28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 1 1 . 30 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk - Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shews:
Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Further, the curtailment of the said grants will create divisions in the community.
Your petitioners therefore ask 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 so instruct the proposed National Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Housing concerning the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. At present the HLIC, as it is called, is only able to insure loans bearing a limit of 8i per cent interest. Seventy-five per cent of the loans insured with HLIC are building society loans and the current increase of building society interest rates brings them above the 8i per cent limit thereby forcing them to look to other companies such as American subsidiary companies to insure their loans. Will the Minister give consideration to having the Si per cent limit raised so that the building societies can invest their money in loans insured by this Australian Government organisation?
– The Government is anxious to ensure that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation - a public authority - shall be given every possible opportunity to compete effectively with others in the business. That is the first thing. The second thing is that it has never been the policy of the Corporation under this Government or the previous Government to encourage the insuring of loans at high interest rates. To the extent that it is possible for the Corporation to influence interest rates and keep them at a low level, it does so. It is the intent of the Corporation to achieve wherever possible high ratio loans at low rates of interest. That is, we are not attracted by the idea of moving our insurable interest rate level up to the lead situation. The Victorian building societies moved their interest rates from 8) per cent to 8i per cent - an extremely substantial move. We are not over-anxious to give the impression that we would endorse that enthusiastically because that could have the effect of causing other building societies to move to a high level as well. The Corporation, however, has proposed to me that a review should take place for the purpose of raising the permissible rate of interest on insurable loans to 8J per cent and the proposal has received approval from the Treasurer. We were about to give effect to it when some movement took place with respect to the bond rate and, subsequently, to the rates associated with housing loans through the trading banks. The matter is now under review. In the near future I would expect that adjustments will be made to make it possible for the Corporation to receive a substantial pro portion of the business. If the Victorian building society movement does not take its interest rate too high, I hope that it will be incorporated effectively in the moves that the Government is about to determine.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. On clear evidence that most Commonwealth secondary scholarships were mainly going to students of affluent parents, did the McMahon Government amend the legislation of the Menzies Government to provide that only $150 of the $400 scholarship should be means test free? In the past year what proportion of scholarship winners were entitled to only the $150 means test free award? Finally, what implications does the Minister draw from this figure and what corrective action, if any, does he recommend?
– As the honourable member for Barton said, the late McMahon Gov* eminent did make adjustments in the Commonwealth senior secondary scholarship scheme and increased the number of scholarships. There are now tenable 24,542 scholarships of 25,000 offered, 72 per cent of which are at the minimum amount of $150, 19 per cent at the maximum amount of $400, and 9 per cent lying somewhere between those figures. At present, when the means test is applied, the point at which the scholarship begins to reduce is at $4,200 a year adjusted family income, and the point at which the minimum grant of $150 is made is at $5,375 adjusted family income. This means test will be liberalised next year. The figure of $4,200 will be raised to $5,300 and the figure of $5,375 will be raised to $6,475. It is possible that among the 19 per cent who are getting the maximum allowance, and the 9 per cent between the minimum and the maximum, there are students who could possibly have not continued a secondary education without the scholarships. Before these adjustments were made a survey by the Australian Council of Educational Research in 3 cities suggested that that figure was only about 3 per cent so it is probable that with the increased number of scholarships and the new system of means test introduced by the Labor Government, more students who need assistance will receive it.
However, there are many other students who need assistance and the honourable gentlemen will recall that we have introduced a form of scholarship assistance for children of parents whose income is a long way below the national average. There are some 10,000 children of widows, deserted wives, invalid and age pensioners and others who have struggled through to the fifth and sixth forms. Next year they will receive an allowance of $304 to assist them to continue their education. The whole system of Commonwealth senior scholarships is being kept under review. I believe that this will be the last time there will be an examination for this system. We have under consideration ways in which students who have great need can be assisted. The honourable gentlemen will recall that our scheme for isolated children varies between $350 and $1,004 according to need. We believe that greater assistance to those who have a battle to get through secondary education is needed. These are the lines on which the Government is thinking at present.
– The Minister for Defence will recall informing this House yesterday that the siting of Sydney’s second airport at Galston will cause - I use his words - difficulties for the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond. I ask the Minister to outline the nature of those difficulties. I ask him further: Will this decision contravene the standards set for air safety by the Department of Civil Aviation? Will this decision restrict the operational capacity of the RAAF base? If the Minister is unable now to answer precisely the questions relating to air standards and the Richmond base’s operational capacity, will he explain to this House how the Government could possibly have taken a decision on the site of Sydney’s second airport without knowledge of the full facts?
– I informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition yesterday that I had received a document from the Department of Defence concerning the Richmond air base. All that I want to say about this matter at this stage is that it is a confidential document. It will, of course, be considered together with other documents following the feasibility study that will be carried out on the Galston site. Until that time the information contained in the document is confidential and it will be considered by the Government in due course. What I can say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that any difficulties to which I referred yesterday can be overcome.
– Tell us what the difficulties are.
– I repeat for the benefit of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that any difficulties to which I referred yesterday can be overcome and they will be overcome. As the honourable member knows, no decision has been made on the airport at Galston. A feasibility study is to be carried out and it will be considered in due course. As I indicated yesterday to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the studies that will be conducted by the Department of Defence at the same time will be considered in conjunction with that feasibility study.
-Does the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation recall my question to him during the last sessional period of Parliament regarding deaths in aircraft accidents due to fire and noxious gases emitted from internal fittings of aircraft of varying chemical composition? In view of further recent reports regarding these factors in aircraft accidents overseas, has the Minister taken any further steps in the preliminary investigation he then made to assess whether such materials and risks exist in Australian airline operations?
– I appreciate the interest of the honourable member for Scullin in the problems associated with the toxicity of fumes resulting from aircraft accidents. It has been alleged in a number of countries that after an accident takes place and there is a fire, the fumes which are emitted from the internal furnishings of the aircraft rather than the accident itself have brought about the deaths of the passengers in the aircraft. As a result of the honourable member’s questioning of me in the last sessional period I arranged with the Department of Civil Aviation to convene a meeting of the airlines to discuss this matter. As a result of this discussion a working party has been set up comprising 4 scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who are now authorised and have been asked to carry out detailed research into the effects of fire in furnishings in aircraft. They have been asked to determine the best system - whether to reduce the prospects of fire or to prevent the emission of toxic gases. They have been asked to determine whether the treatment of the furniture in aircraft can be improved whereby, firstly, the prospects of fire can be reduced and, secondly, the emission of toxic gases can be reduced. That is what is happening at present. I am looking forward to the report in the same manner as is the honourable member. Just as the former Minister for Civil Aviation was able to raise the whole question of aircraft noise at an International Civil Aviation Organisation meeting, if the scientists’ report justifies it, this subject will be raised at an early date with ICAO.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the Government’s stated intention of spending $ 1.25m on publicising Government activities, will he state whether it is a fact that the present price obtainable on the world market for Australian standard white wheat is an all time record of approximately $143 per tonne? Is it also a fact that the price for wheat used in Australia (a) for home consumption is $64.65 per tonne; (b) for industrial users $56.98 per tonne; and (c) for feed users $47.77 per tonne? If these are facts, will he publicise on the first page of the first edition of all relevant Government publications the magnificent subsidisation by Australian wheat farmers of the domestic wheat users of Australia in order to counter commonly held, erroneous socialistic beliefs that the community is subsidising the Australian wheat farmers?
– Of course the situation is that the wheat stabilisation scheme which has operated very successfully over a whole generation was introduced by a Labor Government. I might also say that the Australian wheat industry, through its Federation and the Australian Wheat Board, is at present examining in concert with the Minister for Primary Industry the matter of the re-negotiation of that wheat stabilisation scheme. These discussions are going ahead. When the honourable member refers to the health and state of the Australian wheat industry I think that he would be well advised to have a look at the actions of his own Administration which caused widespread hardship in recent years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister agree with Major Peter Young, a member of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, who yesterday referred trenchantly to the Government’s slashing of the defence vote? In particular he said that if the Army’s morale had not hit rock bottom it was only 2 inches from it. Does the Minister recognise therefore the appalling decline in the morale of the services? Will he also cease the secret, covert disbanding of units, for example many Royal Australian Air Force units, and the cancelling of procurement orders, for example the assembly of light observation helicopters, the number of which will be cut back? Will he reverse the trend, publicise and build up the Services and recognise that if his claims for a more independent defence force are to be achieved the Government must spend more on defence and not less?
– The honourable member has asked a series of questions. I shall refer to the first one first. I have not yet had the opportunity to look at the transcript of the statement made by Major Peter Young yesterday, but in any case Major Young is not the defence spokesman for my Party. I am the Minister for Defence and the decisions will be made by this Party and by this Government and not by Major Young. The honourable member has referred to the question of morale. It is true that a number of statements have been made or a number of contributions have been made by journalists dealing with the question of morale. A number of them have appeared under the name of Mr Denis Warner. I offer no criticism about Denis Warner’s attitude towards defence and his ability probably to be able to comment on defence, but I merely say that honourable members ought to remember and probably take the opportunity to read some of the articles Denis Warner has written about South East Asia in recent years. In every case, he has been proved wrong. So I can dismiss Denis Warner’s attitude because what he has done is to set out deliberately ito lower the morale of the defence forces.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is the Minister for Defence permitted in this place to cast reflections upon the professional integrity of a man who is not a member of this Parliament?
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I believe that the statements that have been made recently have been made to cast a reflection on the great majority of the personnel of the Army on the question of their attitude to the defence forces and the morale of the armed Services. Let me talk about morale because Mr Denis Warner has not made any reference to what has been done for the defence forces since this Government came to power. Let the honourable member for Kooyong stand up and move a vote of no confidence in this Government or in me in relation to what has been done by this Government to improve conditions for the armed forces generally.
I believe that I should reiterate once again for the benefit of honourable members opposite, as I have done before, the attitude of those honourable members to the Army and to the armed Services generally. I take one issue as an example - the question of the defence forces retirement benefits legislation. Can anyone forget the deplorable attitude of members of the Opposition in relation to that legislation?
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. If the honourable member wants leave to make a statement on defence, the Opposition parties will certainly provide it.
– As I said when I rose to answer this question, the honourable member for Kooyong deliberately asked a series of quesions. If he wants an answer to those questions, I believe that I should be given to opportunity to give him a full and complete answer.
– I wish you would start answering the question.
– I have answered the question on 2 points. I have dealt with the question of morale. Members of the Opposition know that they are in a very weak position when they begin to suggest that nothing has been done for the defence forces of this country. Denis Warner and others who have referred to the Government’s statement that the size of the Army will be 34,000 by 1976 and that there will be a review of the size of the Army after that period forget, of course, that in the 1960s - a period to which I referred on one other occasion - when this country was engaged in confrontation, or was using confrontation as a policy issue, the strength of the Army was about 22,000. The Army now stands at 31,000.
-How many civilians?
-If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants a precise figure, I will give it to him.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister for Defence is utterly deceiving the House by making a comparison between 2 groups of figures, 22,000 and 31,000, which are completely deceiving.
– Order! The honourable member—
– Mr Speaker, if he—–
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order involved. The honourable member will obey the Chair.
– I was about to give the figures in the 1960s, a period in which, as I said, the former Government claimed that this country was concerned about confrontation. In 1964-65, the year in which the former . Government decided that it would enter into the Vietnam campaign, the size of the Army was 25,314. In 1963-64, the year before, the strength of the Army was 22,681.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– Today, when we have been informed by all our advisers - -
– Order! I made an appeal last week that questions and answers to questions should be as brief as possible. I am here in particular to see that the private members get as many opportunities to ask questions as possible. I am asking that questions be short. It was a long question but I am asking the Minister to make the answer as brief as possible.
– On a point of order, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which he is reading.
– I seek leave to have the figures to which I referred incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows>
– Finally, the former Government was a government which during a period when it was prepared to use confrontation as an issue in this country kept the strength of the Army to approximately 22,000. This Government has moved to provide a volunteer Army in this country of 31,000 by the end of this year. It will rise to 34,000 by 1976, despite what our critics have said. This, of course, indicates the strength of the Government’s position and I believe the extent to which its policies in relation to improved conditions for servicemen have been accepted, because those who are now coming forward as volunteers are somewhat of an embarrassment to those who have to enlist personnel into the armed forces in this country. The plain fact is that the number of volunteers exceeds even the Government’s expectations, despite the fact that we were told by the Opposition when it was in government that it would not be possible to have an all-volunteer force in this country.
-I preface my question to the Minister for Health by congratulating the Government on its decision to provide $4m in this financial year towards the cost of planning the Westmead Hospital, which is to be built on the Parramatta Showground. As the Minister is no doubt aware, the New South Wales Liberal Minister for Health, Mr Jago, originally promised that Westmead Hospital would be functioning by 1972, and in fact of course nothing has happened. Can the Minis ter say whether there are any indications that following our Government’s generous grant the New South Wales Government will really start building this urgently needed and long overdue hospital?
– We have had no formal proposals from the New South Wales Government on this matter, although there have been cordial consultations between the Hospitals Commission, the hospital authorities in New South Wales and the Sax Committee, which handles the allocation of funds for hospitals. We have formal submissions on the community health care program from 2 other States, and I am sure we will have one soon from New South Wales. The decision to allocate $4m to the Westmead project was influenced by the growing and urgent need for hospital beds, predominantly in 3 areas in Australia, namely the major complexes of Melbourne, particularly the western suburbs, the outer western area of Sydney and the Brisbane area. Unfortunately, no fixed plans were available for any specific site or any specific construction in Melbourne and Brisbane. But the Westmead project had been announced some years before. It was the considered opinion of the Cabinet that we could in this financial year allocate $4m to that project and usefully use that sum. This would not at all be possible in Melbourne and Brisbane where initial planning and siting had to occur. We therefore allocated a lesser amount to those areas.
– That was before the byelection was announced.
– I am grateful for the interjection. It is pointed out that this was before the question of a by-election arose. The Westmead area is one in which acute deficiencies are suffered. There are instances of patients having to wait for as long as 2 hours to get a hopital bed in an acute emergency as the hospitals in the surrounding area very often do not have a bed available. I am sure that the State Government will see the force of this argument. In fact, it has indicated for many years that it has seen this need. I am sure that the allocation of this money will allow the project to proceed without further delay. We look forward to an early announcement. In fact, I would hope that next week some announcement will be made of further allocations under the proposals of the Sax Committee.
– I address a question to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Is it a fact that in the past month I have made repeated representations to the Minister on behalf of the Australian Paraplegic Association for an allocation of funds? Can he now indicate what action he intends to take on its request for financial assistance?
– The honourable member is correct. He has been most persistent and insistent. Until now, it was impossible for me to give a decision. However, I am happy to say that I have decided to make a grant of $4,000 towards the cost of staging the Australian Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Games which will be held next month in Adelaide. The grant represents 10 per cent of the total cost of organising the event. The cost of staging these games in Adelaide is estimated at $40,400. So, our grant of $4,000 is a very modest one. The rest of the necessary cost has been contributed by the Paraplegic Association itself together with funds made available by business houses and local authorities in Australia. I would like to make it clear that this grant, coming out of the Budget allocation for sporting associations, was not given to the paraplegics because they are afflicted. It was allocated because they are sportsmen and sportswomen fully entitled to receive aid as is any other national sporting organisation. Everybody admires the courage of our wheelchair sportsmen and sportswomen and their determination not to give in but to fight on. They are great examples of the classic definition of the Olympic ideal which is that the important thing is not to win but to take part.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and relates to inflation. Is the honourable gentleman aware that responsible people in this community are sick and tired of shadow sparring and politicking over inflation from both sides of this chamber? Is he further aware that the cruel, unjust and potentially explosive results of unbridled inflation are gnawing at the very vitals of our society? I ask him whether, pending the proposed referendum, he will consider immediate action by inviting the State Premiers, especially of New South Wales and Victoria, to act without delay as agents for the Commonwealth Government in imposing for a limited and specified period by way of complementary legislation a freeze on prices and incomes, including rent, interest and dividends, and on all wages and salaries, to provide a breathing space while he calls a conference of representatives of labour and industry and of leading economists to hammer out a comprehensive plan covering all aspects of an effective anti-inflation policy to meet the rapidly escalating emergency situation in the hope that, so far as one country can, we may save ourselves by our exertions and others by example? May I suggest, with great respect, that only by such a course can we hope in this, the most crucial issue of our time, to receive from history the imprimatur of statesmanship?
– If I thought that anything would come of such a conference I would certainly call it. Already, as honourable members know, the week before last on 3 occassions I publicly invited the States to take action which would enable us, as a nation, to take more actions against inflation than it is possible for us to take at present. Where the Australian Government has authority to tackle inflation - that is, under the Constitution or by statute - it has already done so, in respect of revaluation, capital inflow, tariffs and interest rates. In other matters where we have the constitutional power but not yet the statutory power we are moving to bring in Acts which will enable us to tackle inflation. As we have said for a great length of time in this House, and as recently as yesterday, the Australian Parliament, alone among the national parliaments of the world, does not have power to legislate to control prices and incomes. We have taken action to have a referendum so that the Australian Parliament can control prices. We are willing to consider immediately any proposition that comes before the Parliament from any of our opponents to have a referendum to control incomes.
– I ask the Minister for Labour: Is he aware of the contents of a recent speech made in the South Australian Parliament by the Liberal member for Alexandra, wherein he stated that the ideal way to increase industrial production is to stand workers down and let them go hungry for a while? If so, does the Minister agree that this type of Liberal-Country Party argument would only worsen industrial relations and thus decrease industrial efficiency? Does the Minister believe that it would be in the interests of Australia to turn the clock back to the age-old English custom of working infant labour in the mines and that we should do away with the policy of full employment, working under arbitrated award conditions, and replace it with contract or sub-contract labour not covered by workers compensation, sick leave or annual leave? Will the Minister agree that this type of argument is completely contrary to all International Labour Organisation conventions and, if adopted, would not only create undreamed of industrial unrest and consequent decreased production but also would be looked upon with disgust by the United Nations and its affiliated member countries?
