcement that all wheat delivery quotas in that State are suspended as an inducement to growers to plan to deliver all available wheat? Finally, will the Minister give early consideration to an announcement that this whole disastrous method of controlling wheat production will be abandoned and the great numbers of people engaged in its administration will be diverted to more productive enterprises?
– I recognise and acknowledge the continuing and deep interest of the honourable member for Moore in the wheat industry. He referred to the quota system which was introduced in the period of the last
Administration. It is very interesting to acknowledge what he said about the state of wheat stocks in Australia at the present time and the harvest potential. Because the last Administration spent a great deal of time rationing wheat growers, we now have the task of rationing customers. The situation is, of course, one of shortage. There is every indication that the expected acreage will not be completely sown and that the harvest will not be as we would wish, on either a national basis or even a State basis. I am pleased to hear that Western Australia is doing particularly well. That is welcome news. At the same time, there is every indication that the national target, if one likes to put it in those terms, that the Minister for Primary Industry set will not be reached and that we will have a situation of shortage.
I agree entirely that we should be looking at this quota system which we have inherited. From my own knowledge, even in my own area young men - farmers’ sons and new growers - have established acreages of wheat and have no quotas for them. It is an incredible situation in a time of shortage. The matter has been timely raised, and I certainly shall refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry who, I know, was most anxious in the first year of his administration to see that every encouragement - not discouragement - was given to production.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation. Having in mind the divisive effects of expressways on neighbourhoods and the impact of new major road systems on the overall environment, I ask: In the preparation of the proposed Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement for the coming 5-year period 1974-79, has provision been made for an assessment of the social and economic impact on the environment of new major road systems to be built in that period and will provision be made for the Australian Government to participate in such assessments?
– We are reviewing the existing Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement which will expire on 30 June next. As I replied to an honourable member earlier this week, I expect to have a reply from the Bureau of Roads by October of this year. We are. reviewing completely the present procedure and methods for the allocation of money for road construction. We are not satisfied with the manner in which the States are constructing freeways without having regard to the effects of those freeways on the environment and on the people. Therefore, in future,when money allocated by the Australian Government is used for road construction the effects on the environment will be considered and the social effects of the freeways or main roads will be considered. The whole system is completely under review.
Although the honourable member did not refer to this aspect in his question, I know that he is keenly interested in trunk route 23, I think it is, which will be constructed through the Black Butt Reserve which is located in his electorate. At present the New South Wales Government is trying to force the Newcastle City Council to build the highway through the Black Butt Reserve. If the construction of that road is not commenced before 30 June next, before we allocate any money to it we will take into consideration the effects of the highway on the environment - on the Black Butt Reserve. If the effects are found to be detrimental, and I believe they will be, no money will be allocated for the construction of that road through the Black Butt Reserve.
-Does the Prime Minister agree that there are large gaps in his economic knowledge, particularly with respect to interest rates? Does he recollect the old Royal Australian Air Force adage that its better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder if you are a fool than to open it too wide and remove all doubt.
– Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– As one ex-Air Force bloke to another, does he not agree that the implications in my question are correct?
– I take a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that imputations are highly disorderly. The plain imputation contained in this question ought to be seen. It is an offensive one and the question ought to be ruled out of order.
– I have asked the honourable member for Angas to ask his question without any preface of that nature.
– That was my question; it is complete.
– Of course I acknowledge that there are gaps in my knowledge of interest rates and other aspects like that. I would claim to have no more knowledge on that subject than most of my predecessors in this post. The difference between the questioner and me is that at least I have learned something since the days when we served in the Air Force together.
– Has the attention of the
Minister for the Environment and Conservation been drawn to a recent newspaper article alleging that since the Budget was brought down by the Treasurer with its provisions against land clearing for tax purposes, the cost of uncleared land has not risen, whereas the cost of cleared land has increased? Whatever its environmental implications, does not the Minister agree that the altering of section 75 and section 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act is a form of discrimination against Pitt Street farmers?
– My attention has been drawn to the article. I do not know whether the claim is true - namely, that the effect has been to keep the price of uncleared land down - but I shall not shed any tears if it is. Honourable members may recall, perhaps, that the taxation law relating to this provision is contained in section 75 of the Act. If I may I will give some of the words of section 75 (1) (b):
Taxation deductions are allowable for . . . the destruction and removal of timber, scrub and undergrowth indigenous to the land?
This clearly promotes the cause of clearing this sort of land as if in fact indigenous growth is some sort of noxious weed. The laugh of the honourable member for Balaclava suggests that he agrees with it but fortunately many people disagree with him on this matter. Paragraph (f) of the same section allows tax deductions for ‘the draining of swamp or low lying land where that operation improves the grazing or agricultural value of the land’. In consequence many areas of wet lands, and probably unique wet lands - to the uninitiated like honourable members opposite, and perhaps also myself not so long ago, those would be called swamps - are filled in. But the filling in of these swamps to allow for the grazing of fat cattle–
– Fat cats.
– That is right, the Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers who may well be categorised as fat cats. I take that point. The real cost of clearing this land has in fact been borne not by these developers but by the ordinary taxpayers like most of us. In other words, for every $100, roughly speaking, that is spent, the income classification of most of the individuals who are involved in this sort of exercise would enable them to get about $66 back. In other words, the ordinary taxpayer in fact pays for most of this development.
– What about all the others?
– I quite readily concede the point that it probably would discriminate against the poor Collins Street and Pitt Street farmers and this was precisely the intention of the Coombs Committee report and also an interdepartmental committee - one might term it the Pitt Street interdepartmental committee - which looked into this problem. It was our intention that this sort of development should be stopped. It is discrimination against them and a positive discrimination in favour of the preservation of some of our natural areas. I can only say that in a very short time this Government has responded to a need which has been well known to the conservationists in the community for many years.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on several counts. The Treasurer in answer to a question that I put to him and to a question put to him by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) implied that I was not concerned about the workers in Kalgoorlie who are affected by the Budget decisions of this Government, He implied that I was concerned only with the shareholders in the gold mining companies. I would like to explain to the House that I do not hold any gold mining shares and I not know of anybody who does. No representations were made to me by any shareholder to ask the question or to make any statements to the House regarding those Budget decisions. I asked the question because I am concerned as a Western Australian about what is being done by this Government to a major industry in Western Australia.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the question.
– He is debating the question very well.
– He is not allowed to do well.
– I would also like to explain to the Treasurer that I had the privilege several years ago of representing the major unions on the gold mining fields in a nickel claim against Western Mining and during that case and on other occasions when I have worked closely with the unions-
– I raise a point of order. This is not a case of misrepresentation or of a personal explanation being made by the honourable member. He is debating the whole subject. Any member is entitled to ask a question in the House and to get a reply to it.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to keep to the personal explanation as to how he was misrepresented and not to open a debate on the gold mining industry.
– I will certainly keep to the misrepresentations. So any aspersion that the Treasurer sought to cast upon me as not having any concern for the workers of Kalgoorlie I completely deny. As a Western Australian I was concerned about their welfare. I can feel only that the ferocity of the Treasurer’s attack upon me was because of the way in which he was stung by the question and the realisation that his Budget decisions were wrong. The Treasurer, in answering the question asked by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, cast aspersions upon the accuracy of what I had asked him, I should like to quote to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House, passages from the ‘West Australian’ newspaper - a responsible journal - of 12 September which quotes manager of North Kalgurli Mines Ltd.
– Order! I have asked the honourable gentleman on several occasions to confine himself to the subject matter of his personal explanation. I think the honourable member has made his point in regard to the misrepresentation but he now is going on to debate the question and is referring to matters which do not actually concern his personal explanation.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, the Treasurer cast aspersions upon the veracity of my questions.
– You have already stated that.
– I am showing to you, Mr Speaker, the Treasurer and the House the source of my question. It is the ‘West Australian’ newspaper. I should like to quote the remarks of Mr T. D. Field, the General Manager of North Kalgurli. He said:
That is, to sack 30 men - was part of the company’s reorganisation program in anticipation of the effects of the Federal Budget and Sunday’s revaluation of the dollar.
Mr Field said also:
If revaluation and the removal of taxation concessions on gold mining profits had not been introduced the company might have been able to carry surplus labour.
I referred also to the position concerning the Kalgoorlie-Lake View company and, in respect of that company, the ‘West Australian’ of 12 September quotes the remarks of the General Manager, Mr J. Oliver.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the honourable member entitled to quote from a Press report in answer to a claim of misrepresentation in an answer he received to a question which, in accordance with the Standing Orders, he was not entitled to base on a newspaper report?
– Order! It is quite right that any honourable member must be able to authenticate any newspaper article in order to quote from it. Can the honourable member for Stirling authenticate the article?
– I can authenticate the article, Mr Speaker. It is a direct quotation from a statement made by the General Manager of the Kalgoorlie-Lake View company, Mr J. Oliver, who said: a new policy would be adopted because of the burdens placed on the industry by the Federal Government.
That, I would think, sufficiently authenticates what I have said and, judging from the rate of interjections and points of order sought to be taken from the other side, it is clear that the Government does not want to know the truth.
-Order! Is the right honourable member seeking leave to make a statement?
– Yes, I am.
– Is leave granted?
– What is this about?
– I am trying to give the Prime Minister the reason for asking for leave because I think it is proper that he should know why I want to make a statement. It relates to the policy of my own and preceding Liberal governments on the question of the fixing of interest rates both on the official bond market and with the trading banks. Yesterday, the Prime Minister made 2 misstatements about our policy-
– No, no!
– Well, I will take that back and then I will make the statement.
– The right honourable member is seeking leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– No. .
– Order! Leave is not granted.
– Then, I ask leave to make a personal statement relating to the policies of my Government on interest rates.
-Order! Is leave granted?
– Order! Leave is not granted.
– For the information of honourable members I present the general conditions of contract, described as National Public Works Conference Edition 1, together with a brief explanatory statement.
– For the information of honourable members I present a copy of the interim report of the Lake Pedder Committee of Inquiry, together with an engineering review which was prepared at my Department’s request by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the adjournment debate last evening the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) when speaking about the Brisbane Airport said that the honourable member for Lilley has said hardly a word. about the aircraft noise problem. I claim to have been misrepresented because as a private citizen I gave evidence before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Since my election I have attended several meetings of residents of the area. I have had conferences with top officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones), the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) and top officers of the Department of Services and Property. I have certainly interested myself in my electorate and I suggest that the lack of knowledge shown by the honourable member for Griffith of my electorate is surpassed only by his lack of knowledge of what is going on in his own area.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I know, Sir, that you have heard everything the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) said. I have taken a great interest in the aircraft noise problem. The hope of the people in my electorate and in the electorate of Lilley was a return to office of the Liberal-Country
Party Government because the Labor Government has shelved and postponed the building of Brisbane Airport. Because of that the people in the area will continue to suffer. Although last night I advised the Minister for Civil Aviation that I would be speaking in the adjournment debate neither he nor any Minister of the Labor Government was present to listen when I outlined the problems of Brisbane. If that is an indication of the interest of the new Government in the people of Brisbane we can look forward to the return of the Federal seat of Lilley to the Liberal Party following the next election.
– I move- (1) That in the opinion of this House, a Federal Judge should be appointed as sole Commissioner In accordance with the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act to inquire into the social, educational and legal aspects of sexual relationships with particular emphasis on the concepts of responsible sexuality, responsible parenthood and family life, such inquiry to investigate and evaluate the following matters in Australia and comparable countries and make recommendations for areas within the jurisdiction of the laws of the Australian Parliament:
the provision, adequacy and viability of pregnancy support services, adoption services, counselling and other forms of assistance for families, mothers and mothers-to-be, given the social, economic, medical and social welfare problems in which they may find themselves involved.
Sexual ignorance, sexual irresponsibility and sexual exploitation are imposing a heavy burden upon our community in both economic and human terms. Two-thirds of pregnancies which occur in this country are unplanned and a third of them are terminated by abortion. One child in every 5 is conceived out of wedlock and each week up to 1,000 children are subjected to cruelty of a criminal kind. Our failure to come to grips as a community with our sexual behaviour and its consequences is reflected in the fact that between 1963 and 1972 the incidence of births occurring out of wedlock rose from 5.71 per 100 to 9.68 per 100. This situation is reflected in articles currently being contributed to a Victorian newspaper by a former senior member of the Victoria Police Force who was imprisoned along with 2 of his colleagues for a criminal association with backyard abortionists.
It is reflected in human tragedies such as that of the father who plunged the feet of his 9-month-old baby into boiling water; the mother who murdered her 3-year-old child by beating him, sitting on him, and finally putting him in an electric oven; and the couple who pulled out by the roots the fingernails of their 5-year-old child. We are faced by a rising tide of human misery for which our present social welfare, health and law enforcement agencies can provide no remedy. The extent to which we can overcome these problems will be the measure of our maturity as a nation and our elevation of reason and common sense over ignorance, superstition, prejudice and fear. Honourable members made it clear earlier this year that they were appalled by the incidence of abortion in our community. We should be no less appalled by the social, economic, medical and social wefare problems which make of pregnancy not a human joy but an economic disaster for many families, mothers and mother-to-be and by the shortcomings in sex education and family planning services of which abortion is but one sympton. We should be no less appalled by the frequency with which unplanned pregnancies and unwanted births occur, by the disproportionate share of this burden which falls on those sections of the community which are least able to carry it and by its tragic consequences for many an unwelcome child.
I make clear the position by reference to statistics drawn from official publications and from academic studies and surveys. Whereas 87 per cent of married couples of childbearing age practise family planning, only 40 per cent rely for protection upon effective techniques such as oral contraception or the use of an intra-uterine device. Among that great majority of couples who constantly run the risk of an unplanned pregnancy, 1 per cent rely for protection upon douching, which has a failure rate of 31 per cent; 2 per cent upon spermicides, which have a failure rate of 20 per cent; 5 per cent upon diaphragms, which have a failure rate of 12 per cent; 9 per cent upon condoms, which have a failure rate of 14 per cent; 14 per cent upon the ovulation method, which has a failure rate of 24 per cent and 19 per cent upon withdrawal, which has a failure rate of 18 per cent.
Whereas among couples from professional, managerial and white collar backgrounds 37 per cent rely for protection upon oral contraceptives and intra-uterine devices and only 2 per cent for protection upon withdrawal, among couples from unskilled backgrounds 36 per cent rely for protection upon withdrawal and only 15 per cent rely upon oral contraceptives and intra-uterine devices. Whereas in South Australia in 1971, of the women who were aborted 43 per cent had never used any form of contraception and a further 34 per cent were not doing so on the occasion when they became pregnant, 74 per cent of the women who were aged under 20 had never used any form of contraception and a further 16 per cent were not doing so on the occasion when they became pregnant. These figures explain the fact that although unplanned pregnancies are much too prevalent in all sections of our community, they are most prevalent among the poor and the young. Whereas 5 out of every 10 Australian children are born as a result of unplanned pregnancies, among low income families 6 out of every 10 children are unplanned. Whereas only 11 per cent of the mothers of 2-child families would rather not have had their last-born child, 28 per cent of the mothers of 3-child families, 41 per cent of the mothers of 4-child families and 45 per cent of the mothers of 5-child families would rather not have done so. Whereas one in every 10 Australian children is born outside marriage, among women under the age of 21 one birth in every 3 occurs outside marriage and among Women aged under 21 years 2 out of every 3 children are born less than 9 months after marriage.
The ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ on 3 February this year pointed out that:
The vast majority of young girls seeking an abortion had sexual relations for some months at least before conception occurred. Some had tried to obtain help but had been refused by the medical profession. Others had not sought advice because they did not know to whom they should go for assistance.
We should all acknowledge that the situation with which we find ourselves confronted is one of appalling ignorance and irresponsibility on the part of a great number of couples, compounded by an equal, if not greater, irresponsibility on the part of the society to which we all belong. We should acknowledge that by failing as a society to make proper arrangements for matters such as sex education and family planning, we have allowed ignorance and irresponsibility to make rich men of many abortionists, parents of many couples who have neither the inclination nor the temperament for parenthood and battered babies of many children of whom it can be said quite literally that they would have been better off if they had never been born. In the ‘Medical Journal’ of 20 March 1971 Dr Bishop wrote:
The number of children at risk appears to be increasing - increasing to the point where it would appear that their plight and number constitute the largest single public health problem awaiting solution.
The Medical Superintendent of Brisbane’s Mater Children’s Hospital was quoted in the Sunday Mail’ of 20 June 1971 as saying:
Most of these cases are terribly tragic - some of the babies are treated just like animals. Children, beaten by a parent in a fit of wild rage, come in with broken bones, and skulls, and covered in bruises. We know for certain that about 6 baby patients admitted here every year are victims of beatings, but there are undoubtedly 3 or 4 times this number who we suspect have been maltreated by their parents.
Only last Saturday the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ listed battered babies, emotional and physical diseases in children, juvenile delinquency, marital upsets, divorce and depressive illness as aspects of what is called the enormous social and medical problems associated with unplanned children’. The ‘Medical Journal’ concluded its leading article with the words:
Let us hope that Australia wakes up to their own problems of [population control and tackles them honestly and effectively.
It is in the same hope that I move today for an inquiry into the social, educational and legal aspects of sexual relationships with particular emphasis on the concept of responsible sexuality, responsible parenthood and family life. Judicial inquiries, like royal commissions, are a means of obtaining information which would otherwise be unavailable, of drawing to public attention facts which would otherwise be neglected and of reconciling points of view which would otherwise remain opposed.
I move for an inquiry in the conviction that by reasoning together we can come to agree upon ways of developing responsible patterns of sexual behaviour in our community. I move for an inquiry so that individual Australians, voluntary agencies, local government, the States and the Australian Government can each give their views on what is to be done and each indicate the part they are prepared to play. We do not have to settle for arrangements under which the responsibility for sex education, which parents increasingly fail to discharge on an adequate basis, is left instead to secondary school biology teachers who treat it in so perfunctory a fashion that the average mark out of 7 for the human reproduction question on last year’s Victorian Higher School Certificate biology paper was 2.3. The chief examiner commented that it was the worst answered question on the paper. Nor should we suppose that the need for sex education would be met even by teaching excellently the anatomy and physiology of reproduction as they are set out in the average biology course. Earlier this year, the Director-General of Education in New South Wales, Mr Buggie, was quoted as saying:
There is a need to remove sex education from the secretive, distorted and often bewildered processes of the peer group, from the unhealthy distortions of commercialised sex and from the over-simplified approach which can dangerously isolate sex education from the full development of personality and responsibility.
The South Australian Director-General. Mr Jones, said:
The whole Swedish sex education program is based on the respect and respectability of one human being for another, and I would like to see our sex education develop that attitude.
Despite these enlightened statements on the part of senior spokesmen for State education systems, Australia remains in matters of sex education among the most backward nations in the developed world. The Australian Science Education Project has never recovered from the insistence of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when he was the Minister for Education and Science, that as far as sex is concerned the role of schools is . not to teach but to preach. The Australian Science Education Project was associated in its first and second trials with a special teacher education course, but that course has now been dropped.
Recently in Sweden, where sex education has been taught for 20 years and taught throughout the school system as an obligatory subject for 10 years, I talked to a distinguished family psychologist and sociologist, Mrs Birgitta Linner. I was warned by Mrs Linner that if we did not prepare our teachers for sex education their inhibitions might make their guidance worse than no guidance at all. How we are to train the teachers, prepare the courses and manufacture the sort of teaching materials for which Sweden has earned a worldwide reputation are all matters in which I would hope to see a judicial inquiry take an interest under its first term of reference. Another function of the inquiry in respect of this reference would be to foster a nationwide concensus on the need for sex education of the kind which can respond with sensitivity to what has been described by one sociologist as:
The desperate yearning of the young for acceptance and identity, the need to be meaningful to someone else even for a moment without implication of a pledge of undying fealty and foreverness
We do not have to settle for arrangements under which the responsibility for family planning services falls almost exclusively upon community organisations which until this year have been denied Australian Government support. On 30 May this year the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) listed for me no fewer than 1 1 aspects of family planning over which approaches had been made repeatedly to the Australian Government. I seek leave to have that list incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) - “Mr Mathews asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The approaches made to the Government on family planning and the years in which they were made are listed below:
– On 17 August the Minister told me in reply to a question on notice about the response of the former Government to these approaches:
Where direct financial commitment by the previous Government was concerned, my understanding is that the granting of $10,000 to the Family Planning. Association of Australia in 1972 to assist in sponsoring the First Medical and ‘Scientific Congress of the International Planned Parenthood Federation was its only response.
Since the present Government came into office on 2 December it has provided grants of $225,000 for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, $125,000 for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, $200,000 for the Family Planning Association of Australia and $100,000 for the National Catholic Welfare Committee of Australia which will be repeated as an annual commitment. It has lifted sales tax from contraceptives, made oral contraceptives available as a pharmaceutical benefit and removed restrictions on the advertising and marketing of contraceptives and family planning services in the territories under its control.
What we need now is a national approach to the provision of family planning along the lines which were being developed in Britain by the public servants and officers of the Family Planning Association with whom I talked 2 months ago. Faced with legitimate criticism of some of the consequences of the 1967 Abortion Act, the British Government has responded not by repealing or amending that Act but by setting up a committee of inquiry under Mrs Justice Lane to report upon those aspects of administration over which abuses have arisen and by upgrading family planning services in order to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies. The Secretary of State for Social Services, Sir Keith Joseph, outlined the expansion of family planning services to the House of Commons on 12 December last year in a very brief statement which I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
My Right Hon. Friends, the Secretaries of State for Wales and Scotland and I have carried out a comprehensive review of the provision for family planning services within the National Health Service. We have concluded that a substantial expansion is needed if the numbers of unwanted pregnancies are to be reduced”. With modern contraceptive methods available there should be fewer abortions and much less of the unhappiness and ill-health which results from unplanned pregnancies.
There are three areas in which we need to improve our family planning services - advice, education, and free supplies for .those who need them.
First my right hon. Friends and I propose to expand the family planning advice services, which from April 1974 will all be the responsibility of the new National Health Service authorities so that a comprehensive service of advice is readily available free of charge to all who wish to have it. There will be more clinics, more easily accessible, giving free advice on contraceptive methods, and the domiciliary services will be further expanded to enable all who wish and need advice in their home to receive it. More emphasis will be placed on the offering of advice and where appropriate treatment, to patients in hospital, particularly maternity and abortion patients.
Many people will prefer to consult their general practitioners. At present they receive full advice and services under ‘the National Health Service only where there is a medical need for contraception. I therefore propose to enter into discussions with the medical and pharmaceutical professions to see whether satisfactory arrangements can be agreed with them under which the fees which general practitioners may at present charge National Health Service patients who have no health reasons for avoiding pregnancy, for the work of prescribing the pill Or the fitting of an appliance, can be replaced by appropriate remuneration from official sources.
Secondly it is clear that we still need to do more to inform the public about the services available and to encourage them to use them. I intend to make extra funds available to the Health Educa tion Council for this purpose and am providing money for special training courses for professional workers.
Finally, my right hon. Friends and I have concluded that there should be free contraceptive supplies for those who have a special social need and who would otherwise be unlikely to undertake effective contraception and also for those with a financial need. We also propose a new category for automatic exemption from charges for family planning supplies, that is women who have had a baby or an abortion within the previous .twelve months. Apart from these, people with a medical need will pay, no more than the standard prescription charge. Others will pay the full cost of their supplies.
I believe these new arrangements will be generally welcomed. They will be implemented as soon as possible. Their cost will depend on the use which the public makes of the new services. We expect that in response to this demand the total cost for England, Wales and Scotland will build up to about £12m per year over the next four years compared with current annual expenditure of about £4m. This represents total additional expenditure of £20 million over the four year period”.
– On one hand the Secretary’s statement proposed that family planning consultation and advice should be provided without charge for everybody who chooses to take advantage of them, that general practitioners should be encouraged to undertake more family planning work and that hospitals should offer more family planning advice. The upshot of this decision is that every municipality in Britain before long will be offering its own family planning services in cooperation with the Family Planning Association. On the other hand the statement proposed that charges should be made for the supply of contraceptives to all but a limited number of impoverished or medically at risk women. I hope that in this last matter a judicial inquiry might accept the view of the House of Lords which twice passed by overwhelming majorities amendments calling for the supply, of. contraceptives without charge.
I hope to see a judicial inquiry take: note of the experience Of the city of Aberdeen where family planning services were taken oyer by local government from a voluntary agency in 1946, expanded greatly in the early 1960s and reorganised in 1967 so that advice and contraceptives could be provided without charge. A recent report notes that in Aberdeen the benefits of free and energetic family planning ‘have included notable reductions in the birth rate, the fertility rate, high risk maternities, illegitimate birth rate and unwanted pregnancies, while Aberdeen has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world’. The only reason we have tolerated our present inadequate family planning services so long is that we have been ignorant as a community of the great advantages conferred by services of a higher standard upon cities such as Aberdeen. An inquiry is needed not only to sweep away that ignorance but also to test the assumptions upon which our present attitudes to family planning are based and to open our eyes to the process of innovation which is going on in countries comparable with our own.
Medical research workers to whom I talked in Sweden expressed new doubts about the ovulation method of contraception arising from new evidence that there are circumstances in which ovulation is triggered outside its normal place in the menstrual cycle. Research workers in Copenhagen told me that field trials of a once-a-month contraceptive, which is administered nasally, have been completed in Prague. At the London offices of the International Planned Parenthood Federation - which, as I have already mentioned, is supported by the Government - I was shown minute springloaded clips which hold out for women who might otherwise have had to undergo surgical sterilisation, the option of a reliable, readily reversible occlusion of the fallopian tubes. These are all developments relevant to the problems with which Australian couples find themselves confronted. They are all matters with which the sort of inquiry for which I am moving would necessarily be concerned. This inquiry like the royal commission for which I moved in May is not concerned with abortion in particular but with responsible sexual behaviour, the welfare of children and their parents and the shortcomings in fertility control of which abortion is one aspect. It is an inquiry which gives regard, as I and my seconder emphasise in the final paragraph, both to the sanctity of human life and to enabling as many people as possible to act in accordance with their own religious, social and moral convictions.
Yesterday honourable members received a letter from the National Right to Life Association which concluded with a demand that this motion should be rejected ‘either outrightly or by the acceptance by the Parliament of an amendment which would broaden its terms so as to allow for a truly meaningful investigation’. Neither honourable members, the electorates to which they are responsible nor the victims and potential victims of un planned pregnancies within those electorates will be deceived by manoeuvres of this kind. Any amendment which seeks to insert into the terms of reference matters such as housing, child minding facilities, pre-school facilities, domestic assistance for families and working mothers, the social status of women in the community and other assistance to women employed in industry will be seen as an attempt to replace an investigation of specific, pressing and practical problems with an inquiry into the whole human condition. It will be a fraud and it will be seen as a fraud by the people to whom we are all answerable. Equally, an inquiry which omits abortion will be as irrelevant as an inquiry into abortion alone, and will be seen as such.
I was disturbed in May when officers of the National Right to Life Association went behind the backs of many hundreds of their members who were urging me by letter and telegram to record my vote on the Medical Practices Clarification Bill, and suggested instead that I should absent myself from the House. I was disturbed again when, instead of supporting my call for a royal commission to secure action against abortion as I had expected, those officers organised opposition to the commission. I was disturbed and finally disillusioned when I became aware of the true status of the evidence submitted to Mrs Justice Lane’s committee of inquiry into the Abortion Act ‘by people described in newspaper reports as Drs Arthur and Margaret Wynn, circulated to honourable members by the Right of Life Association and quoted again by the Association in yesterday’s letter. (Extension of time granted.) Like other honourable members, I quoted in good faith from the Wynn document on 10 May, but when I raised it recently with responsible and, I think, impartial people in Britain, I found that it was not taken seriously there. I was referred to the House of Commons Hansard for 3 April this year in which the Secretary of State for Social Services, Sir Keith Joseph, is reported as saying - witta what I think is called typical British understatement - in reply to a question:
I have great respect for the 2 authors of the report to which my honourable friend refers, but they are non-medical and there are possible shortcomings in the evidence and conclusions which make it unwise to depend entirely upon them.
I was referred to the May issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine in which the evidence of the Wynn’s is utterly demolished by James
Trussell, the visiting Professor of Obstetrics at Nuffield College and, one might note, a medical authority.
We should all learn from this experience something about the wisdom of accepting uncritically overseas evidence even when it is reported in the London ‘Times’ and sent to us by an organisation aspiring to the stature of the Right to Life Association. The wisdom of a Judge is needed, if for no other reason than to sort out the chaff from the grain. A number of honourable members have expressed the view that the .terms of reference of which I gave notice originally gave insufficent emphasis to responsible parenthood and family life. This view appears to be shared by the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Most Rev. Dr T. V. Cahill. My seconder and I have been impressed by these views, and accordingly last night we amended our motion along the lines suggested by the Archbishop and the members concerned. We thank the Archbishop in particular for providing the form of words through which an intention which was always present in our motion has been given additional clarity and emphasis.
In conclusion I ask honourable members not to accept the shadow of an inquiry in place of an inquiry of substance. I ask them not to reject the questions which are relevant in favour of questions which may seem safe. We can procrastinate but the problems we evade today will return tomorrow and look us in the face. An amendment which is too coy to mention sex education and too timid to evoke any aspect of abortion other than its causes is relevant neither to our needs nor to our times.
– Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, but because an amendment is foreshadowed I reserve my right to speak.
– I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: in the opinion of this House Commissioners should be appointed to inquire into the family, social, education, legal and sexual aspects of male female relationships with particular emphasis on the concept of responsible parenthood, such enquiry to investigate and evaluate the following matters in Australia and overseas and make recommendations for areas within the jurisdiction of the laws of the Australian Parliament and further to indicate whether such recom mendations should be implemented through existing bodies or through government instrumentalities to be created:
The extent and effectiveness of existing education programs in providing a sound basis in the fundamentals of inter-personal relationships in the Australian social environment:
The extent and adequacy of existing programs in medical schools directed to providing comprehensive medical training in contraceptive techniques and encouraging acceptance by the medical profession of its responsibilities in the field of contraceptive counselling;
The provision, adequacy and effectiveness of existing family planning facilities, and
In the event of conceptions which are unplanned or unwanted, the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures on women in determining whether to proceed with the pregnancy or to have an abortion. Such pressures should be examined having regard to the adequacy of (i) housing, (ii) child-minding facilities, (iii) pre-school facilities, (iv) disabilities of families with handicapped children and the means of assisting them, (v) domestic assistance for families and working mothers, (vi) adoption procedures, (vii) assistance to single parent families, (viii) social status of -women in the community and (bt) other assistance to mothers employed in industry.
That all matters relevant to these problems be investigated having regard to:
the United Nations declaration of the rights of a child which states that the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth, and
the sanctity and preservation of human life.
The amendment is sponsored by me and the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) and will be seconded by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). Before speaking to the amendment I would like to draw attention to 2 aspects of the speech made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). I think one aspect that he mentioned - which was false - shows his attitude to this question, because when I, amongst a very large number of other people, questioned the sex education program of the Australian Science Education Project it was because the original documents were suggesting that sex should be taught as an entirely biological animal function quite unrelated to and divorced from the social and human factors of personal relationships which are so very important. By criticising the criticism I then made of the original ASEP proposal, which was accepted by the organisation at a later date, I think the honourable member for Casey reveals his own attitude to this matter. The last point and the only other point I would like to make about what he says is that I believe his charges of deception are unworthy of being made in this House on a subject of this kind, which ought to be treated on a bipartisan and calm basis.
The amendment is being moved to the motion because the motion, which is the fourth coming from the honourable member for Casey on this subject, is negative, misdirected and inadequate. It is negative because it concentrates too much on birth prevention, and the first 4 paragraphs will show this. It is narrow because its result would tend to be a mechanical and arithmetic survey of what happens, and it is based on an unproved presumption that greater sexual and contraception knowledge would provide a solution to the real problems that are involved when the problem is much more fundamental and far wider than that. Greater emphasis is required on a range of problems associated with personal development and family life. In my view the proposed terms miss the point of why an abortion occurs, and the fact that abortions do is not an argument for legalised abortion. It is an argument for a wide-ranging study of the problems and pressures that lead to that act and the decisions that might then have to be made as a result of that study.