– I first heard about this speech by telephone and I have since received telegrams from Adelaide complaining about it. I could not believe that the report of the speech as recorded in the telegram and as relayed to me by telephone was a correct account of what was said, so I took the precaution of obtaining a copy of the South Australian Hansard. For the benefit of the House I think I ought to read some short extracts from it. The speech was made by the Liberal member for Alexandra in the South Australian Parliament, who got there with the support of the honourable member for Barker in this Parliament. Therefore, one can assume that the honourable member for Barker shares the South Australian member’s views, or that they share each other’s views. The South Australian Hansard for Tuesday, 11 September 1973, states:
Too much emphasis and fear is placed on the unemployment issue. If the employees are not effective, stand them down. Let them go hungry for a while … I mean this. The only way to get the message through to some people is through their stomach. There are far too many wasting their time in many of our Public Service utilities, and it is about time the respective Minister brought down the axe on some of these people. I agree that all the loafers are not in the Public Service . . . Mollycoddling loafers in the community is disastrous . . . Wage fixing be damned! We hear about wage fixing and price fixing but, as far as I am concerned, wage reduction is the answer here, because it is the only language that some people understand. The Commonwealth and State Governments alike must have the guts and initiative to introduce this.
– Who said that?
– The State Liberal member for Alexandra who was put into Parliament with the support of the honourable member for Barker who is a great admirer of him. One of the Labor men asked the next Liberal speaker who rose to his feet, Mr Becker, whether he agreed with or was prepared to dissociate himself from the statements of the previous Liberal speaker. He said that he did not know that he could associate himself with all of the statements. He said: ‘He has a different philosophy from mine. Mine is based on the banking industry and his is in a different field’. I would like to hear from the honourable member for Barker, who is too ashamed even to come into the House, whether he associates himself with or dissociates himself from his State colleagues.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker is at present overseas and is not available to be heard.
– I rise to order. The kind of language that the Minister for Labour used and which he read from Hansard must remind everyone in this House of the language he used against the alleged fat cats in the Public Service. He has put himself into the same court.
-Order! I call the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that unemployment in metropolitan areas totals 38,000, that this rate is comparable with last year’s high level despite the much heralded reduction in national unemployment, that it is equal to the 19S2 figure and is the highest for the last 5 years. In view of the serious and harsh economic measures taken this year and in the Budget against country people and country industries, which will no doubt further aggravate the employment situation, has the Government made a decision yet on a continuation of the rural unemployment scheme? The Prime Minister will be aware that he has publicly said that a decision will be made on this matter before the end of this month and that he will be conferring with the Premiers.
– There has been no decision made yet. I do hot remember saying that we would be conferring with the Premiers about it. There has been no action by the
Government which has in any way increased unemployment in any area or industry. In fact, this constant allegation that the Australian Government has done something to the disadvantage of rural industries stems from the fact that we have ended some of the feather bedding of the Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers. There is no genuine rural producer who has other than benefited from our policies.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and I preface it by referring to reports that there are a number of solicitors and accountants who do little else but work on tax evasion methods and finding tax havens, such as the New Hebrides, for companies and individuals. What action is contemplated to stop these loopholes in the taxation procedures and the nefarious practices which are depriving the Australian public, not only the Government, of millions of dollars of tax revenue.
– The honourable member will be aware that there is a Bill before the House at the moment dealing with tax havens in Norfolk Island and other territories. We are closing that loophole effectively. In the course of speaking during that debate I indicated that we will take all measures necessary and show no mercy to any other unscrupulous people who try to shift the origin of what is obviously income derived in Australia to something called a tax haven. We can legislate directly about our Territories. We will have to use other methods as far as Australians endeavouring to use areas outside our territorial jurisdiction are concerned. But we are well aware of the attempts and we will more than match the skill and the ingenuity of those who are trying to evade the payment of tax.
- Mr Speaker, I seek the leave of the House to make a brief statement on the matters covered by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) in reply to a question asked of him.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the Executive Agencies’ joint report on activities under the United States - Australia Agreement for Scientific and Technical Co-operation during the period October 1968 to June 1972.
– Mr Speaker, pursuant to section 78 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942- 1973 I present the forty-first annual report on the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with a financial statement for the period and the Auditor-General’s report on that statement.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to something which occurred during question time and which probably because of the position in which you are located in this House you were not able to hear. When the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was taking a point of order there was audible hissing from the Press Gallery. This is not the first occasion that some comment and audible noise has come from the Press Gallery during question time. I would ask that you, Mr Speaker, take this up with the President of the Press Gallery to ensure that such behaviour does not happen again.
– I think that the honourable member for Warringah would be well aware that if anybody can be specified as having caused this noise I would certainly take the necessary action. However, I will refer the matter to the President of the Gallery to try to ascertain who it was. If we can find out who it was the appropriate action will be taken.
- Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to correct a statement I made in this House yesterday. In responding to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) concerning the siting of Sydney’s second airport at Galston and the ramifications that might have on the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond I referred to the fact that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) was so busy with his own affairs that he was absent from a Cabinet meeting at which the decision was taken. The Minister has in fact subsequently informed me that he was not present at that meeting because he was attending a family funeral. I appreciate the courtesy which the Minister has extended in informing me of that fact. Therefore the criticism that was made by me in this House yesterday was totally unfounded. I withdraw it completely and I apologise to the Minister for making a misleading observation in the House.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Kooyong from moving that this House condemns the Government and the Minister for Defence for damaging the morale of the armed forces and significantly reducing Australia’s defence capacity.
I have moved this motion confidently expecting that the Government will in fact support it. After all the invitation was extended to me by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) during his endeavour to answer a question that I posed. He asked that I do this at the conclusion of question time. So it is with some pleasure that I have accepted that invitation to move the suspension of Standing Orders. It was bad enough for the Minister for Defence not to recognise that Galston was 15 miles from Richmond and that 2 direct consequences would flow from his dereliction of duty, namely, that the residents of Galston could be affected and - and the point so far as this resolution is concerned - the armed forces could well be affected as a consequence of the establishment of an airport at Galston. No study has been made and therefore I move this motion because of the damage which will be done to the morale of the armed forces and the reduction in Australia’s defence capacity. Comments have been made on the morale damage since this Government took office not merely by Mr Denis Warner but also by other correspondents and more particularly yesterday by the man the Minister for Defence had ghosting most of his speeches last year and during the 1969 election campaign. For this reason-
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong should explain why Standing Orders should be suspended. He is now speaking to the substance of the matter.
– I take your point, Mr Speaker, and return to the urgent need for a suspension of Standing Orders so that this topic can be developed. The need for this move to suspend Standing Orders today in order to debate this matter is really twofold. Firstly, an invitation has been extended to me to move it and, secondly, there ought to be an opportunity in this House today to discuss the statements made publicly by the man for whom the Government almost took out their mats and faced east in 1969 over defence policies - Major Peter Young, who was projected by the Government as its senior defence adviser and who was hailed by the Government as an intelligence officer who had resigned from the Services to contest the seat of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). My reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders is that yesterday morning, on a television program from Channel 7, Major Peter Young said:
I owe almost a public apology for having misled large sections of the Services into believing things would be so much better under Labor.
He said that yesterday and it was reported today; ipso facto there is a need for me to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. Mr Young said that morale in the Army was very low. I repeat that he said it yesterday on the Channel 7 program ‘Today’, hence the need for this motion today. He said: ‘If it is not at rock bottom it is about 2 inches off it’. He said that this was because the Army had no real role and that soldiers were becoming show pieces. I can think of further reasons for moving this motion now. I am not moving it merely for the reasons I have given. If one of the Government’s senior Party advisers says that the Army is fast becoming a show piece and nothing more, how urgent is it that we discuss this matter? After all, if Labor
Party speeches throughout its period in Opposition were so frequently based on advice given by Major Peter Young, clearly he is a man of some substance and influence. I assume that the Government would not have him on the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee unless it thought that he could make valuable contributions to the defence thinking and the defence posture of Australia.
Morale has been affected not only in the Services but also amongst those people who are working at defence establishments. Honourable members do not have to rely on my word, they have only to ask the President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who saw the Minister for Defence in a deputation a couple of days ago. He indicated that workers are alarmed at the effects of cutbacks not only on Australia’s defence capacity but also on their own vocations. The outcome of these measures is clear. Despite its many words in Opposition concerning the need for an increased proportion of defence procurement to be carried out in Australia, the Government is cancelling many orders that were placed by the previous Government. So that is a need. We have Mr Young’s viewpoints, Mr Hawke’s viewpoints and, of course, the urgency of discussing the matter about the confusion over Galston. I am only signalling the reason for moving this motion. The substance and thrust of the Opposition’s attack will be observed when the motion I am moving has been agreed to.
There have been significant reductions in all areas of defence activity. Major Young referred to this. The size of the Army has been slashed, the Navy’s destroyer reequipment program is in limbo, the replacement order for the RAAF has been deferred, one Mirage squadron has been disbanded and flying hours have been reduced overall. No wonder the Government prize possession on its foreign affairs and defence committee says that the morale is only 2 inches off rock bottom. What about the Governments statements that it would retain defence expenditure at 3.5 per cent of gross national product? It is now at 2.9 per cent and with the rate of inflation that the Government has permitted to occur in this country the position will be further exacerbated.
Another reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders today is that I believe we cannot continue to allow this to occur without complaint from the Opposition. Fortuitously, we have been granted the opportunity for a full scale debate on a censure motion today. I assume that the Minister for Defence will support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He does not answer at this juncture. That is just another example of going back on his word. We have had enough of that this year. We have had it since December; we have had it throughout this year; we have had it today in this Parliament. That is all the more reason for testing the Government. Honourable members will recall that the Army intelligence officer, Mr Young, was a candidate for the seat of Lowe in the 1969 general election.
-Order! I doubt whether the fact that he was a candidate has anything to do with the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I abide by your ruling, Mr Speaker but, with respect, the fact that he was a candidate and was associated with the Australian Labor Party was one of the reasons why he is a member of the ALP’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee and makes recommendations to it. My motion today is based on the statements he made yesterday. I moved it today rather than tomorrow because I was specifically invited to do so by the Minister for Defence, and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) joined in, to the best of my knowledge.
– What was that?
– In support of my moving this motion. The consequences of the Minis,ter’s lack of knowledge over Galston and the way in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) discovered it were bad enough. The statements of Mr Young were bad enough. The concern of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Government’s own party President, prefacing the remarks of another party contributor, Mr Young, illustrates the concern in the community today not merely by members of the Opposition but also by the ACTU and prominent members of the ALP. For that reason the Opposition has moved, in the light of the Government’s undertakings, that the Government is damaging the morale of the armed forces and is significantly reducing Australia’s defence capacity.
The Minister says that he wants a more independent defence policy. How can he have a more independent policv if he is reducing defence expenditure? The effect of that is that, rather than being more independent we will obviously be more dependent on other powers. This is quite inconsistent. It follows the performances of this Government in contrast to its promises - the performance of the Government in contrast to its words in government. There is a great yawning chasm between the two. The Opposition wants to expose it in detail by moving urgently today that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving that this House condemns the Government and the Minister for Defence for damaging the morale of the armed forces and significantly reducing Australia’s defence capacity. We have the support of the Government for the motion. We have the support of Mr Hawke and the ACTU for the spirit of the motion, and of Mr Young, all members of the Opposition and so many members of the armed Services themselves. If the Minister visited defence establishments he would know it to be true.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion which has been moved by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). He has presented a most convincing case to the House. His argument is cogent and he has been very restrained. Not merely the sense of urgency which exists in the community and in the 3 Services supports in a very generous fashion the observations of the honourable member for Kooyong, but also the observations which have been made by people closely connected with the Government. But put all that argument to one side. The overwhelming reason why this House should now proceed to debate the motion of the honourable member for Kooyong is the fact that a clear invitation was extended to the honourable gentleman by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). Does the Minister take the view that he should be at liberty to taunt the honourable member for Kooyong and to say, T extend the invitation to you’, and not to accept the answer to that challenge? If the Minister extends an invitation to me in the frank and courteous terms of the invitation this morning, of course I will respond. The response that came from the honourable member for Kooyong was plainly spontaneous. The invitation was extended and the honourable member responded. The House should proceed to discuss what is after all the first consideration of any Government - the security and the welfare of the nation. The way things are going at the moment we will not have a force available to take Red Hill on a hot Sunday afternoon.
– I have listened to both the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who seconded the motion. At the outset I want to say that the Opposition has already raised for discussion this week 2 matters of public importance. Of course, the Estimates will be coming up for debate soon and in these circumstances-
– I do not like it but I am forced to say that you are a hypocrite.
– I listened to the honourable member in silence. He should at least have the decency to do the same for me. I did not interject in any way at all and I think he ought to do the same. What I did, and I concede this and df there is to be any criticism on this point I must accept it, was to extend an invitation to the honourable gentleman to move a vote of no confidence in myself or the Government on this issue. I did not refer to the question of the suspension of Standing Orders. This is a matter for the Opposition to determine.
A number of issues have been dealt with by the honourable member for Kooyong. Firstly, he referred to the Galston issue. I believe I behaved as would be expected of an honourable member who regarded the propriety of this Parliament as something that ought to be upheld at all times. When I realised that I had genuinely but inadvertently misled the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), I corrected that at question time. Of course this is in direct contrast to the actions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Those who were in the last Parliament will remember his own performance on the water torture issue.
– That is going back a few years.
– Yes, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not like to be reminded of it. The honourable member did not have the courtesy and the decency at that time to explain to this House that he had been wrong. He then had to go through the trauma of a no confidence motion being moved against him. The Deputy Leader of the
Opposition complained because I corrected a statement. The Galston issue has been raised. This is not the issue under consideration at all. The motion that was moved by the honourable member for Kooyong dealt with morale in the armed forces^ I would welcome a debate on this matter. I think I indicated this morning during question time the extent to which this Government has moved to improve not only the morale of members of the armed forces but also to improve their conditions of service, and to make the Services attractive for them. However, a government must look at the situation in the light of information provided by those who are responsible for giving to the Government advice about the security of this nation against external aggression.
Mr Peacock - I rise to order. I have shown restraint in not interjecting but I am moved, Mr Deputy Speaker, to draw your attention to the content of the Minister’s speech. He is not speaking to the particular motion before the Chair as I did. I ask that you ensure that he does so.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)The honourable member has taken a point of order. I am not in a position to know what the honourable gentleman did when he moved the motion. I think the Minister was replying to matters which the honourable member raised, but I ask .the Minister for Defence to deal with the reasons why the Standing Orders should not be suspended.
– The honourable member for Kooyong raised the question of Galston. I referred to it. He dealt with the question of morale. Naturally I want to keep my remarks within the terms of the motion that the Standing Orders should be suspended. But the honourable member for Kooyong referred to Major Peter Young. I said and I want to reiterate that Major Peter Young is not responsible for the policy decisions of this Government. That is all that I want to say in relation to that matter.
I come back to the question of morale which was raised by the honourable member in moving this motion. I say that this Government has a great deal to its credit in a period of only 9 months in the improvements it has made in the conditions for Australian servicemen and servicewomen. As the Opposition knows we moved to the position of having an all volunteer army in Australia. Of course the Opposition will remember that before the elections it said that this could not be done. Since I have assumed the responsibility of Minister for Defence I have made it perfectly clear not only in the Parliament but also outside the Parliament that as a result of the Government’s decision we will have an all volunteer army in Australia and that the size and shape of the Army for the 1970s had already been determined by the Government. As I said this morning and I repeat now, the Government agreed to an army of 34,000 men in Australia by 1976. That will mean an increase by 1,000 a year in the strength of the army up to 34,000 by 1976, with a further review in 1976. This compares with the size of the Army that applied during the period when the Opposition was in office. I point out to ‘honourable members that even in the mid 1960s the size of the Army ranged between 20,000 and 25,000 until after 1965 when, of course, the national service -
– I suggest that the Minister for Defence should deal with the reasons why Standing Orders should not be suspended.
– Since the Opposition and the honourable member for Kooyong raised the question of morale I think I should have an opportunity to reply. I come back to the question of the motion itself. The honourable member has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders and has given a number of reasons why they should be suspended in order to discuss those matters. I have already pointed out to this House that the Opposition has had the opportunity of discussing 2 matters of public importance this week. Indeed, it will have the opportunity to deal with all these matters when the Estimates are before this Parliament, which I believe will be next week. So everyone will have the opportunity to deal with questions of defence, and that includes of course any one of the separate departments such as the Army in which the honourable member for Kooyong is interested. Honourable members opposite will have the opportunity to deal with those matters at that time. I think that in these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Government to move on to Government business, and for that reason we do not intend to accept the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
I can only repeat that it was not my intention that Standing Orders be suspended. What
I said to the honourable member for Kooyong - I repeat it now and I would not retract or move away from this point - was that I suggested that if the honourable member for Kooyong and members of the Opposition believed that this matter should be dealt with as a censure motion, the honourable member no doubt would have the opportunity to move that motion. That is precisely what I said to the honourable member for Kooyong. I made no suggestion about the suspension of Standing Orders; that is a different matter entirely. If the honourable member for Kooyong wants to deal with these matters, the Opposition will have a chance to raise them, not only during the debate on the Estimates but also, of course, by proposing a matter of public importance for discussion or by using any other appropriate form of the House.
– I call the honourable member for New England.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. As I understand Standing Orders, we are entitled to 2 speakers from this side after 2 have spoken on the other side.
– No, the call is given to one side of the House and then the other. It is a matter for the discretion of the Speaker, but the call normally alternates in that way. When there are mover and seconder of a motion, it is normal practice for the seconder to give way to a speaker on the other side, but that is not always done.
– The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) has moved that Standing Orders be suspended. There are 3 reasons why this resolution should be supported. The first is that a defence statement was made in this House nearly a month ago and no opportunity has been given to this Parliament to debate it. The motion moved by the honourable member for Kooyong has suggested that we should be given a chance to present the facts behind the reduction in the morale of the armed forces and the complete neglect by this Government of re-equipment programs which are so essential to enable Australia to maintain its defence capacity.
The second reason why Standing Orders should be suspended is that Major Peter Young, the pre-election spokesman on defence for the Australian Labor Party, has come out and condemned the Government, of which he would have been a member had he been elected, and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) for the way in which they are administering the defence portfolio. The third reason is that the Minister himself during question time this morning, in spite of his tiptoeing around with epithets - as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) so correctly said, he is a nice chap but we are just worried about his competence - offered to debate this issue.
It is essential that Standing Orders be suspended so that the Minister for Defence can demonstrate to us whether he has any competence. When we have those 3 grounds for the suspension of Standing Orders - the defence statement that has not been debated; Major Peter Young, the principal spokesman for the Australian Labor Party prior to the election coming out and condemning the Labor Party and the Government for their inability and their failure in the defence field; and, finally, the Minister for Defence offering to debate the issue - it is absolutely imperative that there be an adequate opportunity for us to demonstrate in this Parliament how the morale of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force has been affected.
Even during question time today, the Minister alleged confidentiality in a defence report on the siting of the Galston airport. I wonder whether that is the report by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal C. F. Read. I wonder whether perhaps the reason the Minister for Defence claims that the report is confidential is that it might suggest that Richmond no longer would be useable in an operational sense should Galston airport be proceeded with. Is this the reason? Does it mean that Richmond airport is to be closed? Does it mean that the Royal Australian Air Force no longer will have available to it this major operational Air Force base-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.
That Standing Orders (Mr Peacock’s motion) be suspended.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D Scholes)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– -I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of senators and members to be members of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory: Mr James, Mr Wallis and Mr Fitzpatrick have been nominated by the Prime Minister; Mr Kelly has been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition; Mr Calder has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in this House. Senators Keeffe and McLaren have been nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; Senator Marriott has been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; Senator Webster has been nominated by the Leader of the Country Party in that House.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order because a point of order must be taken at the time of the incident and cannot be taken in retrospect.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it is an immediate question because during question time the honourable member for New England asked-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The point of order will be out of order if it deals with a matter that occurred in question time.
– It deals with an immediate question. I have asked the Acting Clerk whether the document tabled during question time is available to me for inspection, and I am told that it is not available. The Standing Orders give every member of this House the right to see the document tabled during question time, and I seek your ruling upon that matter. The document was tabled and subsequently
– I raise a point of order.
-The Minister cannot take a point of order on a point of order. I think the honourable member for Sturt should come to his point fairly quickly because he is dealing with a matter that occurred some time ago.
– Subsequent to the tabling of the document the Minister for Defence asked that the document be incorporated in Hansard. I ask for your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, on my claiming the right to see the tabled document at this point, which document was subsequently incorporated in Hansard following the second request from the Minister.
-The decision of the House was that the document would be incorporated in Hansard.
– And tabled.
-Order! I have ears. I can hear, and I do not need the assistance of the honourable member for Warringah to tell me what the point of order was. I suggest that he allow me to rule on the point of order.
– He is trying to be helpful.
-I do not think he is. I think he is trying to be stupid, but that is beside the point.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for that to be withdrawn.
-I withdraw the remark, but I think the honourable member would be more helpful if he remained silent. In relation to the point of order, the decision of the House was that the document be incorporated in Hansard. It is therefore freely available to members in Hansard, and that was the last decision that the House made.
– On this point of order, I do not for a moment wish to go contrary to your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the decision of the House was that the document be incorporated in Hansard. It was. I suggest that the House made 2 decisions. The first was that the paper should be tabled. That I think was a clear decision of the House. It then said that we would incorporate it in Hansard. I suggest that that is so.
– No, that is not true. The House makes no decision to allow a Minister to table a document. A Minister has that right in accordance with the Standing Orders. It is not a decision of the House. It is a decision of the House to incorporate a matter in Hansard.
– I take a point of order. I did indicate this morning in question time that I would ask for the document to be incorporated in Hansard. It is quite clear that that is what I said, and I think it was accepted by the Acting Clerk and by the Speaker that I did ask for it to be incorporated in Hansard; but if it would help the situation I will table the document as well.
-I think that should clear the matter up.
– I raise a point of order. Certainly the document has been tabled, but I would like to get this point of procedure clarified. I was under the impression that if a Minister or a member quoted from a docu ment in the House and it was asked that that document be tabled the document was then tabled as one that was quoted from. It is not just a matter of whether a Minister has the right to table it or not. It is a matter that under the Standing Orders he should do so. I am not sure that he tabled it anyway. I think it is a different document.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, insofar as the document has been tabled, could I ask you to inspect the document to judge upon whether there is a torn edge at the top and whether the whole document quoted from by the Minister has, in accordance with the Standing Orders, in fact been tabled.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat. I was not in the chair at the time the document was quoted from. I did not hear the quote that was made, I assume, by the Deputy Prime Minister, and I am not in a position to decide whether a document is whole or otherwise. I have seen on occasions pieces of paper that have been tora before they have been brought into the House. It would be difficult for me to rule, even if I had been in the chair, whether the document had been torn before or after it was tabled. I do not think that is any prima facie case.
– I raise a point of order. In understanding the statement you have just made, Mr Deputy Speaker, could I suggest that in order to put this matter beyond any doubt or qualification the Deputy Prime Minister be invited to indicate to this House whether that document is the same document from which he commented this morning and in fact what is the part which was the subject of cutting, if the paper is only one half of the page, and ask the Minister why the other papers have not been tabled.
-Order! It is not a point of order that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is taking. Whether the document is one the Minister used in the House and whether a piece was deleted before it came into the House are not questions which have anything to do with the House at all.
– I give an unqualified assurance to the honourable member for Sturt, who for some reason or other wants to reflect on my integrity, and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the document which the honourable member now has in his hands is precisely the same document in terms of its contents as the one which I quoted from and which I asked to be incorporated in Hansard. I have done everything that I possibly can to accommodate the honourable member, and I resent the fact that he reflects on my integrity in this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 3 April 1973 I announced that Cabinet had that day approved the establishment of a Commission on Social Welfare to make recommendations to the Government on the development of social welfare in Australia. The need for setting up the Social Welfare Commission is based on the new emphasis we have given to the recognition of adequate welfare systems as being a public right which contributes to the well-being of the total Australian community. This new philosophy demands a change of emphasis in government policy and in welfare programs.
Because of the new dignity which such a philosophy gives to the recipients of welfare services, it is the role of the Commission to evolve strategies which will enable those people in the problem - situation to take part in the planning of immediate objective and long-term goals. Moreover it is the role of the Commission to monitor existing programs, institute research projects, conduct public consultations and to ensure that those who use the welfare services are involved in the evaluation of the relevance of welfare programs to their needs. In developing new goals, implementing long term planning and setting priorities in the welfare field, the Commission is charged with the task of taking an overall view of social policy, which encompasses such areas as education, housing, health services, emplovment policies and other matters, as well as the more specific issues of income-security payments and personal welfare services.
The concept and role of the Social Welfare Commission is a most exciting one. In future there will be a rational development of welfare programs in the community. More importantly programs will be developed flexibly and largely guided by priorities identified locally. When the Australian Assistance Plan is fully operational - the Commission is drafting the plan and will test pilot programs and evaluate the need for alternative and supplemental measures - the social welfare needs of Australia will be released from the heavy hand of centralism which defined programs in the past.
I would assert quite firmly that the development of social welfare programs in this country to date has been blighted by the way in which past governments as a matter of centralised decision-making determined priorities^ - and not many priorites at that either - and then by implication indicated to the community that if areas were either unsuitable or had no need for these particular programs that was tough luck; they missed out altogether. For instance, of what use are programs for the aged, except in a limited way, in the rapidly burgeoning areas in the fringe suburbs of our cities where young families often on low and inadequate incomes are congregated? Similarly, the reverse situation would apply if a rigid commitment were made as a matter of centralised policy making that the priority would be given to programs for the needs of the young families while the needs of the aged were ignored.
In any event the special needs of particular areas, for instance, have been totally neglected in altogether too many instances by the rigid nature of previous Canberra centred decision-making. Programs just have not allowed for the diversity of the nation’s social economic and cultural pattern between regions. Accordingly the response to the welfare needs of these regions has been inadequate and often irrelevant. Local communities know their needs best and that is why we will be stressing regionalised administrations with as much regionalised decision-making about priorities as possible in the application of programs. This will allow for a flexibility and diversity of programs attuned to the varying needs of this wide-ranging country of ours.
I should also mention that when the Australian Assistance Plan - now being developed by the Government - is fully operational, community based voluntary welfare services will be fostered and stimulated with generous sup- port so that the services provided and the organisations providing them are related to, and are identified with, the community in which they operate. Again the stress is on flexibility and local autonomy. It emphasises and encourages local initiatives. The only display of centralism in this exercise is the display of responsible decision-making by the Australian Government which has established the Social Welfare Commission and which in turn directed the Commission to develop the Australian Assistance Plan according to guidelines set down by the Government in order that the administration and operation of social welfare programs and key decisionmaking affecting their direction are very much a local community concern.
Since the Cabinet approval the Commission has been operating on an interim basis. The Bill before the House is not a complex one. It is simple in its purpose to establish the Commission formally and to set out its powers and functions. The Bill provides that the Commission shall consist of 11 Commissioners - a full-time Chairman, a full-time Deputy Chairman and 9 part-time Commissioners. The period of appointment in the case of the Chairman is up to 7 years, in the case of the Deputy Chairman up to 5 years, and in the case of the part-time Commissioners up to 3 years. The Chairman of the Commission is Mrs Marie Coleman who, prior to her appointment, was Director of the Victorian Council of Social Service. The position of Deputy Chairman has not yet been filled but all 9 part-time Commissioners have been appointed. They are: Professor R. G. Brown, Mrs Sadie Canning, Mrs Edna R. Chamberlain, Mr Charles H. Fitzgibbon, Professor C. P. Harris, Mr Tom Roper, Professor E. G. Saint, Reverend Keith Seaman and Mr G. T. A. Sullivan, Q.C.
The detailed functions of the Commission as set out in the Bill, but which I will repeat for the information of honourable members, are:
To ascertain, and report to the Minister on, the social welfare needs of the community and to make recommendations to the Minister in respect of those needs.
To make recommendations to the Minister for furthering the achievement of a nationally integrated social welfare plan, including:
Recommendations of priorities in relation to social welfare programs.
Recommendations for the development of social welfare programs on a regional basis with localised administration.
Recommendations for the participation in the implementation of social welfare programs of representatives of the persons or agencies to be assisted.
Recommendations for the co-ordination of the social welfare activities of organisations, including State, local government and voluntary organisations, involved in the provision of social welfare.
Recommendations for the adjustment, from time to time, of social welfare programs in the light of changing community circumstances and attitudes and the state of the economy.
Recommendations for avoiding the duplication of social welfare programs and for promoting the maximum efficiency and effectiveness of the community social welfare effort.
To estimate, and report to the Minister on, the likely cost of proposed social welfare programs and to advise the Minister on the relative priorities to be given to the implementation of those programs.
To keep social welfare programs under constant review and to re-assess and evaluate those programs in the light of experience.
To propose to the Minister measures to give all organisations, including State, local government and voluntary organisations, concerned with social welfare access to available information and technical assistance.
To consider, and report to the Minister on, measures designed to provide skilled staff for the successful implementation of social welfare programs.
Such other functions in connection with social welfare programs as the Minister approves.
In connection with the functions of the Commission, honourable members will recall that the need for social planning at the regional level was recognised in a major election proposal, the Australian Assistance Plan. The aim of the Australian Assistance Plan is to assist in the development at a regional level, within a nationally co-ordinated framework, of integrated patterns of welfare services, complementary to income support programs and the welfare related aspects of health, education, housing, employment, migration and other social policies. Further information concerning the Australian Assistance Plan is contained in discussion paper No. 1 prepared by the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission which I tabled in the House on- 30 August 1973. On that date I also tabled the first report of the Interim Committee. Under the powers conferred on it by the Bill the Commission may, with the approval of the Minister, conduct an inquiry, including a public inquiry, into any matter being investigated by the Commission. It may also arrange for individuals or organisations to carry out research projects on its behalf. The Commission will, of course, have the right to confer with, and accept submissions from people and organisations including governments.
An important provision in the Bill is that which requires all reports of the Commission to be tabled in each House of the Parliament. Such reports will include not only those requested by the Minister but also those initiated by the Commission. This is a marked deviation but an improvement on past practices. These public reports will serve as a standard by which the Australian people will be able to judge the Government’s performance in the social welfare area having regard to the information provided and the recommendations made to it in the Commission’s reports.
The establishment of the Social Welfare Commission is a further demonstration of the Government’s commitment to introduce democratic participation into national government. The charter of the Commission is a broad one. Its aims are ambitious. The task is not easy. But we are confident that the work of the Commission - which will facilitate informed public discussion of welfare needs and priorities - will be invaluable in devising new policies and the establishment of a better social welfare system for all Australians. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Les Johnson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer -(Mr Crean) to make advances not exceeding $327.975m to the States for welfare housing during 1973-74 and the first 6 months of 1974-75, in accordance with the provisions of the 1973 Housing Agreement. At its meeting last June, the Premiers’ Conference decided on a program of $2 IS. 65m for welfare housing by the States for 1973-74, to be distributed among the States as shown in the first column of the schedule to the Bill. The Bill also provides for advances to be made to the States during the initial months of 1974-75, equivalent to one half of the advances agreed for 1973-74, as indicated in the second column of the schedule to the Bill. The amount of $218. 65m to be advanced to the States in 1973-74 represents an increase of 26 per cent on the amount spent by the States on welfare housing in 1972-73.
The repayable, interest-bearing advances will, as circumstances dictate, be made from either the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund and will be on the terms and conditions set out in the Agreement to be made between the Commonwealth and each State, as authorised by the Housing Agreement Act 1973. Provision is made for any payments out of Consolidated Revenue Fund for this purpose to be reimbursed in due course from Loan Fund where the Treasurer considers this appropriate. The 1973 Housing Agreement now awaits formal ratification by the States before becoming operative for 5 years from 1 July 1973. Because advances to a State for welfare housing cannot be made until the Agreement is ratified by the State Parliament, funds for this purpose are being provided by way of advances supplementary to the advances made for works purposes under the approved Loan Council program, until such time as the authorising legislation has become effective. The Bill, therefore, contains a provision authorising the Treasurer, with the concurrence of the State, to deem any such advances made against a State’s loan program for 1973-74 to have been advances for welfare housing.
The greatest proportion of the $218.65m to be advanced to the States in 1973-74 will be paid to State housing authorities; the remainder - about 30 per cent - will be made available through home builders’ accounts to terminating building societies and similar institutions in each State for loans to needy people seeking to acquire their own home. The advances made to the States under the Housing Agreement are repayable over a period of 53 years and bear interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum on the proportion made available to the State housing authorities and at the rate of 41/2 per cent per annum on the proportion made available to terminating building societies and similar institutions through the home builders’ accounts. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 18 September (vide page 1214).
Remainder of Bill (Clauses 7 to 10 and Title).
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted
Bill (on motion by Mr Grassby) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 September (vide page 785), on motion by Grassby:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
In this Act unless the contrary, intention appears -
Exporter’ includes the State and an authority of a State;
Month’ means a month of the year.
– I move:
– Order! The honourable member for New England will need leave to move 2 amendments together. Is leave granted?
– I thank the House for giving me leave. These 2 amendments relate to another amendment the substance of which will become more apparent at a later stage of the debate in Committee. The definition of export meat inspection costs’ relates specifically to the undertaking given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) in his second reading speech. In his second reading speech he said that the purpose of this Bill was, in accordance with the undertaking given by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Budget, to recoup the cost to the Government of export meat inspection. The specific amendments are intended to identify just what export meat inspection costs are and the purpose of the inclusion of the definition is to ensure that export meat inspection costs are identifiable in the Bill. The reason for the inclusion of this definition will become apparent when I speak to the amendment which I will move at a later stage.
– I think I can take it from what the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has said that what he is concerned about is that the money collected for the purposes which were referred to by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech of 21 August and which were the subject of an announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as promised, is in fact applied to those purposes. That is a very valid concern. I will not repeat the detail contained in my statement on the previous measure but it gave the arithmetic of the collection and also indicated that in relation to both export meat inspections and the campaign to eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis there had been an analysis made by the Department of Primary Industry of what was required and it was given to us in precise terms. The arithmetic has been precisely established and validated in the contribution I made in Committee on the other measure last night. If there is a doubt in the mind of anyone at this time as to what the intention is it is very proper that it should be dealt with and overcome because if there is any valid objection at this stage to this measure it is that there is more money to be collected than would be required. That is the first doubt. The second is whether we require this amount of money at this stage.
There are 2 questions here. Is our arithmetic correct and, if it is not, would the excess be applied for the purposes that have been indicated by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister? The arrangements that have been made and the agreements which have been reached on this matter - we have discussed this with influential sections of the industry and they are very keen to see that the fullest and highest standard of inspection procedures should prevail - have revealed that there is unanimity across the nation that we should continue our campaign to eradicate tuberculosis and brucellosis. There has been agreement on all these things. I believe that there has also been agreement that the money which is required should be properly found and in relation to inspections for overseas purposes this money will not come from producers. I will come back to that in a moment. In reply to the amendments moved and to the doubt that has been expressed, I say that if there is any surplus in collection we will ensure that that surplus is applied in the succeeding year to the purposes for which it was collected.
I want to refute the suggestion, which if it has not been made in words has certainly been implied, that this is in the nature of a tax. It is not a tax. It is a service charge levied in the same way as State authorities and municipal and local government authorities make inspection charges in relation to meat which is sold on the home market. It is a perfectly proper procedure. It has been accepted for a very long time. What is intended is to ensure that the charges which accrue, particularly in relation to meat exports, are met by the exporters. I mention again very carefully and precisely that the revenue to be raised by this charge and the expenditure to be made on export meat inspection and on the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaigns will be shown in the annual estimates of the Department of Primary Industry. This means that the whole of the Parliament and all honourable members concerned will have the fullest detail available to them in respect of the expenditure of the money collected for these purposes. If there is a surplus they are perfectly entitled to say that that money will be applied to the purposes for which it was raised. That is a perfectly valid proposition. It has been raised by the Opposition but it has also been made to me by Government supporters. I give an unequivocal assurance that this is a service charge and not a tax in any shape or form. It is simply a service charge.