The motion does not adequately emphasise the psychological, social and economic factors and pressures. The reason why unplanned pregnancies occur would not be revealed as a result of the inquiry. It emphasises sexual relationship as opposed to personal relationship of which sexual relationship is only one part. It mentions psychological factors but only psychological factors relating to the termination of or failure to terminate a pregnancy, when we need to have an examination of all the psychological factors that lead to the situation and to the decision. Family life, which is essential to our social, religious and moral system, has only been recently mentioned in the much changed motion. The motion, I believe, is misdirected and inadequate because it tends to look at fertility control and abortion in isolation from the complex of interpersonal relationships, and it is an inquiry into fertility control and not into sexual responsibility in its wider sense grounded in the total growth of a person in the entire social environment. lt is inappropriate that such an inquiry should be conducted by a judge, and it is much less appropriate that it be conducted by a single judge. Judicial inquiries are directed to establishing facts, and in the proposed inquiry we need an evaluation on matters in which a judge would be no more competent than many others. 1 was glad to see that clause (e) was altered because I think the clause in its initial sense offensive. I am glad that that was recognised. But it does not cover the imperfections in the terms, and I submit with the greatest of respect that the suggestion that that alteraion would thus win the support of the Archbishop mentioned by the honourable member for Casey was inaccurate and misleading this House and anyone who might be listening. Even with such an inquiry, narrowly based we would be no more enlightened on the basic problem which gives rise to the need for fertility control. Clauses (a) to (c), as I have mentioned, are largely involved with contraception, and clause (d) introduces abortion in a manner which I think shows no awareness of the available evidence and which shows that abortion is used not as a means of coping with failed contraception but very often as an alternative to contraception.
Surveys here and overseas show that the great majority of women seeking abortion - 80 per cent or more very often - took no contraceptive precautions at all. Abortion becomes not a last resort for an unplanned pregnancy or failed contraception but just another means of fertility control after pregnancy. An abortion mentality is generated. For example, in the United Kingdom in 1972 there were over 20 legal abortions for every 100 live births, and there have been reports concerning the effect of this on illegal abortions in a number of countries which indicate that the impact on the number of illegal abortions has not been what the authors of the changes had originally hoped and that illegal abortions had continued - and continued at a quite high level. Such studies are available for the Scandinavian countries and for the United Kingdom.
I believe the proposal is in fact directed towards fertility control instead of towards the basic responsibility of interpersonal relationships. Such findings as this type of inquiry might produce would be useless for implementing the more realistic need. The present pro*posal isolates the inquiry from the social setting and personal development of the individual within which sexual responsibility is developed. Above all, the proposal ignores the obvious fact that sexual relationships are developed in the context of highly personal sensitive areas of interpersonal relationships. These take their first form in the family context. It is here that attitudes to sexual responsibility begin or fail to begin. It is here that there develops a network of interpersonal relationships which form the basis on which the individual will develop or fail to develop an attitude of sexual responsibility. All the available contraception clinics and all the provision of contraception training in medical schools will be useless if this attitude, formation and motivation of the individual are left unexamined or unprovided for and if unreasonable pressures and hardship on individuals are not encompassed in the inquiry.
It is just such a misdirected approach which I believe this proposal takes. It begins at the wrong end, assuming that if contraception advice is available and the mechanics of fertility control are studied it is tackling the basic problem. The opposite is the case. The failure of the proposed inquiry to face the question of sexual responsibility in the necessary context of the family and of social and economic pressures and their influence on shaping attitudes of responsibility is an index, I believe, of the unrealism of the proposal. A realistic approach to the question is to study precisely those pressures and problems that make it increasingly difficult for the family to perform that function. Earlier this year in the United Kingdom a report on unplanned pregnancies was published by what I believe to be an authoratitive group, the working party of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It says, amongst other things, that it is a serious oversimplification to say that a planned pregnancy is wholly desirable and the outcome will always be satisfactory; that an unplanned pregnancy is always harmful and inevitably leads to dire consequences. The more important factor in regard to the outcome for the child is its upbringing after birth rather than whether it was planned or unplanned. The working party said that in respect of both married and unmarried persons, the failure to use any form of contraception is the most frequent cause of an unplanned pregnancy. It said that at present there are great pressures on the young from the mass media to experiment and emulate adult behaviour and that it saw a need for education into a greater sense of responsibility in human relationships and caring concern in emotional situations.
The working party said that it is thought that sexual permissiveness and unplanned pregnancies are not due so much to ignorance or too much knowledge as to the decrease in parental responsibility and control and increased unsupervised leisure. It said that there is a general cultural failure to relate the emotional and physical aspects of sex and to see them in the context of moral and social responsibility, that all the evidence emphasises that environmental factors, especially in the home, are far more important in regard to the ultimate outcome for the child than whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned. It said that much evidence emphasised that the prevention of pregnancy in the unmarried teen-age girl is a much more complex problem than can be solved by a simple provision of contraception and that sex education should be provided not as a subject in isolation, but as part of health educational programs, and of education for responsible human relationships and family life.
I believe that the report, if it was read in full, would emphasise the need for caution, for care and for a wider approach than the honourable member has suggested. Therefore, we have the alternative proposal in the amendment before the House. A positive program for an inquiry that could be expected to produce results that could be acted upon would encompass a study of the extent of existing educating programs and the need to provide a sound basis in the fundamentals of interpersonal relationships and of personality development in the context of the Australian social environment. Since the family is the basic social unit, such an inquiry should investigate those problems, their root causes and the aggravating factors that prevent the family from performing adequately its rightful function in developing human personality and responsibility in inter-personal relationships and towards parenthood.
In particular, the areas of inquiry should include the social, economic and psychological pressures on family life. If a house is too small and if it is already overcrowded, how much influence does that have on a mother who might want to seek an abortion? Therefore, I would think that this aspect is not irrelevant. Its inclusion would not unnecessarily widen the inquiry. It is one of the matters that could be significant in certain decisions on this matter. The problems of working mothers, of single parent families and the need for social welfare support are all highly relevant. The pressures of inadequate housing, as I have mentioned, child minding facilities, adoption methods, the social status of women, the problems and attitudes of parents who might already have had a handicapped child and their attitude to another pregnancy, surely are matters that ought to be encompassed within an inquiry that is to give this Parliament some realistic evidence and advice in these matters.
I believe that the amendment encompasses these broader issues which are important for getting to a decision. An enlightened inquiry will look to the causes of the problems of forming individuals for responsible sexuality, responsible parenthood and .responsible social behaviour. It will also produce means for the individual to find for himself the contented life that makes real the quest for a better quality of life. It will .give a greater hope for the happiness which too many people fail to find.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
Mr MATHEWS (Casey) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that I had claimed that my motion would win the support of Archbishop Cahill. It would have been presumptious for me to make such a claim and I did not do so. I said that my seconder and I had been impressed by suggestions put forward by Archbishop Cahill in his Press statement last night and that we had incorporated certain words and suggestions from that Press statement in the revised version of our motion.
– I am appalled, as I was a few months ago, that we can alford the luxury of using so much time and expending so much emotion on this issue when other urgent topics are pigeonholed or summarily dismissed. But if we must again delve into this highly complex moral issue, I feel we ought to do it properly and honestly. And that is the reason I second the amendment to the motion.
The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), supported by the honourable mem ber for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has seen fit to shape and fashion their motion 4 times, the last literally in the eleventh hour, using various kinds of plastic surgery in the process, desperately trying to camouflage the original and basic concern - that of the right or otherwise of women to have legalised abortion. I admit that the fourth version of their labours, the one which actually constitutes the motion before the House, is a much more sophisticated recommendation than either the first or second rather crude attempts. But the fact remains that the honourable members still seem to reduce the problem to a mere abortion issue. They are hiding a small but vital nucleus in an enormous balloon decorated with all kinds of distracting sops.
The amendment of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is principally different. This also recommends an inquiry into various problems concerning abortion and sexuality, but there the similarity ends. It is this dissimilarity that prompts me to support the amendment. Essentially the amendment recommends that we examine the role of women in our society and I say it is high time that this was done, but not just in the narrow confines of an inquiry that would reduce women to mere curio objects. I do not claim that sex, pregnancy and abortion are not important to women or, for that matter, to men. But I do argue that there is much more to this problem than merely determining whether or not women should have the sole prerogative of deciding to terminate a pregnancy.
The amendment takes the entire spectrum into account; it argues that abortion does not end on the operating table or in a nursing home but has far reaching social, economic and moral implications. It recommends that all circumstances be examined which may lead to abortion; that all possible consequences which may follow be considered. The narrowness of the motion conceals many dangers. It fails to examine the much wider implications involved that cause women not to want babies after they have already conceived. I do not suspect ulterior motives behind the narrow limitations of the motion, but I am not prepared to accept it either.
No matter how we beat around the bush, the central theme of the motion remains abortion and sexuality, plain and simple. So let us have another look at that issue. It would take more gullibility than can possibly be attributed to any male to pretend that there is such a thing as a clean, simple, totally safe abortion. There is clear medical evidence that where legalised abortion has been allowed for many years, serious consequences such as sterility, excessive menstrual flow, cervical incompetence and premature labour are not uncommon. As a result, several countries which had introduced liberalised abortion laws in the 1950s reversed them in the 1960s. We have a chance to learn from their mistakes.
Let us look at the effect legalisation has on the numbers of abortions that follow. Whether it is in Britain, Japan or the countries of eastern Europe, the record shows a large leap in abortions when the law is changed to allow an easier abortion scheme. The working party of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists notes in its report ‘Unplanned Pregnancy’, published in 1972, that in 1967 - the year before the Abortion Act - there were 6,000 abortions but since the Act the number has risen to 126,774 in 1971 and more than 150,000 last year. I will not quote all the figures for the east European countries studied by Dr Mehlan in his book ‘Abortion in Eastern Europe’. But in each of those countries there have been huge rises. For example, in Hungary the number of abortions rose from 123,000 in 1957 to 186,000 in 1966, in Poland in the same period the number rose from 36,000 to 156,000 and in Czechoslovakia it rose from 7,000 to 90,000. It is not enough to say that these rises in the number of legal abortions are just making legal, after a change in the law, what would otherwise have been illegal operations. The evidence shows that making abortion legal does not result in any marked drop in the number of illegal abortions.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report to the Lane Committee states that the Abortion Act ‘has not so far materially reduced’ the incidence of illegal abortion. The same result is found in Dr Tietze’s report on the Scandinavian countries and in the 18 years’ experience of Japan’s legal abortion scheme. Dr Hilgers and Dr Shearin, of America’s Mayo Clinic, in their evidence to the Minnesota State Legislature, demonstrated that legalising abortion had no effect on the illegal abortion rate in Hungary, Czechoslavakia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland, Britain, Japan, the Union of Soviet Socialist Rebublics and the American State of Colorado, while in Yugoslavia and East Germany there was an actual increase in illegal abortions despite legalisation. In fact, when East Germany tightened up its abortion laws, the number of illegal abortions dropped. Nor does the rise in legal abortion mean that there is any drop in the number of illegitimate children born. In England and Wales in 1966 the number of illegitimate children for every 1,000 live births was 79. It rose to 84 in 1967 and to 85 in 1968, and in 1970 it was 82.
What the libertine proponents of abortion on demand may refuse to regard as an important side issue is: how far should abortion be a matter of serious concern to people other than the woman herself, and how are the lives of her parents, husband or future husband and past or future children affected? Abortion is not just an unrelated operative event that vanishes without a trace once the wound is healed; it has an untold number of moral tentacles cutting into many lives. Firm evidence can be produced that abortion frequently reduces a woman’s future reproductive capability and subsequent children come at a. higher risk. It can also be shown that a man is more likely to have a sterile wife or a stillborn, premature or defective child if he marries a girl who has had an induced abortion. It is these consequences and the rights and lives of these innocent bystanders that we must also safeguard.
The argument about the morality of abortion is not new but I will sum it up again. Whether some conceited males in our midst are flattered or not by the comparison, a baby 8 or 9 weeks after conception is their very alter ego in all essential details. Since the 25th day, its heart has been pumping blood of the baby’s own blood group. Abortion at this stage with a curette involves the cutting up of the foetus in order to get the pieces through the narrow neck of the mother’s womb. It is not a pleasant image, but I want people to bear this in mind when they casually refer to the foetus as though it were some abstract lump of jelly.
I deviated into technical and medical fields from what, to me, is an essentially moral or even social issue. The amendment specifies the numerous related areas that should be examined in connection with abortion. It shows compassion, honesty and, above all, common sense when it refuses to accept abortion as an isolated phenomenon, almost as though it was the result of an unfortunate oversight by women, something we men must nobly allow them to have - a sort of social pardon. It is a social issue and even an economic one yet these aspects are usually glossed over. The undue importance attached to abortion itself has always puzzled me.
In our rich and lucky country, the number of women who have had children but are experiencing economic problems is far greater than the number of abortions in any one year. Yet, we do not hear great rhetoric about these hapless mothers. Their plight does not reach even the front steps of this House or the front pages of our newspapers. Are we to worry only about those who, for one reason or another, want to terminate their pregnancy; or are we prepared to examine the implications of their decisions and their circumstances, and to help all women, pregnant or not, married or not, aborting or not, as befits my and my Party’s socialist principles and beliefs?
There is a further moral issue to all this. When we investigate, in accordance with the amendment, all circumstances relating to abortion and children and families, I hope we will also find time to spare a thought for those women who prefer to have their unplanned, possibly illegitimate babies rather than face an abortion. If these women need help, we should give it to them; if the babies require medical, social or welfare assistance, they are entitled to it. The Government must accept its share of the responsibility for these people, instead of ignoring them. Maybe this is not such a spectacular or dramatic issue as a schoolgirl’s abortion problem, but it is just as real and just as penetrating a human involvement.
There is one more topic I must touch on. The motion suggests the appointment of a judge to conduct an inquiry as sole commissioner. I am much more in favour of several commissioners being in charge. The inherent dangers are obvious when there is one judge. We all have been around long enough to realise that it is possible to select your man or woman according to the end result you want to achieve. It can also be achieved when there is more than one commissioner. Only keep in mind what happened to the gerrymandered Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales electoral boundaries. But it is not fair to leave such enormous responsibility to only one man or woman whose personal bias, one way or another, may influence his or her decisions. Having several commissioners reduces the possibility of such errors in a direct reverse ratio and ensures that the inquiry will be scrupulously fair to all parties concerned.
Mr Speaker, permit me to repeat my strong support for the amendment before the House. I accept the argument that an inquiry into these vital issues must be made; I am not opposed to an honest examination of abortion problems. But I want to have it done thoroughly, by looking at the whole spectrum, not merely at the medical aspects of it. The role of women in society, their status in the world and their economic equality are at stake - not merely their reproductive problems. The amendment, in my view, ensures that any inquiry ordered by the House would benefit greatly all women in this country, not just the minority who may seek abortion. It could produce remarkable results for children and, certainly, for our families. If we can make the lot of women, children and families any easier and their lives any happier, surely even the most shortsighted and cynical male will be lucky enough to derive residual benefits from such a changed world.
– The Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) has strong religious and strong moral principles. I respect him for holding those principles. I do not respect him - in fact I hold him in contempt - for his earlier statement that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) and I are wasting the time of this House by introducing for discussion a subject which, to quote the Minister, is of no importance. The Minister on the one hand professes to be a moral man and a religious man. Yet he says that a problem which is causing 200,000 human beings to be conceived unwanted in Australia each year is not a problem of consequence for discussion in this House of Parliament. The Minister professes some concern about the human race. If he could do a little arithmetic, he would know that if that figure which was put out on 8 September in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia, a reputable journal, is divided by 365, Lt means that this very day 550 human beings will be conceived all of whom will be unwanted and unplanned. Yet the honourable gentleman suggests that this is a matter of no importance and that the honourable member for Casey and I are wasting the time of the House in discussing it.
Out of friendship to the honourable gentleman - I do keep him as a friend - who allows religious and moral principles to be paramount to such an extent that he is prepared to impact his principles on everybody else in the nation, I remind him of the words of Santayana. Santayana once described a fanatic as a person who redoubles his efforts long after he has forgotten his aims. Therefore, I turn to this question which is, I believe - and I speak as a liberal - concerned with a problem that is affecting human beings because 550 human beings who are unplanned and some unwanted will be conceived in the next 24 hours in this country.
– Most of us here were probably accidents.
– I am coming to that. The honourable gentleman can speak of his own experience with authority; but he speaks only for himself. There are 3 categories in this area of unplanned children. As the honourable member for Casey said, the majority of unplanned children are born to parents who are either poor or young. I will detail the 3 categories of unplanned children. First, some are loved. As the honourable member for Banks interjected, some of the happiest accidents in the world are unplanned children born to loving parents. But we should not delude ourselves on that point because the other 2 categories must be considered. I refer, secondly to those children who are unplanned and unloved and are allowed to grow up in a home without care, affection and love. The other category to be considered is that of children who are unplanned and in fact are aborted. With respect to the last 2 categories in many cases the same results ensue - unhappiness, remorse and regret.
I think one of the most unfair things that has been said in this Parliament for some time was said today by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and his seconder, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, that the honourable member for Casey and I have simply moved this motion as a subterfuge to bring about abortion on demand. I remind those 2 gentlemen that both the honourable member for Casey and myself voted in this Parliament some months ago against the Bill which would have provided for abortion on demand. At the same time we asked for more facts on that matter. I have said in this House before, and I repeat, that for several reasons I am against abortion on demand. I do not know enough about it. I am in favour of abortion law reform in some respects. However, I do not know in what respects. That is why, as a member of this Parliament, I wish to inform myself by obtaining more facts. That is the only reason for this motion before the House. There is no subterfuge. It is a genuine wish on behalf of the honourable member for Casey and myself and, I hope, the majority of this House, to inform ourselves with facts about this tremendous personal problem. Some snide reference was made again by the honourable member for Wannon and the Minister for Tourism and Recreation that the motion before the House is the fourth draft of our proposal.
I am not ashamed of that. Am I to be intractable in trying to get a motion passed by this House? Is there something to be ashamed about in changing one’s mind. I have had discussions with the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) and other honourable members who came to me trying to draft a motion that would still be effective and would be acceptable to the majority of the members of this House. I do not resile from that position at ail. If another 24 amendments are put to me which do not destroy the thrust of getting the facts I would accept them too, notwithstanding criticisms from honourable members such as the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). I will stand against those criticisms or any other criticisms that the honourable member has to make at any time.
– The leopard never changes its spots.
– That is another confession which the honourable member has made in this House. The 200,000 unwanted pregnancies a year in Australia occur despite the widespread use of the pill and other contraceptives. Therefore, I believe that some inquiry should be made so that more facts can be obtained on this matter.
I refer now to the amendment. Some aspects of it appeal to me and to my colleague, the honourable member for Casey, and we incorporated them in our own motion. But I should like to draw the attention of the House to 3 matters in particular and show the reasons why we cannot accept the amendment.
We believe that the amendment would destroy any chance of obtaining facts as they should be presented. I am not suggesting that that is the intention of the amendment. But I am simply saying that it is my view that that would be the outcome. On the question of a royal commissioner, our motion clearly states that a Federal judge should be appointed as a sole commissioner in accordance with the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act. The amendment simply states that commissioners should be appointed to inquire into certain aspects. Honourable members will notice that the inquiry proposed by the amendment does not have the imprimatur of a royal commission or the tremendous advantages that the Royal Commissions Act gives to an inquiry by a royal commission.
Who will be the commissioners? I have heard the Right to Life Association advocating that the commissioners should represent various religious, moral and legal points of view. What moral points of view? What religious points of view? One can see such a group of people being invited to express opinions or their own moral judgments on questions. The honourable member for Casey and myself do not want moral judgments to come out of this inquiry. We simply want facts. I cannot see what the moral or religious persuasion of a commissioner has to do with being equipped to sit on the commission.
I should like also to look at the other aspects of the amendment. No mention is made of evaluating the effectiveness of contraceptive techniques. The honourable member for Wannon and his colleagues seek to remove that provision from our original motion. Why, I do not know. The information given by the honourable member for Casey showing the failure rate of so-called perfect contraceptives, is, I think, a matter that should give us some concern. Why that part of the motion was cut out I do not know.
One of the most extraordinary paragraphs in the amendment is paragraph (a). The motion from the honourable member for Casey and myself states that the commission should inquire into:
The amendment states:
The word ‘sex’ has been deleted in the amendment in such a way as to lead one to suppose that those who are advocating that amendment suspect that it does not exist. The new amendment asks that the commission
-Order! It now being 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed to:
That notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– If this amendment is adopted the commission would have to inquire into the extent and effectiveness of existing education programs to provide a sound basis for inter-personal relationships in the Australian social environment. What does that mean? Does it mean the interpersonal relationships of mother and daughter, of sisters, of friends of members of this Parliament? The word sex’ is not mentioned in the amendment. For an inquiry literally to carry out the purpose of this amendment it would take 100 years. It would never be completed even then. One wonders whether that is not the thrust of the new amendment, to ensure that any inquiry into these matters never reaches the light of day. I will now deal with clause (d) of our motion. I think this is vital. Why the amendment seeks to change clause (d) I do not know because I would have thought that the Right to Life people would have held a common view with us on this but the amendment seeks to change the words in clause (d). In our motion we say:
In the event of failed contraception and consequent unplanned, unwanted pregnancies,
We want the commision to inquire into- the social, psychological and medical results of termination and failure to terminate such pregnancies …
In other words, what are the medical and what are the psychological effects on a woman who has had an abortion? Is not this important? The latest estimates of women aborted in Australia each year range from 70,000 to 120,000. It is against the law but they are still being aborted. Are we interested in human beings? Do we not want to find out the psychological and physical effects an abortion has on those people? But the amendment does not say that. The amendment to clause (d) says:
In the event of concept1 is which are unplanned or unwanted-
The commission is to inquire into - the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures on women in determining whether to proceed with the pregnancy or to have an abortion.
There is no scope of power in this amendment for the commission to inquire into the effect of an abortion on women. I am confounded as to why that amendment has been moved because I would have thought that that is one thing with which we would have agreed. I am also puzzled in regard to the amendment to clause (e) of our motion. We want an inquiry into the provision, adequacy and viability of pregnancy support services, adoption services, counselling and other forms of assistance for families. Is not it important that once an unwanted, unplanned child is born the Government should have a responsibility for ensuring that that human life can be adopted into a good home? Is not that vital to the happiness of that human being? I would have thought that the opponents of abortion who demand that if a woman is pregnant she has that child have a great responsibility to ensure that once that unwanted child is born the utmost in adoptive facilities and counselling facilities should be provided to help that mother have that child adopted. But for some reason the amendment seeks to delete that provision in the motion. If the amendment is accepted then the commission of inquiry will have no power to inquire into that aspect either.
I feel very strongly about this. I am influenced notwithstanding the way in which the honourable member for Casey rubbished the Wynns. I am concerned with what people say in regard to people who have an abortion, that the chance of danger to further children is increased. That concerns me. That is why I hesitate on proceeding with abortion law reform. That is why I want an inquiry that will bring a result that will be meaningful and not an inquiry that will go on for 100 years and not bring any result. I hope that today the House will grasp its nettle and give a decision on this.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have had a great respect for the deeply held views of my colleague the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) but I think that the Hansard and the greens will show that I did not say this amendment was a subterfuge for abortion on demand.
– I do not want to take a great deal of time because I know that the order of speakers has been arranged. This is one of the difficulties which this House faces. I was a jumper, as one might term it, who was anxious to talk in the last debate on this matter but I never got the call. I am happy to have the call now but I will take only 5 minutes. In the previous debate a lot of emphasis was given to the fact that the law was inadequate as it applies in the Territories. That basically is what that debate was about. But looking at this in a wider spectrum, in my submission the law has always been adequate. If honourable members look at the Bourne case which was dealt with in 1938 they will see that it clearly shows that it was 35 years ahead of this Parliament because for the first time in regard to what was deemed to be lawful or unlawful it was found that it was not unlawful to terminate a pregnancy where a medical practitioner performed it and it was in the interests of the mother’s health.
There has been much discussion on words and on what we are really aiming at in this day and age. What is it that we are so anxious to find out? Of course abortions are performed, but should they be? In certain circumstances they have to be from the medical point of view. In other circumstances they are probably caused by the third party who is never put in the dock - the fellow who aids and abets. The accessory before the fact is never charged. That could have been an argument put on the basis of a weakness in the law but it has never been put yet. If honourable members look at the statistics on how many charges are laid and convictions obtained they will see that there has been none in the last 12 months in New South Wales because there is a complete let-out - and it is a valid one - if the person performing the abortion is a medical practitioner and the abortion is done in the interests of the woman’s health. In that case there is no indictment. But of course society says that we must prevent the backyard abortionist, the unqualified person - and I will agree with that.
I will conclude by saying that I would rather see an amendment in different terms. By all means have an inquiry. Have it on the basis of a royal commission. But what about putting a mother on the commission from the point of view of the problem that we are trying to grapple with, the dignity of the women.
– The amendment does not prevent that.
– It does not suggest it, though, and in my view it ought to suggest it. It should not be a judicial commission. The membership should consist of three - a mother experienced in social welfare, a medical practitioner and a criminologist. As the honourable member for Hunter (Mr Jones) has said, what a joke it is in our society when we can look at the statistics of the Commissioner of Taxation and see the undisclosed income of medical practitioners who are getting away with these offences. Does it not make a laughing stock of our law? In fairness to Bourne, he was a qualified medical surgeon who did not charge a fee - an honour to his profession. He was not like these other sleazy individuals who want to exploit the grief and misery of an unmarried mother. What we should be looking at here are the terms of reference. The commission of inquiry should have access to all income records to find out what has gone wrong. We should be able to give supporting services to unmarried mothers. We should guarantee in all circumstances an opportunity for the preservation of the rights of the unborn because the law recognises the rights of the unborn.
The greatest tragedy in all these debates is that we do not give enough dignity to women. We do not give them a chance to solve their own problems and we do not give any support to them. I would like to see an amendment that guaranteed action would be taken to deter persons including the male parent from aiding and abetting illegal abortion. There certainly should be, as the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) said, more informative family planning techniques. But let us have a look at the circumstances. Let us have a look at the results. Let us have a look at the problems in matrimonial causes. Let us accept this basic principle - we want to preserve the family unit. We cannot preserve it by destroying the dignity of women. There are many people responsible for abortions who are never charged because of the legal position. What I would like to see is an inquiry into the circumstances which cause an abortion; the consequences of it; the action required to assist women in avoiding it; the action required to deter people from aiding and abetting it; the adequacy and effectiveness of family planning techniques; the action required to ensure that medical practitioners always act in the interests of the woman’s health; the action required to ensure that all services are available free of cost; the action required to establish the necessary supportive services; and, generally, the action required to ensure the preservation of the lives of the mother and her unborn child. The commissioners should have access to the records of all Federal authorities, including health, social security, matrimonial causes and income tax authorities, and should have power to seek the cooperation of the respective State authorities in these jurisdictions, including the State law enforcement and child welfare agencies; as far as practicable, the commissioners should comprise a mother who is experienced in social welfare work, a medical practitioner and a criminologist; and the commissioners should be assisted by senior counsel and have power to sit in camera.
– In supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and seconded by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), I draw attention to the fact that it has some similarity to the motion of which I gave notice on 29 May. I want to make one thing clear about what was said by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I take him to task on 2 points. I take him to task for saying that he had consultation with me. If consultation is about 2 sentences in the passage outside the chamber. I suppose he did have consultation with me. But, in view of the fact that I had had that motion on the notice paper for so long and he and everyone else knew that my door was open and that I was trying to look at the problem, I say that I was not consulted. In fact, I have had to work very much on my own. I also take the honourable member for Hotham to task for saying that the amendment precludes certain areas of inquiry that he wants to see inquired into. It does not. His statement shows that he did not read very closely paragraph (d) of our amendment, which refers to the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures of which he spoke. In fact, towards the end of his speech he again centred his remarks entirely on the fact that this inquiry basically is an inquiry into aspects of abortion, and very little else.
In speaking to the private members Bill in May, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) expressed very well a view which was widely held by many members on both sides of the House, although a free vote was allowed on that Bill. The Leader of the Country Party opposed, as did this House, a motion to permit abortion on request and an associated amendment. I found myself in total agreement with his statement that the problems which were enunciated at that time were of national concern and of considerable magnitude. We rejected the narrow, unacceptable proposal put forward at that time, but he and others said - I believe this - that the problems should not be swept under the carpet and forgotten but should be studied in depth to discover answers and solutions which are not offensive, confined or insufficient but are practical, effective and humane.
I believe that this amendment is a positive step along that road. It appears to have similar motives and intentions to the motion of which I gave notice, and therefore I support it. I cannot support the motion itself any more than I could have supported the original notice of motion which it has replaced or the subsequent notices of motion which have appeared almost every week. I cannot support the motion because I believe that it is narrow and negative. I believe that it is an indirect means of achieving the result that would have been achieved by the amendment which was moved by the same honourable member in May and which we rejected decisively.
This motion is deficient in a number of areas. It calls for a judicial inquiry by one sole judge. I feel that, right at the outset, this would prejudice the information and full comprehension which honourable members have shown they desire. Under the terms of the amendment, an inquiry would utilise medical, social worker, religious, legal, educational, economic and - if you like - female representation, which would make available the expertise which is so vitally necessary. Whether we care to admit it or not and whether the mover and seconder of the motion, the honourable members for Casey (Mr Mathews) and Hotham deny it or not, medical and psychological problems are an integral part of this question. Education is fundamental, legal implications inevitably are to be considered, religious and moral persuasions cannot be absolutely ignored and social and economic implications are not only relevant but also deeply fundamental. To limit the inquiring authority to one Federal judge, no matter what his excellence and even his understanding may be, is to so limit the value and scope of the expertise which is so necessary that it would risk the imposition of a single point of view, invite criticism and lack of co-operation which could well be avoided and which must be avoided, and render the consequential advice a good deal less valuable than it could, should and must be.
We want from this motion more than mere availability of contraceptive facilities and techniques. We are interested in the rights of children as well as the rights of women and the value and worth of the family unit, rather than the concept of sex without responsibility. We want ignorance to be dispelled. We want to look positively at the implications and complications of unplanned - unwanted, if you like - and often economically disastrous pregnancies. We also want to assist people who want children but whose circumstances are such that family planning, even family limitation, is not only desirable but also necessary. I have no right - the honourable member for Hotham can be assured of this - and I make no attempt to impose my own moral persuasions and standards on other people. No matter how impolitely the honourable member for Hotham may care to label me, I still value the institution df marriage, the trust between marriage partners and the role of the family unit and I see danger in the denigration of moral standards. I am firm on that point and I believe in those things.
This does not make me a judge of others; but it does not render me incapable of understanding, for instance, the trauma of teenage extra-marital pregnancies, nor does it cause me to stand in condemnation. But it does make me concerned with the inadequacies of existing education and counselling programs. It makes me concerned to provide knowledge and help in the place of ignorance and disaster. It makes me concerned to encourage, beginning at medical school as is stated in the amendment, the training of the medical profession in the important role of family planning and contraceptive counselling, as well as its acceptance of it, because so often it is the doctor lone who has the opportunity which is often denied to parents, friends or other advisers. Very often, the doctor is the only person who is consulted and who can give such advice.
It makes me concerned to see that there is absolute adequacy in the provision of effective, active and fully trained family planning advisers, and facilities and clinics available and accessible to all. I am completely and sympathetically aware of the pressures resulting from unplanned and unwanted pregnancies - I think the amendment states this - and I am aware not only of the conflict of mind in determining whether to proceed with a pregnancy or to terminate it but also of the fact that some people contemplate suicide and other equal disasters. This amendment seeks to detail many of those pressures and to suggest a scope of inquiry. Perhaps the list is not exhaustive; but I believe that, if our inquiry is not at least as comprehensive as this, it will be of little value. If this amendment is passed, the implementation of this complete and comprehensive open inquiry will provide the means by which, with greater certainty and with more complete knowledge, we can move constructively to solve or at least to alleviate problems, heartaches and torments which undoubtedly exist. The motion will not achieve this. It is narrow and limited and it touches the mere fringe of the problem. The concluding few words of the final clause might be high sounding and impressive, but they are so vague that to me they are suspect.
Perhaps the inquiry is comprehensive and perhaps the scope suggested is wide; but surely the problem is of vast proportions. If any honourable member had any doubt about this, it should have been quickly dispelled by the unprecedented influx of letters and petitions which we all received prior to the private members Bill concerning abortion which was presented in May this year. Many of the letters received were sincere and plaintive cries for help. This amendment is an earnest endeavour to answer those pleas. The adequacy and availability of contraceptives, advice on contraceptive techniques and family planning facilities are most certainly fundamental and at the heart of the inquiry, but the motion itself makes this virtually the total scope of the inquiry. Paragraph 1 (e) which was amended again last night is something of an afterthought. I believe that paragraph 1 (d) reveals the real intent of the motion and the emphasis is absolutely evident. I do not at all deny the rights and the problems of the mother but 1 refuse to ignore the rights of the child. I am in full accord with the United Nations declaration incorporated in the amendment.
The motion ignores almost entirely that declaration. To pass the motion is not to solve the problem; it is to substitute other equally vexing problems in its place. I thank the mover of the motion for even using some of my exact wording in the latter part of his motion but that does not make the motion any more acceptable to me. In fact I am amazed at the course of action taken by the movers of this motion. Having given notice of a motion centred completely on a move for an inquiry into abortion and abortion alone, I was then prompted to give notice of a motion providing what I considered was a much more acceptable, reasonable, constructive and comprehensive alternative. Then the mover changed completely the wording of his motion and actually pirated some of my wording, presumably because he felt that his motion lacked the support which mine might attract. Despite changing his motion he still maintained his order of precedence in private members’ business. But the intent of his original motion is not changed. It focuses completely on birth prevention, it ignores completely - despite the few words he added last night - the pressing needs of family life with its real and relevant problems.