In the annual estimates of the Department of Primary Industry the full sum will be shown as will the full expenditure and the Parliament will have it under its eyes for the fullest and clearest possible scrutiny. It will be open to honourable members on the Government and Opposition sides to see that the money that has been collected, as a service charge and not as a tax - there is nothing to do with taxes in this Bill at all - will be applied to the purposes for which it is collected, that is, both to the inspection sphere and to the national campaign to eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. The impetus for this campaign has come from the producers themselves. It is a very commendable campaign because it places the industry on a better basis. A better job will be done for the industry and the nation. Because of the clear procedures which have been adopted and because of the inbuilt safeguards of this Parliament, I suggest that the amendment moved by the honourable member for New England is superfluous and on behalf of the Government I reject it.
– Perhaps I should explain the reasons for the amendment. Earlier I did not go into an exposition as to why we have moved it but, as the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has raised the matter, I had better explain the reasons for the amendment in more detail. The Minister has said that the money will be spent by the Government for the purposes for which it is collected. Unfortunately yesterday he showed no humility whatever and gave no reasonable explanation to this chamber as to why the undertaking in the Budget Speech made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) was not carried out. The purpose specified in the Minister’s second reading speech and referred to in the Bill is meat inspection costs. If there is any other purpose it does not appear from the second reading speech. It is no use relying on what the Prime Minister said at a Press conference outside this chamber and saying that because the Prime Minister spoke to that Press conference this Bill should be extended in the way then suggested. That is not good enough. The reason for the Opposition specifying meat inspection services is not that we disapprove of money being allocated for tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. Not only do we support this campaign but I initiated it. I am quite prepared to back it now depending upon the recommendations that the Minister prepares and presents in a 1242 REPRESENTATIVES 19 September 1973 Meat Export Charge Collection Bill proper manner to this Parliament. But I am not prepared, nor is the Opposition, to accept that the Prime Minister can make a statement outside the Parliament which is then incorporated into a second reading speech without reference to the 0.6c. If the Minister had come along in a duly humble way and said: ‘Look, I am very sorry that we did not mention it. In fact it was an oversight. We did mean to specify in the second reading speech that the toare of 0.6c was in fact specifically related to tuberculosis and brucellosis,’ the Opposition might have been able to reconsider its position.
In any event the second area of dispute relates specifically to the basis of the calculation of the figures. My colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has said on many occasions that if anybody in the field of primary industry were capable of projecting ahead and reckoning out quantities of production and prices to be received he would not be in this Parliament, he would be sitting over on the Riviera with his feet in a bucket of champagne. I think those are the words he uses. There would be no point in his doing other than projecting the market ahead.
The figures presented by the Minister come from the Department of Primary Industry, a department for which I have been ministerially responsible and for which I have a great regard. But the figures I presented came from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, again a body for which I have been ministerially responsible and for which I have an equal regard. Those figures were tended to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. If those figures are inaccurate we are presumably, before presentation of its report in this place, casting doubts on the validity of the conclusions that that Committee may reach. Perhaps that is what the Minister seeks to do. But I hardly believe it is valid for us at this stage to criticise figures which have not yet come to us as conclusions.
The figures that I have presented are figures submitted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to the Prices Committee and as such it is necessary for us to take serious account of those figures. The calculations that I have reached came specifically from the quantities of production which those figures specify. I have said that it is hard to project ahead but if BAE figures are taken into account there will be a surplus of about $14m - the exact figure to which I referred in my speech last night. In order to ensure that there shall be no doubt as to the purposes for which the money is to be spent and the amount of money that is to go specifically towards the cost of meat inspection services this amendment includes a definition which allows us to identify export meat inspection costs. The purpose of the amendment is to relate the expenditure in the Bill specifically to the second reading speech of the Minister.
I have one particular area of concern and that is that this Bill is of a character which I believe would enable the Government, should it seek to impose a penal tax or charge on meat exports, to do so. I query whether it would be constitutionally possible but in order to ensure that that cannot take place all we are asking the Government to do - and I believe that the Minister in his reply to me a moment ago specified that he did not think it was unreasonable - is to give an assurance in a definitive way that funds contributed by producers should be spent according to the specification of the Minister to recoup the costs to the Government of export meat inspection.
The definition in this amendment ensures that the money will be spent and spent only on export meat inspection. If there is another purpose such as the brucellosis and tubercolosis campaign, that needs to be spelt out in this chamber. We do not want to hear it second hand or third hand. We do not want to open our morning newspapers and hear that the Prime Minister has been talking to members of the Press gallery and told them what is going to happen. We want to hear in this chamber what is going to happen to specific funds collected from primary producers.
If those funds can be diverted from meat inspection purposes to the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaign, equally it can be diverted into a penal tax - an export tax - on meat producers. There are no words in the Minister’s second reading speech that give any indication that this might be done. The only conclusion that we can reach is that as there has been an increase of 0.6c in tax on beef and beef derivatives, the Minister must intend that the money will be extended to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. If it can be extended in that way it can be extended into any other area and we on this side of the chamber do not accept that any form of penal tax can or should be imposed on beef exporters. We do not believe it is in the interests of Australian consumers.
We are worried about the degree to which the consumer price index is running away. We would like to see positive stimulus given to production. We do not believe that the use of disincentives in this form is the way in which the Government can control prices to consumers. The direct disincentives the Government has provided in other areas provide one of the specific reasons why we seek to protect the interests of producers and it is for that specific reason that we seek to have these 2 definitions incorporated in the Bill.
– I think it is pretty important to put the Committee right. I understand that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), has made a political plea again in relation to another matter totally unconnected with this Bill. I also understand that he criticised the way that the announcement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) instead of by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). That is an abstract matter which I cannot quite understand. But the main thing is that the honourable member for New England seems to be prepared to say: ‘Look, I am not terribly interested in brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication. I am more interested in scoring a political point.’ I really feel that this is not in the interests of the industry. I want to address myself to this matter without dealing with any of the Party political propaganda issues in which the honourable member has involved himself. I am sorry about this. I just want to confine myself to one part of his statement. I would ask him please to consider it.
The honourable member used a set of figures which he indicated came from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Then he gave the impression that the Department of Primary Industry had a different set of figures. A former Minister should know better. The Department of Primary Industry and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are inextricably mixed. The Bureau is a part of the Department of Primary Industry. It is the Department which comes up with the combined submissions in technicalities and in matters of fact. I think this is a silly exercise. It really does not help the Committee. I would just draw attention to the fact that the honourable member has based his entire case on the arithmetic of a wrong set of figures. I will now explain them. The figures used by the honour able member for New England are in carcass weight equivalent. The charges are imposed on the shipped weight. That is, less bones and so on. Consequently the calculations by the honourable member overstates the collections. That is the position. All I want to say is-
– But you are taxing mixtures too.
– You are taxing items with bones as well as without bones.
– I know that the honourable member for New England referred last night as an example to the export of spaghetti. I just want to put this to honourable members opposite: We have a situation in which there is an export inspection cost. I point out that when meat is sold on the home market the consumer, the Australian consumer, the Australian housewife bears that inspection cost. What I am pointing out is that what we are putting forward-
– You have said that.
– May I finish my contribution? This is the Committee stage of the Bill. We have finished the party political propaganda.
– Will you explain the facts?
– I have just given the honourable member the correction to his arithmetic. He should acknowledge it instead of sitting there and interrupting. As I was saying before I was interrupted, we find a peculiar circumstance whereby the Australian family who buys meat on the home market is charged but the purchaser overseas - or the exporter - does not have to pay a service charge. That is all that is involved. There have been references to a tax. I refute again that we are discussing any sort of tax. We are talking about service charges.
– Will you give an assurance that no penal tax will be charged through this Bill?
– As far as I am concerned the Bill comes in-
– That is no good.
– Let me answer that. I listened to the interjection respectfully.
– Thank you.
– I want to make it quite plain that this Meat Export Charge Bill and the Meat Export Charge Collection Bill come down in accordance with statements by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Budget Speech on 21 August and also that they came down against an announcement by the Prime Minister. That is the basis of this legislation. If there are other matters that concern any honourable members I will be the first to want them to be debated on their merits, quite apart from these service charges. I sincerely ask the Committee to divorce these matters because the only matter that is before it is that of service charges in respect of an important industry. I gathered from the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when he was speaking yesterday by way of interjection that he said - he can correct me as I say this if I am wrong - that the Opposition did not oppose the principle of service charges being imposed.
– Of course we do not. We supported the legislation yesterday.
– I thank the honourable member. I think, Mr Chairman, that you will agree with me that yesterday the honourable member for New England indicated that there was no agreement on anything anywhere at any time. We had to wait until the vote was taken to see what was the real intention of the Opposition. I say again to the Committee that we are dealing exclusively - this is on record now - with these service charges. If there are any other matters to come before the Parliament or the Committee, they will come separately and will be dealt with on their merits. At this time, so far as the ‘Government is concerned there is nothing before the Government, nothing before the Cabinet and nothing before the Parliament.
– It would be separate legislation.
– It would have to be a completely separate submission. I appeal to the Committee at this stage to accept the principle of service charges as it has been accepted by the honourable member for Corangamite. I give my clear assurance that at the end of the year in the papers associated with and relevant to the ‘Department of Primary Industry these service charges will be set forth. If, in fact, the ‘Department has over-estimated, that figure will be shown. In fact, it would be in accordance with the Government’s attitude that any over-estimate should be considered the following year in relation to the charges. Again I come back to the fact that we are talking about service charges.
– You are not talking about brucellosis and tuberculosis now.
– I am talking about service charges in relation to 2 matters, inspections and the campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis.
– That is not what you said in your second reading speech.
– I have been very patient, but for the last time - I do not intend to rise again in Committee on this matter - I refer the Opposition to the Budget Speech delivered on 21 August by the Treasurer in which he set these things out clearly. I also refer honourable members to the announcement of the Prime Minister as was promised by the Treasurer. It is clear and definite. If honourable members opposite are not interested in the service charges, in the campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis or in a proper basis of inspection, let them vote against this proposal. I think it is about time the Committee had less humbug and more action.
– What are you talking about? I object to the statement made by the Minister for Immigration.
– Order! Does the honourable member for Gippsland claim to have been misrepresented?
– No, I am not claiming to have been misrepresented. What the Minister said was unparliamentary.
– If the honourable member is not claiming to have been misrepresented he will resume his seat.
– After listening to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) trying to answer some of the questions raised by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) I am convinced that I am now more confused than ever I have been since the commencement of this debate. I am sure that many honourable members on this side are equally as confused. Earlier the Minister said that requests had come from the industry. I want to know - because he has not explained it - what requests. Can he explain to me why graziers are sending in protests not by ones and twos but, in some cases, by hundreds? This is the attitude of the industry. I endorse what the honourable member for New England has said about firing questions at the Minister on this subject. I am not sure whether the Minister ‘has got tangled up in a personal way with the shirt that he is now wearing and is trying to draw a red herring across the trail, but this seems to be the case. He has spoken about money being allocated for the brucellosis eradication campaign. If, through this measure, we are establishing a fund to be used for the express purpose of the eradication of tuberculosis and other things, will the Minister explain what will happen if, on the one hand, we have a shortage of funds? Does this mean that the campaign will be eased down or retarded? On the other hand, what will happen to surplus funds that are collected as a result of this legislation?
– They will go into Consolidated Revenue.
– That is fair enough, but what happens if there is a shortage? Will Consolidated Revenue make up the deficit? The eradication of disease is far more important than some of the matters that have been put by the Minister for Immigration. I should like the Minister to explain some points because, after all, this is an important measure. The honourable member for New England repeatedly has requested information from the Minister, but it has not been forthcoming. If we cannot sort the matter out here how in the name of fortune will graziers be able to sort it out outside this place?
Mr GRASSBY (Riverina - Minister for Immigration) <3.1) - I have given the facts; I have given the assurances; I have given all the information that the Committee needs to make up its mind and on that basis I move that we vote on the measure.
– The question is:
That the amendments be agreed to.
– No, Mr Chairman. The Minister has moved that the question be put.
– That is not correct. The Minister did not move a motion at all. He indicated that the question should be put. He did not move a motion. If he intended to he did not. So far as I am concerned, the question is that the amendments be agreed to. I call the honourable member for Darling Downs.
– I rise to support the attitude of the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and to criticise the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) for his rather deliberate attempts to sabotage a great industry. The Minister asked whether members of the Opposition were not concerned about tuberculosis and brucellosis. I remind him that the honourable member for New England surely proved during his term of office as Minister for Primary Industry that he was concerned about this important matter.
– He was a very capable Minister.
– Yes. I thank the honourable member for Wakefield for that interjection. At least he recognises that fact. I express my concern because my Party is interested in the eradication of tuberculosis and brucellosis just as it is interested in how public funds are spent. Surely the Minister knows that one of the cardinal precepts of government is that a government must be particularly careful about how it spends other people’s money. Yet the Minister criticised the Opposition because it dared to suggest the establishment of a special meat export fund so that track could be kept of payments in and payments out. By his comments the Minister has proved to the whole of Australia that in relation to one of our great industries he is a mere text book commentator completely lacking in practical expertise. The Minister has not told the Parliament or the nation how the money collected is to be spent. All he has talked of in his greedy, avaricious way is grabbing the money, holding it and possibly using it for any purpose for which the Government wants to use it. The Opposition, aware of its great responsibilities, seeks to ensure that this money will be spent on the purposes for which it is being collected.
The Minister does not even know the position pertaining in the States. He made the rather infantile remark that at present the consumers pay for State meat inspections. Does he not know that in the States each year some of the money collected from stock levies- one pays 10c a head on the number of cattle and 1.72c a head on the number of sheep and pigs as at 1 January - is used by the State authorities to pay for State meat inspection services? But the Minister says that the consumer is paying for it. All the Minister has done is to let the whole of Australia know that the knowledge about meat matters of the man responsible for initiating and conveying ing through this chamber a most important piece of legislation is absolutely nil. Last night we on this side of the House made a special plea to him to let us know how this money for the payment of Commonwealth inspectors at abattoirs would be spent. Because of our great practical experience and knowledge of such matters and our concern for the producer, the consumer and the worker - we are concerned that he stays in employment - we pointed out that at the present time abattoirs have to meet the cost of overtime payments to Commonwealth meat inspectors. These payments are assessed at the rate of $1.35 a quarter hour or $5.40 an hour. We want to know whether this fund is to be used to pay for the Commonwealth meat inspectors’ total fees including overtime and ordinary rates.
The honourable member for New England and the honourable member for Wimmera pointed out that nowhere in the Bill has any reference been made to tuberculosis and brucellosis. The Minister rants and raves and fires questions across the table asking: ‘Are you not interested in these matters?’ We are interested but we want the Minister to let us know how he intends to eradicate tuberculosis and brucellosis. Does he not know that the greatest carriers of tuberculosis and brucellosis are the breeding stock? Yet he intends to assess the meat export for this important eradication scheme. We would like to know how the Commonwealth will work with the States. At the present time in Queensland - I know that Queensland is an anathema to those who sit on the other side of the House-
Mr Mulder - Bjelke-Petersen?
– Honourable members opposite are scared of him. They should be happy because he has gone overseas for 2 months, so they will be able to sleep at night time without getting upset and worried. There was tremendous Commonwealth and State co-operation, initiated and developed by the honourable member for New England during his most auspicious term as Minister for Primary Industry, between the Commonwealth and other practical men in the Queensland Parliament to ensure that some practical steps were taken to eradicate tuberculosis and brucellosis. At the present time in Queensland on the coastal strip from Mareeba and westward to Goondiwindi there is-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he speak to the amendment before the Chair. He is ranging pretty wide of it at the moment.
– I thank you once again, Mr Chairman. I appreciate the great latitude that you have shown to me in these most important matters. But I was trying to develop the point that the Minister has not given us one iota of information about how this money will be spent. As a practical man representing practical people, I want to know this.
– How will it work?
– The honourable member for Paterson, a great practical man and one who knows how to dress and kill a beast, has raised the point that we want to know how this system will work. We want to know whether the Commonwealth will co-operate with the States, whether it will take over the present State responsibility or whether it will subsidise the States on a dollar for dollar basis. The Minister has not told us any of these things. I fully support the honourable member for New England in his amendment which will ensure that the present Labor Government is made aware of its responsibility in fiscal matters and that the willy-nilly approach it usually adopts until Hawke pulls it into gear cannot be accepted by this most important industry - the meat industry. Will the Minister please advise here in this chamber, by showing common decency and courtesy, how this money will be spent? He has told us how he will collect it, or at least he and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have told some people in Australia how it will be collected.
– There is a parliamentary procedure involved in this amendment and in the Bills which concerns me considerably. This Parliament - and this is what the amendment is all about - has certain responsibilities and so has the Government, in bringing matters relating to taxes before the Parliament. This is in fact a tax matter - a revenue matter. The Bills we are discussing, the clause we are discussing intimately, and the second reading speech introducing these Bills refer to only one point in relation to this money, and that is meat inspection. Nowhere in the Bill and nowhere in the second reading speech are any other words used to show for what purpose the money collected from these Bills and sanctioned by this Parliament - if it is sanctioned - will be spent. This matter is laid down very clearly in our Constitution. I admit that I am moving away from the amendment but it is important to realise that under the Constitution there is a responsibility on the Government, when it brings in Bills for the collection of particular moneys, to set out precisely in those Bills what the money is for.
Nowhere in these Bills is brucellosis or tuberculosis mentioned. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has been talking about them.
As I see it, these Bills should be withdrawn and redrafted so that they can be brought back into this chamber in a constitutional manner. The Minister can go and look at his copy of the Constitution if he likes. These Bills should be withdrawn, redrafted and brought back as separate issues. I am quite adamant on that point. It is only right and proper that, when we are dealing with public money drawn from the taxpayers of this country, the Bills should be brought in in the correct form setting out precisely for what purpose the money is being collected. Nowhere in these Bills, in the second reading speech or in debate have the 2 matters of brucellosis and tuberculosis for which, apparently, some of this money will be used, been mentioned. If these Bills are proceeded with in their present form and if they become Acts of Parliament, the people who have to put them into operation, such as the exporters and those involved with the various works, will read them as they are today - these are the documents they will receive - and will find no reference to the 2 points I have made. Therefore, I submit to the Minister and to the Government that the Bills should be withdrawn and presented again when they have been correctly framed.
– The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) has raised a specific point that deserves an answer. He said that because of the way in which the Bill has been drawn it would be unconstitutional to apportion the money as has been indicated by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and myself on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). I have taken advice on this matter and I refer the honourable member to the actual wording of the measure which states:
Subject to this Act, a charge is imposed on meat that is exported from Australia for human consumption, being meat that is so exported on or after the date of commencement of this Act and before 1 July 1976.
The Act then goes on to specify that it does not inhibit the Australian Government from so apportioning the money for the service charges as was mentioned by the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry. That is the constitutional position. The safeguard to that is, as I said before, the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry which will be examined with other estimates. Honourable members will be able to see that the undertakings given by the Government and all the relevant Ministers of government in relation to a service charge are in fact followed. But constitutionally in the way the Bill is drawn and the way the Act will stand there is no bar to the disbursement of the funds along the lines that I have indicated on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4agreed to.
Proposed new clauses.
– By leave - I move:
After clause 4 insert the following new clauses: 4a. (1) An account is hereby established to be known as the Meat Export Charge Trust Account.
The Meat Export Charge Trust Account is a Trust Account for the purposes of section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1969. 4b. There shall be paid into the Meat Export Charge Trust Account -
all amounts being charges levied on meats exported from Australia; and
all penalties levied under section 7 of this Act. 4c. (1) Moneys standing to the credit of the Meat
Export Charge Trust Account may be expended with the approval of the Minister in payment of export meat inspection costs.
The amounts to be fixed from time to time for the purposes of sections 6 and 7 of the Charge Act shall be determined after consideration of the moneys then standing to the credit of the Meat Export Charge Trust Account. 4d. (1) The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after 30 June 1974, and after each succeeding 30 June, cause a report to be prepared on the operation of this Act and be laid before each House of the Parliament.
For the purposes of sub-section (1), the period that commences on the commencement of this Act and ends on 30 June 1974, shall be deemed to be a year.
In the explanation which the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has just given lies the cause of my fundamental concern. If it is possible for legislation which has been introduced, according to the Minister’s second reading speech, to cover meat inspection charges and the funds raised are to be used not only for meat inspection charges but also for brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaigns, it is equally possible that these funds can be used for any other purpose. It is equally possible that the funds can be diverted as a penal tax on exporters. It is quite possible that those moneys can be just paid into Consolidated Revenue and perhaps at the end of the year we might get some check through the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry.
That is not good enough. It is for that reason that we have specifically moved this amendment for a trust account to be constituted into which all sums received by way of levies shall be paid. If a payment is required for meat inspection services that cost can be covered by withdrawals from that fund. During the course of the debate at the second reading and Committee stages I have made a great deal of the fact that the Minister had not yet given us the undertaking that the Treasurer said would be given in the Budget Speech, relating to brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication. I am completely in favour of an accelerated campaign for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis.
I belive that it is one of the critical problems affecting the whole of the meat exporting industry. To suggest in any way that we on this side of the House are opposed to that is arrant nonsense. But we believe that a parliament and a government must act in a responsible way. We would be acting in an irresponsible way as a Parliament if we gave carte blanche to the Minister on an undertaking given by him that all funds would be spent in accordance with the second reading speech, or not in accordance with the second reading speech but on another worthwhile project, the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. We have no complaint about the levying of a charge. We believe that it is unfortunate. I pointed out that this industry was being identified separately from all other export industries and being required to pay for inspection services given to it. This applies only to this industry. I suggested that this was unfortunate and a penalty that the industry does not deserve, but we do not deny the right of the Government to apply the levy. Indeed, as meat inspection charges increase it is not an unreasonable requirement that the industry should contribute, particularly at a time when returns for meat sold abroad are so high. But we object to an extension of this legislation outside the bounds of the Minister’s second reading speech.
It has been a practice in courts of law and elsewhere when there has been doubt about the validity of legislation or questioning of the interpretation of words included in legislation to refer to the Minister’s second reading speech. What help would it be to turn to the Minister’s second reading speech in this instance? We would see no word there of brucellosis or tuberculosis. Yet the Minister has told us that it is for that reason that the 0.6c supplement to the lc per lb levy on beef exports is applied. There was no satisfaction in the Minister’s assurance just now that through the Estimates we will be able to identify just how and where the money is spent.
There has been some dispute on the question of arithmetic. Of course I am not in a position to identify exactly the figures from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that I quoted to this House; but I assure the House that the figures I gave are based on the shipped weight and are taken from the Meat Board’s statistics. The figures include both boned-out and boned-in meat. The discrepancy is so great that it seems incredible to me that the Department of Primary Industry or the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, whichever gave the Minister the figures that he included in his explanation last night, should produce figures that in no way relate to the BAE submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices inquiry into meat prices.
It is a recent submission. It was not presented months ago, but only in the last few weeks. There is no explanation in the figures cited to me of the difference between the boned-in and boned-out quantities. There is no explanation of the BAE projection that meat exports will rise by 25 per cent over the next 3 years. In other words the Minister is saying this afternoon that the figures he has given us are the right ones and presumably the ones that the BAE gave have something inherently inaccurate in them. If that is so, to my mind it almost gets at the fundamentals of whatever conclusions were reached by the subcommittee of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices which examined meat prices. If a conclusion was reached - I understand a report is to be tabled in the House tomorrow - and the figures given to the Committee are wrong and the Department which gave those figures is a department of this Government, I would regard that as most unfortunate; in fact I would suspect that it might go a lot further and be almost criminal negligence.
But I do not believe that that would happen with the Department of Primary Industry or the BAE. This afternoon I do not want to make much of the figures, but I want just to identify the fact that the figures I have cannot be reconciled with the figures of the Minister. I would be interested to have an explanation of those figures and perhaps the Department of Primary Industry will, through the Minister, write to me and give me an appropriate explanation.
As to the amendment, the proposed trust fund should be constituted under the complete discretion of the Minister. We at one stage thought that perhaps a committee should be set up for oversight of the funds, but we felt that the interests of meat producers would be sufficiently protected in the form of the amendment. We have ‘provided that payments could be made at any time from the funds collected so that meat inspection charges could be met in a reasonable way as they are incurred. We have ensured that whatever funds stand to the credit of the trust account would be the basis upon which the levy of the industry could be judged year by year so that, at the end of the one-year period, if the levy of lc per lb proves too much, as I have suggested it will be, it could be reduced to, perhaps 0.7c per lb or some other figure.
For that reason, it seems to me that the amendment we have moved to create a trust account is an eminently reasonable way to protect the interests of producers. If the Minister’s explanation is correct - that is, that the preamble of section 4 of the Meat Export Charge Act 1973 is sufficiently broad to enable the payment of funds collected for tuberculosis and brucellosis inspections under legislation that has been introduced specifically to cover the cost of meat inspection - it is essential that this form of protection for the funds of meat producers be introduced. For that reason, the Opposition intends to proceed with this amendment to ensure that the Government complies only with that statement that it made and does not extend this legislation into some form of a penal tax.
– The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has rephrased his original proposition to the Committee in relation to his doubts about the application of the service charge for the services provided. I think it would be helpful to the Committee if I dealt with the question of the figures and of the arithmetic behind them. I accept that the honourable member put them forward in good faith. In my experience all honourable members when they rise in their places - whether they are right or wrong - put forward matters in the genera! way in good faith. But, in fact, the figues mentioned by the honourable member for New England as originating from the submission of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in its submission to what is known as the Joint Committee on Prices are not figures for which the BAE claims any responsibility.
I do not know anything about the report of the Joint Committee on Prices. Indeed, quite properly, I have not seen its report. I do not know what happened in the Joint Committee on Prices. I might just say in passing - I do not relate this to the honourable member for New England, who is at the table - that it would be improper for me to be acquainted with the report of the Joint Committee on Prices because that Committee has not tabled its report in this Parliament, and so all matters associated with that report are privileged. I understand that there has been some speculation on this report and I believe that there has even been an allegation of a leak in relation to the Committee’s recommendations. I am advised by the Clerks of the Parliament that if any honourable member were guilty of such a breach of privilege, the penalty could be expulsion from the Parliament, so I would hope that that did not occur.
Far be it for me to comment on the Joint Committee on Prices or on its recommendations, such as they may be. I look forward to listening to them tomorrow and, after I have heard them and studied the report, I will make up my mind, as will the members of the Government and members of the Opposition. But so far we have not seen that report. It has not been tabled. I understand that it will be tabled tomorrow and until that time all that happened in relation to that report is privileged. I say again that anyone who was guilty of a gross breach of faith in leaking information from the Committee would be guilty of a breach of privilege and I am told that, from the history of this Parliament, the penalty of such a breach is expulsion from the Parliament. I do not think that that would be too great a penalty for a breach of that sort.
I should like to return to the substance of the statement made by the honourable member for New England and to the figures which he presented. From my inquiries, I have been assured that the Bureau of Agricultural
Economics has not formulated for any tribunal or aynbody else the figures attributed to it. The figures which have been presented by me to the Committee as the consolidated figures that represent all the expertise and dedication of the officers of the Department of Primary Industry, including the officers of the BAE, are the only figures that have come forth, and we based the calculations for a service charge on those figures. So, the suggestion that there is some sort of argument between the Department of Primary Industry and one of its component parts, the BAE, is of course a fiction. That is all there is to it; there is no difference at all.
I invite honourable members of the Committee to research the figures on the basis of - bear this in mind - boned out and total production. They will find that the figures I have presented on behalf of the Government, based on research of the Department of Primary Industry, including the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, bear out that calculation. So, I stand by the figures. However, it is still perfectly proper for the Opposition to put forward the query; I have no quarrel with that. I should just like to say in reply that the authority of the Parliament in these matters surely is paramount. The Parliament controls allocations and expenditure and the purposes for which they are collected are controlled. One honourable member whose name I cannot remember said: ‘What will the money be spent on?’ For the benefit and elucidation of that honourable member, I inform the Committee that the Auditor-General stringently polices all the expenditure which is approved by the Parliament of the nation and if it is not properly expended in accordance with the Act, a very serious report is made which would reflect on the Minister, the department and the Government. Therefore, the authority of the Parliament in these matters is supreme, is paramount.
Indeed, the scrutiny of the Parliament is paramount in these matters and, of course, the total details of the expenditure and the purposes for which it has been appropriated will be under the scrutiny of the AuditorGeneral of the nation and the Parliament, sitting as a whole or as a committee. So, I feel that the built-in safeguards of our Parliament are more important than any mere detail that has been proposed by the Opposition in the amendment now before the Committee.
– Will the program be based on the amount of money that is available? That is the point.
– The honourable member for Wimmera, sitting with the Government on this occasion, has posed a query. It is a very valid query. He asks what would happen if, in the first year about which we are talking - and this is the test year of all our dedications - there were a shortfall. Obviously, of course, if there were a shortfall, it would have to be covered in relation to the Act and the appropriations. If we have miscalculated, obviously we are at fault. The limits are set. I draw the attention of the honourable member for Wimmera to the fact that the limits of the charges are set in this legislation. We have certainly spelled them out. If we are going to come before the Parliament and say: ‘We miscalculated’, we will have to do this very honestly. We will have to come forward and say: ‘We were wrong. We should have collected more’. I say again, for the benefit of the honourable member who posed the query that this would come under the scrutiny and the authority of the Parliament. I think the inbuilt safeguards are totally adequate. We feel that the inbuilt safeguards of the entire Parliament, sitting together or in a committee, are in fact adequate safeguards and we do not feel that the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition is acceptable to us.
– I wish to lend my strong support to the amendment moved by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) to establish a trust fund for the revenue raised by this legislation. Of course the real basis for this fund is tested by the question of what happens to the money raised if it is in excess of requirements. I accept that what the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has been saying has been said in good faith, and I can assure him that it is no reflection on him personally that we are pressing for this amendment. For a start, it is too much to believe that the Minister’s arithmetic will be perfect. Even assuming that the basis on which his calculations have been made is fundamentally correct - in fact it is nearly correct - it is certain it will not be exactly correct. Even if the amount is some thousands out - perhaps not a large amount by Government standards but still not insignificant by ordinary standards - proper provision must be made for it, otherwise an extremely bad precedent could be established and one which could have all sorts of undesirable consequences. One of course is the issue raised by the honourable member for New England, that if indeed it is possible to use the money for the purpose of tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaigns - I reiterate the support of this side of the Parliament for those campaigns - it is possible to divert money somewhere else, lt is all very well for the Minister to say that arrangements and agreements have been made. That is not good enough for our side of the Parliament. At best, it is a very untidy precedent to establish, and our amendment is designed to tidy it up, to remove that uncertainty.
I come now to the vexed question of the weight of meat exported. The Minister, as I understand it, has given the average figure for 3 years. I believe it is common knowledge too that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has estimated that over the next 3 years there will be approximately a 25 per cent increase in meat exported, and it is my further understanding that it is on that basis that the Australian Meat Board made its submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. That was the basis on which the Board made its projection.
– But not the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
– I accept the Minister’s interjection, but the basis of the Meat Board’s submission and its figure for weights exported was a published document from the BAE, which itself estimates that exports will go up by 25 per cent in 3 years. Further confusion has been caused by the question as to whether the weights on which the charge will be collected are bone-in or bone-out weights. I think the honourable member for New England resolved all doubt as to our figures when it was pointed out in the submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices that this was ship weight, so whatever figures the Minister quoted are relevant so far as comparison goes to the ones which we quoted. The confusion is further compounded by the definition of meat in the Bill. It says that meat includes flesh prepared wholly or partly from or containing the flesh or other edible portions of sheep, cattle, goats and so on. In other words the levy will be raised on quite extraneous matters besides meat itself. I think the honourable member for New England mentioned spaghetti. It could be raised on cereals and goodness knows what else. It seems to be that the only thing that is excluded is the tin. All this adds up to its being virtually impossible to establish with certainty the weights involved and therefore the revenue to be raised. We believe it is very important to establish this trust fund to remove any doubts whatever as to the destination of the funds raised, and as a side benefit it may save the Auditor-General a little work as well.
– When this debate began I had considerable sympathy for the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) because he would not be the first Minister who, acting for another Minister, has picked up a Bill with whose contents he was not fully au fait. I would be the first to admit that I made mistakes in my time as a Minister. I would have thought more of the Minister if on this occasion he had admitted quite frankly that he had an unfortunate conjunction of circumstances. Firstly, when he introduced the Bill he said that the money raised would be used for meat inspection, but we now find that it is to be used for brucellosis testing as well. But as I say, everybody makes mistakes, and I think that If the Minister for Immigration had admitted on this occasion that he had made a mistake we all would have thought more of him.
What I think was his fault has been compounded now that we have had a clear exposition by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) followed by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who said that the difficulty is that under this Bill a payment will be made for something which we now find is different from the original purpose of the Bill. But allowing for that, the charge will be levied on the figure for estimated exports. Whoever pretends that he can get those figures right, as the honourable member for Corangamite says, is kidding himself. Indeed, what would happen if we had a complete change-about in the Australian scene? Even the Minister for Immigration would not pretend that he has any influence in this matter. We would have a complete alteration in, the amount of funds collected. I think it is. completely proper that there should be a trust fund into which moneys collected could be paid so they will be used for the intended purpose. We have no complaint that the industry is paying for tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. We want to make certain that the money raised will be used for that purpose.
I always think it is a silly thing that governments of whatever complexion will not admit they have made little mistakes. On this occasion a little mistake has been made in detail in some respects and ought to be recognised by the Government. Earlier in the life of this Parliament an honourable member opposite stated that the Government would not behave as if it received directions from on high; that if it made a mistake it would recognise it. This process of forming a trust account is quite a common process. All we seek to do is to ensure that the money that is collected is used for the purpose for which it is collected and is kept for that purpose. In offering friendly, fatherly advice to the Minister for Immigration I say that, if he would recognise, firstly that he made a mistake when he introduced the Bill and, secondly, that the formation of a trust fund is the common way of ensuring that moneys are used for the purpose for which they are intended, we all would think more of him. I repeat that I started off with some sympathy for him. It is now gradually evaporating. I am now seeing him more as a scarlet-breasted budgie bouncing around on a bough. I hope he would see the opportunity to redeem himself not only in our eyes but in the industry’s eyes by accepting the very sensible and responsible amendment moved by the honourable member for New England.
– ‘Is it not marvellous how righteous honourable members become when they find themselves in Opposition? It is absolutely amazing. Since the present Opposition started sitting on the Opposition benches haloes have been forming over the heads of each one of them as the months have gone by.
– What have you done with yours, Gil? You used to have it on.
– I put mine away in my hip pocket. I am amazed at the attitude adopted by members of the Opposition who were members of the former Government. They talk about mistakes. I sat in this Parliament in Opposition for 23 years. I listened to their mistakes over and over again. These errors do slip into legislation; I will admit that. I will admit that this piece of legislation should have spelt out in more detail the matter in dispute. Let us be quite frank about this matter. The provision with respect to brucellosis assistance should have been spelt out in the legislation. I suggested yesterday that this error if it is an error, or omission if it is an omission, should be remedied in the Bill when it is transmitted to the Senate so that what is proposed is made quite clear. Let us be frank on this point: The nation will not fall to pieces if we state our own mind on this matter.
I wish to take up another matter now and it concerns the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the last Minister for Primary Industry in the former Government, who is sitting at the table. He dealt with the Department of Primary Industry for many years. I hope that he did so on a most straightforward and honest basis. In the Parliament yesterday and today he has said more or less that the figures given to us by that Department are inaccurate. That was an astounding statement for an ex-Minister to make with respect to a department that he must have trusted day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year to give him information.
– I still ask questions.
– Yes, when the honourable member was on this side of the chamber-
– My very word I did.