As the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn has rightly commented, the mover has attempted to find solutions without first examining the basic problems. His motion provides no machinery and no intent for a really comprehensive inquiry into social, economic, medical and social welfare problems of families. No matter what he says and how he condemns the amendment, the amendment does make that provision. In clearly making that provision it recognises the sanctity of life and the rights of the child. It seeks facilities and adequate opportunities for every Australian-born child, whatever his estate, whatever the circumstances of his conception. It provides also for a full and extensive evaluation of all the pressures on women beset by unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. At a quarter to eleven last night the last draft of the motion was presented to this House. I believe that it is a serious motion which warrants our consideration but how can members be expected to be able to study, research and analyse such important matters with that sort of notice? It is just as well that it hit the deck today or there would have been another one by lunch time. The new motion is just a little more piracy, a little more pinching from the amendment circulated earlier. It is a small concession to something that the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn said but I know that it will be totally unacceptable to him. lt is still transparent, deficient, narrow and negative. Obviously, the mover still does not know what he wants because he has changed his mind so often.
I commend the amendment. I appeal to all honourable members to be so cognisant of these problems that they will not dismiss them and in the name of humanity will pass the amendment so that we can quickly and effectively meet the responsibilities which we should shelve no longer. I ask honourable members to reject the motion because it is a hotchpotch of additions, deletions and alterations and to support the amendment which is constructive and definite, as I have tried to show. The movers of the amendment know what is required. They have sought to obtain an inquiry that will be absolutely complete and will give us the information and guidance we need. It will tell us where we are going and it is not vaccillation from one proposal to another. I support the amendment and hope that honourable members will do likewise.
– I support the amendment, perhaps for slightly different reasons from those of other honourable members who have supported it this morning. However, before speaking to it I wish to refer to one or two statements made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). To my mind he is in a state of confusion. He claims that about 200,000 children are unplanned and unwanted each year. There is a vast distinguishable difference between those who may be unplanned and those few who may remain unwanted. Very few children are born in the community who remain unwanted for very long. Even in those cases where they are unwanted by their mothers, thousands of others want those children. They are prepared to give them love and understanding, to take them into their homes and to treat them as their own. I reject completely the false, confused and illogical assertion that about 200,000 Unplanned and unwanted children are born each year. That statement is simply incorrect and is beyond proof.
I turn now to the suggestion made by the honourable member for Hotham about my friend and colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). He was accused of wishing to attach his personal principles to others: In this Parliament we accept a responsibility on election to make laws governing community standards. It is not a question of whether one seeks to impose one’s own moral views on others. It is a matter of how one sees ethical and moral issues and the need for laws governing individual conduct within the community. Certainly there will be differences in attitudes but because there is a difference in ethical and moral values one does not deserve the jibe that one is attempting to impose his perhaps different views on the rest of the community.
I am opposed to the concept contained in the original motion that the inquiry could appropriately be conducted by a single Federal judge. I have opposed in the past the concept that all wisdom is deposited in the minds of the judiciary. Indeed, if one reads the case history of this country and elsewhere one could gain the impression that that is not at all the case and that those who argue that legal practitioners have sole responsibility for the reservoir of independence, integrity and impartiality are doomed to serious disappointment. I believe that this is a very important inquiry, one of the most important ever to be set up in this country, and certainly so in modern times. When the inquiry is established, as it surely will be, it ought to be conducted by people who are expert in the field.
It has been said this morning that we do not want moral judgments but facts. Let me remind the honourable gentleman who said it that moral values frequently determine how facts are seen, and more often and more importantly, they determine whether facts are recognised. I prefer an inquiry by qualified commissioners in the way suggested by the amendment. Many people who sit near me find a great deal of merit in the suggestion put forward by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). At the moment we have 2 proposals before the House. The first is the motion and the second the amendment. When considering the proposed inquiry honourable members ought to keep clearly in mind that we are concerned with abortion and its consequences. The unborn child is part of the least privileged group in our society. These children have life but no voice. They are completely dependant upon others for the preservation of their lives. The right to life is the main basic civil right in our society. In my view it is axiomatic that life must be protected.
Every year we spend enormous sums of money in order to ensure that our fellow citizens have sufficient to eat, that disease is treated and eradicated and that the injured are given appropriate attention. This is done to ensure that life is protected and preserved. The same moral issue arises in respect of unborn children. I wish to make it clear to honourable members that I am opposed to the termination of life in any respect except in extraordinary circumstances. The proposed inquiry is of vital importance and I believe that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) is not to be condemned for moving this motion but congratulated for bringing this issue forward. I disagree with his proposal and I violently disagree with the proposal put forward last May for the so-called abortion law reform which would have justified and legalised abortion on demand. I absolutely opposed, and still do oppose, that proposition. One thing for which I am grateful is that by bringing this issue forward it has sparked a debate and has sparked controversy. It has brought to public attention the difficulties that many people are faced with which might otherwise have been overlooked.
The issue for this Parliament is what form the inquiry should take and what its terms of reference should be. I believe that there is little or no opposition to the fact that there should be an inquiry but the terms of reference will determine the direction of the inquiry. One of the basic questions will be whether abortion should be made easier or whether active steps should be taken to remove those factors which drive some women into what they see as economic and social compulsion to have an abortion. Those who strongly oppose abortion, as I do, have a particularly heavy responsibility in this regard. Abortion is not always the result of a selfish attitude. There are enormous psychological and economic factors which weigh heavily on those who find themselves pregnant outside the security of marriage. Many young women have been driven to abortion because of the narrow, selfish and petty attitudes of others in our society.
Pregnancy is not a crime and no woman should be cast aside because she is pregnant, irrespective of her marital state. Unmarried expectant mothers need and deserve kindness, sympathy and understanding. Those who subject them to ridicule, contempt or social rejection are guilty of a serious social offence. The inquiry should give serious consideration to the complete elimination of discrimination against persons who are cruelly and callously classified as illegitimate. It should also be concerned to ensure that there is appropriate economic protection for pregnant women. Women, single or married, should be in receipt of maternity leave - an issue on which this Parliament was slow in acting in past years. There also should be provision for adequate family allowances, particularly the provision of appropriate child minding centres.
We should be concerned with the United Nations declaration on the rights of a child, which is set out in the amendment, and which states:
I refer honourable members to paragraph (d) of the amendment. This is a comprehensive set of issues which have to be considered. Paragraph (d) refers to the question of housing and whether some particular assistance ought to be given to families; the question of the ability of the parent, whether single or married, to provide shelter for the child; the question of child minding facilities to which I have already referred; to pre-school facilities; the question of disabilities of families with handicapped children and the means of assisting them; and the question of domestic assistance for families and working mothers.
Working mothers in this community are not receiving much assistance at the moment. At present, a working woman confronted with pregnancy is often placed in the position where she stands to lose considerable sums of money by way of lost long service leave payments simply because she fails to qualify by a few months. If there were adequate provision for maternity leave and accrued rights in this regard it would assist the working mother. This is one factor, although perhaps it is not a major factor. There is also the question of part-time employment - tandem style employment. There are enormous practical difficulties associated with such employment but they are issues which need to be attacked and for which solutions need to be found. We also should keep clearly in mind that there is a great deal of hypocrisy on this subject. For the past year in Sydney - and at this moment - widespread illegal abortions have been taking place.
– It is a racket.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). He put it far more clearly than Icould do. It is a racket which should be exposed. Those people who parade about saying that they are opposed to abortion but do nothing about it are, to my mind, hypocrites. We cannot close our eyes to facts. What we must do is to examine the causes of abortion and try to remove those causes rather than condemn those who perhaps have fallen into the error of subjecting themselves to abortion. I have no time for those people who simply oppose abortion and do nothing to make the social reforms necessary to eliminate or reduce its incidence.
The original proposal in my view, is far too restrictive and I think that the amendment before the House gives wider scope for the inquiry. I do not accept the criticism that because the amendment leaves out sex education and puts the emphasis on education in its totality, there is something remiss in it. I believe that it widens the scope and, after all, we ought to be concerned with total education in this particular field. Abortion and its causes are not simply because of lack of sex education. Indeed in many cases it is because of the lack of a total and proper well-balanced education. I support the amendment because it is broader in concept than the original motion. I believe it provides for a wider inquiry and a better equipped inquiry. I ask the House to adopt the amendment in preference to the original motion.
Motion (by Mr Berinson) put:
That the question be put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 78
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.7 to 2.15 p.m.
– Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (2.15) - by leave - I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of notice No. 1, general business, being continued.
I move the motion in the belief that the members of the House would wish to bring to completion consideration of the motion before the House. I believe that honourable members have formulated their viewpoints in this matter and I believe that it is imperative for this House not to leave on the notice paper matters that can be dispensed with.
Therefore I have much pleasure in moving the motion.
-I desire to second the motion. I think that the debate has progressed to the extent where honourable members have expressed a view and that it would be completely irresponsible to leave the matter in such a situation that the Parliament was not able to come to a decision, one way or the other. So I agree with the mover of the motion and I think that it ought to be carried.
– I want to make my position clear on this question. I am opposed to the resolution as amended.
– Order! I should remind the honourable gentleman that we are not discussing the resolution that wasbefore the House; we are discussing a motion that Standing Orders should be suspended.
– Mr Speaker, if this motion is carried will I have the opportunity to speak to the motion that is before the Chair?
– That will be a matter for decision of the House. At present there is a motion before the Chair that Standing Orders be suspended. If the honourable gentleman wants to make a contribution he must confine himself to the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.
– I accept that, Mr Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is: That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted.
– I am indebted to my distinguished colleague the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) for the preparation of the amendment I am about to read to the House. He had intended to move it but because he has already spoken on the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I understand that he is not eligible to do so. The amendment reads:
The notice of motion be amended by omitting all words after ‘that’ in order to insert the following in place thereof: in the opinion of this House three Commissioners be appointed to inquire into, investigate, take evidence on oath, evaluate and make recommendations to the Australian Parliament in respect of the following:
The circumstances which cause women to seek abortion;
The medical and social consequences of abortion including the health, security, well being and future enjoyment of life by the woman concerned;
The action required to assist women in avoiding the necessity for abortion;
The action required to deter persons, including the male parent, from aiding and abetting an abortion;
The adequacy and effectiveness of existing family planning techniques; (0 The action required to ensure medical practitioners will always act in the interest of safeguarding a woman’s health and well being when abortion is sought.
The action required to ensure that all medical services are available free of cost to all women where pregnancy becomes a social and medical problem;
The action required to establish the necessary supportive services to ensure the well being of the mother both during and after the pregnancy; (i) Generally, as to the action required to ensure the preservation of life of the mother and her unborn.
That the Commissioners have access to all Federal authorities’ records relating to health, social security, matrimonial causes and income tax and have power to seek the co-operation of the respective State authorities in these jurisdictions and including the State Law Enforcement and Child Welfare agencies.
As far as practicable the Commissioners to comprise a mother experienced in social welfare, a medical practitioner, and a criminologist. The Commissioners to be assisted by senior counsel and have the power to sit in camera.
In moving this amendment–
– Order! Before the honourable gentleman proceeds further I inform him that the amendment is not in order firstly because we have not received a prior copy and secondly, because it is not in the correct form. In addition, it is in conflict with the amendment already before the Chair.
– It will take me only a minute or two to make my position clear. I think that an inquiry of the kind suggested by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) or of the kind proposed by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), would be wrong. I think that such an inquiry would light a bushfire of emotion that would lead to a lot of heat and smoke. It would cloud and not clarify the issue. I think we are getting into the habit of passing awkward decisions on to other people - the kind of decisions that we ought to take ourselves. We should gather the evidence quietly and responsibly. I cannot see that being done by this kind of inquiry. That is the reason I voted against the amendment and it is the reason why I. will not vote against the motion when it comes to a vote. I think it is the wrong way to proceed. I have a real anxiety about the gaps in my knowledge in this area. I am acutely conscious of them, but I do not think the gaps will be filled by an inquiry of this kind.
– Very briefly I want partially to back up, possibly for different motives, the remarks made by my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). The position as I understand it now is that we are about to vote on the amendment. If we vote against the amendment, in fact we are left with everything before the word ‘That’, which does not leave very much. I find myself–
– The amendment will become the motion.
– I see.
– If it is defeated it will be stillborn.
– That is a rather confusing interjection in the circumstances. I want to point out that I am not happy either with the motion that the House has already defeated nor with the proposed amendment. I am going to find myself voting for the retention of the quite stupid situation in which we leave in the words up to ‘That’. I am not satisfied that this House has had the proper time to consider and to debate the points that have been made today. It is unfortunate that we in this House are placed in the position where, unless we vote for the amendment now, nothing will be done for 12 months. I am forced into this position, but I offer at this stage to do everything I can to try to re-gear the circumstances along proper lines. The proper lines’ will be judged by me. That is the situation in which I find myself. Although perhaps for different reasons, I am entirely on side with the honourable member for Wakefield.
– In speaking against or to, whichever way one might interpret it, the motion moved by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), who is at the table, I wish to protest–
– Order! The Minister at the table simply moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. The question now before the Chair is that the words proposed to be inserted be inserted.
– Very well. I will rearrange my thought processes. I take advantage of this opportunity to protest at this debate being gagged just before 12.45 p.m. today. This may be all right for honourable members opposite who are interjecting, but I have my views and I wanted to speak this morning. This matter is one which, every time it is raised - we can be sure it will come up again in the Parliament in the months ahead - we seem to dispose of it as quickly as we can by lifting up the big thick carpets around here and brushing it under them. We appear to be frightened to discuss the subject for too long. We seem to fear the electoral reaction. Furthermore, to me this morning’s debate was the height of sadness in many respects because we heard emotional speeches which got completely away from the issue and were more appropriate to the debate earlier this year when abortion was under discussion. Certain methods have been employed on this occasion to get away from the real nitty-gritty of the question. I believe that 13 September 1973 is indeed a sad day in the history of this Parliament and many of the honourable members who now sit in it.
– I move:
That this debate be now adjourned and the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
-Order! That motion is contrary to the motion that has just been agreed to by the House in regard to Standing Orders. Therefore, it is out of order.
– I listened carefully to what was said in this House this morning and it seemed that 2 propositions were put to the House. The House so far has decided that the original proposition is not acceptable, a majority of members having voted for the alternative proposition. Having said that, I believe that it is desirable that the House now proceed to a decision. It seems that there is no alternative before the House; there is only one proposition and that is the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I shall probably vote for the amendment. In my view, this is a very controversial question. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) this morning put the matter rather clearly, if emotionally. This is an emotional question and anybody who denies that is not understanding what the issue is all about. It is probably a sad reflection on this House that on 10 May a proposition was put to the House but it was not prepared to take a positive stand at that time. It chose the alternative of having an inquiry into this issue.
One can always quarrel with the terms of reference of an inquiry. However, it is in the interests of the community to have this sort of inquiry take place. This morning I voted for the original proposition because I cannot be persuaded by the argument that it is necessary to have a multitude of people conducting an inquiry so that they can put their respective points of view. It has always been my view that an impartial person - such as a judge, as was originally suggested - should conduct an inquiry. He or she in turn should receive advice from those who are putting contrary points of view. If we load the decision-making body with too many committed points of view, probably we will not get an unbiased opinion on the whole matter. However, the House already has determined that matter and has said that it is not satisfied that there should be only one inquirer, such as a judge. It has said that there should be a multitude of inquiries. Having reached that stage, it seems to me that there is no good purpose to be served by prolonging a decision.
I take issue with the honourable member for Griffith (Mr ‘Donald Cameron) who said that debate was stifled. I do not think it was. This is not a matter that was suddenly sprung upon this House of Parliament. It is not a matter that was suddenly sprung upon the community. It has been very well canvassed. In fact, my rubbish tin is full of letters from the Right to Life Association on the matter. Many points of view have been put. Those with which I agree I take cognisance of and those with which I disagree go into my special filing cabinet, the rubbish tin. That is where the correspondence from the Right to Life Association finished after I had read it because I could not agree with it. My point of view was not agreed with by this House on the previous occasion and I now intend to support an inquiry, but to say that the House has not had sufficient time to discuss the matter is wrong. This is an important matter, I agree; but to take up the time of this House which has very many matters as important as this to discuss is procrastinating on the issue. If there is any honourable member in this chamber who has not yet had his mind made up on this issue, I very much doubt that the persuasive eloquence and rhetoric of those who would speak in the chamber on this subject would be able to do it. Honourable members’ minds are made up and it is unfair and sniping from a distance to say that debate in this chamber was stifled. We should now get down to doing what we must do, and that is decide whether on the record we will have simply the word ‘that’ and nothing else as the motion which was agreed to or whether we will do something positive. I think the House should move now towards taking a vote on the amendment. Whether honourable members vote for or against the amendment is a matter for their own consciences. Rather than procrastinate on the issue, we must move to a decision almost immediately.
– I wish very briefly to support the remarks of and attitude adopted by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). Whether it was the intention of those who moved the amendment or not - I express no opinion on that - I believe that if the amendment is carried it, in effect, will stifle any proper and effective investigation of this matter and put off the day when this House can make a decision on such a proper and effective investigation of this matter and put off the day when this House can make a decision on such a proper and effective investigation. Therefore, I support the attitude adopted by the honourable member for Wakefield. I will certainly be voting against this amendment on the ground that if it is carried it will put off a proper investigation and, in the words in which it is put forward, even prevent the teaching of sex education in schools because that phrase has been removed from the original motion. I would prefer - this is why I will vote this way–
– That is not true.
– Then why did the honourable gentleman omit it? Why did he, in his amendment, specifically take it out. Anyway, that is the way in which I see the matter. I am sure that at some stage in the next year or two, I do not know when, this House will decide to make an effective and real investigation of this matter. I prefer that no action of this kind, which would put off such a recommendation, should take place now.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) be so inserted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 74
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of the Government’s decision to establish an Interim Commission on Consumer Standards. The Interim Commission will be responsible for co-ordination of Australian Government action in the development of uniform consumer standards and for promoting research and development work necessary for the formulation of product standards, codes of practice for testing and evaluating consumer products. In the statement to the House on 9 May I pointed out that a consumer standard is an agreed statement of quality and/ or performance that a product should have. We believe that consumer knowledge of the properties and quality of products will protect the consumer and further that the assessment of the quality and effectiveness and hence the value for money will make a useful contribution in our multi-pronged attack on inflation.
The Government’s decision flows from the promise contained in the policy speech given by the Leader of the ALP that under Labor the national government - itself the largest consumer - will move directly and solidly into the field of consumer protection. The Government is mindful of the acceleration of technical progress, the growth of mass production, the increase of purchasing power and the widening and growing complexity of markets. These developments have brought benefit to the consumer - and we are all consumers - but in the process we have been confronted with a bewildering range of goods, more complex and designed to meet a greater variety of specific Uses, produced in anticipation of demand rather than in response to it, promoted by more vigorous and sophisticated selling techniques and bringing into play a more elaborate range of services.
Some foreign governments have recognised the extent and importance of these difficulties in both social and economic contexts, and have accepted the need for action to reinforce the consumer’s position. Generally speaking, the objectives of such action are accepted to be:
Protection against hazards to safety and health;
We have all noted the emergence of organisations representing consumer interests. The Government believes that it is not only desirable but also necessary to develop links and means of consultation between the Government authorities and these organisations. For the first time in our country’s history representatives of consumer groups were invited this year to participate in the pre-Budget consultations. Views put forward during these discussions are reflected in the Government’s decision.
The Interim Commission will be charged with the task of arranging consultations and developing liaison with representative consumer organisations.
Because we are embarking on a new area of activity for the Australian Government, we intend that the Interim Commission shall survey the available resources, identify areas of further activity and bring forward recommendations for the establishment at a later stage of a permanent commission. We believe that flexibility at this stage will contribute greatly to the final success of the venture. The terms of reference of the Interim Commission will be:
To canvass opinions from consumer organisations and consumer affairs bureaux, particularly in order to draw up priorities for actions on development of consumer standards;
Health (drugs, and therapeutic materials) and the Department of Transport (motor vehicles);
The work of the Interim Commission will be greatly assisted by the not often recognised fact that the Australian Government is itself a consumer - the largest in the land - and is already involved in the drawing up of standards and in the testing of consumer products intended for Government use. By building on the established expertise, the Government can make an immediate major contribution to the formulation of soundly based and realistic standards for consumer goods. Government laboratories are well placed to test a wide range of consumer goods against appropriate standards and to publish the results for the guidance of the public. The Government and the housewife have similar interests in ‘good buys’. I fully expect that the standards resulting from the work of the Commission will influence future purchases by the Government.
Until now, many standards for consumer goods have concentrated on safety alone. Domestic electrical goods must meet the safety standards laid down by the Standards Association of Australia. But compliance with these standards does not tell us anything about performance. A petrol lawn mower for instance can meet the currently established safety standards but be unable to cut grass. A consumer standard as we see it involves performance and quality as well as safety.
We propose that the Commission should encourage implementing a marking scheme so that products which meet the standard can be easily identified by the purchaser. The Standards Association of Australia already has a marking scheme in limited operation. Honourable members may have seen their ‘AS’ mark, for example, on some brands of car seats for children and on life jackets. One of the virtues of a marking scheme is that it saves deluging the consumer with information about the product which he might not want or fully understand for that mater. All he or she really needs to know whether the product meets the best contemporary standards of quality and performance. A mark backed by an adequate standard will tell him this. The Government has made available a sum of $200,000 to fund the work of the Interim Commission in this financial year. The membership of the Interim Commission will be announced shortly. I present the following paper:
Interim Commission on Consumer Standards - Ministerial Statement, 13 September 1973.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Opposition supports the proposal advanced by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). However, I think it should be said that consumers are not a readily identifiable group. All of us in our different ways serve as customers for different products and perhaps we each have different standards which we require those products to meet. Hence, a commission on consumer stand Fids needs to be representative of as broad a cross section of the community as possible. I do not doubt the sincerity with which the concept was advanced by the Minister, nor indeed do I question the standards which he suggests may be prescribed. But I think it is necessary in a society such as ours, which is very heavily dependent on imported products, that we recognise the problems that would exist for domestic producers if the only persons required to meet standards were those who produce goods domestically.
I think there is a necessity for us to improve the standard of domestic production. All of us are conscious that in some overseas countries there has been an accepted standard of excellence which has given those countries an edge in markets which, regrettably, our own products do not enjoy. One needs only to turn to Sweden, for example, look at the motor car for which that country is particularly noted and compare it with cars manufactured in Australia to see the difference in standards that exists between the two and the degree of finish available on the imported vehicle. In various ways a measure of consumer consideration is applied which I do not think is always pertinent to the Australian product. For that reason, I believe that the concept as advanced is good, but there does need to be a recognition that, firstly, there exists a problem in ensuring that standards apply equally to products which are imported as to those which are produced domestically and, secondly, that we need to consider the diverse nature of consumers and the diverse character of persons who are affected by applying consumer standards and ensure that the members of the Commission represent as broad a cross section of the community as is possible to ensure that everyone is taken into account before the standards themselves aTe prescribed and before decisions are taken which may react adversely against those who are, after all, the generators of wealth in our community. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 September (vide page 923), on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before the adjournment last night I was looking in a broad way at the concept that is advanced in the Bill that is now before us. I think all of us need to recognise that this Bill is comprehensive. It is going to abolish capital punishment in every area where it is now pertinent. I suggested last night that there are a number of concepts of change in our community which we need to take into account if at this stage we are going to destroy the opportunity for future governments to extract the death penalty if it should be felt necessary in- relation to certain crimes.
I am personally opposed to the Bill because I do not believe that in this day and age we are in a position where we can take that final judgment. I explained last night that we are not adjudicating on particular instances, we are here to make a law. We are creating a circumstance within which there can never again be a decision taken by a court of law considering a particular case that a man should be executed. To me, there certainly is a distinction between the law as it exists and the enforcement of that law. Given the present circumstances in Australia I consider that it would be very doubtful whether one would wish to enforce the death penalty. But I believe that, given 3 circumstances of change in our community, it is premature to eliminate the death penalty altogether from all areas of operation in the laws of this country. I see that a number of areas where the penalty is now laid down should be eliminated. Indeed, I think that there are many areas of our penal law which need to be revised, the existing penalties reconsidered and the nature of their enforcement reconsidered.
I have strong personal views about our penal system. There are very real difficulties in the penalties that are extracted and I doubt whether as it is now constituted the penal system throughout Australia does give either reasonable protection to society on the one hand or, on the other hand, give to those who are imprisoned a reasonable opportunity for rehabilitation or to return to normal life in the community. Indeed, it is because of the deficiencies of our penal system that honourable members must be conscious that we need to think quite critically of whether we should accept at this stage this all embracing piece of legislation.
I think it should be considered in 3 areas, the first of which is the nature of crime itself. When I spoke last night I referred generally to the degree to which in recent times there has developed in Australia and around the world a character of crime which is quite antisocial. It is not personal in its antagonism but embraces a heterogeneous group of people many of whom may not even be known to the perpetrator of the criminal act. One needs only to think of some of the instances of aircraft bombing and hijacking, the incident in Munich at the Olympic Games and the behaviour of the deranged Charles Whitman in the tower at the University of Texas when he started a campus shoot-up. All are instances of the way in which crime itself is changing. For that reason I do not think that the pattern of past law enforcement can be regarded as adequate to meet the demands of the criminal element that exists today.
I am as concerned about the capacity of law enforcement as I am about the changing character of crime, but if law enforcement agencies are to be given a reasonable opportunity to undertake the task with which they are charged it is essential that those of us in government and Parliament do not deny them the ultimate weapon to ensure that a criminal can never again commit an offence. In the deterrent area the nature of capital punishment should not be lost sight of. I believe that there is a range of crimes for which, for that reason, capital punishment should be retained. At the Committee stage I shall move a number of amendments which prescribe a suggested number of residual areas where I see it as essential that capital punishment continues. There are other areas to which one needs to give serious consideration. I do not intend to move an amendment to retain capital punishment in those areas. In considering this point we should keep in mind, for example, the disappearance of the 2 girls in Adelaide the other day and the character of sexual offences against children by people who tragically are mentally deranged and are concerned not one iota about the lives of other people.
In our community crimes are committed which are distinctly different from those which traditionally existed. Mechanisation and technical progress have meant that for the criminal as much as for anyone else there are techniques which can be used to destroy not one or two human lives but many. Criminal actions are taking place which to my mind are not adequately being controlled by existing law enforcement procedures. In those circumstances I believe that it is quite premature to think of the complete elimination of capital punishment from out statute books.
The second change has been in the attitudes of society. Society certainly has moved a long way from the rather harsh and Victorian postures that our forebears adopted. One would not want in any sense to see a restoration of the harshness and inhumanity that existed until not so many years ago, but in referring to capital punishment I do not believe it is necessary to regard crimes only in that Victorian way. It is because of the attitudes of our society and a swinging back to apprehension that it is again necessary to have some form of ultimate physical sanction that can be exercised against criminals in our community.
A poll was conducted in California at about the time of the last United States presidential election. It demonstrated the attitude of those citizens of the United States towards capital punishment. Last year we in the Country Party issued a questionnaire to ascertain the attitudes of our membership towards the death penalty. Of all the questions we put to our members the vote on the retention of capital punishment for some crimes was by far the most convincing. The first question was: ‘Do you think capital punishment should be abolished for all crimes?’ All. States voted overwhelmingly against the abolition of capital punishment.
The next question was: ‘If “No”, do you believe the death penalty should be retained for (a) crimes against national security, for example, treason; (b) murder by destruction of aircraft; (c) murder of policemen or warders; (d) murder associated with kidnapping?’ All States voted convincingly for the retention of the death penalty in all 4 cases. However, in respect of crimes against national security the State percentages in favour of retention averaged only 75 per cent as against 91 per cent average for all other responses. Victoria recorded a slightly lower percentage vote than all other States in respect of murder by destruction of aircraft, this being 89 per cent as against the national average of 92 per cent. In Queensland a somewhat lower percentage was recorded in respect of murder of policemen or warders as 86 per cent voted in favour of the retention of capital punishment for such crimes as against the average of 90 per cent overall. Country Party members in all States strongly favoured retention of capital punishment. They also favoured its retention for the 4 crimes I detailed earlier.
Of course, that does not necessarily reflect the views and attitudes of everybody even in the areas canvassed by the questionnaire, but I think it is true that in our society there is a genuine concern at the degree to which so many criminals seem to be able to divest themselves of responsibility simply because of the lack of an ultimate sanction. It is equally true that in reality there has not been, and I do not believe that there should be, enforcement of the death penalty against a criminal in our community at this time, but I draw a distinction again between the actual determination of the penalty, the execution of the penalty and the prescription of the penalty.
We are here to prescribe the law, not to enforce it. We are not here as a law enforcement agency but we have a responsibility to set parameters for the community which enable it to feel reasonably safe and confident that laws are available to the courts to enable them to minimise the threat of criminal acts against individuals or against the state as a whole. I believe that were this Bill to be passed there would be an erosion of that security and of the capacity of law enforcement agencies to undertake their task. For that reason I do not believe that at this stage we should approve of total abolition of capital punishment.
Our penal system and the character of punishment do need quite critical examination. There are problems in our penal institutions. Fortunately there is a growing number of institutions which have taken into account the rights and opportunities of the individual. But when one considers the prisoner one really needs to consider him in relation to society as a whole. After all, the laws are there not to protect the prisoner but to protect society. If a prisoner or a criminal is not able to conform to society and society suffers as a result, society must take whatever action is necessary in order to protect itself. We as the Parliament of the Commonwealth have that responsibility. I do not believe that at this stage of Australia’s development we can fail to take into account the attitudes of those people in the community who are concerned about the safety of lives and livelihoods and of the general trends in crime itself. Nor do I believe that we would be acting responsibly if we were to accept the total abolition of the death penalty. For that reason I am, and most of my colleagues in the Country Party are, opposed to this Bill. We will not be voting as a party. On this side of the House we vote as a matter of conscience. We see this subject as one of those areas of important social and legal reform, just as we saw the subject of the debate just concluded.
Consideration of this particular Bill denies the opportunity to consider some of the many other alternatives for reform in the penal system. This is a comprehensive Bill. It is designed to eliminate completely the availability of capital punishment for any crime henceforth committed under Australian jurisdiction. In my opinion it goes too far. I believe there is a necessity for us to retain capital punishment for a selected number of crimes. Amendments which I will, move in Committee are intended to identify a number of these areas. I believe they are the minimal number necessary to ensure that society itself will be adequately protected. For that reason, whilst the Bill in many ways proposes a worthy social change, I believe it is premature and should be rejected by the House. If the amendments I will move are supported they will retain, in a critical range of areas, the opportunity for society to levy against the criminal that ultimate sanction which the death penalty represents.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the 2 speeches that have been made to this stage on this subject, particularly to the speech of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who expressed the depth of feeling that he has about the subject of capital punishment, the uncertainty and dilemma that he described himself as facing and the difficulty he has in making up his mind. I suggest to him that it is time he made up his mind. I listened with considerable interest also to the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and at the outset I would submit that his argument should be rejected completely and out of hand. His argument lined up and compared with the whole history of opposition to the proposition that the death penalty be abolished.
As we were reminded by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he spoke on this subject some little while ago, the first move in the Australian Parliament to abolish the death penalty was made by him in 1960. Again in 1963, 1968 and 1972 the Parliamentary Labor Party, then in Opposition tried its best to put right this piece of barbarism. Each time the government of the day - then a Liberal-Country Party coalition government - thwarted the efforts of the present Prime Minister and of the Parliamentary Labor Party to bring about this reform. I do not know what processes took place in the minds of those who are now members of the Opposition. Seeing that the Liberal Party on this occasion does not oppose the measure but the Country Party seems to oppose it - although the Deputy Leader of the Country Party suggested that it was not a party decision he said that most members of his party would oppose it - one can draw the reasonable inference that during all the years from 1960 onwards the tail wagged the dog. The Country Party, with its traditional conservatism, refused to let the Liberal Party, which does have in it some elements like my good friend the honourable member for Moreton, do what should have been done.
Last night and this afternoon a note of sweet reason was projected into the debate by the 2 speakers from the Opposition parties. I do not wish to strike a discordant note. I welcome reason, particularly sweet reason, but I would suggest that given the history of this matter and given the continued opposition of Liberal and Country Party governments in their recorded actions since 1960 to thwart this reform, now having been brought to the end of the road and being faced with this situation - the Bill has passed the Senate and we know it will pass this House - all they have left to give themselves a little dignity is to try to appear reasonable. Reason, like anything else, can sometimes be used as a subterfuge to cover up lack of reason, hostility, prejudice and bias. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party has considerable skill as an advocate, and I commend him for that.
I have in my hand a book which someone, knowing I was to speak on this subject, lent me. Its authors are Arthur Koestler and C. H. Rolph, 2 men committed to the subject of the reform of capital punishment. The book is titled ‘Hanged by the Neck’. I will leave the book on the table of the House and honourable members can read it if they so desire. The cover photograph shows a man in the process of being hanged. A priest, policeman and other representatives of the French State are present. It is a horrible, gory picture. It is a nasty picture. It is a barbaric picture. Members of the public are watching the hanging. This is what we associate ourselves with whenever we put the dignity and sanction of the State behind this crime. It becomes judicial murder.
Do we seriously condone this act of barbarism? I know it is always said that it is not revenge which justifies capital punishment. Not even the staunchest defenders of capital punishment take that ground, although frankly I do not believe it. Call it by other names, it is a feeling of revenge. That is what retribution means and retribution is one of the 3 principal words used whenever one reads a discussion on the subject of punishment. It is revenge that is put behind capital punishment - revenge for some feeling of outrage that one claims to feel, and which we all feel. The punishment in this case is the forfeiture of life. People who support capital punishment say: ‘Oh, do not worry. It is done humanely. It is all over in a second. Not to worry.’ They talk about deterrence. The honourable member for Moreton spoke about deterrence, but to his credit he quoted figures from every part of the world which prove that capital punishment is not a deterrent. In 95 per cent of cases the person who commits a murder is a close relative or friend who gives way to some outraged feelings on the spur of the moment and never thinks of the deterrent aspect of it - that if caught he will be convicted and hanged for his crime. Figures proved this, and the honourable member for Moreton pointed it out.
Before turning to the question of deterrence which is one that worries many people - putting a policement behind the citizen otherwise the citizen will break the law - let me dwell for a moment on the concept of capital punishment - being merciful and painless. It does not take a second’s thought to realise that neither hanging nor any of its alternatives is, in fact, less than very painful. It has taken the insight of a great novelist to grasp the real behind the apparent cruelty of the death penalty. On this occasion - certainly the last time this House will concern itself with this problem; this hang-over from the dark ages - I should like to quote Dos.toyevsky’s words in his novel The Idiot’ about what the death penalty really means. He wrote: . . but the chief and the worst pain may not be in the bodily suffering but in one’s knowing for certain that in an hour, and then in 10 minutes, and then in half a minute, and then now, at the very moment, the soul will leave the body and that one will cease to be a man, and that that’s bound to happen; the worst part of it is that it’s certain. When you lay your head down under the knife and hear the knife slide over your head that quarter of a second is the most terrible of all. You know this is not only my fancy, many people have said the same. I believe that so thoroughly that 111 tell you what I think. To kill for murder is a punishment incomparably worse than the crime itself. Murder by legal sentence is immeasurably more terrible than murder by brigands. Anyone murdered by brigands, whose throat is cut at night in a wood, or something of that sort, must surely hope to escape till the very last minute. There have been instances when a man has still hoped for escape, running or begging for mercy after his throat was cut But in the other case all that last hope, which makes dying 10 times as easy, is taken away for certain. There is the sentence, and that whole torture lies in the fact that there is certainly no escape, and there is no torture in the world more terrible. You may lead a soldier out and set him facing the cannon in battle and fire at him and he’ll still hope; but read a sentence of certain death over the same soldier, and he will go out of his mind or burst into tears. Who can tell whether human nature is able to bear this madness? Why this hideous, useless, unnecessary outrage? Perhaps there is some man who has been sentenced to death, been exposed to this torture, and has been told ‘You can go, you are pardoned’. Perhaps such a man could tell us. It was of this torture and this agony that Christ spoke, too. No, you can’t treat a man like that.
Those were Dostoyevsky’s words.
Judicial murder is no merciful death. It is naked, unmitigated, barbaric cruelty. The reality is hidden from us by the bureaucratic trappings built up around it, but the truth is this - I make no apology for using these words: It is torture that is done in our name, torture of a particularly terrible kind. Every day that we tolerate its continuance degrades every one of us. Make no mistake, we are all there - not physically, of course, but we are a bit like those American bomber pilots over Vietnam. We do not see the blood. We do not see the anguish. Computerised and in a clinical, isolated, clean way we press the button. But we condone this dreadful ritual while it goes on and our hand is on the lever. I have said that these ritual killings degrade us all in a darker, more sinister way. It is not the sort of thing people like speaking about. It is like Dr Wainer on the abortion law issue. It is a dirty subject, an unpleasant subject, a nasty subject. But I do not apologise for bringing it up because if we are honest we will admit that it plays a major, if unexamined, part in our naive defences of capital punishment.
Clarence Darrow, that very famous American trial lawyer, makes the point as plainly as it can be made. He said on one earlier occasion:
Every human being that believes in capital punishment loves killing, and the only reason they believe in capital punishment is because they get a kick out of it.
Quite frankly I find that to be perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I wonder whether there is not some truth in the statement. They are blunt words - perhaps an overstatement - of a very great orator, but there is truth there. If Darrow’s statement is not completely correct, if it is an overstatement, at least it can be said that the people who propose the continuance of capital punishment certainly hate giving it up. That was implicit in the words of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. They hate giving it up and they fight to retain it. When they see that they cannot retain it any longer they look around for some remaining particularly heinous type’ of offence to which they can still attach it. One can almost see their minds working: ‘There must be something to which we can attach this death penalty. Do not let them take it away from us. There must be something - perhaps some particularly aggravated form of murder. Let us find something. Search, look.’ That is implicit in everything the honourable member said. If one looks at the amendment one will see that very search and what it has produced.
It seems hardly necessary to argue the deterrence case at this stage. I take the point that was made by the honourable member for Moreton. He said that it is really refuted by the statistics. It has been shown time and again throughout history that the death penalty has not deterred. Societies that kill criminals have not had significantly lower crime rates than those that do not. Historically they have often been higher. This applies even in Australia. The figures that were produced last year in answer to a question I put to the then Minister for the Interior, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), prove that with the same or substantially the same set of laws in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory the crime rate in the Northern Territory was 30-odd times higher than in the Australian Capital Territory. They have the same punishments, the same deterrents, the same police forces and the same chances of capture.
– But not the same conditions.
– That is right, they have different conditions. But punishment had nothing to do with it. One could still be hanged for murder. Murders were committed in the Northern Territory about 5 or 6 times as often as down here. The deterrent meant nothing. There is one aspect about deterrence which I would like to point out and which always strikes me as being significant. I was brought up on the deterrence argument, I suppose like all lawyers, but basically it is immoral. It rests behind most of the systems of criminal law except when revenge or retribution rest behind them. Reform is something that is thrown in for good measure, although no prison or punishment ever reforms. In one sense deterrence is a complete negation of justice and individual rights. To punish the honourable member for Moreton by hanging him, whipping him or fining him in order to deter the Deputy Leader of the Country Party is completely immoral. To punish A in order to deter B is completely immoral. If an individual bases his support for hanging on this ground - there are many among the minority who still support it who do take this ground - I suggest that his position is basically immoral and should be shown to be immoral. Deterrence and punishment generally should be kept to a minimum.
This is what Mr John Stuart Mill and all the great utilitarians said: Punishment is an evil. It hurts. Every civilised society should have it as an absolute minimum. Yet here we have the Country Party spokesman saying: ‘For God’s sake hang on to it. Do not give it up.’ If the argument of deterrence is basically immoral, what ground is left on which a reasonable person can support the death penalty? There is none. Removal of the death penalty will make our society no less safe. This has been confirmed time and again by countries which have already taken this overdue step. They have not experienced any causally related rise in the incidence of what had been capital crimes. In addition, the most recent British royal commission on capital punishment, after hearing evidence from all over the world, concluded:
The evidence that we ourselves received in these countries was also to the effect that released murderers who commit further crimes of violence are rare-
That is almost axiomatic nowadays. Burglars might do it, other types of convicted criminals might do it, but murderers hardly ever resort to violence because of the nature of the crime - and those who become useful citizens are common.
I am reminded of the Constitution of the United States of America - this applies to some of the State constitutions in the United States of America - where there is a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Some honourable members may recall that a year or so ago the Supreme Court of California, ruling on that section of its Constitution, held that a statute of the State of California that provided for capital punishment was ultra vires, illegal, invalid, because it was a cruel and unusual punishment.
The British Parliament was told in 1961, in answer to a question, that of the 76 convicted murderers released from life imprisonment in the years 1956 to 1960 only 2 were convicted of subsequent crimes of violence, and they were not murder. Our present system of justice contains ample means to protect society from insane or repetitive murders - recidivists - without bringing down on ourselves the public shame of killing them. High security facilities exist in the great majority of cases in which they are appropriate. Abolition of the death penalty will spur further advances in this field. I suggest that we take this historic step for Australia and support the Bill.
There are one or two other aspects of the Bill which may be persuasive to honourable members. A very famous German philospher - not one whom I usually quote - Nietzsche, once said: ‘Distrust everyone in which an impulse to punish is powerful.’ That is completely consistent with what I was putting a little while ago, that there is a thread running through the opposition to this Bill that comes not from the Liberal Party, as I understand the situation - that is to its credit - but from the Country Party, which is not to its credit. There is a thread running through it; they want to hang on to this barbaric penalty. They have an impulse to punish. George Bernard Shaw said that flogging is a form of debauchery. If flogging is a form of debauchery, what is judicial murder? What is capital punishment? It is the extreme form of debauchery. How long ago was it that slaves running away in the United States of America when caught were killed by the courts? It was Byron who said:
Is there not enough blood on your penal code that you want to keep this kind of section here?
Finally I was struck in the little research I did on the subject - I think this is one of those subjects people feel about rather than read about, although perhaps feelings come from years of thinking and reading about the subject - by the remarks of that gentleman Robespierre of French revolution fame on the subject when he spoke in 18th century language about the duty of the law maker. When he got to the capital punishment aspect of it, with some kind of foresight perhaps he said:
When it occurs man is no longer an object so sacred as before. One has a lower idea of his dignity when public authority makes light of his life. The idea of the murder filters with less horror when the law itself sets the example and provides the spectacle. The horror of the crime diminishes from the time the law no longer punishes it except by another crime. Have a care not to confound the efficacy of punishment with excessive severity. The one is absolutely opposed to the other. Everything favours moderate laws. Everything conspires against cruel laws.
We have had a cruel law on the statute books of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for too long. I support the Bill.
– This Bill is of great importance to every Australian. It is fundamental to our society, and each member owes it to this House to state his position clearly. I believe that a Government has a right to order killing in defence of the community. As a serving naval officer for many years and proud of this service, I could scarcely believe otherwise. But the critical question must be the necessity, the clear necessity, of such a traumatic decision. Execution, the extinction of human life in the name of the community, can be justified only by the clearest evidence of imperative need. And this I believe has not been done for any of the offences for which execution is now the penalty. In all discussion on the abolition of the death penalty, we must keep in mind not only the range of offences for which the death penalty can be inflicted - and it is far wider than murder alone - but also the purposes of punishment. They are generally held to be: The reform of the offender, the safety of the community and deterrence from similar offences. I do not accept another purpose frequently mentioned, that of retribution, although I accept that it is an all-too-human reaction.
Turning first to the death penalty as a means of reform of the offender, I should think its shortcomings would be fairly obvious. It is difficult to reform a corpse and if a mistake is made - and even with our fine legal system, which is as good as any in the world, some mistakes are inevitable - there is no opportunity for recompense.
A former British Home Secretary said:
I was in the position of receiving a judge’s report which told me that in the case of one man, Evans, had all the subsequent evidence been before the court, he, the judge, did not believe that a jury could have been convinced beyond reasonable doubt. I thought it right then to take the unprecedented step of giving posthumous pardon. I fear that it did not do the man much good. He had been hanged 16 years before.
The second aim of punishment is the safety of the community. Obviously, people who are a physical danger to others must be kept under restraint. But is is a well established fact that those who commit crimes which are subject to the death penalty, even if not executed, are very unlikely to repeat such crimes after their release - much less likely in fact than the general run of the community. As someone has said, ‘Murder is not a crime of the criminal classes’. It is true of course that some insane people are a continuing danger to the community, but no one as far as I know is proposing that they should be executed, so they are not relevant to this debate.
So, I am satisfied that the safety of the community would not be affected by the abo lition of the death penalty, and the possibility of reform of the offender is obviously increased. What we are left with, then, as an argument for capital punishment, is its unique deterrent value. I believe that in all discussions so far the onus of proof has been on the wrong side. Execution by the State is such a horrible action that it cannot be justified unless it is clearly a uniquely effective deterrent. In my opinion, no such evidence exists. I do not want to lure the House into a maze of statistics, so I will content myself with saying that the statistical evidence around the world is voluminous and deals with similar areas with and without capital punishment and states that have had capital punishment and then abandoned it and in some cases restored it. Perhaps the clearest example was in Britain, where in 1957 murders were divided into capital and non-capital murders, with the death penalty applying only to capital murders. In logic, if the death penalty were a unique deterrent, one would expect, over the years, to see a decline in the proportion of capital to non-capital murders; but, over the 8-year life of the Act, no such trend emerged.
Nowhere else, is there any evidence of any correlation between the presence or absence of capital punishment and the incidence of murders. If capital punishment were a uniquely effective deterrent to murder, there would have to be such statistical correlation. But, I repeat, there is no such evidence. I do not find these facts surprising. Murders are frequently committed as an impulse, without consideration of the consequences. Even when murders are premeditated, the murderer usually would not consider the consequences because he would not expect to be caught. In fact, the great deterrent to premeditated murder - nothing will deter the impulse murderer - would be the high probability of arrest and punishment. Here again the abolition of capital punishment would help. It is instructive to examine why the draconian 18th century laws of England were watered down - laws under which there were more than 300 offences which warranted the death penalty, starting from stealing more than 5s or cutting down an ornamental tree, and under which children aged 7 were hanged. The pressure for the reform of these laws came mainly not from humanitarians, but from property owners, who found that juries refused to convict because they felt the punishment was too cruel . for the crime, and the guilty thus received no punishment at all. I believe that we will soon face here, if we are not already facing it, the same problem with murder trials.
Before I leave the subject of murder, there are 3 other matters I should like to refer to. Many murders are of a peculiarly horrible character, and it is often suggested that there should be degrees of murder, some carrying the death penalty, others not. Such proposals date as far back as the British royal commission of 1864, and have often been very attractive to penal reformers. Of course, as I hope is obvious, I reject the death penalty altogether, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the very great administrative difficulties of trying to categorise murders. The British Homicide Act of 1957 tried to, and by the time it had run its 8 years of life, it had come to be regarded by almost everyone concerned with its administration as raising far more problems than it solved. I hope we do not find it necessary ourselves to wander down this sterile path.
The safety of police is often mentioned. Here again, there is no evidence of any unique deterrent effect of capital punishment. In fact, such research as has been done shows just the opposite. A comprehensive study in America of comparable States with and without capital punishment showed no correlation with die number of murderous attacks on police. If there were overwhelming evidence, which there is not of the unique effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent to murders of police, we might have to think again, although I would caution that there are considerations which go deeper than the statistics. The whole effectiveness of the police force in its fight against crime depends overwhelmingly on 2 factors: First, public support and understanding; and, second, the likelihood of its detecting and the courts then convicting those who are guilty. If the murderers of policemen received a different and more severe punishment than murderers of those who are killed in a private attempt to resist criminals and to uphold the law, I do not believe that this would, in other than the very short term, assist the public position of the police. Prison officers are another special case. It is argued that prisoners serving life sentences may, in the absence of capital punishment, make murderous attacks on prison officers, knowing they have nothing more to lose.
There are 2 points about this; the first is that prisoners serving life sentences can, in fact, expect to be released eventually. And again, statistics bring the problem - the danger - into perspective. Although the figures are hard to obtain, it seems that over the last 30 years there have been an average of several hundred prisoners serving life sentences in Australian prisons, and over those years, the number of murders of prison officers by these prisoners has been none. In the absence of a clearly established need, I believe it would be absolutely wrong of this House to retain capital punishment as a means of protecting prison officers, because the protection would be illusory.
I hope my position on murder is quite clear. The only argument worthy of consideration for the retention of capital punishment for murder is its unique deterrent value, and there is no evidence that this unique deterrent value exists. Capital punishment for. murder should be abolished. But these are not the only offences under Commonwealth law which carry the death penalty. There are 3 others - for wartime offences in the face of the enemy, for treason, and for the destruction of an aircraft in flight. Let us look at each of these in turn and at the relevance of capital punishment as a deterrent.
First, the military offences. These stem from Acts of the British Parliament which have been adopted under our various service defence Acts. No one has ever been executed under these Acts by the Australian Government for treason or for military offences. There was tremendous pressure from the British Government and from the British Army in the First World War to make Australian soldiers subject to the death penalty, which in the British and French armies was the recognised preventive of desertion and mutiny and, in extreme cases, insubordination. During World War I, 335 British troops were sentenced to death. Many thousands of French soldiers were similarly executed. But no Australians were. Yet I believe it would be a brave man who, in this House, would say that our army was less effective in wartime than that of any other nation’s. Incidentally, the Germans did not have the death penalty for military offences either. I believe the retention of capital punishment for these military purposes is clearly unnecessary. The bond which holds together the discipline of an efficient fighting organisation is not, and never has been, the fear of being shot by one’s own side.
There remains the question of offences against aircraft. These often involve a tragic loss of life. As far as the planting of a bomb on an aircraft is concerned, I do not believe that the death penalty will be any more effective a deterrent than it is for any other type of murder. Hijackers are a problem to which I do not pretend to have a solution. Incidentally, hijackers are not at present liable to the death penalty in Australia. The trouble is that hijackers usually receive no punishment at all, because they are quickly ransomed by their colleagues. The presence or absence of the death penalty is quite irrelevant, because they do not expect to be punished. In any case, many of them are so fanatical that they almost court death.
The answer to hijacking surely does not lie in individual countries imposing death penalties, but in international action to deprive these outcasts of sanctuary. I feel that capital punishment - execution by the state - can be justified only if there is clear evidence that its retention is necessary for the safety and good order of the community. No such evidence exists, and I therefore believe that capital punishment should be abolished as a barbaric and unnecessary relic. I hope, after all our debate, that both in this House and in the community we will come to realise that the right way to create respect for human life is to refrain from taking life in the name of the law. And to that end this House should pass this Bill.
– I am in complete agreement with my colleague from Isaacs (Mr Hamer). Capital punishment can surely have no place in a civilised society. He placed his case before this House in a most emphatic and persuasive way. However, I speak on this occasion not because I think I can persuade any more people here but because there has been a long campaign in this House and in every Parliament in Australia to have capital punishment abolished. For myself, I have taken a part> in these campaigns- perhaps by question, perhaps by reference, perhaps by persuasion. It is significant that the Australian Labor Party abolished it as far back as 1919. So I suppose that the time for rhetoric has passed, because there is in fact de facto abolition of capital punishment in Australia now.
This has been achieved because of great social pressures that have been created by parliamentary demands and by the simple facts of the case. It is odd that we should still have to argue so long in the parliaments of Australia to remove the last vestiges of it from the statute books. The preceding speaker mentioned the situation of Australian military crimes and the fact that in the First World War against all the arguments of all the best soldiers on the other side of the world we were able to put armies in the field and maintain them there without the machineguns behind them to keep them steady in the face of fire. That is probably as good an argument about this whole situation as one could produce.
Of course all sorts of arguments in favour of the death penalty are put forward by people. But I believe that in fact what lies behind us all when we support capital punishment is the simple, terrible human emotion, understandable as it may be, of vengeance. But vengeance has no place in civilised codes of conduct.
It may well be one of those emotions that we keep to ourselves. We even express it; but there is no place for it to be carried into action. ‘Vengeance is mine’, saith the Lord; it is not the job of this Parliament.
Then there is the question of punishment. My office is not far from Pentridge gaol. Every day that I pass it I ponder the fate of those people who are being punished inside. Like everyone else one feels the same emotions about crimes which are committed against persons and property. Somehow we have to stop people from committing the crimes. Somehow they must pay the debt that they have incurred. So we have invented prisons and flogging and execution to try to punish people for their sins against us, against each other and against others. I have grave doubts, the longer I live and the more I pass Pentridge, as to whether we really have the right to punish as such. It is a simple moral question how in which way we should administer punishment? Can we make it fit the crime? Does it achieve anything, and do we have the moral right to punish others?
Perhaps that is a rather way-out argument in view of the way in which society looks at these things now; but in the world today there is a great movement towards penal reform. I hope that this Parliament will be able to accelerate this trend and play its part in taking a totally different view of the way in which society should treat offenders against its laws. I believe that the present codes of punishment which we inflict upon people are irrelevant and often inhumane. I can think of nothing worse than locking up any person for a long period of time. There must be another way. As has been pointed out so often in these debates, there must also be some way to prevent crimes of violence that result in the death of a person other than by hanging or using any other form of capital punishment.
Then there is the deterrent argument, which has been canvassed at great length. There is no need for me to bring out the facts and figures this afternoon; they are all recorded in Hansard. I want to deal with the modified approach which has been placed before us in the amendments namely, that there are some crimes for which people ought to be executed. The most vigorous advocacy in support of this point of view is usually related to punishment for treason. To me treason is the last crime for which we ought to punish a person. If a person is disloyal to the community in that he betrays his duties to the community, as people see them, there is something wrong with the values of the community and not with the person. But what right have I or the community as a whole to punish someone because he does not see eye to eye with us on great issues? All through history people with power have exercised it not to keep people patriotic but to keep them loyal to those in power. Even in our country, as tolerant and basically humane and compassionate as it is, in recent years there have been times when if capital punishment had been readily available in the way in which it is in some other countries people in this country would have been charged with treason and perhaps executed for it. However, it is one of the great strengths of this country that nobody has ever been effectively charged with the crime of treason. I personally do not believe there should be any such crime on the statute book. I hold the same values as anyone else in this House. I have the same deep attachment to our country, the community and its values. But I do not believe I have any right to force those values on any other person who does not measure up the way I think he ought to and make him pay the penalty with his life. Therefore I hope that the House will give no longer serious consideration to the retention of capital punishment for the crime of treason.
Then we come to prison offences. This subject is particularly appropriate. Five or six years ago Ronald Ryan escaped from Pentridge gaol, one Sunday afternoon, I think it was, and in the course of that escape he shot and killed a warder in the street about 50 or 60 yards from my office. It was a dreadful crime, but it was carried out in the heat of the moment. A long campaign was conducted in the public arena, in the courts and through the various channels by which people communicate with governments, to prevent him from being hanged; but he was hanged. The Victorian Government committed what I hope was the last act of such barbarity because a person, in this case Ronald Ryan, shot a prison warder. The man who escaped with Ryan during the course of their escape or a little later committed a much worse and more barbarous act. He shot a man in cold blood to prevent his recapture. However, that man was simply retained in prison. There is so much that is arbitrary, so much that is capricious, about the whole system of judgment in these matters that we cannot have modified use on capital punishment. We either have it or we do not. There is no place on the statue books for it, even in respect of crimes committed by people who are in prison. Fortunately, crimes of that type are rare. My own feelings in this matter have been, fortified by the proximity of my office to the Pentridge prison. It is only a few hundred yards away. Years ago in that prison for some months Tait was under sentence of death. Dozens of people have been under sentence of death since I was elected to the Parliament. There are always some. I think there are some now in the Australian Capital Territory.
– It is not necessary.
– That is right. The system keeps these people in gaol under sentence of death and eventually the Executive Council decides that it will not carry out the sentence in certain cases. In Tait’s case it was a long campaign and finally the Government surrendered. It was a pretty sordid exercise; but, in spite of how vicious Tait’s crime was, he was saved from that fate. In Ryans case there was even more vigorous public support for the abolition of the death penalty and for the death sentence not to be carried out in his case, but it failed. Ever since I have been bothered by the attitude adopted by the Victorian State Cabinet in that situation. 1 know many of the Cabinet members well. They are people of distinction and compassion. 1 disagree with them politically over most areas. Some of them I have known for half my lifetime. I just cannot understand how they were able to stand by that decision. I think it is one of our duties to remove from the statute book the necessity for Ministers as members of the Executive Council to make that sort of decision.
We are always concerned with the sanctity of human life. This community places great store upon human life. We have had debates on the question of abortion based on that very issue. I felt that one of the most serious criticisms of the Vietnam participation was the commitment of conscripts to the battlefield with their lives to forfeit. We will not produce any belief in the sanctity of life by killing people. Nearly all the crimes of recent times for which people have been under sentence of death have been committed on the spur of the moment. Nevertheless, there are some dreadful people about and no one knows what to do with them. There are a number in every major prison in Australia. But we will not solve this problem by the continuance of this barbarism. The standards of behaviour in the community, as established by governments and in public life, are the ones which will produce an attitude towards other people’s rights and lives. Of course, there is always the argument that perhaps the innocent are punished. Occasionally this is so. Occasionally it is discovered years afterwards that the person who was punished was innocent. There is a dreadful record, as revealed in the book placed before us by my colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). It contains a list of people executed in Britain over a period of five or six years from 1949 onwards. Many of them were young, most of them were men and most of them were executed for crimes of passion. In some cases there seemed to be plenty of evidence that at the time the crime was committed they were insane. Of course, on occasions there is evidence which casts grave doubt on whether people did commit the crimes for which they were punished. I hope that on this occasion - I am pretty certain that it will happen - the Australian Parliament will set the seal on the standards of this community and by the passage of this Bill repeal the death penalty and therefore place Australia generally up with most other civilised nations and with several of the Australian States. I reject the amendments. I do not believe that there is any validity in the arguments put forward in support of them. Capital punishment is one of the last relics of barbarity on our statute book. Today is a very important point in parliamentary history because we will be setting standards for one or two of the States which have on their statute books provision for capital punishment which has been retained by the archaic procedures of legislative councils.
– This Bill seeks to abolish the death penalty for any offence and to substitute imprisonment for life. The proposal is all or nothing. It has been criticised by some because there is no provision to cover extreme cases, such as treason or murder following the hijacking of an aircraft. To that list some would add the murder of prison warders or policemen, murders following a threat coupled with a demand for money, second murders by the same criminal and the murder of a diplomatic or consular official. An eminent Sydney doctor, Dr William McBride who alerted the world to the dangers of thalidomide to unborn children, has recommended capital punishment for drug smuggling. As I see it, there is no completely clear out case either for or against the retention of the death penalty, even for the worst crimes.
The authority of the Bible has been quoted for years with sincerity and conviction by both abolitionists and retentionists. Since the earliest times, men have struggled with the question of capital punishment. The custom in the Middle East was to execute criminals by stoning, hanging, crucifixion or impalement on a stake. In ancient Babylon, persons condemned to death were thrown into a pit to be torn and devoured by hungry lions, or cast into a fiery furnace. Daniel is one of the very few recorded persons against whom one of these dread penalties failed to operate. In ancient Rome Christians were thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. Death by hanging was the usual method adopted in Egypt and in a number of other countries.
In the Middle Ages religious dissenters were frequently burnt at the stake, torn asunder on the rack or killed by the embrace of what was euphemistically called the ‘Iron Maiden’. A doomed prisoner was sometimes tied to 4 horses which were then driven apart, tearing the prisoner’s body from limb to limb. Prior to 1835 the penalty for treason in England was hanging, followed by decapitation, disembowelling and quartering. In 1780 about 350 crimes in England were punishable by death - many of them were trivial offences as my colleague and friend the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) has pointed out. As the honourable member said, even quite young children were sometimes hanged. In France the guillotine was first used in 1789, in the first year of the French Revolution, and continued in use for 180 years, being abolished only in 1969. In the early history of the United States of America capital punishment was as often as not imposed by a lynching mob; the electric chair came into use in 1890, and in 1937 the gas chamber was introduced. No-one can deny that most of these methods are barbarous and cruel and belong essentially to the past. I have cited them to show how attitudes have changed through the centuries. Today, many nations have eliminated the death penalty, partly because authorities maintain that capital punishment does not deter crime and partly because many believe that it is cruel and inhuman.
One of the strongest arguments used by the abolitionists is that an innocent person may be put to death. The crucifixion of Christ is, of course, the most outstanding case of rank injustice in the whole annals of history. Death is so very final and there can surely be no greater wrong than to put to death, by any means whatsoever, an innocent person. There is a very real dilemma in this whole question, in a moral sense, in a religious sense and in a social sense. It is unhappily true that we live in a world of growing lawlessness and violence. It is true also that a high percentage of serious crime is unsolved. Some countries where the death penalty has been abolished are considering reviving it in the belief that it is the most compelling deterrent to the worst kinds of crime. Some people argue that the ultimate penalty should be reserved for the ultimate in crime. Some people suggest that degrees of murder should be more clearly established. Others warn that notorious killers may escape from prison and kill again. Of course, this has happened.
The abolitionists, including Lord Gardiner, an eminent English jurist, maintain that there is no country where the murder rate has increased because capital punishment has been abolished. When delivering the Southey Memorial Lecture at the University of Mel bourne Faculty of Law last April Lord Gardiner referred to various European countries that have abolished the death penalty and he claimed that they were right in so doing. Dealing with the possible deterrent effect which has already been referred to at length in this debate, Lord Gardiner said:
The cry for an increase in deterrence is as old as mankind; but it has never worked - not even in the days when we had capital punishment for more than 200 different offences.
In fact, since the last war, there had been a steady increase in my country in the length of sentences.
He was referring to the position in England. He emphasised that an increasing crime rate required an increase in the strength of the police force, and with this I most heartily agree. Indeed, I believe that it is of prime importance if we are to place more emphasis on crime prevention, as I feel we should. In Brisbane recently the Queensland Minister responsible for the police force said Australians had a tendency to regard criminals as the underdogs and to have more sympathy for the criminal than for the police. If this is so, surely there is something basically wrong with our scale of values. Some of the old-fashioned revulsion against crime appears to have receded. I believe that not nearly enough thought and compassion are extended to the victims of crimes or to their relatives.
Perhaps .these attitudes are merely modern. Perhaps they are symptoms of a sick society or at least of a society that is uncertain of its standards and of just where it is going. But without doubt the general trend in the world today is away from, capital punishment. Some of the Australian States abolished it a long time ago and there is lack of uniformity in this country. In my own State of Queensland the death penalty was abolished more than 50 years ago, in 1922 to ‘be precise. The last hanging there was in 19(13. The rate of serious crime is no higher in Queensland because of the abolition of capital punishment. In New. South Wales the death penalty was abolished in 1955, except for 2 rare crimes, treason and piracy with violence. Convicted murderers are now sentenced to life imprisonment, which appears to average only about 17 years. On this point I take issue most strongly with the State authorities concerned. In my view life imprisonment should mean just exactly that. To release a convicted murderer sentenced to imprisonment for life is, I believe, a wrong against society and makes a farce of the law. It invites further crimes, as the records show. It also minimises the all-important deterrent effect of a lawful sentence of life imprisonment.
As honourable members will recall, there was a case a little time ago of a man named Lawrence in South Australia who asked to be hanged rather than be doomed to imprisonment for life. I have read some of the debate that took place at Westminster in 1969 when the British Parliament voted for the abolition of the death penalty. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsey, led 18 bishops who voted for the abolition. In the House of Lords debate the Archbishop said:
Abolition of capital punishment once and for all will help to create a more civilised society to search for the causes of crime and to continue experiments in .penal reform.
Dr Ramsey said he was certain that the decision would be to the advantage and honour of the nation. In June last year the United States Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty, under most existing State and Federal laws, was unconstitutional.
It seems rather farcical to keep on the statute books in this country a penalty which is almost invariably commuted to life imprisonment. A mandatory death penalty increases rather than diminishes the chances of dangerous criminals going unpunished, as juries are more reluctant to convict. In effect the death penalty represents retribution rather than correction and there is always the risk of serious injustice. I am far from satisfied that capital punishment, by whatever means it is carried out, is a deterrent to the most serious types of crime, and although to my mind the position is by no means clear-cut, I come down on the side of those who say that we should support the Bill. I agree with those who maintain that certainty of apprehension and sentence is the most effective deterrent and provides the greatest protection for our Australian society and this certainty plus reformation of criminals is, in my view, what we should strive to achieve.
– I do not quarrel with those who support this Bill. I say that their arguments are nebulous. Either way human mercy is the important issue. As to hanging or no hanging, rarely does anyone get hanged. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) seemed to derive great satisfaction from recalling the horror, the barbaric and premedi tated action in the carrying out of the death penalty. He made great play on that point but he did not display any real signs of anguish or heartache for the relatives of the murdered victims. He displayed the cold approach of the legal advocate. He saw only the face of the convicted, not the broken hearts of the bereaved. He was pleading his case but not removing the cause. He showed his hatred of the Australian Country Party. I would challenge the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) on his statement that there is no evidence to prove capital punishment is a deterrent. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) carried out a futile exercise of placing great store on human life, but he surely looked at only one side. He did not give credit for the fact that we have avenues of mercy, and I doubt that they have ever been abused.