– I was sorry that the honourable member did not, before he made his statement, have an interview with the representative of the Department who is here today. I looked at the figures yesterday; I studied them. There is no ambiguity in those figures at all. They show that $74m will be raised by this levy over a 3-year period - virtually 33 months, as the crow flies. This will meet an expenditure in the same period of $74m. No profit is made after stamps, etc., are paid for. There is no profit at all in this deal. Yet honourable members opposite had the nerve to rise here yesterday and to say that a profit of approximately $30m according to one honourable member, $18m according to another, would result from the provisions of this Bill. If we could make deals like that, we would never need to budget for a deficit. But I definitely say that the Government will not be raising its money and its profits in that way.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I return to the clause before the Committee. This clause highlights the position which I put to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) previously in relation to my doubts about the legislation. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has just admitted that apparently members of his Government have also considered the clause in this light. The amendment which has been moved safeguards the position to some extent The Minister has indicated that he is not prepared to withdraw the legislation and to redraft it as I suggested. Therefore I think that it is obligatory for the Minister to accept the amendment which the Opposition has moved.
I will not pursue the other matter. I still have most strong doubts about the legislation. I ask the Government and the Minister to accept the amendments which are being put forward by the Opposition for the purpose of safeguarding the position. I indicate again to the Minister that those who will be carrying out the provisions of this legislation - I refer to those who will be responsible for collecting the levies, etc. - will not know the true position when they pick up this Bill, as they will need to do, and study it to determine what the collections are as mentioned in the second reading speech. However, if this amendment is agreed to and is inserted in the legislation a safeguard will be provided not only for the people who will pay the levy and those who will collect the levy but also for the Government which is responsible for the moneys that will be so collected. Therefore I ask the Minister and the Government to adopt our amendments.
– I rise on 2 counts. First, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) in association, I think, with the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) earlier, made a most reasonable request to which I intend to accede. That request was that the full financing and the detail of that financing should be set out by the Department of Primary Industry under the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and sent to them directly so that there can be in all detail validation of what I have put to the Committee. I think that that was a reasonable request. I have put in train already the acceptance of it. The honourable member for Corangamite and the honourable member for New England will have made available to them those full details so that the argument about arithmetic may be resolved.
– Could the information be provided as an answer to a question on notice so that it will appear in Hansard?
– 1 think that that is a most reasonable procedure. I see nothing wrong with that proposal at all. As a matter of fact, if it is desired by either honourable member it would be quite an acceptable procedure under the Standing Orders of the national Parliament. I would be happy to see the information placed there as an answer on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry.
I wish to direct myself to a remark that was made by the honourable member for Corangamite in support of the amendment now before the Committee. He said that because of his doubts about the precise accuracy of budgeting he would like a further safeguard written in. I thought that that was a most reasonable proposition. In fact it is not our intention, as I said, to do more in this legislation than to impose a service charge. That is a most reasonable approach. I do feel - perhaps this is where we are differing at this stage - that the scrutiny of the entire Parliament meeting as a parliament or as a Committee of the Whole is an adequate scrutiny, backed by all the resources of the AuditorGeneral who will see to it that there is a proper accounting for every cent that is appropriated and spent under this legislation. I do feel that there is an adequacy of safeguards here on behalf of the producers, the taxpayers and the Parliament which must accept this legislation.
I suppose that it is almost, but not quite, in the nature of a mortal blow to the honour.ab’e member for Riverina, the Minister for Immigration, to find that I am losing the fatherly advice of the ‘modest member’. It did come as a surprise. May I say that I have no intention of cancelling my subscription to the Australian ‘Financial Review’. I think that I shall continue that subscription. Therefore, I am sure that I will get the continuing benefit of his exposure in public. He did say that perhaps the whole matter was not quite right; or not quite sound and therefore asked whether it would not be better to withdraw the legislation.
– No, I did not.
– I am sorry. Did I misquote the honourable member?
– I suggested that it was a good idea to accept this trust fund proposal.
– I am sorry. I did not want to do the honourable member an injustice. I did feel that the honourable member really suggested that perhaps the Bill as a whole was not sound. I must say that if the whole of the Bill were not sound, and if what had been put in the second reading debate and in the Committee stage where we have had a most useful and constructive debate were not sound, obviously the one right thing to do by the Government would be to withdraw the Bill. But in fact I am advised by the best and most competent authorities that the Bill is well drawn, is sound and fits into the objective as enunciated by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Primary Industry. Against that background I must say with sensitivity to some of the motives that have been put forward - in fact I would say all the motives that have been put forward - about safeguards, that the safeguards lie in the Parliament and in its scrutiny. On that basis, I must decline to accept the amendment.
– I will not detain the Committee long. I wish to take the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) up on one point. We on this side of the Committee are trying to help the Government to patch up a discrepancy in this Bill. We have offered a constructive idea by proposing the establishment of a trust fund to protect funds which should be protected and funds that should not be muddled up with general revenue or used for general revenue purposes. The answer by the Minister for Immigration is not acceptable to me. Everybody knows that the AuditorGeneral examines accounts at the end of a trading year and draws to the attention of Parliament any discrepancies that are found in the use of funds. We are suggesting a remedy to overcome the problem. The Minister is being quite negative in saying that if a mistake occurs the Auditor-General no doubt will draw it to the attention of Parliament. We are trying to stop the mistake occurring. The Minister merely said: ‘If a mistake occurs we will be told about it’. This is not the point.
The Minister’s reply is not acceptable in any form of logic. Without wishing to transgress on the generosity of the Committee or on the speeches that have been made, I say that the whole of this is totally unacceptable to myself, to members of the Opposition and to members of the rural community. It is way out of court. The Bill is riddled with inefficiency, inexcusable statements and a lack of information. I think the Minister would do well to seek the permission of the Committee at this stage to report progress and to look at the whole matter again.
That the new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr Sinclair’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr A. S. Luchetti)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Grassby) by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 September (vide page 861), on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill ‘be now read a second time.
– We have had quite a lengthy cognate debate on this Bill, the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the Post and Telegraph Bill 1973 and the Opposition has expressed its concern about them. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who led in the debate, expressed deep concern at the extremely big increases proposed in the bulk postage rates for newspapers and periodicals. We made the point that there was a commission of inquiry investigating postal matters and that it should finish its hearings before the Government makes any changes of this nature. We accept the fact that there have to be increases from time to time and we made the point strongly that we thought the size of the proposed increases was quite unreasonable and could not in any way be accepted as a normal or fair increase to match rising costs. The Leader of the Country Party when leading in the debate said that he thought the Government should be more reasonable in its approach. I set out now some proposals that we believe are reasonable. In the first place we believe that the Government should withdraw its stated intention to eliminate concessional categories A and B on 1 October 1976 and that the new rates to apply should be made more reasonable. As the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) is aware, I have been able to hold discussions with officers of the Department about this matter. The rates that we consider should apply are set out in a document and I seekleave of the House to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I ask the Postmaster-General to give serious consideration to amending the legislation to bring into effect these rates rather than the ones that the Government proposed. We do not agree that country publications should be further disadvantaged to the degree proposed by the transfer of a number of them from category A to category B. We Believe it would be in the best interests of decentralisation if all country newspapers and periodicals which are printed in country areas were to remain in category A irrespective of the frequency of publication. We also consider that special consideration should be given to those country publications which are highly dependent on the mail for their distribution to subscribers. I therefore intend to move amendments to the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill and the next Bill, the Post and Telegraphs Bill, to vary the conditions of catgory A.
– These are matters that have been the subject of discussion and in fairness to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) I must say that he has taken some keen interest in trying to obtain agreement on the details of proposals which are acceptable to the Opposition. The Government has the responsibility of financing all aspects of postal administration and there is no denial from the Opposition that the activities now the subject of discussion and arrangement are running at a very heavy loss. The Government’s attitude is always that these losses should not be borne by people using the postal services. Members of the Australian Country Party, to which the honourable member belongs, have made a submission on the same basis to the present post office royal commission. The great difficulty the Government faces is that it cannot guarantee to implement its policy because the Australian Democratic Labor Party in another place has indicated that it will not have a bar of the Bill at all. That attitude is completely irresponsible. I give credit to the honourable member for Gippsland for a reasonably responsible approach. Nevertheless it is a heavy loss that is being accepted by the Government here and from that point of view it is my duty to try to get some reasonable balance.’ I praise the fact that there has been some recognition that increased costs are inevitable but I put on record that whatever the increased charges may be they can come nowhere near meeting the actual costs or the heavy loss that will have to be met. Nobody has offered any solution to that problem.
The Government’s attitude is that the person who uses the ordinary letter mailing facilities should not subsidise other Josses. That principle has not been implemented. As honourable members know, there is a commission of inquiry considering these matters,so there will be no real structural changes until that commission brings in its report. I thank the honourable member for Gippsland for his cooperation and also my departmental officers who have been here for some 3 days and wish to return to their homes. This is a matter requiring detailed discussion. The concessions the Government is now giving are given in the face of the fact that it has no alternative but to accept a reasonable proposition because another Party in another place is not prepared to accept anything. The Government acepts that situation and gives an undertaking that the new proposals will be incorporated in the legislation that has already gone through the House. Further, I propose to accept the 2 amendments to be moved in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Regulation 46 of the Post and Telegraph Regulations is amended -
Amendment(by Mr Nixon) agreed to:
In Schedule 1, item 8, sub-item (g), omit paragraph (b) of proposed sub-regulation 5a of regulation 46, substitute the following paragraph: “(b) it is a publication other than an publication which has a substantial proportion of its printed copies posted by the proprietor, printer, or (publisher to bona fide subscribers in a country area within the meaning of that paragraph.”.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - -adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 September (vide page 862), on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen
That theBill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Section 29 of the Principal Act is amended-
Amendment(by Mr Nixon) agreed to:
In Clause 9, paragraph (g), omit paragraph (b) of proposed sub-section (2aba), substitute the following paragraph: “ (b) it is a publication other than a publication which has a substantial proportion of its printed copies posted by the proprietor, printer or publisher to bona fide subscribers in a country area within the meaning of that paragraph.”.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) - by leave - proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
- l would like just in passing to thank the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) for his cooperation on this legislation. It has been very difficult legislation to handle. I am sure that the people outside in the community will recognise the value of the acceptance of the amendments that the Minister has agreed to. I would like to thank him and also the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department for their assistance in achieving a Bill that is acceptable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 September (vide page 766), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill proposes to increase the rate of pay-roll tax in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory from the present rate of 21/2 per cent to a rate of 31/2 per cent from 1 September 1973 and to 41/2 per cent from 1 July 1974. These increases will bring the payroll tax rates applying in the Territories into line with the rates proposed by State governments. The Opposition agrees with the Government that there is no good reason why Territory employers should not be called upon to meet taxes and charges comparable with those borne by employers in the States. While we accept this as a general principle we believe that there can be valid reasons why certain special provisions should be made in respect of the Australian Territories. I want to observe here that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in particular is one member of this House who has been most vigorous in pressing the claims and interests of persons living in the Northern Territory. Indeed it is the policy of the Australian Labor Party to initiate income tax free provisions to assist the pioneering industries in the Northern Territory and other parts of northern Australia.
Although the Opposition supports the Bill we are obliged to emphasise that this legislation represents yet a further instance of alterations to the tax structure in spite of assurances prior to the general election that no rates of taxation would be altered. In the case of private companies operating in the Territories this increase in pay-roll tax will, of course, come as an additional cost to the increases in private company tax. It is not sufficient to argue that the Commonwealth is merely following the lead given by the States. The fact is that State governments were forced to announce increases in payroll tax following the quite inadequate financial provisions made by the Commonwealth at this year’s Premiers Conference and Australian Loan Council meetings. The Opposition parties will certainly be bringing out points in relation to the Premiers Conference and Loan Council meetings when the appropriate State
Grants Bills come before this House for consideration in the weeks ahead. The Opposition supports the Bill in the circumstances and for the reasons which have been outlined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 215), on motion by Dr Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill involves a great national princiiple - the principle of giving all Australians equal opportunity to be able to purchase the most important energy product for industry and to enable the fulfilment of every person’s normal day. I refer to the price of petrol that is paid across the nation. The Country Party and the Opposition do not intend to oppose the Bill, for the simple reason that the policy intent of the Government to decrease the level of subsidies to petroleum users in rural areas will not be affected by our opposing this Bill. The Bill repeals section 6 of the principal Act giving greater flexibility to the oil companies in determining the rate of subsidy in various areas. It is an unfortunate fact that under this legislation the rates of subsidy are notified in the Australian Gazette and neither House of Parliament has any check on them. The Country Party strongly opposes the intention of the Government, as stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr. Cairns), to increase the differential between metropolitan and non-metropolitan fuel prices. No doubt this measure has a particular appeal to the Labor Party which is zealous in its search for means of cutting back the support that is given to country people. However, much more than a philosophy is at stake.
I strongly suspect that this intention of the Government is but an initial stage in a longer term program to phase out the petrol subsidy completely. Because of this and because of the importance of the subsidy it is vital that I emphasise the significance of this form of support to people living outside the capital cities in Australia. The idea of a national uniform petrol price was promoted by Sir John McEwen and in 1965, as an initial step, the Government agreed to introduce a minimum variation between prices paid in capital cities and elsewhere in Australia. Since then, that differential has been reduced and it is approximately 3.1c at the moment. But this was a truly national ideal, the purpose of which was that people living in remote areas of Australia would not be penalised. It had the very worthy objective of trying to bring about more decentralisation and of encouraging industry in country areas. The aim ultimately, of course, was to have a uniform price at which everybody could buy fuel. Unfortunately, we now find that the trend is in the reverse direction and the disparity is widening as a result of the Government’s Budget decision. If the Coombs report is followed through the subsidy will be eliminated entirely.
The clock is being turned back and the divisions within Australia are being widened. The disadvantages of living in country areas are increasing and the opportunities of decentralisation and of bringing about a more balanced development are less. But the effect on industries is enormous. It increases the costs of production to rural producers and that has the effect either of reducing their income or of increasing the cost of food. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, fuel costs account for about 5 per cent of the average farm costs. This is a significant input factor and any increase in fuel costs naturally adds to overall farm costs. It is not an insignificant item and, indeed, is an essential one. Yet, this Government is arbitrarily increasing the cost not only by this means of extending the differential, but also through the additional 5c a gallon excise increase.
However, my concern is not only for the effect on farmers but also the effects on decentralised industries and services and those people - the diverse multitude of people - who live in provincial cities and country towns. Everything used in decentralised industries is affected by the cost of transportation. The life of a person living in the country is very much affected by the cost of his fuel. I venture to say that the mileage travelled each year by the average country citizen is vastly greater than that, covered by the average city person. Country people may travel shorter distances but city people have the opportunity of alternative forms of public transport. Increased petrol costs are a very significant factor in the life of a country person.
Let me cite as an example the position in Dubbo, New South Wales,. There is a differential of 6.4c a gallon between city petrol prices and those in Dubbo. The Government pays 3.1c a gallon subsidy so that the consumer in Dubbo pays 3.3c a gallon extra. The oil companies are proposing that the differential be decreased to 5.8c but the Government subsidy will be cut back from 3.1c to 0.8c, so that the consumer in Dubbo will now pay 5c a gallon above the Sydney price - an increase of nearly 2c on the previous level. However, let us carry this a little further. The Coombs committee has suggested, among other things, that the subsidy could be phased out over 3 years. If this were done, the consumer in Dubbo would pay an extra 6c on top of Sydney prices. I think it is particularly instructive to look at the situation in Leeton, which is in the electorate of Riverina so inadequately serviced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). Under the Government’s proposals, consumers in Leeton will pay an extra 1.7c a gallon through the Government’s decision to vary the differential, and an extra 5c a gallon from the Budget’s excise increase. So 6.7c a gallon extra will have to be paid for fuel in that area. Of course, if the subsidy is phased out, it will be even more than that. However, these are comparatively mild cases. The Coombs committee report says:
The subsidy varies in accordance with the cost of transporting the fuels to country areas, and ranges as high as 35c-
That is right, 35c- per gallon for motor spirit in remote areas with an Australia-wide average of 2ic per gallon.
I have in my possession a schedule which sets out subsidies payable to non-metropolitan areas under this legislation. It shows that the subsidy for Kalgoorlie is 2.9c a gallon; Meekatharra, 4.5c a gallon; Alice Springs, 6.5c a gallon; Bourke, 5.3c a gallon; Cobar, 4.4c a gallon; Mount Isa, 7.8c a gallon; Longreach, 7.4c a gallon; Tennant Creek, 8.4c a gallon; Oodnadatta, 11.1c a gallon; and Mount Newman, 13.2c a gallon. This is a very significant subsidy for those areas. If it is the intention to phase out the differential completely, this cost will immediately, be passed on to those who already live in high cost of living areas.
The Minister’s intention to increase the differential to 5c a gallon is bad enough, but I suspect that even worse is to follow. I suspect that this centralist Government intends to phase out the scheme altogether. Imagine an extra 35c a gallon in some of the remote areas of Australia, as has been suggested in the Coombs report. One particularly significant point is the situation in the Australian Capital Territory. Here petrol prices are subsidised by ic a gallon but if the Government’s intentions are implemented this will be eliminated. It will be very interesting to see whether the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) will allow this to be passed on to the consumers or whether it will be absorbed by the oil companies. Already he is compelling the oil companies to absorb the 5c excise. Of course, this situation can go on for only a limited period. The Prices Commissioner who was asked to examine the situation said that the price should be passed on to the consumer, that it was fair and reasonable. Yet nothing has happened. Where do we go when the advice given by the Government’s advisers is not heeded? It will be a hopeless situation here before long if the oil companies decide that no fuel will be available for the Australian Capital Territory. That must be the ultimate outcome of this sort of dogmatic attitude being taken by the Minister for the Capital Territory.
What a magnificent contribution to decentralisation this proposal is. How effectively it implements the ALP’s decentralisation policies. How completely it fulfils item No. 2 of its rural platform. The Labor Party’s publication Rural - It’s Time’ reads:
The Australian Government to provide funds where necessary to obviate the disparity between urban and rural areas in the cost of education, medical services, communications and other public utilities.