I rise to oppose the Bill and to support the circulated amendment. As I gather my thoughts about this gruesome subject and try to find words to justify my stand, I am conscious of my responsibilities to our present society. I have weighed the pros and cons, I have done some soul searching, and I find myself firmly convinced that I still have a responsibility to ensure that our community is protected. I can recall a number of instances where mercy was extended to the convicted killer who got the minimum commuted punishment but escaped from custody to commit another violent crime. Surely in all sincerity it would have been merciful to that person to remove him altogether for his own and the community’s benefit. I dare not dwell on the anguish of the relatives of the unnecessary victim.
In opposing the Bill for the abolition of the death penalty I repeat that I am not motivated by a desire for vengeance. I believe I am exercising a very mature and responsible attitude to one of our very important laws. I firmly believe that the death penalty should be retained for certain premeditated crimes or acts of violence which bring about the death of any citizen, or for the hijacking of a plane again resulting in the death of hostages, or for treason. Why should a person who deliberately endangers the lives of thousands of people not lose his life as a penalty? There should be no mercy for premeditated kidnap killings. Those of you who use the sentimental argument and let emotion be your guide - and I include here the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory - are doing an injustice to the calm, calculated logic of our existing law. The person who breaks the very vital law based on the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ must be punished. Our laws which have been laid down are based on a very sensitive and sound code. We live in a marvellous age where the conditions of life ought to make us all grateful that we have organised, society for mutual protection. Unfortunately the world is moving more and more into a crisis of violence and so this mutual protection should be one of the great values of our society. Noncompliance with the laws should bring a penalty sufficient to punish the criminal. We have erected a structure which, with all its socalled imperfections, is the very envy of the world. The performance of the judiciary in our British and Australian societies has to comply with the rules.
Today we are dealing with a measure which says we should dispense with the . maximum penalty for a maximum crime - the death penalty for premeditated murder. Let us take a look at the situation in a case where the law requires the death penalty. There is still the matter of mercy for the Crown to consider. To interpret that, it means that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), who is the highest law officer in the country, not only has all the admissible evidence against the accused but also has all the facts on a file on which to make a reasoned judgment and a recommendation to a responsible group of men in a Cabinet. Here I am giving credibility to an elected govenerment. I have no hesitation in expressing my belief that they, being human as we all are, are predisposed to mercy. Very rarely in all these cases of murder, treason, rape killing, hijacking of aeroplanes and so on have we ever seen the maximum penalty imposed. Surely this indicates that those in responsible positions are capable of exercising sound and merciful judgment. Surely then, when all the avenues of mercy have been exhausted the very small number of murderers must forfeit their right to be members of our society. If they are not removed from this area then the huge percentage who kill, although not with the same degree of criminality, will grow and our country will move more and more into this crisis of violence which is spreading today throughout the world.
Do not tell me that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent. It is only in extreme cases that I would not hesitate to carry out the maximum penalty. Such a case would be that of anyone who deliberately murders a police officer in ‘the execution of his duties. It is on record that the number of murders of police in England has multiplied 5 times since capital punishment was abolished. So I repeat: Surely it must be a deterrent. Surely we have a responsibility to protect our police officers whom we depend upon to protect us. It is my view that those in authority should never show any weakening of the authority they carry, otherwise we will see violent crimes becoming more and more a part of our community. Are we going to allow the human race to be subjected to the law of the jungle where the killer becomes the hero? If we are not strong with theses people, while showing all the mercy at our disposal, more and more people will go on killing others. I rose to oppose the Bill. I have given my reasons. I am firmly convinced that if we do away with the death penalty we will have done away with a deterrent to crime.
– I will speak very briefly today because I think most of the arguments have been covered fairly fully during the debate in this House, in the Senate and of course in the community. We all know that the Bill will be passed because the abolition of the death penalty is the policy of the Government and a number of members of the Opposition will vote with the Government on this issue because we on this side of the chamber have a conscience vote on this Bill. At the July meeting of the State Council of the Liberal Party in my State of Victoria, a motion was passed recommending that the Victorian Liberal Government abolish capital punishment. I am hopeful that the progressive Liberal Government in Victoria very soon will introduce in Victoria the same legislation as has been introduced in the Federal sphere. I believe that to abolish capital punishment the decision of State council was a rational and enlightened decision.
During the debate on abortion in this House on 10 May, I said that I found it difficult to believe that any Christian who claimed to believe that God created life should at the same time believe that anyone other than God should take that life away. I believe that my attitude in the abortion debate and in this debate is consistent with an attitude in favour of the preservation of life, whether it be of a foetus or of an adult even if he has commited the crime of murder. I do not believe that the State has the right to take a life in any circumstances and for that very reason I will vote for the abolition of capital punishment and will oppose all the foreshadowed amendments.
As was mentioned by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the last hanging occurred in Victoria. That was the hanging of Ronald Ryan. I remember that day very well. I was driving to work in my car and the 8 o’clock news came on the radio. I heard the pips indicating the hour and then the announcer said: ‘Ronald Ryan has just been hanged at Pentridge by the neck’, or words to that effect. In my mind I got a visual picture of that man hanging by a rope and it made me feel sick inside. I believe anyone who heard that broadcast and who knew what was happening at that moment also should have felt sick inside. As the honourable member for Wills said, that man killed a policeman accidentally or in the heat of the moment of escaping over the wall at Pentridge. I did not think his crime was half as bad as that of the man who escaped with him - a man by the name of Walker - who, while he was at large, deliberately took a man into a toilet at Albert Park, put a gun to his head and shot him. Yet Walker got off with manslaughter while Ryan was hanged, even though Ryan had killed in the heat of the moment. The whole situation seemed to be the wrong way round. I felt that it was a great pity that Ryan was sacrificed because he killed a policeman accidentally, yet Walker got off with a charge of manslaughter. I am not saying that it was not a terrible thing that the policeman was killed, but I think it was wrong to act against Ryan purely because, in the heat of the moment, he killed a policeman.
If this Bill goes through - of course it will - and capital punishment is abolished, the community must be protected from certain types of criminals such as the psychopathic criminal who goes out and rapes and kills a child. I think there should be some provision for those sorts of people never to be released from prison. We have coming up shortly the case of a man in South Australia, Rupert Max Stuart, who in 1959 was convicted of raping and killing a little girl. I see that now, after 14 years, there is talk in the newspapers that he is to be released. I hope that there will be no repetition of the crime of which he was convicted, as there has been in other similar cases in which men in that condition have been released from prison. I should like to think -
I direct this to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) who is at the table and who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) - that some provision can be made in the law of the Australian Capital Territory to ensure that those sorts of people are not released to recommit their crimes on the community, because once they have that type of mental problem they probably will never get better and could repeat a similar crime again.
I understand and respect the feelings of those who cannot vote for this Bill, but I cannot agree with them. I regard deliberate killing by the state as not only abhorrent but also archaic. At this point I will conclude my remarks because my colleague the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) wishes to speak in this debate and I am sure that his contribution will be well worth hearing. I certainly will welcome the decision which we will reach in this House this afternoon to abolish this archaic and barbaric law.
– I wish to take part in this debate briefly and simply to place on record the view that I have come to on this matter and to agree, although in very small part, with the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). He said that, in his view, everyone has a duty to state his position. To that extent, I agree with the honourable member, although I think my position is diametrically opposed to his. I also agree with his statement - I am sure he will be interested in my view - that the death penalty should not be imposed for cowardice in the face of the enemy. No one can force a man to be brave. To that extent, I agree with the honourable member. But that is the end of my agreement with him.
– Here, catch this bomb!
– Unfortunately I missed the interjection. I should like to say something about some of the remarks made by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). I thought that, in part, his contribution was unworthy of him. I have listened to this entire debate and, to the best of my knowledge, he has been the only speaker to introduce an aspect of party politics into it. The honourable gentleman said that, to their credit, there were no speakers from the Liberal Party supporting the retention of the death penalty and that the only Opposition speakers to support the retention of the death penalty were members -of the Australian Country Party. That, in my “view, is introducing an unnecessary and unworthy atmosphere of party politics.
I should like to put on record right now that at least one member of the Liberal Party is speaking in favour of the retention of capital punishment, namely myself. I should also like to place on record the fact that many other members have this view, but because of the peculiarities of parliamentary proceedings it is not possible for all members to express their views, due to the time factor involved. So, I just wish to correct the Minister for the Capital Territory on this matter. Whatever view he has arrived at is his business. I have come to my view without the benefit of any parliamentary caucus debate and without the benefit of the views of any philosophers of the type he quoted such as George Bernard Shaw, Byron and other people who have been dead for hundreds of years. The view I have come to is my own, derived from my own experience, if I may put it that way.
My position is that I support the amendments. I realise that this may not be a popular view - at any rate, with large sections of the Press and other media. But I believe that it is a view which is held by a large section of the Australian public - and, whatever one says about this Parliament, at least it does represent some of the time a cross-section of the views of the people who live in this country. There are people who live in this country who believe in the retention of the death penalty, and I happen to be one of them.
– There are some who believe in whipping, too.
– I regret the interjection of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. On these matters, he invariably draws a parallel with the brutal killings in Vietnam. It is unfortunate that he suffers from this fixation.
I support what was said by a previous speaker from this side of the chamber. In our society today there seems to be what I believe to be an excessive concern for the murderer - the person who has committed the crime - with not very much concern being shown for the victim or the victim’s family; they are soon forgotten.
– There is none.
– As my friend and good colleague, the honourable member for Griffith, said, there is none. I believe that this was demonstrated about a week ago in Adelaide when the Royal Adelaide Show was. being conducted. A group of prisoners from Yatala prison were released - I think that is a fanway to describe it - and were allowed to go to the Royal Adelaide Show to put on a puppet display. Amongst that group of 17 prisoners were at least 2 convicted murderers. They disappeared from the Adelaide Showgrounds and at least until yesterday had not been apprehended. So far as I am aware they are still at large. This is an indictment of the people who talk about enlightened prison procedures as did the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), who quoted Dr Ramsey and referred to experiments in penal reform. As you are now in the chair, Sir, I remind you of that comment. Experiments in penal reform are great until someone who is involved commits another crime. Why should the people in the community be the ones to suffer?
– Dunstan was the puppet on the string.
– I defer to the honourable member for Griffith. I am not seeking to secure any party political points but I must point out that the Labor Government of South Australia is in the forefront of development of the passe idea of penal reform at the expense of the rest of the community. I wanted to make that point early in my speech. It is very difficult these days to get the call at question time. This is so far a host of reasons, not the least being the time occupied by Ministers in giving rather long answers. Each day this week I wanted to ask a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) but was unable to get the call. As it is relevant to this debate I will ask the question now, not wishing necessarily to attack the Prime Minister individually but making the point that the Prime Minister single handed has sponsored this legislation, perhaps with the enthusiastic support of one or two others, as the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), who is at the table, will agree. I wished to ask: How does the Prime Minister or anybody else in this chamber who supports his view rationalise his enthusiastic support for abortion on request with his equally enthusiastic support for the abolition of the death penalty for any crime including child murder, hijacking, treason and so on?’
I find it difficult to see how anybody can rationalise that situation. It seems to me to be totally inconsistent and incomprehensible. The Prime Minister sponsored the 2 debates. On the one hand he enthusiastically supports the destruction of the life of an unborn child not knowing whether it would be an hour, a day or a week before it would be born. On the other hand he equally enthusiastically supports the abolition of the death penalty. That strikes me as totally inconsistent and exhibiting a double standard as happens here from time to time. I would like an explanation from the do-gooders and other people who put those 2 extreme points of view. At least I can claim - I am sure that other honourable members on this side of the chamber can also claim - to be consistent.
I support the termination of pregnancy under certain conditions. I do not for the life of me, irrespective of whether this motion is carried, understand how the situation could be codified. I do not see how that can be done within the human mind. The nearest form of codification I can think of is the Menhennitt ruling on abortion. I can understand and support the termination of pregnancy under certain conditions. I and people like me are consistent because we can also support the termination of the life of murderers and other people under certain conditions. I believe that stand to be totally consistent and the position taken by the Prime Minister and his supporters to be totally inconsistent.
I want to refer briefly to some of the remarks of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), although he is not in the chamber at present. I appreciate the sincerity of his point of view but he made the point, as did an honourable member on this side a moment ago, that we are to have a free vote on the motion. The position with the Labor Party is that its supporters have very few chances for a free vote. I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Party and the position in my Party - and I believe in the Country Party - is that I can claim the right to a free vote on every issue that comes before this Parliament.
– As they do in Rhodesia?
– What an inane, stupid and infantile interjection. Of all the people with a mental hiatus the honourable member takes the plum. I was saying that I always have the right to a free vote but in this chamber we do not really get a true reflection of how members feel. I am more and more concerned as the weeks go by when reading reports of what happens in the back rooms of the Labor Party where moves are made to control the use of the free vote. In this respect I will mention what the honourable member for La Trobe had to say because bit by bit, in my view, Parliament is becoming irrelevant as supporters of the Government completely lose the right to a free vote.
I want to refer briefly also to the contribution to this debate by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He spoke in this debate yesterday when proceedings were not broadcast. I thought he spoke superbly but I hold the opposite view to his. He is a lawyer and on this occasion I make a concession to lawyers. Frequently they become personally involved with the clients they defend. I can understand how that sort of involvement could affect their views. The honourable member referred to the deterrent aspect of the death penalty as many others have done. They used different words from mine. In any case, I do not regard the deterrent value as the first point. I regard the death penalty as a punishment; perhaps vengeance’ is a more colourful word. I regard it as punishment and the deterrent is something that comes after. Personally I would find the death penalty to be a fairly significant deterrent.
– Would you go out and carry out the hanging?
– I do not mind the interjections but I thought we were to arrive at a consensus by a free vote on this matter and that we were not to be influenced by what the people in Caucus had to say. I do not even know what the people in our Caucus think on this matter as we have not discussed it.
– But you were criticising previous speakers.
– I have been critical of the way they have arrived at a view. I realise that we are committed to hurrying through this debate and I will not delay the vote very much longer. Contrary to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) had to say, in my view treason is one of the worst crimes in the book and most certainly traitors should be subjected to the death penalty. I have already said that I cannot go along with supporting the death penalty for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Nobody can turn us into brave people. I know the feeling when someone is trying to kill me and how easy it would be to get up and run. Many remain where they are because they are just as likely to be shot down when running. I am not in favour of the death penalty for that so-called crime.
The method of execution is a matter that has not been discussed as far as I am aware. The idea of hanging appals me. Although I support the retention of the death penalty I should like to find some other form of execution. Perhaps this could be a matter to which the Minister for the Capital Territory, with all his historical knowledge, might care to devote his undoubted intellect.
– Have a royal commission.
– We must just about be running out of judges and commissioners. On a few occasions I have asked myself the questionmy enemies would say that I didnot get a sensible answer - whether I would be prepared to pull the lever or do whatever is necessary to be done to take a life. Other honourable members probably have asked themselves this same question. I have thought about this for many years.
– Is that all you have thought about?
– No, I have thought about other things but I have not let the philosophies of George Bernard Shaw or some other external historic person train the way I would think on this subject. I have worked it out for myself, rightly or wrongly, and have come to a conclusion. Would I, in the final crunch, be prepared to pull the lever or manipulate whatever instrument is involved in taking life? If I saw a person commit a crime of the type that we all know has been committed in Adelaide in recent weeks or crimes of the type committed by Arab terrorists, I would be very pleased to take the life of the person responsible. Therefore, as a legislator, I claim the right to authorise someone else to do it. It is one thing to take life in the heat of battle. The Minister for the Capital Territory tended to attack my intellect but he may not have had the experience that I have had. It is one thing to take life in war but another in peace time, and we are talking of peace time. I support the amendments moved by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and I trust that there are sufficient members who are prepared to resist so-called public opinion and so retain the death penalty in our statutes.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Armitage)
Majority . . . . 46
Order! There is no point of order.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek leave to treat all the amendments that have been circulated in globo.
– On a point of order, Mr Chairman, do I understand that the Committee has given approval to the Minister to vote upon all the amendments simultaneously?
– No. I was about to ask the Commitee whether it would give leave for the amendments to be taken together. Is leave granted for the amendments to be taken together?
– May I explain the request I was making? I was suggesting that the Committee might discuss the amendments collectively but that they be voted upon separately, because there are honourable members who wish to express a different point of view on each of the amendments.
– I do not think that course can be followed. If we debate them together the question will be that the amendments be agreed to. I suggest to the honourable member that he move the amendments separately, even if some latitude is allowed during the debate.
– My first amendment relates to clause 3 which reads in part: 3. (1) This Act applies within and outside Australia and extends to all the Territories.
Briefly, this amendment which seems complex in form is to ensure that those provisions of the Imperial Acts which apply to Australia by reference only will not be provisions in respect of which the main operative language of this Bill will apply. For example, the Defence Act of Australia creates certain offences by way of adapting to the purposes of the Australian Defence Forces the provisions of the Naval Discipline Act of the United Kingdom and the Army Act of the United Kingdom. The Defence Act contains no provisions creating offences for which the penalty is death; these offences are created in the bodies of law which apply separately to the 3 Services. This matter was examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In its report of December 1971 it stated:
By virtue of section 34 of the Naval Defence Act, the Naval Discipline Act 1957 of the United Kingdom, subject to adaptations, is applied in the Royal Australian Navy. The offences which, under the latter Act as modified, carry the death penalty are: . . Misconduct in action by persons in command with intent to aid the enemy;
. Misconduct in action by other officers and men;
. Obstruction of operations;
. Corresponding with, supplying or serving with the enemy;
. Failure to suppress mutiny with intent to assist the enemy;
. Civil offences (contrary to the law of England) of treason or murder.
Sections 54 and 55 of the Defence Act apply to members of the Military Forces at any time serving overseas, and at all times during war, the provisions of the Army Act (U.K.) as it was at the date of its repeal in 1956 but subject to amendments effected to it by Australian Military Regulations.
Under this legislation the offences carrying the death penalty are: . . Traitorously delivering up to the enemy a garrison, fortress, post or guard or traitorous correspondence with the enemy;
. Mutiny or failure to suppress mutiny.
Section 8 of the Air Force Act applies to the Royal Australian Air Forcethe Air Force Act 1939 of the United Kingdom, as adapted.
Under sections 4, 6 and 7 of the latter Act numerous offences committed in the face of the enemy, or treacherously or involving mutiny or sedition are made the subject of the death penalty.
I believe that from the nature of the offences which I have just recited the purpose of the amendment which I have now moved will be apparent. They relate to military offences largely categorised in the specifications that were referred to in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, the principal reasons of course having already been given in the second reading debate. It is the nature of the punishment, the barbarity of it, to which we have directed our attention. As the honourable member for Isaacs pointed out so eloquently in his speech on the second reading, this matter is not a party issue. He has had a vast experience of Service life and Service conditions, a wide knowledge of the history of Service life and
Service conditions. He brought his own experience and his own view to this question. As he said, the efficiency of Service life and Service forces does not depend upon such a barbaric penalty lying behind these criminal laws. I think it is a great shame that in many waysthe disciplinary codes of the Australian Services still depend to such a large degree on imperial statutes. We know that for many years attempts have been made to bring forward a common code of criminal justice for the armed forces in Australia. We do not know the difficulties involved. We know that the various Services have taken different points of view on the punishment aspect of discipline and in part on this question of capital punishment. But surely if all our common sense tells us that the efficiency of the Services depends on morale, esprit de corps - spirit, if you like - we do not need this residual threat of force.
I can remember a story, if the Committee will permit me to tell it, concerning a relative of mine who holds the Military Cross or Military Medal - I am not sure which - from World War I. He served as an artillery officer. He tells the story of how, when in the first Australian Imperial Forces he was serving with some British colleagues, he came across some British troops who, in the tradition of the British Army of that day, were tied to the wheel of a gun carriage as a form of punishment imposed on them by their officers of that day. There was a spirit of that sort. He was appalled as an Australian when he saw that different tradition. I express no view on it other than that the British Army fought no better for following a policy of punishment of that sort than the first AIF fought following a policy that did not impose such punishment on its men.
– That is folklore.
– Be it folklore or not, it was the recounted experience of a man whose word I value and whose judgment I value, an Australian officer during the First World War. It is for those reasons, which were so more eloquently put by the honourable member for Isaacs, that 1 oppose the amendment.
– I would like to place on record my support of the amendment and oppose abolition of the death penalty in the case of, for example, an Australian serviceman who transmits information to the enemy, causing a troopship carrying 3,000
Australian servicemen to Papua New Guinea or some theatre of war to sink with the loss of every man on board. There is not a free vote on this issue, this is a Government Bill, and what the Government is saying is that that man should not be punished with the supreme penalty. I cannot accept that. I support the amendment.
Question put: that the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Sinclair’s amendment) stand part of the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That after clause 5 the following new clause be added to the Bill: ‘6. This Act does not apply to the offence of treason’.
The arguments to be advanced in support of this amendment are substantially the same as those in respect of military treason, on which the Committee has just voted. The offence covers a much more comprehensive field than the first field that the Committee considered. There always has been an offence of treason, even before the famous Act of 1352 and the various Acts of attainder basically expressing treason as it was known in ancient times, through to the offence of treason which is contained today in the Commonwealth Crimes Act. Section 24 of that Act defines treason as it is known in our community. I would willingly concede that this definition is in need of updating. It is not a form of words which I believe specifies the form as most of us would comprehend treason in relation to the modern state of Australia. But it is the definition as it was expressed some 50 or 60 years ago and to date remains unamended. Because section 24 of the Crimes Act is pertinent I shall now read it to the House: It states:
A person who -
kills the Sovereign, does the Sovereign any bodily harm tending to the death or destruction of the Sovereign or maims, wounds, imprisons or restrains the Sovereign;
kills the eldest son and heir apparent, or the Queen Consort, of the Sovereign;
levies war, or does any act preparatory to levying war, against the Commonwealth;
assists by any means whatever, with intent to assist, an enemy -
at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared; and
specified by proclamation made for the purpose of this paragraph to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth;
instigates a foreigner to make an armed invasion of the Commonwealth or any Territory not forming part of the Commonwealth; or
forms an intention to do any act referred to in a preceding paragraph of this sub-section and manifests that intention by an overt act, shall be guilty of an indictable offence, called treason, and liable to the punishment of death.
That section so obviously needs updating that there is little point in discussing it here now. But my amendment is designed to ensure that an offence of treason in whatever way it might be re-expressed in the Crimes Act, is punishable by death. It is for that reason that I have moved the form of words that I have submitted to the Committee.
Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory - Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory) (5.23) - I oppose the amendment but in doing so I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) that the definition of treason that he read out certainly needs upgrading. It can be traced in an apostolic way perhaps back at least to the 13th century, amended perhaps again in the 16th century and in the latter years of the 19th century in Britain in various ways. Although it is put in the form in which he put it, directed at acts against the sovereign we all know that in modern times we conceive of treason as being an offence against certain forms of public order usually called, I suppose for want of a better expression, the state. It is not always confined to circumstances of war. It need not be, although it often is.
Having said that, I repeat very briefly the arguments that we put before at the second reading stage of the Bill, that capital punishment - judicial murder - is the ultimate form of assault, the ultimate form of violence, when it has all the sanctity, all the solemnity and the trappings of all of our public apparatus behind it. When it is imposed in that way, even for the kind of offence to which the honourable member referred, it degrades us all. I also put this point which I think has influence: If we search our memories we all can think of offences of a treason-like kind. Sometimes treason fades off into sedition and other kinds of offences - the line is not always easy to draw; but in some cases I think we would agree that the penalty of capital punishment that was imposed was a grave wrong.
I can remember the Rosenbergs in the United States in the early 1950s. They were charged with a treason-like offence at a time of hysteria. It was hysteria, during the period of the cold war. It was alleged and apparently proved to the satisfaction of the American courts that they had given atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, which was about to make this development in nuclear technology in any event. This probably produced the stalemate that in turn led to the relaxation in international tensions that we enjoy today. Yet, because of the hysteria that existed, a man and his wife - a young Jewish couple with young children - were executed, burnt in the electric chair. It is inconceivable that we would want such a thing to occur today.
I remember the case of William Joyce in wartime years. He broadcast Nazi propaganda for the Germans against the Allied cause in the 1939-45 War. It was radio propaganda. He held a British passport and that was what made him technically guilty of the crime of treason. It was largely a nominal thing, because he had spent many years in Germany and claimed that he owed his allegiance to the German Reich. But at one time he had held a British passport and he was executed for the crime. Those were wartime years. Given other circumstances, one might take a different view today. One only has to think of Sir Roger Casement and other people who might have committed the crime of treason. Gandhi must have come very close to committing the crime of treason, as viewed by certain people at certain stages. Had he committed it, would that saint-like man have been executed, in view of the fact that he would have held a British passport? Kenyatta could well have found himself in a similar situation. I could give other examples. By and large, I come back to the proposition that capital punishment is not a deterrent. There seems to be a majority feeling on this matter in this chamber. I put forward the view that it is barbaric and degrates us all.
– I do not propose to detain the Committee for very long. I explained last evening the personal dilemma in which I found myself in respect of this matter and the personal experience that took me away from a particular position with respect to the death penalty. I also indicated to the House that I believed in maintaining the death penalty for treason. I thought that was put quite without ambiguity and, even though I may attract a measure of displeasure from my colleagues on both sides I must say that I do not approach this question with respect to treason from the point of view of deterrence in any shape or form. I believe that a country, in its corporate state, is entitled to protect itself and when there is any attempt to infringe that corporate integrity and security it is entitled to resort to all forms in order to ward off those who would seek to destroy it. When a person seeks to destroy the security and integrity of the state, I must confess that no consideration of deterrence goes through my mind, I say unhesitatingly that the community is entitled to resort to retribution. This is the one ground on which I find myself quite overwhelmed by the high considerations of the safety of the state.
I agree with the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) that there are many cases which could be cited and which go into what one could describe as some twilight zone of difficulty in characterising and identifying whether something is treason simplicita or not. The Minister instanced the historic case of Sir Roger Casement. One can recall in our time Pontecorvo, George Blake and Alan NunnMay, to mention but three. One could go on; but that is to no avail. Possibly what the Minister would invite us to do, in conjunction with the observations by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), is to be a little more definitive as to what treason is in this day and age, because certainly in the -United Kingdom the Treason Act of 1352 still holds the field and that is a complete piece of nonsense. I have put my position; I can do no more. I must support the amendment.
– I will make this brief. We were told earlier that this was to be a free conscience debate and vote, and on the 2 votes which have taken place honourable members on this side of the chamber have been seen to support various sides. It is with great reluctance that I draw to your attention, Mr Chairman, and more is the pity that it must be drawn to your attention-
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Griffith not draw it to my attention. If he does I will have to ask him to sit down because he will not be debating the question before the Chair.
– We are talking about treason. I hope that on this occasion, on such an important issue as the safeguarding of one’s country, some members on the Government side will break the precedent that was set earlier and see fit to join honourable members on this side of the chamber. A free vote is meaningless if it pertains to only one side of the chamber and I have not yet seen a display of a truly free vote on the Government side. I have not seen free votes from the Country Party corner on issues earlier today either.
– Mr Chairman, I rise to order. I ask the honourable member for Griffith to withdraw that statement.
– Order! I suggest that the Committee come to order. I also suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that, if he makes further remarks in the manner in which he has, I will have to ask him to resume his seat. I do not want to do that. However, the honourable member has not taken any notice of my earlier suggestion on the subject of a free vote.
– I believe that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) outlined the importance of this subject. I hope that all honourable members will exercise the free vote which they supposedly have been given. If there are members lurking in the corridors in order to avoid voting against the wishes of their Party, I hope that on this very important occasion they will see fit to vote on the side of right.
– I will not go over the arguments either, but I wish lo lend some support to my colleague the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). When the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) spoke a few moments ago he said that this was the majority feeling of the House. My recollection of the vote on the last amendment is that it was something like just over 60 to around 30. A bigger proportion voted for that amendment than voted No’ on the earlier question. It is a valid criticism of the operations of the House today-
– Order! The honourable member cannot debate the operations of the House or the vote on the earlier clause. He should be debating whether the new clause should be added to the Bill. I suggest that he do so. If he does not, I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman; but I will be resuming it in a moment anyway. The point I seek to make is that if we are to have free votes in this place they should be legitimate free votes because eventually the Parliament-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The matter he was debating was not part of the question before the Chair. The question is that the proposed new clause be added.
That the new clause proposed to be added (Mr Sinclair’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
This is a somewhat narrower definition than a form of this amendment which was moved in the other place. It is narrower in that it relates only to a person who has already committed a felony, being a person undergoing imprisonment for life. All of us are conscious that the law enforcement agencies in our States - the police forces - are finding it increasingly difficult to undertake their task. The nature of violence, the incidence of violence and the increasing numbers of persons who incite persons to violence are such that there is validity in the retention of capital punishment in this area. We must ensure that those who are incarcerated in a prison are placed within a restraint which is meaningful, and there must still be some ultimate sanction to ensure that they do not seek to take the life of the prison warder who attends them or the life of a policeman who might in some way be attending to them. It is important that our society be protected and that persons who live within it be protected.
When I spoke during the second reading debate I spoke of the difficulties that I see facing the police forces of our country. That is a much broader issue than can be raised in the Committee stage of this debate but I see this amendment as being pertinent to the question of how law enforcement agencies themselves can act with confidence in carrying out their responsibilities. Their responsibilities are our responsibilities. It is their responsibility to ensure that society is safe and that people who live in society are safe. If we weaken the laws that give them strength of arm then we are weakening their capacity to undertake their task and there will be no area in our law where there is an ultimate sanction available to policemen once this law is passed. It is for that reason that I believe this is another area where there should be an exception drawn to the blanket eradication of the death penalty which is of course, the substance of this Bill. It is for that reason that I have moved this amendment. I move it believing quite strongly that there is in our society a reason and a need for our law enforcement agencies to have available an ultimate sanction. This is the only ultimate sanction that is left and I believe quite strongly that it should be preserved in the narrow form in which this amendment is worded.
– I support the amendment. I refer to the case in Adelaide, which I mentioned earlier in the debate, where 2 convicted murderers are still at large as a result of a so-called enlightened attitude towards penal reform. What is the position if in the course of apprehending either or both of those convicted murderers a policeman or a warder is murdered? Although it is a theoretical situation it could happen and a person would have murdered twice. I believe that the police are entitled to the protection that this sort of legislation will give them. They are the ones charged with the responsibility of catching criminals who get out of gaols and that is going to happen more and more often as we get this so-called enlightened attitude practised in our community. I support the amendment.
– Just briefly in reply to the points which have been made. I do not want to repeat what has already been said because the House has other business to proceed to. But surely it comes to this: There are enormous problems and injustices if we stipulate a crime of murder for ordinary victims and impose one penalty and then bring in a crime of murder for a different category of persons - in this case, a policeman or a prison officer - and set an entirely different penalty. In both categories the victims are human beings. One, of course, does have an enormous amount of sympathy for the arduous and difficult roles played by police officers in performing their duties, and of prison officers in performing their duties.
Again I have to quote the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) - and I am quite happy to do so. We all know that prisons are places of security. I do not know of any social mischief, if you like, or any social danger of the sort described that exists in prisons. I have always subscribed to the view that the fewer criminal laws there are the better. We find a social mischief or an annoyance or something that has to be attended to and then reluctantly if possible make criminal laws to cover them. This is the thinking, as I understand it, of all enlightened criminologists and penal reformers. In this case the Opposition is saying that we should make an additional criminal law. I ask Opposition supporters: What evidence do you have that it is required? I do not know of any evidence that exists. I can understand the theoretical argument but I know of no practical application where the theoretical argument has been demonstrated to be valid. I say again that we debase us all when we go through this public spectacle of hanging people in capital punishment.
– I move:
There has been since time immemorial the offence of piracy for which the walking of the gangplank was the normal form of execution. In this day and age aircraft are the most popular form of vehicle by which people move from one corner of the globe to the other. There is, perhaps, no argument for distinguishing between one form of transport and another. Yet it is true that if anything is done to disrupt the capacity of an aircraft to remain under the flight control of the person in the front cabin the lives of every person aboard that aircraft are placed at risk. I think the very nature of flying means that there is a peculiar reason for aircraft to be distinguished from other forms of transport, be they ships, motor cars, trains, trams, buses, ferries or whatever.
As far as our society is concerned, one should consider the nature of hijackings and the peculiar way in which a number of dissident national groups are asserting their particular views. They seem to be concentrating increasingly on the control of aircraft and on placing at risk the lives of persons on board those aircraft. I think that aircraft form a very necessary adjunct to modern living. Whether we are better off with them or not is a philosophical area of discussion which perhaps all of us who use aircraft sometimes ponder upon. But aircraft are part and parcel of our society and as such I believe that it is necessary that we consider an exception, in abolishing capital punishment, with respect to crimes committed in a manner to which this amendment refers. I have in mind of course incidents relating to the Black September gang to which I referred in my remarks in this chamber last night and to those who in the last few years both in Asia and in the Middle East have sought to take control of aircraft and who by the manipulation of aircraft controls place at risk the lives of persons, frequently unknown and certainly in many cases unrelated to any particular cause with which these persons are concerned.
In these circumstances I find it very hard to see why we should not retain the death penalty with respect to these crimes. I see them as having a particular pertinence in this day and age. I regard them as particularly heinous. I regard them as unfortunately increasing in character and in frequency and for that reason I believe it is necessary that this exception be also included within this measure. Accordingly 1 submit for the consideration of this chamber the amendment which I have moved.
– If divisions are not to be called I can understand the reason. I just want to make public my support of the amendment.
– The point of difference between the Government and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and those few members of the Liberal Party who support that proposition and the members of the Australian Country Party who all support it is that we do not believe that anything is to be gained by increasing the amount of violence in the world. I just give honourable members the history of crime. Honourable members will remember that this country came into being because of the savage, barbaric penal laws of 18th century Britain where a person could be punished with 7 years transportation for stealing a loaf of bread. That did not stop people stealing bread. It was a time as was pointed out in the earlier stage of the debate, when capital punishment existed in a most barbaric form for a multiplicity of offences. It did not exist in just a simple form, if one can have a simple form of administering death. However, that did not stop crime and that is the whole evidence that has been put before the world since the world began. It does not stop crime.
But when you create violence and put the sanctity of the State behind it, you encourage violence, and violence feeds on violence. We are all appalled by the hi-jacking incidents which have occurred, but does anyone seriously believe that the hi-jackers are going to stop just because we increase the penalty? The Japanese and Arab gentlemen who did what they did a little while ago in, 1 think, Beirut, were fanatics. I can sympathise with but must reject the argument of the people who say: ‘Look what they did. They were Kamikaze-type people. When we get the survivors we will off with their heads and destroy them’. I can understand that argument, but I reject it. I completely reject also the argument that to let it be known in advance that the death penalty will be imposed will stop the incidents. It will not stop them. In fact, there is a lot to be said for the argument that the death penalty is exactly what they want. They want to be made martyrs.
I just put to honourable members that that is the whole lesson of history. In other words, if honourable members reflect on it, they will find that if we want to have a less violent world we should progressively remove violence and should make our state and administration progressively less violent. Criminal law is the essence of violence - the less violent it becomes, the more healthy and sane the community will be.
– I move:
I have no doubt that all honourable members of this House generally would be aware of the Geneva conventions but I am sure that not too many would know just what are the Geneva conventions. They were adopted in about 1949. They represented the consensus as to what should be the proper treatment of personnel who were involved in war and conflict. The 4 conventions were the subject of a ratification by an Act of this Parliament in 1957. The 4 conventions, briefly, were: The Red Cross convention, which was the first convention. It provided for the protection and care of sick and wounded and the protection of medical units, voluntary aid personnel and so on. The second convention applies to the protection of the wounded and sick and shipwrecked members of the Armed Forces who are at sea. The third convention deals with the treatment of prisoners of war and the obligations the captor nations must observe towards prisoners of war. The fourth convention is concerned with the protection of civilians in times of war. The convention itself is something which I think all members of this House would agree is very desirable and it is only regrettable that there are so many countries that apparently do not comply with the provisions that are included within it.
Part 2 of the Act provides for the punishment of persons who commit grave breaches of the convention. The grave breaches are, for example, wilful killing, torture, inhuman treatment, wilfully causing great suffering and extensive destruction of property. For those offences, the death penalty is prescribed by our own law. It is prescribed by an Act of this Parliament of 1957. If one thinks of the frightful cases that came out of World War II, both in the Japanese theatre and in the Ger man theatre, I think one would agree that it is necessary that the sanction of the ultimate penalty be retained in this area. The year 1957 was not very long ago, but it was only in 1957 that the Act which incorporated the penalties which this Bill will now abolish was adopted.
I believe that there are difficulties in the degree to which the death penalty will serve as a deterrent force. I have listened with interest to the arguments advanced by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) and other speakers in this chamber who believe that neither in the deterrent nor in the moral sense should the capital penalty be retained. I do not adhere to that view, yet I have explained that I would see no reason to enforce the law at this stage. Again. I would assert as I did earlier in this debate that the writing in of a law does not require that that law be enforced. This is not a court of law; this is a house of parliament and in this House of Parliament we are setting the parameters within which the law in a particular case can be judged. I do not believe that in this day and age we should take a stand with respect to the Geneva conventions which removes that ultimate sanction which the death penalty represents. It is for that reason that, with respect to the Geneva Conventions, 1 have moved the amendment, the passing of which will mean that the death penalty will be retained in accordance with the provisions of the Act passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1957.
– The Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) seemed to be saying that no harm is done by imposing capital punishment on this type of crime because we do not have to enforce the law. I would suggest to the honourable member that that is a very dangerous concept to play with because when we make a law, that law is there to be applied as impartially as human behaviour and conduct can bring it about. We all know the experience of appearing before judges following a conviction and following an address by counsel for leniency and hearing the judge say: ‘Look, Parliament said that this kind of offence should attract that kind of a penalty or punishment. How can I give you’ less for your crime than what Parliament said the crime should warrant, when there it is on the statute book?’ Those of us who have appeared in courts have had that experience. Judges take their guide - it is only a guide - in that way. But once’ we start fiddling -with this notion of not enforcing a law, I suggest that we are into a very dangerous area of administrative discretion and perhaps of ministerial discretion which poses all sorts of problems. It would enable us to bypass the courts. I know that there is a discretion as to whether the Crown should prosecute, but surely this is a discretion which should be kept to the very minimum. If there is evidence of a breach of the law and if the police have evidence to justify a prosecution, normally it should follow that there would be a prosecution.
Apart from that, may I put this additional thought in the context of the Geneva conventions: We must consider that the offences that are likely to occur will occur in wartime. A war might go on for years and one side or another will win that war. At the time when the offender is apprehended, generally, from the losing side, although one would hope that we could move to the stage where an offender might also be apprehended from the winning side - offences occur on both sides - passions will have cooled and there will be a climate of peace. If we are going to put our administration of justice into play at that stage, we would find it much easier to be objective if we had a penalty which could be imposed through the courts, which was not barbaric and which did not cause a sense of outrage. If we are going to say, perhaps years later, This man or woman should be hanged for a crime that occurred many years ago’, again I suggest that we would be in trouble. I return to the basic proposition which I put before - that we can not create deterrence, particularly in the context of war. The person who is going to break the Geneva conventions, whatever side he is fighting on, whatever army he belongs to or whatever police force or whatever country he belongs to, firmly believes that his country is going to win. The fact that there is as a deterrent somewhere that he does not even know about, a provision that calls for capital punishment - that he be hanged - is certainly not going to deter him in any way. So, you are driven back to satisfying a sense of outrage, a sense of retribution and revenge. Honourable members who are honest will grant that it is only satisfying a sense of outrage and revenge. That is all that is left.
Amendment negatived. “ Mr SINCLAIR- :(New .England) (6.6) - I move:’
After clause 5 add the following new clause: ‘6. This Act does not apply to or in relation to the offence of murder when committed for the purpose of or in the course of unlawful political or terrorist activity’.
The incidence of bomb attacks in London in the last few weeks, the nature of the concern at the presence of Arab terrorists in Australia today, the likelihood of action by terrorists tomorrow, whatever their national origin, make up the reason for moving this motion. I concede that given the degree to which life seems to be of no consequence to the criminals who participate in the disruption of the normal way of life of people in so many parts of the world, there is no way in which one can adequately ensure their containment unless the death penalty is retained in this area. However, it is appalling to think that there may be in any way a passing up of an opportunity to apply the ultimate sanction to persons who engage m such anti-social and anti-personal activities. Although political and terrorist activities seem to be developing rather than dwindling I think they are in part the product of the general attitudes that are unfortunately expressed by many who are do-gooders, who believe that criminals should be protected rather than society itself. It is there that I find myself at variance with the reasons that are advanced by those people who seek the abolition of capital punishment. 1 can understand that human life must be sacred but I do not concede that one should be concerned more for the life of a criminal than for the lives of men, women and children who are citizens of this country.
To my mind the abolition of capital punishment is denying the sanctity of the lives of those people who comprise the big percentage of our population. It denies the sanctity of their lives while preserving it for the perpetrators of these outrages against mankind.
There can be no proper expression of the condemnation which I am sure we all feel for political and terrorist activities but equally I do not believe that the condemnation can be adequately expressed unless the ultimate sanction is available. For that reason I believe it essential for capital punishment to be retained. That is why I have moved the amendment.
– I rise at this stage merely to be consistent. I voted for the second reading of this Bill to abolish the death penalty on the basis that from all inquiries I have been able to make and the research I have been able to do it would appear to me that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Nevertheless, at the Committee stage we have been concerned with the possibility of some exceptions to that general rule which I accepted. Therefore I have voted for an exception in the case of treason. Treason is defined much more closely than it was in the past. I have excepted treason in the true sense; that is to say, that which endangers the whole framework of the state itself. It is true, of course, that that which endangers the lives of citizens is also in a sense directed against the state, but in a very special sense treason is directed against the state exclusively. I have risen from the point of view of consistency because again I must support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. In effect, it relates to political terrorism. It seems to me that this is on all fours with treason. It is something aimed not at individuals but at the whole framework of our society. I have confessed that capital punishment as a deterrent has little effect that I can discover. Political terrorism is aimed at the overthrow of our cohesive society. It would destroy our whole democratic concept. Because it is on all fours with treason I must support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. This rests on a different principle from deterrence. As the honourable gentleman in the chair has remarked–
– Order! I think the honourable member should refer to the Minister and not to the gentleman in the chair, because the Chair has not made any remarks.
– I am sorry, Mr Chairman. I wished to refer to the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory but at the moment I could not recall his Ministry. No disrespect was intended. He has put bluntly that capital punishment is based on revenge. Kinder words could be used such as ‘retribution’. I believe that from the earliest times, in primitive and civilised societies, above all else people have been concerned to see that the society should be preserved. By terrorism it can be destroyed. Therefore it is a question of retribution, abhorrence, revenge, call it what you will; but I believe that society must make it clear that there can be no excuse for this kind of conduct.
Therefore I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
– I have not previously spoken in this debate. I have found it a most difficult debate in which to vote because whilst emotionally I agree with many of the arguments put forward by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), intellectually I am not persuaded to vote with him. I agree with the people who put forward the proposition that the death penalty has not been proved to be a deterrent. Therefore I cannot go along with the argument that by maintaining the death penalty these dreadful acts will be in some way diminished. The honourable member forBradfield (Mr Turner) has said that he supportsthe amendment because it is roughly comparable to the proposition of treason when treason is defined more closely. But in viewing the amendment moved” by the honourable member for New England I think that if necessary particular laws could be introduced to cope with what would be a most unusual situation in this country. In view of the time I conclude by saying that whilst I have voted for the abolition of the death penalty I would pur very strongly that the people who administer the judicial processes of this country should look extremely closely at the method of imprisonment and also at the proposition that certain people for whom the death penalty would apply obviously should have their paper marked very clearly ‘Never to be released’.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Defence (Re-Establishment) Bill 1973.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1973.
Debate resumed from 1 1 September (vide page 758), on motion toy Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am here as surrogate for the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) who, unfortunately, has an engagement outside this House which he has had to accept. The Opposition will most certainly support the Social Services Bill (No. 4) 1973 which gives some increase in social services. This is in accordance with a pattern which, I am glad to say, has been current in Australia over many years that as our prosperity increases and as our standard of living increases social services should also increase. In supporting this Bill I say that many of the things, in fact all the things in it, are things which would have been on my files as the preceding Minister for Social Services. It therefore gives me great pleasure in supporting those proposals. I have said that they are proposals from the files of the previous Government, but they are not necessarily the best selection which we would have made from the files.
In some ways this Bill does not go far enough. As I proceed I shall try to make that clearer.
I refer firstly to the proposal made by the Government to increase the basic rates of social service payments. The Government’s proposals scarcely keep pace with the increase in the cost of living and, indeed, they do not improve the position of the social service pensioner. The proposals merely keep it static. The nominal increases in rates simply leave the pensioner, in terms of purchasing power, where he or she was before. I do not think this is good enough because it is not what previous Liberal Party governments have done.
Previous Liberal governments increased the real value of social services. Far less does this proposal measure up to the pretensions of the present Government to bring pension rates quickly into line with 25 per cent of average male earnings. I say this with some reluctance because I realise that the Government has had to cut its cloth in some respects to the money available. The Government, by reason of its financial policies in other spheres, has now run itself into a corner. It has been unable to do those things which are just and, in a sense, the pensioners have to pay for the Government’s extravagance and incompetence in other fields. Because the Government has been unable, through its extravagance and ‘incompetence, to find the necessary money to increase the pensions as the Opposition would have liked to have seen, the present provisions in the Budget simply keep pensioners more or less where they were and it does not give them any real increase in their living standard. The pensioners, in a sense, have to pay for the extravagance and the incompetence of the Government in other fields. I understand the dilemma in which the Government has been placed.
I find it less easy to excuse the deceptive and misleading presentation of these things in the speech made by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden).
For example, when I look at the table which he incorporated in Hansard I find that most of the increases in pension, the credit for which he claimed for the present Government were granted by the previous Liberal Government. He shows that between June 1971 and June 1972 there has been a great increase in the nominal pension rate. He does not say that the major part of this increase was given not by his Government but by the past Government. I do not want to stress these things too much. There are more important things to talk about. But I think it is illustrative to note that the Government, in its presentation to this House, has adopted deceptive means. I think that the Minister’s speech illustrates that. He said:
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.
Of course, that is untrue. The biggest increases took place under the last Government. As I said, I do not want to emphasise this too much or emphasise the fact that the supportive services, such as supplementary assistance and child allowances, have not been adequately increased. I speak particularly about supplementary assistance which is given to those on the lowest rates of income. They are the ones who need most and they have had to bear the full weight of the increases in the consumer price index. They have received nothing under this Budget.
There are some things in this Bill which the Opposition will support. In fact it will support everything in this Bill although it is not necessarily the best selection and it is not necessarily good enough in some fields. I would have hoped that the previous Government would have done something earlier about the double orphans. Certainly it was in our program for this year. In his speech the Minister referred to what had not been done for double orphans, but he forgot that assistance for double orphans is to some extent the proper prerogative of the States. What he did not say was that there is a class of people who deserve even more assistance - that is, the widowers with dependent children. They would have been my first welfare priority in the Budget had I remained the Minister. It is unfortunate that the Government has seen fit not to pay any regard to these real needs.
However, let me support unequivocably the proposals in regard to rehabilitation. I think that these are sound. These proposals are in line with what we were attempting. The rehabilitation system is one that stands to the credit of the Liberal Governments which in 23 years developed this system. I refer particularly to the work done by the Minister whom I succeeded, the present honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), and what happened during the time that I was Minister, when these rehabilitation services were first created and then so greatly expanded. Let me commend entirely what the Government is doing along these lines. I am sure that this is correct. I regret only that it is not tackling the rather fundamental question of invalid pensions and the way in which we must help the invalid pensioner who is unable to rehabilitate himself, and help him in a way which does not penalise him by the loss of his pension. I think that this is one of the real defects in our present social service system. This is one of the things which would have been tackled by the Liberal Government had it remained in power.
Now let me come to what is perhaps the most disappointing feature of the Minister’s statement, and that is what he had to say about the means test. The liberalisation of the means test is different from other social service measures in that it can itself be counterinflationary. This is particularly important at a time when there is a labour shortage and there are avenues of employment open for those who would otherwise want to retire. It is particularly important therefore in the present situation. It is particularly important also in the present situation in which more savings are necessary in order to counter inflationary pressures which the Government, quite naturally and properly, is apprehensive about. Therefore it seems to me that expenditure by way of relaxation of the means test is possible without creating inflationary pressures and is therefore different from other expenditures on the expansion of the social service program. It is to me extremely disappointing therefore that the Government has not taken advantage of the opportunity which is open to it at the present stage.
The history of the means test is not in accordance with the statement made by the Minister in his speech on this Bill - a statement which was factually false and misleading in its implications. Relaxation of the means test has been a Liberal policy for a long time. The Minister stated that nothing had been done by the Liberal Government. This is entirely wrong. The merged means test, the tapered means test, the relaxation of the free area - all these things stand to the credit of past Liberal governments. While I was Minister, in the last Budget, that is the Budget of 1972, before we went out of office, the Treasurer gave a complete and unequivocal pledge for the abolition of the means test for those aged 65 and over during the coming Parliament. The Labor Party matched this pledge in its election promises. I believe that because of what we did it was forced to imitate this, and it came forward with something which was very like what we had proposed. But if we had remained in office the first steps we would have taken, that is the steps in this year’s Budget, would have been vastly greater than the steps which the Labor Party has seen fit to take. It has failed in regard to the means test. To take it off merely at the age of 75 is itself rather derisory. Indeed the goal it is setting itself is quite different from the goal promised to the people in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. The Prime Minister’s policy speech was quite unequivocal in this. He said: ‘We are going to abolish the means test in the life of the present Parliament.’ But the Treasurer has said that the Government intends to abolish the means test only for those 65 and over. In other words the Treasurer has made a liar of the Prime Minister. I do not myself disagree with what the Australian Labor Party is doing. I think what it is doing is probably correct. All I am saying is that what it is doing is not what the Prime Minister promised to do. The Prime Minister therefore has been elected to office on a false pledge.
But this is not the real point. The real point of this Budget in relation to the means test is rather different. This is something which I believe will be the object of major criticism in the course of the next few weeks. The Labor Party’s plan is to abolish the means test for those over 75 years of age - small and derisory plan as it is. But it is also a deceptive plan because at the same time Government supporters say that they are going to remove the taxation allowance for aged persons and substitute for it another plan. We have not seen the details of that other plan, but we do have the Treasurer’s statement. I have here in my hand the Treasurer’s roneoed statement put out from his office in regard to the plan. All I will say is this: If the Treasurer’s roneoed statement is correct, this is the most cynical and dreadful betrayal of aged people that I know of.
The abolition of- the aged persons tax allowance and the substitution for it of something else as outlined in his speech is really something which strikes at the root of the position of all middle income pensioners; that is those who have, for example, superannuation income in addition to their pensions in the $20 a week to $50 a week range. Of course it does not affect the really rich pensioners who will benefit by the abolition of the means test but it does penalise every pensioner in the middle income range. Many pensioners, even those who are getting the full pension including those pensioners who are below 75 years of age will find themselves much worse off under the Treasurer’s proposal. This is one of the really dangerous and dreadful things that has been done by this Government. It has done it surreptitiously. The Government has not told people what it is about. It hopes it is going to get away with it. But I can assure the Government that it is not going to get away with it, because we are going to tell the truth and when the tax Bills come before the House in accordance with the Treasurer’s roneoed statement, we will endeavour to amend them. If we fail to amend them we will at least let the people know what is meant by the Labor Party.
The result of this measure is not that the Government has relaxed the means test; it has tightened the means test. Let me take the position of a single pensioner with a superannuation income of $20 a week - that is not much. He would not be a rich man. He would not have paid any tax under our proposals. Under the Government’s proposals he will pay a little more than $50 a year. His income will be cut by $50 a year. The Treasurer did not say this. The Minister for Social Security has not said this, but the public had better realise it. Let us think of the single pensioner with an income of $30 a week. That pensioner under the Liberal proposals would have paid $40 a year taxation. Under the Government’s proposals he will pay $130 a year taxation. That has not been told to people. They have not realised it. . They have not realised how these proposals will hit the small man.
– It is double-crossing.
– That is right. The honourable member for Boothby has put the words into my mouth. The Government has double-crossed the pensioners on the means test. I have .spoken of the single pensioner, but the position of the married pensioner is far worse because in most cases the income will be aggregated in single hands since the income of most of the small people consists of superannuation. Let us look at the position of a married pensioner who is receiving $30 a week. He will pay something like $300 a year in extra tax under the Government’s proposal.
– He is hardly a wealthy man.
– He is not a wealthy man. Let us look also at the position of the superannuation pensioner who is receiving $35 a week. He will pay more than $300 a year extra tax under the Government’s proposal. I do not want to talk about the so-called wealthy person. He will not be affected because he never received the benefit of the Liberal-Country Party Government’s aged persons tax allowance. There is doublecrossing here; there is a lot of bad faith. I will be producing actual figures and examples of this. The Labor Party, perhaps without knowing it - but I believe it did know it and hoped that it would be concealed - in point of fact has double-crossed the little man, the man receiving $20, $30 or $40 a week superannuation - not the big man, but the little man.
– You do not think the tax scale will stay the same forever, do you?
– I thank the Minister for Housing for his interjection. He asks whether I think the tax rates will stay the same, forever. I know that under the Labor Party’s plan the tax rates will have to be increased. This is what it is doing in effect. I would like to hope that tax rates will be reduced, but I know that under Labor they will not be. I do not want to go into the future and deal with hypotheticals. I will look at the position as it is now. The position as it is now, on the basis of the Treasurer’s roneoed statement, is the most dreadful deception of the small and middle income pensioner. I speak particularly for the small man with an income outside of his pension, probably from superannuation, of from $20 to $50 a week. I am not speaking on behalf of the big man; I am speaking on behalf of the small man. Do honourable members opposite realise what they have done or what they propose to do? I can assure them that they will not get away with it. I can assure them also that the actual figures, based on Labor’s iniquitous tax proposals, deceptive as they are, will be told to the country before very long. We will be going into this in more detail when the income tax Bill comes before us.
– Did you propose to abolish the means test without making the pension taxable?
– The honourable member for Perth helps me. We did propose to make the pension taxable, but we proposed also to retain the aged persons tax allowance. It is not the question of making pensions taxable which is important. The important thing is the way in which the Treasurer, by some underhand trick, has changed the aged persons tax allowance. I beg your pardon, I am wrong. The important thing is the way ‘in which he has proposed to change the aged persons tax allowance. I say that because I am by no means certain that the Parliament will allow him to do so. His present plans ate so appalling that I do not think the Parliament will accept them.
– You did not accept the Treasury advice that retaining the age allowance was anomalous?
– I do not know what Treasury advice the Government had in the matter. All I know is what the Treasurer has said in this roneoed statement which he has distributed. It is on that document that I base what I am saying. I take it that this announcement from the Treasurer, a copy of which I obtained personally from his office, is a correct announcement.
Apart from this factor all sorts of troubles will occur about the provisional tax on these new classes of taxpayers, the aged persons. This tax will not apply only to people over 75. The people I am talking about are all pensioners, women more than 60 years of age and men more than 65 years of age.- All pensioners will be affected. This new impost will apply not only to people over 75 years of age but to all people of pensionable age. I believe that the extra taxation collected from these people will be somewhat greater than the $40m which the Treasurer estimates as the cost of removing the means test for people over 75. It is the 3-card trick. The Government has deceived the pensioners and, in particular, it has deceived the pensioners in the small and middle income range who earn between $20 and S50 a week. They are the people who will pay for what the Government is trying to put over the country.
I do not wish to go into this matter further. I shall be elaborating on it when the Bill relating to the taxation measures is before the Parliament. May 1 say, in regard to the relaxation of the means test, that I regret that the Government has not seen fit to take something else from my files - that is, to carry on with the projected liberalisation of the means test on supplementary assistance. This is one of the things which is really necessary.
Again I am disappointed that there is no real forward move and no real plan in the Bill that is before the House. It consists of certain proposals which were taken from the past Government. As I have said, the selection is not necessarily the best selection. It is still a selection from proposals which were good. In some respects, it does not go far enough but, nevertheless, the Opposition proposes to support this Bill that the Government has introduced.
– This Bill is another example of the way in which this Government is fixing priorities. It was interesting to hear the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) speaking to the Bill. He said that the Opposition will support it. I am very pleased to hear it. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Mackellar for his consistent advocacy over the years of the abolition of the means test. However, some of his arguments, I believe, just do not stand up. I will refer to those arguments at the appropriate time. Of course, it is not possible to do everything at once, but a very good start has been made. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his policy speech, said:
We are coming into government after 23 years of opposition. This program is ambitious. I acknowledge that. It has to be so; it should be so; because the backlog is so great. And we cannot expect to clear away that backlog in 3 months or even 3 years.
Of course, there are those who criticise because everything is not done at once. I acknowledge their right to do so. However, we on this side of the House have an equal right to point out where such criticism is inaccurate and hypocritical. This Bill is a positive move towards equality and social justice. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Government are to be congratulated. I spoke a moment ago of inaccuracy. The point made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) in his speech bears some elaboration. On 22 August last the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) asked the Minister for Social Security whether the Minister agreed that pension increases were falling behind average weekly earnings and that pensions would not catch up. That is the very same sort of point that the honourable member for Mackellar was just making. Six days later the Leader of the Opposition continued this line of argument. In his Budget speech the Leader of the Opposition said:
These increases, totalling $3, will raise pensions from $21.50 to $24.50 by the end of the financial year. This is an increase of 11.4 per cent. Yet the Budget estimates that during the year average earnings will rise by 13 per cent. In other words as a result of the present Budget - and its inflationary consequences - the aged pensioners, the widows, the invalids on social security will fall farther behind average earnings rather than beginning to catch up on them.
The Leader of the Opposition concluded with these words:
Where does that leave the pensioner with his 11.4 per cent increase?
The way in which the Leader of the Opposition has calculated this figure is interesting. One way to calculate the percentage rise is to divide $24.50 - the figure that aged pensions will be at by the end of the financial year if no other interim increase is made - by the $21.50 - the figure before the Budget - and then multiply the quotient by 100 over 1. This gives a result of 113.95. Then by subtracting 100 you obtain the percentage increase of 13.95 or, let us say, 14 per cent. What the Leader of the Opposition did was to look at the result calculated in this way, take the first 2 figures of the 113, put in a decimal point and call it 11.39 or 11.4 per cent, correct to the first decimal place. Even if one follows the rather dubious logic of the Leader of the Opposition in the section of his speech entitled Inflation and Pensioners’ his whole argument falls to the ground on this arithmetical error in a sixth grade sum. As a former primary school teacher I feel that I can give the Leader of the Opposition no more than 2 out of 10, and then only for effort.
The honourable member for Mackellar spent a good deal of his time speaking about the means test. I believe - and I believe that this Government thinks this way - that everyone who has paid taxes during a lifetime’s work is entitled to receive a pension. When this Government introduces its superannuation scheme this principle will be permanently enshrined in legislation. Such legislation was promised by our political opponents more than 30 years ago and they did not do anything about it except as far as the tapered means test was concerned, and that was not good enough by half.
While I am talking about equity I draw the attention of the House to the speech by the Minister, particularly that part dealing with fringe benefits. He said:
The Government has decided that the 1967 means test will continue to apply for ‘fringe’ benefits eligibility but that the pension increase 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 $37 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.
I think it is important that we should note the following statement of the Minister:
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.
We need to note that there are some people on the minimum wage in Australia who are badly off and who also need a lift in their income. I agree with the abolition of the means test and I have expressed this point of view in election campaigns for this House since 1966. The abolition of the means test is a very important aspect of the work of this Parliament and the working of our social services system. It will encourage production in an age when people are living much longer as a result of developments in medical science and better nutrition.
I believe that in our community there are many people who have a great deal to give after the normal retiring age. Our society should not penalise them; they have something to offer.
The abolition of the means test also will save a great deal of administrative cost. When the means test finally is abolished, in the life of this Parliament, this saving will occur. I draw the attention of the House to the one-line reference in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Under the heading Means Test’, he said:
The means test will be abolished within the life of the next Parliament.
We are on the way to the keeping of that promise, and when it is kept we will not have a great number of spies moving around the countryside and spying on people over the age of 65 years to see whether or not they are eligible for a pension. That will save a great deal of money. In the Budget Speech of 1968 the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), as the then Treasurer, said:
Indeed, I believe it will be clearly seen that the Government has placed the objective of helping the aged, the sick and the needy in the forefront of its domestic programs.
Let us see what was the record of the LiberalCountry Party coalition Government. Let me read out the pension increases provided by the previous Government from the 1963 Budget onwards. In 1963 single pensions were increased by $1 while the pensions received by a married couple were not increased; in 1964 the single pensioner received an extra 50c a week while a married pensioner couple received an extra 50c a week each; in the Budget of 1965 pensioners received nothing; in 1966 single pensioners received an additional $1 a week while a married couple received an additional 75c a week each; in 1967 there were no increases; and in 1968, which was the year of the Budget Speech from which I just quoted, single pensioners received an extra $1 a week while an extra $1.25 a week was provided for married pensioner couples.
In the years from the 1968 Budget until this Government took office, married pensioner couples received increases of $1.25, $1, $1.75 and $1.50. In 1969 single pensioners received an additional $1 a week and in the succeeding years they received increases of $1, $2.25 and SI. 75. These figures completely refute the point which was made by the honourable member for Mackellar. Since this Government took office, it has increased pensions by $3 - a greater increase than in any other year from 1963 onwards.
– Inflation is taking care of your gift; it is hardly worth a razoo. You might as well give the pensioners an additional $10 a week.
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith is to speak next in this debate and he will have ample opportunity to speak then.
– I do not think the honourable member for Griffith will be able to answer my argument, Mr Speaker; but I draw his attention to the table which is in Hansard, from which he will see that in the 5 years from 1963 onwards the pension increases for a married couple were nothing, 50c, nothing, 75c and nothing - an average of 25c a year. What a marvellous achievement! What compassion! What generosity! What hypocrisy! This Government will do something about pensions. We will tie pensions to average weekly earnings. We are keeping ahead of average weekly earnings and we will raise the standard of living of pensioners in our community. We have a plan for the whole of the Australian community in respect of pensions and related matters.
We have a policy for a guaranteed income for all Australians. We hope to scrap the present confusing system of pensions and social security benefits and replace it with a more simply administered and more easily understood system of guaranteed income. The new system will be reinforced by national superannuation, national compensation and a universal health insurance scheme. The national superannuation inquiry possibly will be asked to consider the feasibility of such a scheme being expanded to provide for widows and for invalid, sickness and unemployment benefits. The nature of any such recommendations will affect the manner in which the guaranteed income scheme will operate.
This is a positive plan and I believe that it can bc accomplished. Not only will it insure individuals in the community against situations which may arise or will arise but it will also save an enormous amount of money in administration. Perhaps one day the principle will be extended to repatriation so that no longer from a social welfare point of view will there be the costly and sometimes unfair situation which now prevails. Other dis- advantages arising from war service could then be met by war compensation payments as a lump sum.
I come now to the question of taxation. I have already mentioned the point about equity. Although the honourable member for Mackellar referred to the statement released by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) he did not say what is in the statement, lt is left to me to inform the House of those details. The abolition of the means test and periodical pension increases were proposed in the Labor policy speech. Taxation on means test free pensions is necessary in order that aged people in the higher income groups are not put in a privileged position as compared with other aged people who have little other income and with young people who are raising families. I will cite the relevant figures so that people will have no doubt about the true situation.
If a married pensioner has no other income or has in addition to his or her pension of $1,056 other income of no more than $865 a year- which is about $17 a week - he or she will not pay tax and will not need to lodge a tax return. That amount is about S700 a year above the minimum wage. A married couple each with $865 of other income annually can thus have a total tax free income of $3,842 annually and more if they qualify for concessional deductions such as private rates. A single pensioner with an annual pension of $1,199 will not pay tax or need to lodge a tax return if he or she has no other income or has other income up to $722 a year, or again more if he or she is entitled to concessional deductions.
These figures give the lie to the assertions which have been made by the honourable member for Mackellar. We will raise the general standard of living of retired people in the community and we will not cease our work in this field until we have given every retired person in our society a guaranteed income of 25 per cent of the minimum male average weekly earnings. This Bill is an historic document. It is another pledge redeemed by the Government and it is part of a consistent and well-planned policy. It is a move along the road towards the situation where no pensioner or pensioner organisation will have to ask for increases, to a situation where hand-outs will be a thing of the past. Australia is a rich country when our society can allow huge capital appreciation, untaxed profit’s from land deals and, despite inflation, a high and rising standard of living. We can easily afford justice to our elderly, our sick, our unemployed and others who have earned and deserve our assistance. I congratulate the Minister and the Government and look forward to a continuation of the present program. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Having listened to the speech of the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) one would think that all was good out in the electorate, but the honourable member in quoting his figures conveniently omitted to refer to inflation, which is a method by which the able bodied rob the aged or the robbing hoods of the new Government take from both the rich and the poor to finance their dreams of 2 decades. Following the previous speech, it is appropriate for me to turn my attention to the speech delivered in this House last Tuesday by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). The Minister is a fellow Queenslander and as such is like all Quenslanders - under attack by this new Government. I hate to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Minister has used the lie method. I realise that you do not appreciate that particular description, Mr Speaker, so perhaps I should say that he has used the method of twisting figures to present a false picture of the achievement of his Government.
If one refers to page 754 of Hansard of 11 September 1973 one will see that the Minister presented a table headed ‘Comparison of Rates of Increase - Pension Rates, Average Weekly Earnings and Prices 1958 to 1973’. This table was such an expert statistical feat that it caused our shadow Minister for Social Security, Mr Chipp, to exclaim half way through the Minister’s explanation of the table, ‘What is the source for that table?’ Being suspicious of most things coming from the new Government I went to work and saw that the Minister for Social Security had the complete and utter audacity to include the pension increase which the previous Liberal Party-Country Party Government gave in last year’s Budget. He did this in an endeavour to boost his figures. This was shameful.