This is the brochure distributed by the ALP before the last election. It goes on to say:
As long as the Country Party has a dominant say in the Federal Government, policies of decentralisation based on large scale industrial activity and the creation of prosperous provincial cities remain deliberately dormant.
The implementation of policies to establish permanent decentralised cities and towns of a solid economic base to allow for steady growth is an important platform of Labor policy. Processing and ancillary servicing industries will be given every encouragement through financial and taxation incentives.
Let me now quote the third paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech:
The scheme is expensive and less efficient in achieving its objective than is desirable.
But the king daddy is this sentence:
In practice the largest payouts under it are made in major inland cities.
I would have thought that this was hardly consistent with ALP policy.
In its policy brochure the Government accuses the Country Party of not doing anything to help provincial cities and towns and says that the Country Party has a hostile attitude to development. Yet one of the reasons it gives for reducing the differential is the high cost of distributing the fuel to some of these provincial cities and towns. I would have thought that the encouragement to decentralise industry into these areas was a very worthy and national objective which all members of that Party would have supported. But instead we have heard this hypocrisy from honourable members opposite. Apparently they do not squirm; they do not have any conscience at all when it comes to what they wrote in their policy speech before the last election.
Nowhere will the impact be greater than in the northern regions of Australia - in the north west of Western Australia, in the Northern Territory and in Queensland. Yet this policy is directly contrary to the objectives of setting up a Department of Northern Development which was supposed to give people up there encouragement and to give them the same sort of opportunities as other people in Australia have. It is diametrically opposed in its effect to what its objective was supposed to be.
As I said earlier, the Opposition does not intend to oppose this legislation. But we on this side of the House think it is important that there be scope for the freight differential to be flexible in accordance with changing industry standards. That is the reason why an amendment is being made to the Bill. What we object to is not the changing freight differentials and the changing distribution costs but the changing rates of subsidy. This is done by gazettal. Let me state now that the Country Party seeks to have those notices made by regulation within the definition of the Acts Interpretation Act so that the Parliament can exercise some control over the intentions of this Government. At the moment there is no measure that can be taken by either House of Parliament to prevent the Government from following through with its intention to. eliminate the differential completely. I hope that when the Bill goes to another place consideration will be given to introducing an amendment there which will require the Government to bring about any alterations by way of regulation. This would be laid before the Parliament and the Parliament, if it wished, could repect any alterations made.
The intentions of the Government as known and stated are worthy of condemnation, but probably worse awaits us. This particular matter is just one of a whole series of matters by which the Government has been penalising and making conditions worse for those people living in rural areas and country towns. It is because of this that the Government deserves the greatest condemnation for its attitude in this matter. It is not a national government when it is displaying obvious sectional tendencies, which tendencies show bias towards people living in the city areas at the expense of people living in country areas. If we are to grow as one great nation it is imperative that people are encouraged to participate in the development of all sections of this nation. I do not want to see our city cousins penalised for the sake of unfair advantages that country people might receive, but I think we all have a right to equal conditions. That is basically what we are fighting for. We abhor what the Government is doing fundamentally in changing the present differential.
– As the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said, this Bill provides for the deletion of section 6 of the Principal Act. The Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) pointed out in his second reading speech that section 6 ties subsidy rates to circumstances as at 1 December 1969 and in general very strictly limits the circumstances in which the schedule of subsidies can be amended. In that way this Bill paves the way for implementing the proposal referred to by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget speech to widen the margin in petrol prices between city and country areas from 3.3c a gallon to 5c a gallon. Thus a large and important benefit will be reduced. Farmers, the people in country towns, and country industries will pay 1.7c a gallon more.
On the face of it, the scheme itself is not to be abolished. That is to say, the principle and purpose of the scheme are to be retained; at least I hope that will be the case. As my colleague pointed out that is by no means certain. It is presented to us at this stage as enabling legislation for a cutback, as one of the Coombs culling operations, and it is one of those acts of bastardly or antagonistic-
– That is fair enough.
– Yes. It is one of those acts antagonistic to country people that we have come to accept from this Government. As I have said before anti-rural is the stance of this Government. There can be no doubt that this scheme has been of great benefit to a variety of people. I mention first country dwellers, not to mention of course country industries including State and municipal governments’ power generation authorities and other bodies. I shall come back to that point. The scheme has been a very significant factor in welding metropolitan and country life into one Australian community. There is a basic justice - equity - in all Australians whether in the coastal cities, the larger inland cities, the smaller country centres or on the farms, paying similar prices for the same products.
The case in equity is all the stronger when it is recognised that in country towns in many cases there are forces making for lower wage rates for the same job as compared with the larger cities. I have a young relative who is a machinist-fitter who draws about $30 to $40 a week less than his counterpart in the city. A scheme such as this one designed to effect some equalisation of prices - the original objective was actual equality - provides a partial offset to the situation. And yet here is the Government increasing the differential. One would have thought that this so-called Australian Government - those are the words Government supporters like to use - would have been more sympathetic to the view I am putting. I suppose to some extent, as I have said, we are not certain whether continuation of the scheme is approved in principle. I pose the question: Is it, or is it not? At least at this stage it can be said that the Government has not legislated to abolish the scheme. But of course if one reads the gospel according to Coombs in the Coombs report, one sees among the possibilities the phasing out of the existing program over, say, 3 years by progressively raising the subsidy margin. This legislation is the first raising of the margin giving vent at least to that extent to this Government’s anti-rural bent.
I have referred to the moulding of one Australian community. The interdependence of the city and country is of course absolutely fundamental. The best evidence perhaps is the high correlation that exists between the prosperity of the rural sector and the prosperity of the nation as a whole. When I speak of the prosperity of the nation as a whole I speak in particular of the major capital cities whose interests this Government so carefully studies to the neglect of the country areas. The slack in general economic activity in 1971-72 about which Government supporters are always so keen to castigate the Opposition, falsely attributing it entirely to the former Government’s budgetary policy, was in fact caused to a large degree by low farm incomes. They had the effect of retarding the growth of private consumption, perhaps by as much as 1 percentage point. I will not elaborate but that is very important in that context. This Government which sees itself so much as city based had better remember that its fortunes are also tied in this way to the prosperity of the rural sector.
The enlargement of the margin - this reduction or cheese paring of the benefit I suppose one might call it - will not affect only country people.
– It will affect costs everywhere.
– It will. As my colleague says it will affect the whole of the national economy. When the widening of the margin and the increased excise duty on motor spirit provided for in this Budget are combined, the estimated result is that rural transport costs for farm produce will increase by up to 27 per cent. There will be consequential increases in food prices which will affect all purchasers, both city and country.
– All primary produce coming into the markets will be affected.
– All backloadings will be affected.
– Yes. So these problems will affect the city also and at a different extreme is, as I said a while ago, the impact on country industry and especially remote industry. Great but also small mining enterprises and their dependent communities will be affected. Need I stress the point? We all know the stance of this Government in the mining context under the leadership of so dogmatic, if I might say, and so prejudiced a man as the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Mining enterprises in remote areas are already reeling under the difficulties of 3 revaluations with only partial compensation, apart from the iron ore industry. The proposed extra 5c a gallon is now to be payable directly on fuel and there will be this reduction in the benefit by the enlargement of the margin. As has been said, ‘business is always one damned thing after another’, but for the Australian mining industry things are coming too thick and fast altogether.
I have referred to the issue of whether this legislation presages the elimination of the scheme altogether. On that point, as my colleague the Leader of the Australian Country Party said, the Minister does have a tilt at the scheme as a whole. In his second reading speech he said:
The scheme is, however, expensive and less efficient in achieving its objective than is desirable.
One gets little insight as to just what is the objection save the Minister’s remarks when he said:
In practice the largest pay-outs under it are made in major inland cities.
So what? The purpose of the scheme is the fostering of the one metropolitan-rural national Australian community. For that purpose there is a compelling case for it in equity and a compelling case in terms of encouraging regional development - or at least countering some of the pressures that work against it. So what then, if large payouts do accrue to the residents of Canberra, Broken Hill and Toowoomba?
In respect of the efficiency of the scheme it has also been said against it that it is not economic logic to provide a -subsidy which encourages people to remain in remote locations and to do this in such a way that the greatest encouragement goes to those in the most remote places. Distance, it is said, involves a real cost to the community and such a policy would enlarge that cost. But again, I suggest that that is to allow strictly doctrinaire economic thinking to run away and override considerations of justice and equity. Fortunately - if one can use that word in this sorry context - the flat, uniform widening of the margin will affect proportionately least the stalwart citizens, if I might so describe them, of the remote areas of Australia who live and work in the isolation of those places in the interests of this whole nation. They deserve better treatment than they are meted out by this city oriented, anti-rural Government.
– I do not intend to speak at any length on this measure, after hearing the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) indicate that the Opposition is not going to oppose the Bill. I listened to the Leader of the Country Party and I was rather amused at some of the comments he made. He made great play on the endeavours to bring about decentralisation of this nation. I would venture to say that during the term of office of successive Liberal-Country Party governments there has been a greater drift to the cities and to the provincial towns than ever in the history - if we take a comparison and a ratio of population - of this great nation. So, if the subsidy that has been applied by the previous Government to petroleum products is a measure which it was hoped would bring about a situation in which people would not move to the cities, it has failed dismally.
– Do you not think it can get worse?
– It certainly would have become worse, had a government like the previous one been re-elected. But we have a progressive government in office now, a government which is really looking to the future of the nation as a whole and is not just picking out certain areas where distinction and differentiation can be brought into operation against certain citizens.
The States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act was introduced in 1965 and its purpose was stated as being a means of providing payments to the States to subsidise the distribution and sales of certain petroleum products sold in country areas. At that time, the scheme was introduced in order that people in the country areas would pay no more than 4d. a gallon above the price paid by people in the cities. But, of course, nobody has mentioned that the difference in the rate to be paid for petroleum products was based on the wholesale price. It was introduced ostensibly to assist people living in the country. I am supporting the Bill that is before the House because it is a measure aimed at assisting the general economy of the nation. All honourable members opposite would have received a copy and perused the terms of the review of the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Government. Dealing with the petroleum products subsidy scheme under item 7, it states:
Although the scheme was ostensibly designed mainly to benefit country dwellers and country industries. the largest Government payouts financed fuel costs of major inland towns and cities such as Canberra, Broken Hill and Toowoomba.
I believe that one of the previous speakers from the Opposition side mentioned Toowoomba. I happen to know a little bit about Toowoomba. It was mentioned earlier by the Leader of the Country Party that country people drive for long distances and that they use a lot of petrol. If I could take a working man living in Toowoomba as an example, he would be able to drive to his place of employment in about a quarter of the time that the average resident of Brisbane would take to drive to his office or other place of work. I would suggest that the average person living in Toowoomba would use about 25 per cent of the fuel used by the average city dweller, such as the dweller of metropolitan Brisbane. According to the Coombs report, Toowoomba is one of the areas where the greatest measure of assistance has been made available. So, if there is to be some assistance to people in remote areas, the scheme has fallen down in substance as it relates to Toowoomba because people in that area are probably better off than they would be if they were living in Brisbane.
When speaking about country people, I would suggest that for about a quarter of a century these people were treated in no way differently from the city dwellers and the other people of Australia generally by previous governments. I say this because measures such as the petroleum subsidy scheme were introduced usually on the eve of an election with a view to gaining some electoral support for the then government parties. But when we talk about discrimination, I think it is just as well to examine just what we mean when we talk about country people. Anyone would think, listening to speakers from the Opposition, that the description ‘country people’ applies only to farmers and graziers and other people who are primary producers. Like my colleagues, I have the highest regard for the Australian countryman. I lived in the country myself and I know their value to the nation. But I believe that our primary producers are not overly concerned with the slight alteration in the amount of subsidy proposed by this Bill. I have no doubt that they have grown tired of some of the meagre measures to which I have referred that were introduced by previous governments. I believe that they look to the national Government to provide tangible assistance by way of acquiring on their behalf sound markets for their products. They look to the Government to take action to remove the shackles of the monopolies which in the past have controlled some of the products which they produce, to the detriment of the primary producer. These monopolies were allowed to take over during the term of previous Liberal-Country Party governments. We now have a Government in federal office which will act on behalf of the primary producers and country and city people alike.
– The country producers do not think so.
– That may be your story. The Leader of the Country Party spoke of concern for people living in these country and provincial towns and in the country areas. He expressed some concern that the amount of subsidy might be reduced or, in fact, that these people would have to pay up to a maximum of 1.7c a gallon on their fuel. Having lived in the country, and knowing the method by which graziers and primary producers acquire their fuel, I know that already in those areas these people have a distinct advantage over other people living in country towns.
– For the simple reason that the average farmer - I have been on many farms over a period of years - and the average grazier purchases his petrol in bulk. He gets abulk rate, and probably over a period of time he is buying his petrol much more cheaply than are the people living in the city areas, but the ordinary working man in the country towns and provincial cities does not get his petrol cheaper.
– That is nonsense. He has to pay freight on his fuel.
– You may think it is nonsense but it happens to be a fact of life that primary producers purchase their fuel in bulk. I do not know what they do in the honourable member’s State. I am speaking only for the State . to which I belong. Primary producers in Queensland purchase their fuel in bulk. They purchase it at a cheaper rate than do many of the city dwellers.
– City dwellers are getting it at seaboard prices and the country people are paying 5c or 6c freight differential on it. That is rot.
– All right. Under the terms of the scheme which operated under the previous
Government a system was allowed to develop whereby certain people in country areas are treated differently from other people living in those areas. As honourable members know, everybody cannot purchase his fuel in bulk. I do not want to go on, seeing that the Bill is not to be opposed by the Opposition. I commend the Bill to the House.
– This Bill reduces the area in which the petroleum product subsidy is paid, and of course it reduces everywhere the amount of the subsidy that is paid. I protest very strongly against the action that the Government has taken. I do not do it because there is any prospect of getting the Government to reverse its decision. We all know that it is aligned against the country and in favour of the city and that this is why it has undertaken this measure and many other measures. So it is quite hopeless to expect that the Government will reverse its decision.
I want to speak because I represent a country electorate and an area that is being affected. Why do we not hear from members on the Government side who represent areas that are being affected. Some of them do represent vast areas and I instance the honourable members for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), Capricornia (Dr Everingham), Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), Grey (Mr Wallis), Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and Riverina (Mr Grassby). Where are all these members? The honourable member for Riverina is conveniently absent. We have just been told by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) that the cost of petrol will go up by 6.7c in Leeton. What a great achievement for his electorate stands to the credit of the honourable member for Riverina in his first term of office as a Minister. Before he became a Minster he said that there would be no currency revaluations. We have had 3 revaluations already. This shows what a useless member the people of Riverina have.
Why do we not hear a bit more about the people who will be affected? There is no doubt that decentralisation generally will go backwards under the present Government. It was quite ludicrous for the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) to say that we have a progressive Government now and to chide the Opposition because we did not, as he said, decentralise as well as possible. All I can say is that we took many actions when we were in government without which undoubtedly there would have been far less decentralisation than there has been. Let me cite quickly a few of the great number of measures the previous Government took. First of all it developed our resources. As a result of this development a great many new towns sprang up. I said in this place that 20 new towns were created in one decade as a result of the development of our resources. I find that I am wrong. There are actually twentyfive. We developed power and minerals. Of course we know the action the Government has taken to reduce support for minerals. The action we took was helping decentralisation. We undertook forestry and water programs. Look at what the Government has done about water. It cancelled work on one dam and tried to cancel work on a second dam. We can imagine that there will be nothing for development of water resources. We provided assistance for the clearing of brigalow scrub and the construction of beef roads. We introduced the petrol price subsidy we are now discussing. Primary industry received more assistance and, as I mentioned, so did mining. We assisted telecommunications and aerodrome development and provided airline subsidies. We increased the Commonwealth aid for roads and so one could go on. I instance education too.
Everything we did in these fields was to try to increase and improve decentralisation. This measure which is now being reduced in its effect was one of those measures. Of course it is not only a fact that subsidy which maintains a minimum differential between the prices of petroleum products in city and country areas is being reduced; it is also a fact that the Government has increased the excise on petrol quite considerably. We believe that the result on farms of the increased price alone will be an additional cost of S20m. The increase all told on rural areas as a result of the present Budget is estimated to be something like SI 47m as a result of either increased charges or reduced ways in which people can get certain concessions. I protest very strongly against this action. It is ludicrous for the honourable member for Lilley to say that this Government will act on behalf of the primary producer. We have seen how it has acted so far. If it is a progressive Government, God help us if we get a government that is not progressive.
I want to speak also because I was the Minister, as Minister for National Develop- ment, who was responsible for bringing to Cabinet the framework of the original Bill. I agree with the Leader of the Australian Country Party and pay tribute to the former Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, because he was the person, I would say, more than anyone else, who pushed this scheme as an aspect of decentralisation. I think it is right that some of the costs and detriments to the country people should be reduced. When we think of it, there are so many areas in which the country man has to pay increased charges. If he buys anything from the city - and many of his goods have to come from there - he pays transport costs. He even pays sales tax on the transport costs as well as sales tax on the goods. There is in operation a system under which the price of steel is the same in every capital city, but if a company, wants to establish a decentralised industry inland it has to pay extra transport costs on its steel. The ludicrous thing, of course, is that the steel that goes to Melbourne from New South Wales passes through my electorate. It is the same price at Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne but higher at Albury and Wagga, even though it goes through Albury and Wagga on a train on its way to Melbourne.