– He quoted the dates.
– The honourable member also has noticed this and is somewhat worried. He is trying to get the answer out ahead of me. Granted, the Minister did talk about quarters from June 1972 to June 1973, but this was in another area of suspicion because it suited the present Government to refer to the last half of last year in an endeavour to cloak or camouflage the inflation which has taken place in this part of this year. It tried to pull the figures back to make its figures look more respectable.
One has only to go into the electorate and ask pensioners and others relying on fixed incomes - people on superannuation and other pensions - what they think of inflation, and of the measly and miserly increases which have been given, to appease their feelings. The honourable member for Diamond Valley - how he has turned those diamonds to potatoes since he became a member - quoted the increases that the previous Government had given to the people of Australia. I refer back to the last 3 years. I do not like quoting figures, because most Government supporters do not understand them and become lost because they are beyond their comprehension. The Minister’s comparison of rates of increase shows average weekly earnings and various consumer price index increases in percentage and actual figures. I do not like to go too far back in history, but in April 1971 the previous Government increased the pension to $16,’ which was an increase of 3.2 per cent and in October that year the pension was increased by another $1.25. This was a total increase in 1971 of some 11 per cent. However, figures for that year indicate that the consumer price index increased by 5.4 per cent. Therefore, relative to the buying power of people on fixed incomes, pensioners were better off. On 4 May 1972 there was an increase of $1 and later that year a further increase of $1.75. This represented a total increase last year of 16 per cent for pensioners, yet the consumer price index increased by 6.2 per cent. Again the lot of the Australian pensioner or the person reliant on a fixed income was improved tremendously.
Then the distortion started. The Minister conveniently referred back to June 1972 and tried to present a picture that would suggest to the casual reader of this table that Labor had done so much since it came to power, that immediately after the election there was an increase of some 17.8 per cent for the single pensioner, and that after the present Budget increase it would be 26 per cent. I am sorry that the Minister for Social Security is not in the House. I can understand why he left earlier tonight after a member of his own Party spoke, because he was aware that some one from this side had not fallen for the 3-card trick. If we relate the increase of S3 since the last election back to the S20 at which the pension stood prior to the unfortunate and tragic defeat of the previous Government, we will see that the increase has been only 15 per cent. If we relate this to the rate at which inflation is presently increasing and recall that all pensioners cannot wait until next autumn, we will see that pensioners will be well behind. In Labor’s policy speech at the last election the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said:
All pensions will be immediately raised by $1.50 and thereafter each spring and every autumn the basic pension rate will be raised by $1.50 until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. It will never be allowed to fall below that level.
Heavens above, they were fine words at the time, but I wonder how many pensioners today are off butter and back on to margarine and off meat and on to bread as a result of falling for the promises of this new Labor Government. The facts of life are that if we take inflation figures which presently apply, it will be about 1990 before this 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings is actually reached. I have with me a table, because I do not like to be accused ever of exaggerating, in which I have taken the average weekly earnings of males to increase by 7 per cent per annum. I have applied the present increase by this Government of $3 a year, and even at a 7 per cent inflation rate it will take until 1981 for the pensioner to reach 25 per cent of the rate which was promised by the new Government. Have honourable members ever seen a carrot so far ahead of the donkey? Have they ever seen one held so far ahead?
Let me warn honourable members opposite that unless this new Government does more to help those persons on fixed incomes it will not just lose the next election but honourable members opposite will be lucky if any of them remain. It is all right for them to sit on their fat ministerial salaries and disregard the plight of the people who have to rely on $23 a week. Let me assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and honourable members opposite that the going is getting tougher every week for those people who are relying on the Government’s handouts. The Labor Party parades itself as a generous Party. It parades figures which are definitely distorted. I say: ‘Shame.’ If it were my own Party concocting tables which did not represent the true picture I would also say ‘Shame’, because we would just be fooling each other. We are attempting to better the life of the person who is fully reliant upon the policy of the Government to keep going strongly and who wants to enjoy the fruits of his labours on retirement.
In my view I have already forcibly underlined the problems facing people on incomes which are reliant upon the generosity of the Government. I said earlier that I do not believe that the figures which the Minister used, showing the increase in the consumer price index, fully show the position today. I notice that the new Government has not increased the supplementary allowance for those persons who are living in rented accommodation. At this time, when inflation is on the move, those persons who rent accommodation are worse off than ever. I do not blame all the landlords, even though there are some who are unfair in their application of increased rentals. But in many cases, along with the increase in the value of property, there is an increase in costs for maintaining the property. The other day my washing machine broke down and it cost me $23 to have a man from Malleys Ltd in Brisbane come and fix it. It took him 1 hour and 40 minutes. Guess whose mother has a Whirlpool, but guess who pays to keep it going? That is exactly what happened to me. For any pensioner to keep a washing machine going it must be a sorry and difficult task.
I was relating this to increased rentals. It is not unreasonable in this day of rising prices for an owner of a property or a block of flats which may have been worth $20,000 a year ago and which may be worth $30,000 today to set his rental return on the current value of the property. That is a fair return.
– That is why prices are going up.
– Prices are going up because of the current inflation. Honourable members opposite refuse to recognise that their policies are contributing to this inflation. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) the other night called the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) three blind mice’, because they cannot see what they are doing. Unfortunately we have 60 blind mice opposite, and some people feel that they are even bigger than mice but have similar tails and same number of legs.
In conclusion I refer again to the fact that the Minister for Social Security has connived in presenting a false picture of the position to this Parliament. People on fixed incomes are definitely worse off than they were. If honourable members opposite were simply to admit that people are really no better off, I would think a lot of them. But if they continue to try to present a distorted picture of an improved lot, they are harming themselves because those persons who receive their weekly cheques and have to stretch their money know better than that. They realise that their lot is being eroded. 1 am quite confident that if the Government does not do something constructive about inflation it will be out at the next election, and the people who already recognise that they were given a fair go under LiberalCountry Party governments will decide to return those Parties to government.
Mr MCKENZIE (Diamond Valley)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, grievously. The honourable member for Griffith said that I had turned the diamonds into potatoes since I was elected. I would like to inform the House and the honourable member for Griffith that the word ‘Diamond’ refers to a bull called Diamond’ which fell into the local creek and was drowned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I just wanted to say that as an interesting sidelight to the speech of the honourable member for Griffith.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffith) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented. I was not referring to any bull - certainly not from my part. The words of the honourable member for Diamond Valley are understandable in view of the fact that he now represents the seat of Diamond Valley.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I remind honourable members that the dignity of the House suffers when such frivolous points of order and statements of misrepresentation are made. I ask honourable members to show some respect for the House.
– I rise also to support the Bill. Quaintly enough, despite what we have heard, the Opposition is supporting the Bill. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who preceded me spoke about inflation eating into the pension increases that have been made under the 9-months-oId Whitlam Government. I will come to that point in a moment. I picked up something the other day that fits in nicely with an announcement that was made tonight. I do not know whether the purport of it has hit the Opposition yet, but this was an interview on the Macquarie network weekly broadcast with the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) on 24 August 1972. I quote in part from that interview. The questioner, after talking about pension increases, asked the former Prime Minister:
One of Che complaints that I have heard voiced by people calling Open Line to this station has been that whenever something like this happens with pensions -
He was referring to pension increases - all that happens is that such people as the pensioners’ landlords take it away again. Can something be done about this?
The former Prime Minister replied, and I think this deserves particular note.
– .Which Prime Minister was this?
– This was Prime Minister McMahon. He replied:
That is difficult because we have no power here, but what we have done in this Budget is to provide that supplementary assistance, that is assistance to those pensioners who have to pay rent, would also be increased by $2 to $4. Regrettably, we haven’t a direct influence here. I only wish we had.
In other words, he was pleading for Commonwealth price control. I hope he is still of that mind when in the very near future he gets a chance to do something about that. I have a respect for the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for what he has done in the field of social welfare. I pay him that respect. Unfortunately he had to battle awfully hard against a very reluctant government while he was Minister. Whilst it was true that he promised to abolish the means test in 3 years, and whilst he promised that the pension would be equitably taxed, what guarantee could we have had about what the then Minister’s ideas were about social services as against what his Government believed? He was pleading to abolish the means test when on the other hand his Government was saying: ‘It is impractical to do it. It is unjust to do it.’ Does nobody remember the other former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, saying that it was inequitable to be giving pensions to wealthy people while people on low incomes were not enjoying a decent living? Then we have the charade that went on for weeks about whether we were to have a poverty survey. Prime Minister McMahon said at the time that he was not in favour of it. Then the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 16 August 1972 carried the headline: ‘Government changes its mind: Poverty inquiry assured’. And what paltry terms of reference the inquiry was given. They were such that the present Minister has had to enlarge substantially on them.
Let us look at what inflation has done to the pension increases. When at any time in our history has any government given 2 increases in pensions in 9 months? When has any government ever made increases retrospective to election day? When has any government at the first opportunity it had of bringing down a pension increase, in our case in March, made it retrospective to the date it was elected? Can anybody ever remember those sorts of things? No. All previous pension increases were postdated rather than backdated. According to the previous Government they could not be backdated, but it could backdate benefits for certain people in primary industry when the Liberal Party’s partners in the Country Party squeezed its arm hard enough.
I have a table which shortly I shall ask to be incorporated in Hansard. I have shown it to the honourable member for Mackellar. I can refer to only a few of the items in it, because 20 minutes gets by all too quickly. Take age and invalid pensions. This is the realm of social services that is most involved. Last October under the previous Government the pension for a single person was $20 a week. If we take account of the changes in prices from September 1972 to June 1973, to retain its value the pension should have increased by now from $20 as it was under the previous Government to $21.35. But what is the pension under this Bill? It is not $21.35; it is $23. In other words pensioners in real terms are $1.65 better off. Likewise, if I make a similar comparison, we find that married pensioners are $3.68 a week better off, even allowing for the price increases that have occurred. Applying the same exercise to a class A widow with a child over 6 years of age, accounting for these price increases her pension should have risen from $28.50 as it was under the previous Government last October up to $30.42. Instead of being $30.42 it is $32, so she is $1.58 better off. But much more dramatic, of course - the former Minister will always regret that he did not have the opportunity to do this - is that class B and class C widows are on the same rate as class A widows. Why should a woman of say, 58 years of age get about $3 a week less than she would have got when she turned 60 years of age? To the great honour of the present Minister he made all these pensions and all these different kinds of allowances uniform, because he recognised that all widows have common needs in terms of housing, rental, food, entertainment and the rest. A class B or class C widow in October last under the previous Government had a pension of $17.25. If we allow for price index changes she would now be entitled to $18.41, but what does she get? She gets $23. She is $4.59 better off than she would have been, even allowing for the price increases. So much for the rot about inflation eating into the pension increases of this 9-months old Government.
Now I turn to unemployment and sickness benefits. The ordinary rate of unemployment and sickness benefit for a single adult last October at a time when we had very high levels of unemployment, was $17. Allowing for price changes it should now be $18.’15. Instead it has achieved uniformity with other benefits and is $23. So a single unemployed adult person is $4.85 better off in real terms. This is the kind of progress that has occurred within the 9 months term of office of the Whitlam Government. Even more dramatic still is what we have done for young people under 21 years of age if they unfortunately happen to be sick or unemployed. A married couple in this category received an ordinary rate of $25 per week last October. Fancy a married couple being asked to live on $25 a week between them. If we allow for price changes their benefit should now be $26.68. But what is it? It is not $26.68; it is $40.50 under the present Government. They are $13.82 a week better off in real terms, in buying power, than they would have been under the previous Government.
I can go on and give even more dramatic examples, such as the benefit for an unemployed single person under the age of 18 years. A youngster of 16 or 17 was supposed to live on between one-third and one-half of what an adult was given. Tell that to my son. Tell him that he is going to eat about onethird of what I eat. He eats twice as much as I do, and it costs as much to clothe him as it does to clothe me. As recently as last October, before the previous Government went out of power, a person under 18 years received an unemployment benefit of $7.50. If we allow for price changes he should be getting $8.01 now. But what does he get? He does not get $8.01; he gets $23. His benefit is $23 also. He is all but $15 a week better off. How the devil can anybody challenge these sorts of things and say that there have not been substantial improvements? I pay tremendous tribute to the Minister. Unfortunately in the time I have available I will not be able to go through all the items I have listed.
The honourable member for Mackellar, leading for the Opposition, made a point about taxation. I would like to reassure those people who may be listening and all those who are coming to our offices with all this talk about pensions being made taxable. I find that most of the ones who come to my office worried about the taxation provisions are the ones who have to worry the least. They have their pension and little more than their pension, and they will not be touched. As a matter of fact at least 80 per cent of pensioners will not be affected by taxation under this Bill. As a matter of fact aged people with a taxable income, including the pension, of up to $1,921 will not be required to pay any tax or lodge a return. In other words they will be able to have their $1,199 pension and they will be able to earn $722 as well. I am talking about a single person now. A person with an annual pension $1,199 and receiving up to $722 in other income will have no tax to pay and will not even have to worry about lodging a tax return. I know that many of these people are more worried about having to fill in a tax return than they are about paying tax. For God’s sake, let them not be worried. Please let us be responsible and do not worry them unduly about it. Most of the people who will be paying tax are very well used to paying tax and know very well how to fill in a taxation return. The Taxation Office will be presenting a booklet shortly that will show everyone specifically where he stands. The age allowance has been abolished not from any surreptitious motive but simply because of this progressive introduction of the abolition of the means test for everybody over 65 years of age. The expert advice is that the age allowance would be ‘inequitable, anomalous and outdated’. So the move was necessary.
If the age allowance were maintained we would have the position of struggling young families being worse off than a married couple on the full pension. Under our new rate pensioners could have a total income of at least $75 a week and not pay a razoo in tax. Is that equitable? I shall show honourable members in a moment what happens to other people in the community. They will not pay so much tax anyway, even under our taxation scheme. For those over 75 years of age under our provisions a couple could have a tax free total income of $4,426 net. That would be after deductions for rates and all the other things that are normally deductible. That couple Would get $2,112 net pension and $2,314 age allowance. Such a couple could get $85 a week net without having to pay any tax. So that is why it is inequitable.
On the other hand an ordinary tax paying couple with 2 dependent children, on the Sydney minimum wage of S60.80 a week, allowing for normal deductions would pay tax of $170.70 a year. So we need to have a bit of equity about these things. The simple fact is that we cannot make an extra privileged class way above all the other people who are starting off in life building a family and building a home and doing all the other things that have to be done by a young family - sending children to school, clothing them and the rest of it. So there was no justice. I think that the former Minster recognised this. He also was going to tax pensioners. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have a table incorporated in Hansard.
– Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. In the few minutes that are left to me let me run through what the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has done in 9 months - and this is not the totality of it. He has increased pensions and sickness and unemployment benefits in the way 1 have just described. There were 2 increases in one year, one of them made retrospective for about 3 months. Secondly, he has abolished the means test for all persons over 75 years of age as a first step. Thirdly, the common benefit rate for all pensioners, and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries, has been provided. A single person is to receive §23 a week and married couples $40.50, irrespective of their age and whether they are invalids, unemployed or anything else. Fifthly, he has provided for dependants benefit for student children over 16 years of age. Previously unemployment or sickness- beneficiaries did not receive benefits for student children once they reached the age of 16 years. He has increased the benefit wherever the children are full time students.
Sixthly, he increased benefits specifically for women. I have already referred to them - the B and C class widows. He has also introduced a a supporting mothers benefit for unmarried mothers, including deserted de facto wives and de facto wives of prisoners and married women not living with their husbands for one reason or another. This is the kind of humanity that he has introduced. Some of these women are also eligible for the rehabilitation allowance. I would love to be able to talk about what this Minister has done by doubling the rates of rehabilitation allowance and by doubling the allowance for those who have to undertake their rehabilitation courses living away from home. All of the allowances have been doubled.
He has also introduced the thing that was talked about by the previous Government - portability of pensions for people who want to retire in some other country, perhaps with their relatives. They are now able to do so whether they are immigrants or Australian born. If they have lived here for 10 years - not the 20 years that was demanded by the previous Government - they are able to take their pension and live on it and continue to receive it for the rest of their lives if they go to reside in some other country for one reason or another. It is not so much what is in this Bill or what has already happened but it is what is to come that is most exciting to me.
There is the establishment of the Australian
Commission on Social Welfare headed by that distinguished social worker, Mrs Marie Coleman.
So much has she done in the Commission’s report that it was applauded by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). Last week during the Minister’s speech when he tabled that report he earned the applause of the honourable member for Hotham who was gracious enough to say: ‘I wish I had been able to make that speech myself. I felt so affected by his remarks that I went over and shook his hand. I did so also because of the speech he had made in a non-political way. So we can go on. There are so many things: The Australian assistance program; the special provision for homeless men; the inauguration of a program of national superannuation; the setting up of the inquiry on national superannuation, the report of which we hope by the time of the next election we will be able to present at long last to the Australian people; and a national compensation scheme inquiry. Unfortunately I do not have time to go through all of the things that have been done. This has happened in 9 months. More has happened in 9 months than happened in 9 years in some periods of the previous Government’s history. I commend this Bill with all my fervour.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This social service legislation is the largest single item of Government expenditure. It involves $l,874m, which is almost 20 per cent of the Budget. Yet this legislation was introduced only on Tuesday. Other social service legislation was introduced before that. We have had only today to look at it, including the new taxation provisions, and we are now having a restricted debate on it. I think that shows up the attitude of this Government to such an important piece of legislation. The Australian Country Party supports it and in supporting it I should like to remind the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) that the Country Party was also in the last Government and that the Chairman of the Joint Social Services Committee was the Country Party member for Hume who worked hard for the abolition of the means test.
The Country Party welcomes the new measures for orphans and the blind announced in the Budget and carried on in this legislation. It also welcomes the development and progress in rehabilitation procedures and measures. I think that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Hayden) recently mentioned that a more positive role would be taken in rehabilitation in that employment would be sought for people being assisted. I hope he said that. If he did not I hope he will look at the matter because I know of several instances of people who have been rehabilitated but who have found problems in obtaining employment and who seemed to receive very little encouragement from the rehabilitation people to help them find employment.
The basic increase of $1.50 in the pension is insufficient in the inflationary situation facing Australia today. I think that a more realistic figure would have been $2, if the pensioner is to stay ahead of inflation and if there is to be any realistic move towards the Government’s stated policy of having pensions equal to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Pensions and welfare are relative. The weekly pension figure tells only half the story of the welfare of a pensioner. The other half of the story is the cost of living. Inflation is the pensioner’s worst enemy. This Government can huff and puff all day about what it intends to do or is doing to help the pensioner; but unless it can restrict the inflation rate the pensioner will be progressively worse off all the time. It is not much good honourable members on the Government side saying that in 1963 pensions were increased by a certain figure and that in 1973 they were increased by a larger figure. One also has to look at the inflation rate on both occasions.
I still object to the adult unemployment benefit rate being paid to junior unemployed. This was one of the measures of the new Government. I object particularly now to juniors - 16, 17 and 18-year-olds - being paid the adult rate when we have a situation of, if anything, overfull employment and inflation - the nation’s greatest problem - and when every able bodied young man who can work should be encouraged to work and not given an easy way out if he is so inclined.
The supplementary assistance benefits still fall short of what they should be. We have rent supplementary assistance, but there is no rates supplementary assistance. I know that some of the States do provide some rates assistance and that Victoria, in the State Budget which was announced the other night, has joined those States. However, many families which have a house to be paid off, as well as rates to be paid, when the breadwinner dies, are as impoverished as anybody. Yet they receive no assistance at all. Because they have tried to be good Australians and to buy their own houses, they are penalised. The Australian Government could justifiably - I think that the States would welcome it - take over the responsibility for rates assistance as well as rent assistance.
With the various provisions for assistance to people such as unmarried mothers and widows, we are rapidly reaching the stage where the Government must look seriously at some proposition to assist those mothers who do not qualify for any form of assistance but who prefer to stay home and rear their young families in the best manner possible - that is, by being with the children at home - instead of chasing financial gain by going out to work. These people are putting their children first. Their husbands are possibly only on the basic wage or a little more.
The major item in this legislation is the abolition of the means test for those who are 75 years and over. The Country Party supports the abolition of the means test, as it did when in government with the Liberal Party. This policy was announced jointly before and during the last election campaign. As far as I am concerned, the sooner the means test goes the better, because it will provide an incentive for people to help themselves and to retain an interest in life if they can do some work after they reach retiring age and not be penalised for doing so. Also abolition of the means test will do away with the injustice of the 10 per cent notional return on the property or assets side of the tapered means test scale, which I believe is unjust to many people who have no hope of earning 10 per cent on their assets. The previous government, if it had been returned to office, would have done at least as much toward the abolition of the means test for those who are 75 years and over. I agree with taxing pensions when the means test is abolished. But this Government at no stage said that it would tax pensions paid to those between 65 and 75 years or would remove the taxation concessional allowance for those in that age category. This is a sleight of hand or confidence trick by the Government and will create an injustice for many people.
I do not think that in previous debates when the Government was in Opposition it said that there was anything wrong with the age allowance. I do not think it ever said that it was right to tax the pension when the means test applied. It seems rather incongruous, if, as has been stated, next year the means test will be abolished for those who are 70 years and over, that it is right to tax their pension this year but according to the Government’s own intention it will be wrong to do it next year. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) provided some notes on the new taxation arrangements and how they will affect people. On page 4 of those notes he provided a chart. I seek leave
to have incorporated in Hansard a chart which I have prepared from basic figures obtained from Treasury officers and which shows the position more accurately. I have shown it to the Minister for Social Security and he agrees to its incorporation.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The chart that I have prepared refers to those on non-pension incomes of $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, $3,000 and $4,000. The chart also provides 4 other columns. It refers to net disposable income, which is the income available to the person after tax has been paid on his total income; the tax paid by those in receipt of the age allowance but with no tax on the pension; the net disposable income if both the first two provisions are still prevailing; and finally the net disposable incomes for persons on 2 different tax rates. The chart produces some rather interesting results. For example, on the married scale a person receiving income of $1,500 plus pension will receive $2,556, but he is $169 worse off because of the provisions in this Budget. A person with income of $2,000 and in receipt of a pension is $349 worse off because of the introduction of the tax on pensions and the disallowance of the age concession. A person with income of $3,000 and in receipt of a pension is $358 worse off. A person with income of $4,000 and in receipt of a pension is $158 worse off. I thing it is quite legitimate that a person with income of $4,000 should not be receiving the benefit that those on the lower figure receive. For a person with a higher total income the reduction would be less because the concessional tax allowance for age people under the previous Government cut out at between $3,500 and $3,800.
I return to these 3 important figures: A married person with income of $1,500 a year is $169 worse off; with income of $2,000 a year he is $349 worse off; and with income of $3,000 a year he is $358 worse off. These are not wealthy people. They are ordinary people who possibly have saved to try to be a little better off in their retirement. There is a considerable number of them. These people have been hoodwinked by this Government. I agree completely with the honourable member for Mackellar when he says that more will be said on this matter when the relevant income tax Bill is introduced. I believe that the wrath of these people will be turned on this Government when they wake up to what has happened to them. Perhaps it will take a little time, but it surely will happen because in a way they have been asked to pay for the abolition of the means test in respect of those who are 75 years and over by the reduction in their net pension. The Country Party supports the legislation, but draws attention to the unjust and iniquitous provisions for those between 65 and 75 years who have been unjustly treated in the new social security provisions.
– This Bill is important not only for what it provides directly but also for the further indication which it gives of the general social security principles on which this Government is operating. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) listed no fewer than 16 major provisions which are included in the Bill. Without meaning in any way to be argumentative but simply putting it as a fact as I see it, I think it is true to say that the last Government would have divided the provisions contained in this single Bill into at least six or seven separate Bills so as to squeeze out the last drop of public approval and political advantage to which social welfare measures lend themselves. That is not the style of the present Minister and it is not the style of the present Government. I believe that that is a fact significant in itself.
As well as the specific provisions contained in this legislation at least 4 general features of the Bill are worth noting. In the first place the Bill confirms the Government’s intention to honour its election commitment to increase the standard rate pension twice a year by at least $1.50 a week on each occasion until a pension level equal to 25 per cent of the average weekly male earnings is achieved. Secondly, and again in fulfilment of an electoral commitment, it takes the first positive step towards the abolition of the means test. Thirdly, and this time not through any electoral obligation but simply because of the Government’s view that this is a proper course of action, the equality of various social security benefits is maintained. Fourthly, it is recognised that a responsible welfare system cannot be based on some simple view that more of everything for everybody will solve all. Accordingly, some hard and inevitably unpopular decisions have been indicated as well. I refer, of course, to the abolition of the age allowance, the introduction of qualified liability to taxation of age pension payments and future limits to the extension of fringe benefits eligibility.
For a start we should consider the assured biannual increase in the pension rate. It is strange how such a progressive commitment - one in such marked contrast to the process it replaced - can so quickly come to be taken for granted. More than that, the Opposition now has the nerve to argue that the provisions do not go far enough. To illustrate what I wish to say on that point I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the rate, date of introduction and percentage increase in age and invalid pensions since 1948 together with the relevant pensions as a proportion of average weekly earnings.
Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. As will be seen from the record of our Liberal Party-Country Party predecessors as illustrated in this table, far from providing pension increments twice a year there were 7 occasions on which for 2 years at a time they withheld any increase. It took from October 1961 to October 1964, a period in which average weekly earnings increased by over 16 per cent, for one of those governments to increase pensions by the same amount of $1.50 a week as we are now adding as a minimum every 6 months. Now the Opposition is saying that what we are doing is not enough. To see that as a short memory is putting it mildly. It is more in the nature, I suggest, of total amnesia.
The Opposition also has been putting an alternative argument forward in recent months. The Opposition is saying that we promised 6-monthly increases of $1.50 a week until the pension rate reached 25 per cent of average weekly earnings: but, given the present rate of inflation, that target would never be reached. That is what the Opposition is saying and it keeps on saying it as though it is making some sort of great discovery. 1 have in my hand, to illustrate that it is no dis covery at all, a paper presented to the very first meeting of the Health and Social Welfare Committee of the Labor Caucus held after the last election. It shows clearly enough that should average weekly earnings increase at any greater rate than 8 per cent a year, a 25 per cent average weekly earning pension will never be reached on the basis of $3 per annum increases. We know from the Budget Speech itself that this year we are in fact expecting a 13 per cent increase in average weekly earnings. That, undeniably, leaves our 25 per cent target in considerable short term difficulties. To that, however, 2 things should be added at once. Firstly, as “the Minister has repeatedly said, if $3 per annum increases will not do the job we have set them within a reasonable period, the increments will have to be increased; and this Government will do that.
What would the Opposition do? That remains the great unknown, for with all its criticism and indignation at the rate at which we might reach our own 25 per cent target it still has no target. It has no commitment at all. On the other hand, the record of the Opposition shows what its target would be likely to be if it were game to specify it. It will be seen from the table that has been incorporated that in 23 years of government the Liberal and Country parties, far from achieving a pension level of 25 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, never once reached a level so high as 22i per cent and in their last 6 years in office could never even manage a 20 per cent level. The reluctance of the Opposition to adopt our stand on pension levels stands in marked contrast to its adoption of our means test abolition policy. Let me be quite blunt about this. In my view a proper order of social welfare priorities should give greater emphasis to pension levels than to means test abolition. Whilst I naturally support my Party’s program, I therefore cannot help feeling that, rather than committing ourselves to means test abolition within 3 years and to a 25 per cent average weekly male earnings level as soon as possible, the emphasis could perhaps have been better put the other way around.
The Opposition parties have had no such problems of priorities because whilst they have adopted our definite time-table for means test abolition they have produced no target at all, not even vaguely, for the pension level itself. Their approach, in merely criticising us, can therefore be seen in its true nature as an entirely negative one. As I understand this debate will conclude in a few minutes I refer briefly to the inevitably less popular measures which will come to be associated with the advances in this Bill, namely the qualified taxation liability of pensions and the abolition of age allowance. No government enjoys withdrawing any benefit or concession to any group, no matter how small. Naturally, a government will be all the more reluctant in this case where some tens of thousands of people will find themselves either liable to some taxation, or some greater taxation than applied under previous arrangements. The change, however, is inevitable if we are to retain a balance of equality as between groups of pensioners themselves on the one hand and between pensioners and non-pensioners at the lower income levels. More than that, it is an inevitable part of the desirable process of moving pensions out of the area of philanthropy and into the concept of earned entitlement.
To achieve a fair and reasonable changeover is not without its complications, especially where it has to be implemented partly in advance of the complete abolition of the means test and before the pension itself has reached the level that we would like. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has assured us, however, that by means of the procedures to be adopted at least 80 per cent of pensioners - those wholly or largely dependent on their entitlement - will remain unaffected. They will not have to pay income tax nor will they be required to lodge returns. Of course, the converse of that proposition is that some pensioners will have to pay more. But with all due respect to their position - and I do appreciate their position - before we get as angry about that as have the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) I believe we should not ignore the position of younger families in similar financial circumstances.
Earlier this year, but for different purposes, I took out comparative figures. They are now slightly out of date but they are close enough to tell the story, and this is what they tell. A single pensioner on $47.20 a week, including pension at the time of the calculation, paid $54 tax, whereas a single worker earning S47.20 a week paid $248 tax or almost 5 times as much. Not only that but the pensioner in question received fringe benefits while the worker did not. In the case of married pensioners receiving $82 a week, including the wife’s allowance, the combined taxation was $135 whereas a married worker with a dependent wife paid $581 per annum in taxation. Even the married worker with a wife and 2 dependent children paid $359 in tax, a sum almost 3 times as great as that paid by the married pensioners. And in this case as well the married pensioner couple on exactly equivalent income but paying much less taxation received fringe benefits while the married worker did not.
In the light of experience, and having said all that, I ‘still believe that further modifications in this area might prove to be desirable. I have no doubt that both the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Minister for Social Security will have an open mind on the subject - though I hope that it will not be so open as to embrace the solution offered by the honourable member for Mackellar, namely that all pensions should be fully taxable but that we should retain the age allowance. On a later occasion I will perhaps have the time to indicate my reasons for disagreeing with that approach. In the meantime let me simply say that this Bill is to be welcomed as a further step in the direction of a decent and comprehensive welfare system. The Government is entitled to feel satisfied that it is not only meeting its electoral pledges in this area but that in many important respects it is already moving well in advance of them.
– I rise to speak in this debate on the issues contained in this Social Services Bill. The Opposition supports the Bill but there are certain features of it which give us cause for concern. One that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) has dealt with is the question of the phasing out of the age tax allowance. The honourable member seeks to justify this upon the basis that this remedy had to be taken in order to achieve equity between the pensioner and the young family man. He shows a rather strange twist of logic in the way he tackles the problems. I think the way the problem should have been dealt with was for the tax threshold, as it applies to the young family man, to be lifted. Yet if one looks at the report of the Coombs task force one sees that there is some suggestion that the Government is looking at the question of lowering the income at which young family men shall begin to pay tax. The twist of logic is made even stranger when the honourable member compares the tax position of the means tested pensioner and does not look at the position of the pensioner now to receive a means test free pension.
In view of the logic advanced by the honourable member every means test free pensioner should be gravely worried that the approach of this socialist Government will be on a future occasion to take away the benefits conferred upon them this year by lowering in next year’s Budget the tax threshold to the means test free pensioner because the means test free pensioner is, by virtue of the pension granted to him, to be made properly substantially better off and his means test free pension is to be treated as part of his taxable income. We have no objection to this. We believe that pensions paid on a means test free basis should be treated like income from every other source. But what we object to is the double taxation that is applied to those who are still subject to the means test.
There have been occasions where we have looked at the application of the means test as though it were operating as a tax. What we do on that occasion is to assume that every pensioner is entitled to the full pension and to treat the operation of the means test as the application of a tax. There are pensioners who have very little in the way of assessable assets but who are receiving a superannuation pension, of very meagre proportions in many instances. On the assumption that a single pensioner has no means as assessed in a capital form his pension is reduced if the superannuation exceeds $20 a week. If that occurs single pensioners are taxed at $50c in the $1 of surplus income by the operation of the tapered means test. They are now to be taxed still further and many of them will be paying a rate of tax higher than the maximum marginal rate of tax being paid by the highest income earners in the land. Yet the honourable member for Perth tells us that the application of tax to these middle income recipients is an application of equitable principles. Equity indeed! It is a taking from those whose means are least in order to pay for the Government’s excess expenditure in other areas. It is taking it this year when we are led to believe that next year or the year after they will become means test free pensioners and they will get their pension without this 50c in the $1 tax that applies through the operation of the tapered means test. To me this approach to the problem causes me to question the sincerity of the Government in its promise to abolish the means test.
The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in his speech talked about the history of efforts to abolish the means test. I, with other members on this side of the House, have striven for many years to achieve abolition and in that striving we may have had significant success. Honourable members on this side of the House have seen the double means test converted into a merged means test, the disincentive features of the merged means test abolished by the introduction of the tapered means test and then a promise in our election policy speech to abolish totally the means test if we had been returned to power. The Minister in his speech makes the pretence that he has supported always the concept of the abolition of the means test. I would draw your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the copies of the Hansard of the early years of the honourable member’s time in this House. He was one of the most bitter opponents of those who sought to oppose the abolition of the means test. He argued strenuously for its retention. Yet today-
– Who was this?
– This is the Minister for Social Security, the man who today claims that he was the one who initiated the idea. He has taken up the idea from others and he has changed his ideas. Yet he is not gracious enough to acknowledge that there are members on this side of the House who have fought for this cause and whose efforts have brought about a situation which has enabled him this year in this Budget to introduce a further step towards means test abolition. We need now to look at the proposals of the Minister for Social Security as they relate to the members of the community who today are between the ages of 65 and 75, in the case of men, and between 60 and 75 in the case of women. Although we are led to believe that the means test will be abolished in 2 short years from now, we find a vicious imposition of tax on people whose incomes cannot be regarded as being high.
If there is an inequity so far as the young family man is concerned, there are those of us on this side of the House who have urged for a long time that the tax threshold - the point at which tax first becomes payable - should be looked at across the broad spectrum of all taxpayers and not in the manner in which this legislation is proposed to operate. There will be occasions when the people who today are entitled to a full pension will find that, in the current year, they will be called upon to lodge a tax return and to pay tax. This is in breach of a promise that tax rates would not be increased. I would look at the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this regard and ask him to direct his attention to the rates of tax applicable to those aged persons benefiting under the rates scale arising from the age tax allowance. Insofar as that rate scale is to be abolished and a higher rate scale introduced, there has been a breach of promise.
I turn now to another aspect of the legislation before us. It includes a proposal to increase the rate of pension by SI. 50 a week in pursuit of a promise to twice yearly increase the pension at this rate until the time was reached when the age pension became 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. This promise was made in a different economic climate to that which applies today. In making the promise, the Australian Labor Party assured the people that it would endeavour to improve the real incomes of the pensioners. 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 where they would be equal to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Having achieved this goal, Labor claimed that the fixation of pensions would be outside the political arena and not influenced by financial considerations. The Labor Government, by repeating its promise, has endeavoured to create the impression that it has performed. In doing so, it seeks to deceive the pensioners and the public into thinking that it has carried out that promise. It has done neither. Pensions are not index-related and pensioners do not receive 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Pension increases are not even linked in any way to increases in average weekly earnings.
The Labor Party promised to increase pensions by this regular amount of SI. 50 every 6 months. Events have proved that it is not that amount which is sufficient to meet the target. I wish to illustrate that point. If average weekly earnings are assumed at $100 a week - in fact, they are more than that - and are rising at 12 per cent per annum, pension increases at the rate of $3 a year will do no more than give pensioners increased pensions to take account of the increase in average weekly earnings. It will do nothing to catch up the deficiency which exists - a promise which the Labor Party said it would achieve and carry out. Such an increase of $1.50 a week will not bridge the gap between current pensions and 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Pension increases continue to depend upon political and financial factors rather than on the welfare of the pensioners.
In the Budget, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) forecast that incomes would rise by 13 per cent per annum. Anyone studying the present inflationary spiral in the Australian economy would be forgiven for concluding that this estimate is likely to prove conservative. But even if incomes were to rise only at the rate forecast in the Budget, pensioners’ incomes, at the current rate of increase, are declining as a percentage of average weekly earnings rather than increasing as was the promised objective. In the last session of Parliament, when asked to do something about fulfilling his promise, the Minister for Social Security could only cover up his deceit by personal invective and vague and, as yet, unfulfilled promises that the position would be kept under review. Earlier in this session, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Minister again said that the situation would be kept under review. How long will pensioners be kept waiting? They do. not want empty promises of reviews; they want action. They, at a time of rapidly rising prices, want to be able to predict what their incomes are likely to be. Labor has failed to manage the economy effectively and has failed to honour its promise to the pensioners.
The rate at which pensions are being increased is in urgent need of review. It is no good the Minister for Social Security quoting figures based upon last year’s intiation rate, or the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who spoke in an earlier debate, basing his figures on percentages in the present pension rates, which are below the level of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The pensioners want to know how their incomes will be increased in the light of current inflationary pressures. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Social Security included a table in which he tried to present a rosy picture of the proposition that pensions should be increased at the rate of SI. 50 a week. He tried to do this by deceit. He used 2 techniques in order to try to create the impression that pensions were being increased substantially in real terms. Firstly, in looking at the year ended 30 June 1973, he included the increases provided by the former Liberal-Country Party Government in arriving at his figures for the increase in pensions up to 30 June this year. But it is interesting to look at those figures and to find that the rate at which pensions were increased by the Liberal-Country Party Government for the first 6 months of the year, at a time when the inflation rate was much lower than it is today, was 19.2 per cent on an annual basis. The SI. 50 a week increase that took place in autumn, when pensioners expected an increase immediately following the election and another in the autumn - only the autumn increase occurred - represented an increase on an annual rate of only 16.2 per cent on the existing rate of pension.
The second area in which the Minister for Social Security sought to deceive was to include the Budget increase of SI. 50 a week and then to say that pensions were being increased by 26 per. cent on the previous pension. He asked honourable members to compare an 18-month increase with previous increases based upon 12-monthly comparisons.
He is a strange statistician who this week compared figures related to 18 months with figures relating to a previous period of only 12 months without making an appropriate adjustment for the difference in time. If members of the public are to be misled in this way, what trust can they have in the Government that pensions will ever be increased to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings?
Let us look at the rate of increase that is offered in this Budget and relate it to the actual increases in average weekly earnings. In 1971-72 under the Liberal-Country Party Government pensions for a single pensioner were increased at the rate of 31.3 per cent of the average increase in average weekly earnings. In 1972-73, largely because of the pension increase introduced in last year’s Budget by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the increase in the pension as a proportion of the increase in average weekly earnings based upon a goal of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings was 29.5 per cent. But what of the future? If average weekly earnings increase this year at 11.4 per cent the pension increase will be only at the rate of 24.4 per cent. If the increase is 13 per cent in average weekly earnings the increase in pensions will be at a rate of 20 per cent and pensioners will become progressively worse off.
I challenge the Minister for Social Security to assure pensioners that future increases will be at a rate not less than 25 per cent of the increases in average weekly earnings. Until he does no pensioner can feel assured that he will ever receive 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We are tired of reviews. We want the assurance that pensions will be increased to keep up with average weekly earnings and an increase should be announced long before next autumn.
– I will take only a few minutes to reply to some of the points which through misapprehension, misunderstanding or some other unfortunate reason clearly were not understood. It is satisfying to sec that the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has reformed. He is now angry and concerned about the needs of pensioners in the community. He was a member of this Parliament in the 1960s, for instance in 1968, when there was no increase in the rates of pensions. When I made my speech at the second reading stage I had a table incorporated in Hansard. The table, to which the honourable member referred quite frequently, shows that in the 1960s on 3 occasions the previous Government comprised of the Party of which he is a representative did not increase pensions at all; that : is, in 1963, 1966 and 1968.
On one of those occasions the honourable member was a member of this Parliament. I do not remember that he supported any amendment moved by the Opposition then seeking to rectify that injustice. I do not remember that he took any steps or any initiatives himself. Of course, he was consistently following the family tradition. His father was here before him and like the son he cried crocodile tears over the lot of the pensioners. I believe that one of the more touching scenes in Adelaide was the annual pilgrimage to the family cherry orchard where tea and sympathy were copiously distributed amongst pensioners toy his father, but there was never a vote by him in support of amendments moved here in support of pension increases. The son has followed in the footsteps of the father. I do not want to spend any more time on that subject.
I repeat that the steps forward in the short time that we have been in government have been much more significant than those taken at any stage in the 23 years. of administration of the Liberal-Country Party Government. That Government had adequate opportunities in nearly a quarter of a century, or well over 2 decades, to eliminate the means test and not one positive step was taken in that direction. It had adequate opportunity to establish the rate of pension payments related to a fixed formula which guaranteed that pension rates would move forward regularly according to cost of living movements so that social and economic justice would be maintained for the most deprived and dependent group in our society.
I turn now to the taxability of pensions. It would be completely unjust and inexcusable if we were to provide a full pension rate for retired millionaires and did not propose to make it taxable, especially at the present stage when so many young people have oppressive financial burdens imposed in 23 years of Liberal-Country Party administration. We are in the process of trying to eliminate that burden. It would be completely unjust if they had to continue carrying a tax burden for a redistribution from modest and low income earners with heavy financial commitments and young children to support so that benefits could be given to millionaires in their retirement. I have figures supplied by the Treasury. A person with$3, 800 annual income including pension will not have to pay tax under the arrangements we have proposed. That is more than$74 a week. I invite honourable members to look at the distribution of income and work out which people we are getting at.
According to the Bureau of Census and Statistics report very large numbers of the work force supporting young families are in that category. At $4,000 a year of non-pension income for a man with a wife, not including any of her personal income, the couple will be $1,070 a year better off, or more than $20 a week better off under our proposals. A man with $5,400 annual non-pension income will find that he and his wife are annually$1, 528 better off, or more than $30 a week better off under our very generous proposal. I am getting a lot of help from the Party Whip and accordingly I must finish at that point.
– I claim to have been misrepresented but because I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill I seek leave to raise the point of misrepresentation during the adjournment debate.
– Order! The honourable gentleman claims to have been misrepresented and wishes to make a personal explanation. I call the honourable member for Sturt.
– You will not get the Bill through tonight.
– So that the Bill can be passed tonight I will raise the point during the adjournment debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for
Social Security (Mr Hayden). In a manner typical of his personal attacks and invective against members of the Opposition he said that he was pleased to see that 1 had reformed and referred to increases in pensions. 1 point out that for many years I have advocated that pensions should be index related. For the Minister to create the impression that I have not worked to achieve that goal is misrepresentation.
– I rise this evening to disclose to the House prima facie evidence which indicates to me that an injustice is being perpetrated on certain people in Australia through the existence of a pirate film entitled ‘Swan Lake’. I believe that in recent times there has been an agreement between the Australian film industry and the Soviet film industry to exchange films. The Soviet Union pays certain copyright duties to the Australian producers of Australian films which go to the Soviet Union and similarly persons who show Soviet produced films in Australia are obligated to pay the copyright to the Soviet producers. A constituent of mine, Kir Warren Murnane, has been in touch with the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and me recently and has pointed out that he has obtained from Quality Films of Australia a true negative copy of the film ‘Swan Lake’ produced by the Soviet film industry. This film is billed for showing at Kings Theatre, New Lambton, on 24 September. However, a man well known as an Australian entrepreneur, Mr Harry M. Miller, has been exhibiting in Australia a pirate film on which no copyright duties have been paid. I am informed that the film has been exhibited in Sydney during the past 3 months and is now being shown in Brisbane. It is to be exhibited in Newcastle a few days before the showing of the legal copy now in the possession of Mr Murnane. I understand that persons associated with Harry M. Miller intend to exhibit their pirate copy in Newcastle at the Lyric Theatre on 20 September.
I do not believe that any honourable member would support the illegal showing of an illegal film on which copyright duties have not been paid when the Soviet Union correctly meets its copyright duties on Australian films shown in the Soviet Union. It would be bad for public relations between both governments if the copyright duties on a pirate film were not met and it was permitted to be exhibited in Australia. I understand that representations have been made to certain government departments with a view to doing something to prevent the public exhibition df the pirate copy of the film ‘Swan Lake’ now under the control of Harry M. Miller. I place on record in this Parliament the following questions to the responsible Minister - I do not know whether it would be the. Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) or the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). Is the Minister aware that a well known entrepreneur, Mr Harry M. Miller, proposes to continue exhibiting in Australia what is believed to be a pirate print of the Russian film industry’s version of the ballet ‘Swan Lake’? Further, will the Attorney-General inquire into this matter with a view to ensuring that bona fide purchasers of rights to exhibit or distribute such a film are not prejudiced by unfair competitive practices?
This evening I have been reliably informed by Mr Murnane that he has been told that the story is being circulated in the Newcastle district that his copy of ‘Swan Lake’, legally and properly obtained through Quality Films whose head Mr Alison purchased it from the Soviet Union, is 20 minutes shorter than the pirate film being exhibited by Harry M. Miller. This is not true. I hope that the responsible departments now advising my Government will investigate the matter that I have raised. I have spoken to officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, the Minister for the Media and the Minister representing the Attorney-General in this House, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). I am grateful that the Minister for the Capital Territory is in attendance to hear what I have to say because I believe the facts given to me this afternoon by my constituent, Mr Murnane, are correct. Unfortunately I have not had time to fully verify them and get corroborative evidence, which I am always anxious to do when I raise matters of this nature in the House. I hope that the showing of the illegal print of the film by Harry M. Miller will be curbed properly by my Government and that any injustice being perpetrated on the people who hold the true legal print of the film will be corrected.
– I wish to address myself to the Brisbane airport. I have done the right thing in advising the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) that I would be speaking on a subject that could be of interest to him I wish to speak not so much about the Brisbane airport as about what the Government is not doing about the Brisbane airport. My interest in this subject extends back to the late 1960s when I entered this Parliament, appeared before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise and presented to it in Brisbane a case on behalf of the residents of my electorate. I underlined the noise being made by the increasing number of large aeroplanes. The people of Brisbane, were, to say the least, disappointed with the Coombs report, the document titled Review of Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government’. We regret that the Brisbane airport was ever included in the survey conducted by the learned Dr Coombs and his committee. The report suggests that the work required on the Brisbane airport could be deferred for an indefinite period or a specific period. The Coombs report recites some facts which indicate the good faith of the previous Government in respect of building a new Brisbane airport.
Mr Speaker, there is little point in my continuing thus, because this very speech is recorded at page 923 of yesterday’s Hansard for 12 September. The reason I started off in this manner this evening was that when I presented a plea on behalf of the citizens of Brisbane last evening history was created in this Parliament in that at that time not one Minister was in this chamber to listen to what was being said. Earlier in the night I advised the Minister for Civil Aviation that I was to speak on a subject of interest to him. Earlier this year - in April or May - the Minister for Civil Aviation admonished me for supposedly making no attempt to advise him that I was to speak on a subject relating to his portfolio. With great indignation he spoke after I spoke and, to say the least, chastised me.
The only thing I wish to retract from what I said last night is my remark that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) had done nothing. He told me this evening that he had done something, that he had worried the’ Minister. Obviously his so called worrying of the Minister has had no effect. I regard the Minister’s absence from this place again this evening as a display of gross discourtesy to the people of Brisbane. As I pointed out yesterday, the Minister seems to be running helter skelter from the possibility of debating publicly or in this Parliament his portfolio as it relates to civil aviation.
– He is frightened of you.
– The honourable member for Darling Downs, a fellow Queenslander, interjects to say that he is frightened. That is a most appropriate inter.jection. If what the honourable member for Lilley has told me is correct, that the Government is doing something about the Brisbane airport and that the Coomb’s report is not correct, I want to know whether the Minister for Civil Aviation has the courage to come into this place and make an announcement. We in the Opposition are sick and tired of Ministers resorting to Press conferences and statements outside this Parliament which preclude us - Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Prime Minister’s Opposition or the President’s Opposition - from having a chance to criticise.
Again on behalf of the people of Brisbane I challenge the Minister for Civil Aviation to come into this House and make a statement on what is proposed for the Brisbane airport. I repeat my comments last night when I referred to the Coomb’s report which clearly outltined that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government had intentions - admitted by the Coomb’s report - of continuing, moving along the road or speeding up the building of the Brisbane airport. My remarks are on page 923 of yesterday’s Hansard. I said that the Labor Party’s report stated that the Liberal-Country Party Government would be spending $lm between 1973 and 1974, SI 3m between 1974 and 1975, and SI 8m between 1975 and 1976. Everyone in Brisbane believes that this project has been shelved. If it has not been shelved, why is the Minister running away from an opportunity to come into this chamber and tell us what is going on?
The Brisbane suburbs of Hamilton, Ascot, Meeandah, Eagle Farm, Whinstanes, Hendra, Norman Park in my electorate, Bulimba in my electorate and Balmoral in my electorate are continually shaken by planes flying overhead at low level. I pointed out in this chamber last night that the city of Brisbane is being held back because of the restrictions that must be placed on the height of buildings as the approach from Moreton Bay is unsuitable as a landing direction for these big aeroplanes on a windy day. The present Minister stated in the past, when he was in Opposition, that it was high time something was done about Brisbane.
– He had it arranged.
– He had it arranged. Even the honourable member for
Boothby who is from South Australia noticed. He remembers the Minister’s speeches in this House and the promises which have been made to the people of Queensland. But the facts of life are that unless something happens soon the people of Queensland will recall the short period when Mr Jones was Minister for Civil Aviation as one during which things in Brisbane ground to a halt and nothing happened. I speak most sincerely when I state my belief that this is just not good enough. We were promised, after years of planning by the previous Government, that a new airport for Brisbane would soon be under way. The previous Government actually came forward with a plan, and the new Government came in and scrapped it. This is not good enough for the schools that are affected and for the people who live under the flight path. One has only to be in those homes to realise the terrible noise that these aeroplanes create as they pass overhead.
Mr Speaker, I know that you are not familiar with Brisbane but I want to tell you that my office is on the 12th floor of the new Australian Government building in Brisbane and the planes coming from Sydney seem to come straight at my office from the far distance, suddenly turn to the right and land at the Brisbane airport. In recent weeks there has been a great increase in the number of planes coming in from the Ascot-Hamilton area for landing. Therefore life for those people who live in that area is even more unbearable. I believe that it is a gross discourtesy on the part of the Minister for Civil Aviation that on 2 occasions in a row he has refused to come into the Parliament. So much for open government. It is just a myth which was sold prior to the last election. Now that the Labor Party is in power it is shutting the books and not telling anybody anything. The only consolation is that the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) are in the House tonight. I hope that these 2 gentlemen will recognise that we in Brisbane are fair dinkum about this. We will no longer be sold a pup. I hope that they will go to their Cabinet meeting next week - even to Caucus because obviously that is where things happen these days - and have the courage to raise this matter and to say: Cameron is upset. It’s time you did something’.
Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory - Minister for the Capital Territory and
Minister for the Northern Territory) (10.33) - I thank the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for the implied aspects of his remarks. May I put this thought to him in reply: We on this side of the House do believe in open government. We do our very best to practise it. I imagine that in the 9 or 10 months that the Labor Party has been in government we have released more -
– Press statements.
– That is consistent with it, too. We have released more documents and more reports and there has been less secrecy than before. Of course, it is like Pandora’s box. The more you are public and open the more you are criticised, and we welcome criticism.
– There is no hope in the box, you know.
– Well, you people were in power for 23 years. Very skilfully, you told no one anything. You kept your secrets to yourselves. You were not particularly democratic. You remained in power for 23 years. One wonders which is the better method. I suggest ours is. The honourable member for Griffith spoke about caucus. I appreciate his tactics in using the word ‘caucus’, relying in a perhaps opportunistic way on the fact that many people would not know what the word means.
– Cut it out.
– I mean people outside this place. It is the Parliamentary Labor Party, every one of us who is elected. Our practice, our policy and our firm conviction that it is the supreme body here in this place are far superior to your system of - what shall I call it? When it once worked it was the Fuhrer princip. There was no discussion at all. In some unholy coalition the Liberal Party, which occasionally might want to do something progressive, was always prevented by the Country Party, which would not let the Liberal Party do it. The Liberal Party could not govern without the Country Party. The Liberal Party knew it and the Country Party knew it, and so Australia did nothing for 23 years. So we make no apology for the caucus being a body which can discuss things openly. It should not be quite as open as it is; I appreciate that.
– What about the Brisbane airport?
– I am not answering a question on the airport. I am taking up some of the points that the honourable member raised. We are rather proud of the caucus system in this place and we say that it is far superior to the Opposition’s system.
– Is the Prime Minister proud of it?
– Yes, he is indeed. He argues forcefully and convincingly and he is a very great Prime Minister because he has to justify his views in the caucus - something that Prime Ministers on your side have never had to do.
-Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
– That is what makes him perhaps Australia’s greatest Prime Minister. Let me come back to the matter that really got me to my feet in the beginning. It was the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I thank him for directing attention to the question of a possible breach of copyright of the Russian film ‘Swan Lake’. I shall certainly discuss it with the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and see what can be done about the situation as it has been described by the honourable member for Hunter. One recognises that copyright problems are notoriously difficult, particularly when they involve documents, literature, films, music and records that come from overseas, but certainly on the facts as described by the honourable member for Hunter there is a case that suggests concern and I will be happy to raise it with the Attorney-General and see what can be done.
– I was interested for a moment in what the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) has just said about Caucus and the Government. The Government is said to practice open government. We have not yet had officially open Caucus, although I understand that from time to time there is an occasional leak from that secret body. It is surprising that the Minister can talk about democratic control when it is not very long ago that we had a 2-man government. Decisions are made apparently by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) without even telling members of his Cabient. It is only a couple of days ago, or I think even yesterday, that the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is unhappily outside Australia, complained that the first thing he knew about decisions that affected his own portfolio was through the Press. They were not even told to him; he had to learn through the public media. There is a certain amount of chaos about this because decisions are announced by the Prime Minister as being Cabient decisions and people act on them, and then it is found that they are not decisions at all. Why does the Prime Minister not say: T have done this, subject to Caucus’? He does not say that. Perhaps it did not matter in regard to an airport at Galston when he made a decision and a decision was announced.
– Cabinet made the decision.
– He made a decision. Cabinet made the decision; he announced the decision on behalf of Cabinet, if you like to put it like that. Then it was found that although it had been announced as a decision it was not a decision at all. It did not matter perhaps in regard to Galston because that decision was capable of being reversed without so much loss to people. In fact in this matter, as with the means test, I am glad that I have been able to give a lead to the Labor Caucus, because that Labor Caucus adopted very substantially what I had brought forward in this House during an adjournment debate just before the last recess about a fortnight ago. I was not in the Labor Caucus but I am glad that it took my advice. It adopted a policy which I was able to put forward in regard to the means test. But I will let that go.
I come to the matter of interest rates. Apparently the Prime Minister announced a decision. 1 am not certain that it was a Cabinet decision. Apparently it was taken by the Prime Minister or two or three Ministers without consulting the Cabinet. It was announced as a decision. It caused immense movements in the market. Then we were told that it was not really a decision at all because Caucus was going to override it. This sort of chaos in government simply cannot be permitted because it is not to the advantage of Australia. We have to know where we are. However, I say these things in passing.
– It is the Fuhrer princip
– Yes. At least we have a Fuhrer who makes the noise of a Fuhrer, but he does not have the resolution of one. This is the worst of both worlds. However, I let that pass. I really got to my feet to say something about the remarks passed earlier in this adjournment debate by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James).
– About ‘Swan Lake’?
– Yes, about ‘Swan Lake’. I was a little puzzled about this. I do not know whether I should refer to the honourable member as the honourable and learned member for Hunter. At least he has some knowledge of the law. But it is rather strange that he should bring forward a matter like this in the House which can be decided in the courts. He spoke of things being illegal. That was his phrase. Yet apparently the courts have not decided them. As he said in the House, he was not clear on his facts. He said that these are things about which he is not clear. He said that he did not know them exactly. Yet he brought them forward. They are matters which the courts have to decide. If he is absolutely clear about them he can bring them in as a matter for the Government to look at and refer to the courts. But if he is unclear about them surely it is not the function of an honourable member to use the adjournment debate for this purpose. It is much better for him to be in touch with the Minister concerned. He will thus avoid doing an injustice in relation to a matter about which he is not clear. I say that without trying to prejudice the matter at all. I had not heard of it until the honourable member brought it forward tonight.
But let me say these things on the matter of principle: I think it is only quite recently that the Soviet Union adhered to copyright. Until fairly recently it pirated copyright as a matter of public policy. In a sense the Soviet Union does not come into this country with clean hands in this matter because of its own past history. But where is the copyright? This is a matter of some legal consequence. Obviously the Russian Ballet has some kind of copyright on its own performance, but has the Soviet Union paid copyright to the originators or has it, in accordance with its practice, pirated the copyright of the originators? If it wants copyright on its performances has it paid copyright to the choreographers? Has it paid copyright to the originators? This brings me to the more important thing which I wanted to say. It is quite pathetic that the art forms of the Soviet Union all relate to the past. The Soviet Union seems incapable of producing significant new work. If it does - as in the case of Solzhenitsyn, for example - it represses and censors out of existence those who are most productive of artistic work inside its own border. But generally speaking the art forms which the Russians are trying to bring forward as Soviet art forms are the forms of the past. I mention the Russian ballet - an old imperial form - Russian art, Russian novels and even chess. The Russians profess to excel in chess. The socialist system is a grey system which cannot give satisfaction to its own people, lt is incapable of producing from itself new art - the new forms which are lively and show that in itself it is a satisfactory system. This surely is typical of all Soviet systems.
We heard today, for example, of the glories of Chinese acupuncture. That is an old art; it is not something the Chinese communists have produced. It is being peddled in Australia as some kind of evidence of the glories of Chinese communism. That is not so. If it be worth anything it is due to the glories of the system which the Chinese communists supplanted. Art does not flourish in a socialist setting. This is one of the things which can be said against all kinds of socialism. It is grey; it is unsatisfactory; it is against the quality of life; it is sterile. The fact is that the Russians, in their attempts to persuade us of the glories of Soviet culture, all the time have to go back to pre-Soviet days in order to have something to put in their showcase to show to the world.
– Earlier tonight notice was given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of his intention to bring in a Bill for a prices referendum. This is a significant step and it will represent the secondoccasion on which the Commonwealth Government has sought powers to control prices. I have risen tonight to direct the attention of the House to the reaction of the official Opposition to this matter. The Parliamentary Labor Party yesterday decided that the Cabinet should consider the holding of such a referendum. Tonight a decision was taken, as the House is well aware, that a Bill should be prepared and brought in. For several months the Opposition has been saying that the problems of inflation - the problems of rising prices in Australia - should be tackled as a matter of urgency. I think that I should read to the House part of the Opposition’s official reply to what is the most positive action this Government can take, that is, to seek power to control prices. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said this:
This is a panic measure. Mr Whitlam did not want it at the start of the week. He was bullied into it by his Caucus. There has been no proper Government assessment in the formulation of the policy. It is ad hoc and ill-conceived.
He also said:
Mr Whitlam could be tackling inflation by now if he had adopted the measures suggested by me months ago and endorsed by State Liberal leaders. I have called for a temporary prices and income freeze and the development of a co-operative prices and incomes policy.
That is a lot of words. I was at the Constitutional Convention last week, as was the Leader of the Opposition. In the relevant debate there the Prime Minister asked the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales whether they would cede to the Commonwealth on a temporary basis the power to control prices. The result was, as we expected, that they refused. They said that they were prepared to co-operate provided that the Prime Minister was prepared to hand over the economic management of the country to them. Not even a Liberal Prime Minister would do that. The States are not in a position to assess the national economic position. They are certainly not in a position to exercise economic control over the whole of the Commonwealth. Their interests ire the interests of their own States. Rarely do Premiers of any political colour show an appreciation of national needs. It is clear from the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that the Opposition is not sure whether it will oppose the Bill to hold the referendum or whether it will oppose the referendum itself.
– We have not seen the Bill yet.
– I can assure the honourable member for Calare that the Bill will seek to do only one thing, that is, to add the word prices’ to section 51 of the Constitution. I am sure that even members of the Australian Country Party would be able to understand a Bill couched in those terms. If the Opposition were to oppose the passage of that Bill or the referendum it could only be said that it believes that the Australian government, unlike any other comparable government in the world, should be asked to fight inflation with one hand tied behind its back. The States, particularly the major States, which happen to have Liberal or Country Party governments, are not prepared to deal in any way with the question of rising prices. The psychology of such a situation is as follows: If a person who is working for wages were asked to restrict his demands for increases whilst you publicly stated that you were not prepared in any way to ask the person who is fixing the prices of the goods he must sell to exercise restraint over those prices you would very smartly be told to go and jump in the lake. The previous Government sought for years - 23 of them - to bring about a position where there was a controlled market situation in respect to incomes but no control whatsoever over the prices of the goods which persons whose incomes were being controlled must buy. In the early 1950s we had a situation in which the quarterly cost of living adjustments were discontinued and in which wage rises for those people whose wages were controlled by the courts and government - the State governments in particular - were practically fixed; yet prices continued to rise at levels as great as or greater than they had when wages rose on an automatic basis to meet price increases.
In the statement to which I have referred the Leader of the Opposition said that the Government could have been tackling the inflation problem if it had accepted its offer. The fact of the matter is he made the offer as Leader of the Opposition knowing full well that he had no power whatsoever to carry out any offer that he made and knowing full well that the State Premiers would not cooperate. As late as last week the Premiers indicated clearly in public that they were not prepared to co-operate in ceding to the Commonwealth, even on a temporary basis, powers to deal with the problem of prices. For the Leader of the Opposition to issue a statement that the action to be taken by the Government is a panic measure does not indicate that we should hold out much hope for the future of this country if, by accident, he should ever become Prime Minister. It is easy to say that the Commonwealth should do this and the Commonwealth should do that, but the fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth has no guaranteed power - a power which cannot be at least challenged in the courts - even to ask those persons who increase prices unreasonably to justify the increases. It may well be that the power does exist but its use can be frustrated by long court action taken by those people who can afford to take such action - and they are not the members of the general public. This referendum will be held quickly if the Opposition co-operates in both Houses and allows the Bill to be passed quickly through both Houses. The matter will hang fire for possibly 9 months - 6 months is an absolute minimum - if the Opposition decides to frustrate the holding of the referendum in order that its friends can make the adjustments to prices that are necessary so they will not lose their precious profits–
– They would not be game.
– Don’t kid yourself. Members of the Opposition would do anything rather than affect the profits of their friends. They would even restrict the wages of the people on the lowest possible incomes. They have done that on many occasions. It is up to the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament to decide whether it wants the Commonwealth Parliament to have sufficient power to deal with a situation which the present Opposition partly created and which is part of the world economic management scene. It is up to the Opposition to decide where it stands. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a statement issued to the Press by the Leader of the Opposition. I would hope that the Opposition would have no objection.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This is a panic measure. Mr Whitlam did not want it at the start of the week. He was bullied into it by his Caucus. There has been no proper government assessment in the fomulation of the policy. It is ad hoc and ill-conceived.
Mr Whitlam could be tackling inflation by now if he had adopted the measures suggested by me months ago and endorsed by State Liberal leaders. 1 have called for a temporary prices and income freeze and the ‘ development of a co-operative prices and incomes policy.
Because of its trade union domination Labor cannot face politically an incomes policy which is an essential and obvious accompaniment to a prices policy if inflation as serious as ours is to be controlled. No other country in the world has thought of prices control without incomes control. Until there is control of incomes maximums as well as prices maximums, these measures will be a sham, conceivable by an Australian Labor Party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the question:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Full information relating to the missing Australian servicemen has been given to the Four Party Joint Military Team and the International Commission of Control and Supervision in Vietnam. Both organisations have undertaken to help determine the fate of missing Australian servicemen.
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
What was the value of purchases made by his Department with respect to goods of (a) Australian manufacture and (b) Overseas manufacture in each of the years 1967-68, 1968-69, 1969-70, 1970-71, and 1971-72.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
Br J. F. Cairns - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
Br J. F. Cairns - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: .
The March quarter consumer price index, showing a sharp rise of 2.1 per cent, seemed to be taken in some quarters as indicating a drastic intensification in the underlying inflationary pressures in Australia. This is not so; the much larger rise than in earlier quarters reflected a rise of . 4.4 per cent in food prices, principally those of meat, potatoes and onions. These are items for which rapid changes in supply and demand conditions have had a major influence.’
I went on to say: “There may indeed be reasons for thinking that Australia is entering a period when inflationary forces are likely to intensify and be particularly difficult to control. But the point is that the March quarter consumer price index ‘did not provide evidence for any such proposition.’. -
Inflation is a complex and difficult problem. Regrettably, there are no easy answers; if there were, they would have long since been found when Governments all over the world have been searching for solutions. The Government believes that the approach has to be as broad as possible, attacking the problem from all sides.’
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
To what extent has the Government reviewed patent licence payments by foreign-owned firms.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the Patents Act 1962-1969 does not permit of any comprehensive review of patent licence payments. Under section 23 of the Act the Commissioner of Patents is ‘ required to register the title of a licensee on proof to his satisfaction of the title of the applicant. The only, sanction against failure to register a licence is to be found in section 31 wherein it is provided that in certain circumstances a document or instrument of which no entry has been made in the Register may be inadmissible in evidence in a court in proof of title to an interest in a patent.
It will be seen from the foregoing that Patent Office records contain neither a complete record of patent licences nor the details of royalty payments.
asked the Treasurer, 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:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730913_reps_28_hor85/>.