The country man has so many areas in which he has to pay and the city man does not, so why not help the country man with some sort of a subsidy? The country man has to put in a great deal of his telephone line. I know that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is sitting at the table opposite me, says that the country man is subsidised, but in order to get the service that the man in the city gets the country man has to make an additional payment that the city man does not. I had to put up my own telephone line. The city man does not have to do this. He gets it put up free. In the country we have to construct our own roads. We have to connect our own electricity or, if we are lucky, the country council will say: ‘You lend us $10,000 and we will put electricity through to you’. The country man has to install his own sewerage facilities and other facilities like this. Is is unreasonable to expect country people to get some sort of assistance? I do not believe that it is. The Government should think very carefully before it takes all the actions it is proposing in relation to petrol. Petrol has a vast effect on costs. The Government’s actions will mean that certain country industries will become uneconomic and we could well see a flow of people leaving the country and going to the cities. The Government should also remember 1949 and that one of the things which reacted probably more than anything else against the the then Labor Government was the rationing of petrol. Whilst the Government has not yet talked of rationing petrol, the increased cost to a certain extent will ration it. Let me refer to the report of the Coombs task force. Really I would not have thought that the task force could have made such an incredible statement as it has made in the report. This is what it says:
Moreover, there ls little economic logic in providing a subsidy which encourages people to remain in remote locations such that the greatest encouragement goes to those most remote.
In other words we should not encourage anyone to stay in the country; let us encourage them all to’go into the city. Honestly, I cannot believe that a person like Dr Coombs could produce a statement such as this; in fact, I am perfectly certain that he did not. We all know that the great trouble with the work of the Coombs task force was that it had to produce a vast mass of material in a very short time. The Government just took the Coombs task force report and did not analyse these factors.
The whole reasoning behind this subsidy was to give assistance to primary industry at a time when it was uneconomic or facing great troubles. Primary industry faced a period of rural recession and droughts. Assistance was provided also to the mining industry. This has enabled the setting up of a great many new towns and new mining industries in the country. A further purpose was to give assistance to secondary industry in remote locations.
I have not the faintest idea why the Government should try to say that it is wrong to give assistance to places like Broken Hill and Toowoomba. The whole purpose behind this scheme was to make it more economic for industry to decentralise and to go into country centres, especially the more remote country centres. I only hope that this is the last that we will hear of any Government action to reduce the effectiveness of that measure, I have no doubt that many honourable members on the Government side would like to abolish this benefit altogether. I am glad that the Government has resisted that action. But let us hope that in the fullness of time the differential’ will be reduced so that once again the subsidy paid will be as much as the former Government provided.
When we were in Government we did hope that it might be possible to equalise petrol prices in all areas of Australia. Unfortunately, the cost of this proposal appeared to be too large at the time. But I do not say that such action could not be taken eventually. I think that it would be just and reasonable if this was done. I certainly hope that, when those who sit on this side of the House and who have a greater interest in the countryman are returned to office, the new Government will move along that line.
– I enter the debate briefly to say one or two words on behalf not only of my own electorate but also of people in the countryside generally. I draw attention to the fact that we have been faced in recent years with an extraordinary situation in the Riverina and in Farrer, in regard to petrol prices. The incredible situation is that it has been possible if one organised in a particular way to buy petrol at approximately 10c less than the price of petrol to a wholesaler, a retailer or a consumer. We have seen also the spectacle outside our areas in New South Wales, south of the border, where it has been possible to make special arrangements or even to go to a bowser and to buy petrol at 10c a gallon or 15c a gallon less than people are charged in the area in which I live.
I invite members of the national Parliament to look at the situation at present. In the Australian Capital Territory, thanks to the strong and dedicated action of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), petrol is being’ sold at 5c a gallon less than the price at which it is being sold in the Riverina or anywhere else in New South Wales. We see the contrast between the administration in the Australian Capital Territory and the administration in New South Wales. We can see the difference in the prices that we pay. In my view, the action that was taken by the Minister for the Capital Territory was justified in every shape and form. I would hope that those people who are supposed to be interested in rural consumers would show a little more solicitude for the consumer and for the denizens of the countryside than for the mighty international corporations on whose behalf pleas have been made so often by them.
I wish to make one point in this respect. It is that the Government and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) made it plain that the excise that was placed on petrol was an excise which should have been absorbed by the multi-nationals but it was not. I agree with what the honourable member for Farrer said in this respect: The day after the announcement of the increase of excise the price of petrol rose in my electorate and in many others which are under the control of the sovereign government of New South Wales. There was no delay at all. Petrol prices rose immediately. In the Australian Capital Territory, the situation was a little different. But the price of petrol did rise in New South Wales. Of course it did. The price rose across the board by at least 5c a gallon.
The great and interesting situation is that there were people and specialist groups who could make arrangements to obtain petrol at less than the price” charged to wholesalers for that petrol. We have had the situation with respect to petrol supplies where wholesalers, retailers and those poor people who man the service stations have been disadvantaged. I do not think that situation has been satisfactory in any shape or form.
The announcement that there will be an inquiry into petroleum prices is in my view a most welcome development. This is something that I have pressed for on behalf of people in my electorate and those living in the countryside generally. It is all very well for members from Victoria to try to interject. They have been going along to bowsers in Victoria even when that petrol purchased was a tax deduction to them and obtaining their petrol at 10c a gallon less than the price at which petrol is available to the people whom I represent. Good luck to them. I do not criticise them. Rut surely they are not going to suggest that that was an equitable arrangement and that it should continue, because it should not continue.
I believe that the inquiry which we have put under way is long overdue. It should start on the premise that petrol prices across the nation in country areas should be reduced by 5c a gallon now, let us look at a further 5c a gallon reduction later. That is the position that I take. If I have an opportunity to put it to the inquiry, that is what I will put to the inquiry. Voices from members of the Opposition have been raised on behalf of the multinational corporations. Members on the other side of the House rise on behalf of the multinational corporations and say: They should not be penalised. They are poor struggling firms.’ These are the greatest international consortia in the world. That is a typical form of defence of those interests by those honourable members.
I wish to make my position quite clear and I do so on behalf of consumers, wholesalers, retailers and the poor people who are being conned into manning petrol stations. Ask them. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who is trying to interject, can pull up at a petrol pump and obtain petrol at 10c a gallon cheaper than people pay in other States. That is all right in Victoria where a bit of competition exists. If he comes into my area he does not have that choice. But the honourable member is not interested in that aspect today. He says a few words on behalf of the multi-nationals. We know where his heart is but he does not need to give voice to it on all occasions. As far as I am concerned, there is one thing which should be said- (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Order! I suggest to the honourable members for Wimmera, Angas and Paterson that as their names are shown on the list of speakers to participate in this debate they should answer the Minister for Immigration in the course of making those speeches and not by interjecting while the Minister is speaking.
– He will probably gag us.
– All I wish to say in summation is this: I believe that all the ramifications of petrol charging in our country have been totally and completely unsatisfactory from the point of view of everyone in the industry and everyone concerned with petrol consumption
– That has nothing to do with this Bill.
– May I say in response to the interjection that the honourable member for Farrer gave me distinguished mention in his speech. I thank him very much for that. He also said that I had not made my position clear. I know that I have a reputation for being reticent but I had tried to make my position clear outside the Parliament. I think the least that I can do is to make it plain inside the Parliament. My position is clear in relation to the excise. That excise should have been absorbed. It was seen to be absorbed in the Australian Capital Territory. It should be absorbed generally. In my view there should be a dedication to seeing a reduction in petrol charges across the countryside, and no increase at all.
– The measure before the House is one that will increase costs to a large number of people and industries throughout Australia. In 1965 the former Government introduced a measure into this House which at that time made fuel no dearer than 4d a gallon in the then currency - now 3.3c - in country areas than it was in the capital cities in the respective States. From memory, the price in the Northern Territory was based on Sydney prices. That scheme was of tremendous assistance to many people and many industries throughout Australia. This legislation proposes a reduction in that differential. The margin now will be no more than 5c a gallon. That will apply not only to petrol but also to many other fuels such as aviation fuel and distillate. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), who is just leaving the chamber, spoke for 6 or 7 minutes and tried to justify his existence as the honourable member for Riverina.
– He has just said that he believes in an increase in the price of petrol.
– That is right. This is one of the many performances of the honourable member for Riverina since the Labor Government has been in charge of Australian politics in this House. When the Liberal-Country Party Government was in office the honourable member for Riverina accused the Government of doing various things such as putting up charges and costs. This particular measure will raise the price of petrol by about 7c a gallon in the areas about which I am speaking. It is beyond belief for any man to try to justify that increase in the present circumstances. We will see more such performances as the pressure grows. This measure is part of a Budget which is increasing costs in many areas.
I say to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) who is at the table that the measure he adopted today in relation to people in country areas is very much accepted and appreciated. This is a big country and people are inclined to forget that fact. The vast area of Australia is much bigger, in relation to population, than most people in other parts of the world can imagine. Because of the vast distances involved people who go out into those areas and produce the wealth of the nation face excessive costs. A lot of the wealth of the nation comes from those areas. If everyone were to move to the cities the nation would lose its wealth. Everybody cannot live in the cities. As I mentioned yesterday people such as miners, farmers and their associates have to go to the country and produce the wherewithal. The measure brought down in 1965 assisted those people to a large extent.
It has been mentioned that fuel has been dumped by a particular company around Melbourne and sold at a much cheaper price than it can be obtained in some areas of Australia. I know that it has been going on for some time. A tanker can be brought into Melbourne to dump fuel in and around the city, but that is not the total scene. If that was all that was done we would have no fuel supplies throughout Australia. The cost of delivery of fuel throughout Australia is quite a large exercise. We need machinery to make fuel available to people wherever they are operating in Australia. To achieve this a vast organisation is necessary. We need an organisation that is prepared to go into the country areas and make fuel available when it is required so that people do not have to sit and wait for it. The Bill introduced in 1965 establishing the 3.3c differential helped the situation and enabled fuel to be taken to those remote areas of Australia and to be stored in depots where it was available. There is always a cost involved not only in transporting fuel to country areas but also in storing it, making it available for the requirements of various industries operating in those areas. That applies not only to industries but also to the people and involves all manner of supplies. It is no good the honourable member for Riverina screeching about a single company that brings a tanker into Melbourne, dumps fuel in the city area and forgets about the rest of Australia. Members on this side of the House have talked about this sort of thing while debating a number of Bills.
More people have to be considered than those who live in the cities and around the coast of this country. People live all over Australia and consideration must be given to their needs. I noticed in the Press quite recently that rail freights in my own State are rising substantially. It all adds to costs as does the measure which we are debating this afternoon. It has been said also that the Act gave assistance only to the people in the country areas.
This is where the whole thing gets into a mess due to the muddled thinking of various people.
A lot has been said in the Press, in this House and by myself about the price of meat. No doubt more will be said. Previous governments have spent millions and millions of dollars on such things as beef roads so that trains, as we call them, can operate and carry beef to various abattoirs in the northern part of Australia. That system works not only in the north of Australia but practically all over Australia. Obviously if the cost of fuel is increased, no matter what type of fuel it is, the cost of transporting beef from stations or farms to the abattoir and beyond must rise. That cannot be avoided. It is obvious that if the cost of fuel is increased the cost of that particular commodity will also rise. As I said, the previous Government spent many millions of dollars in improving the road system so that the road trains could operate effectively. It was done for a number of reasons. Previously bullocks could not be moved from many areas until they were a certain age. Now the bullocks can be moved at a much younger age and more beef can be produced. The moment that transport costs are increased the price of almost every item in Australia will rise. Freight is the biggest single component in the cost structure of any item. It comprises more than 30 per cent of the cost of any finished article which is in use in Australia “today. Any item such as petrol which we are debating here today that generates cost increases is a disadvantage not only to country people but also to people all over Australia. People in the cities of this country rely on country areas to produce their food requirements.
People in cities are used to having a bottle of milk delivered to their doorstep every morning. The transport costs involved in having that bottle of milk delivered are quite extensive. As I understand the situation the milk supply for Canberra comes from vast distances. Obviously supplies will be transported by road. The transport of that particular commodity is quite a large item in the total cost. That situation applies not only to milk but also to every single item which housewives and the people of Australia use every day. The Government, when looking at this measure, should consider the total scene. It should not be thought of as something which involves just the country people. As the Coombs report has indicated, .he cost of fuel affects everybody. When I spoke in 1965 on a matter, such as this I referred to some of the areas in central Australia. I will not repeat what I said. It is recorded in Hansard. The Government should seriously consider any matters concerning transport. Transport is more important in Australia, due to its vast areas, than it is in most countries of the world.
– We have heard continually this afternoon the proposition being put forward by honourable members opposite that there is some line of demarcation between the urban areas of Australia and the rural areas. We heard the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) say that this Government is aligned against the country people. This continual attitude of creating divisiveness in order to start an argument amongst the people of Australia that there is a distinction between city and urban dwellers and rural dwellers is false. Considering that a Liberal-Country Party coalition was in office for 23 years and that the Liberal Party is based upon an urban electorate, one would have thought that there would have been a welding together of the needs of the country, the needs of the city and the need for development and equality.
Reference was made to the attitude of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), who is the Minister for Health, towards the increase in petrol prices. I would hazard a guess that the honourable member for Capricornia expressed his view on this matter in the Cabinet and no doubt he, like most Australians, realised that whilst city dwellers might receive their petrol a little more cheaply, they certainly pay a lot more for other things, in particular rents. There was also mention of the drift to the city; that people were leaving the country. Who steered this nation while people drifted away from the country? It is all very well to talk about the present situation, but honourable members opposite created it; they created the conditions under which people had to leave their rural holdings. They had to leave the country townships and seek employment in the cities.
Earlier the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) referred to one of his own relatives in the country who in his trade is receiving $30 to $40 a week less than his counterpart receives in the city. But what did honourable members opposite do about that situation? They did nothing about it because it seems that over the past quarter of a century the government of the time was more interested in seeing that the needs and interests of its supporters in the multi-national food corporations, oil corporations and any other kind of corporation which was prepared to put in money to the Government were provided for, and it was not really and honestly interested in the average rural individual who lived on his farm and who in some instances was being pushed off his farm because of increases in land values and rents as a result of the operations of the Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers. The previous Government was not interested in the rural people; it was more interested in where the money lay. I think that it is a completely hyprocritical attitude on the part of members of the Country Party to try to lay at the feet of this Government the responsibility for the conditions that now exist in the country.
I must support the remarks of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) some weeks ago when we were talking about the position in the country. He had to draw to the attention of this Parliament the fact that in some cases it would have been cheaper for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to buy the farm than to put a telephone on the farm. What greater indictment can there be than that of the economic policy of the government of the time? Money was given away willynilly to whoever asked for it or whoever wanted it without any thought being given to the economic viability of spending that money. That did not matter as long as honourable members opposite got the votes. With that money they bought votes in the right area.
– Can you give us a list of the farms that the Postmaster-General was talking about?
– I am sure that the Postmaster-General would be happy to oblige the honourable member; he is a very obliging gentleman. Obviously, members of the Country Party have not looked at some of the Budget papers which indicate that telephone services which provide for less than a 1,000-line exchange cost $9,000. We heard the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) talk about the obvious sectional tendency of the national Government. What greater and more perfect definition can there be of his own Government? His own Party is a sectional Party and his own Government was directed towards a particular sectional policy without regard, as I said earlier, to the economic objectives involved. The previous Government was not interested in whether the money being spent on behalf of all Australians - not just the people in the rural areas, the 14 per cent of the population who do not live in urban areas - was being spent in a manner which gave true worth and true value. We have heard the usual tirade about the present Government being opposed to the country people. People who say this probably forget that many of us come from country backgrounds, ‘that our grandparents and earlier relatives were from the country. The whole tirade, the whole cry of suspicion and assumption that the whole petroleum subsidy scheme is to be phased out-
– Perhaps one day honourable members opposite can get down to dealing with the facts. They should take full cognisance of the facts that existed in the books prior to 1972 for these are what they put there themselves. The effect of this Bill will be to increase the cost of petrol in some areas by a maximum of 1.7c per gallon. The Government will no longer be prepared to subsidise a differential of Se a gallon.
– That makes 7c a gallon when you put the Se on to it.
– The matter before the House is the 1.7c and I am quite confident that in most major cities the increased cost as a result of this legislation will be much less than 1.7c. But we did not hear anybody on the other side of the House go to the trouble of digging up those figures. All we heard about was discrimination. That has become the catchcry of the Country Party in particular. But we saw evidence of discrimination in the House last week when the Australian Citizenship Bill was before the House. We heard nonsense about the renunciation of oaths and so on. In reality that was simply an attempt to discriminate between those people who arrived in this country for settlement and those who were born here. We heard the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) a little earlier talking about the needs of the area. It is interesting to note on page 1677 of Hansard of 19 May 196S one of the comments that he made. He said:
For many years it has been the policy of the Country Party to bring about uniform prices for petrol and other fuels that are used in outback areas. I sincerely hope that that will occur in the not too distant future.
Now, 8 years later, he did not make any mention of that this evening when discussing this Bill. He did not bring to the notice of the Parliament that progress has been made in 8 years and that the subsidy has remained at 3.3c a gallon and that the price of petrol and the margins of resellers has been left to the decision and moods of the international oil companies.
Again this is in line with the policy that the previous Government followed of support for the oil companies. It did not matter much about anything else. During its long period of government no step, even having in mind the remark of the honourable member for Canning in 1965, was taken towards the regularisation of retailers’ margins. No step was taken to ensure that the prices being charged for petrol were justifiable. What the subsidy has done in effect over those years has been to operate as a disincentive to the oil companies to seek more efficient means of transporting petrol from the seaboard to the outback areas or areas away from the coast. While they were getting the increased costs underwritten by the national government there was no need for them to worry about what increase in costs occurred or whether the method of transportation they used was the most efficient available because the bill was being picked up by all Australian taxpayers anyway. We do not know whether the increased costs that have occurred in transportation, as shown by the oil companies, were justified.
The whole scheme has operated as a disincentive to the oil companies as well as being of assistance in particular areas to honourable members from the Country Party. Yesterday afternoon we had the instance in this Parliament of the Leader of the Country Party being most vigorous and vehement in his opposition to the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill seeking a referendum on prices. Here this afternoon we heard comments from the other side of the Parliament on why we should hold back prices, why this cost should not be added to others facing the primary producer. Yet yesterday afternoon when honourable members opposite had the opportunity to do something about all costs, not just petrol and fuel, they were most vigorous in their opposition to any such action. Whose leg are they really trying to pull? They are saying on one hand that they want costs kept down for the primary producer but on the other hand they were adamant yesterday that costs have a free rein and that sellers should be able to charge any price that they wish. This year has seen record prices for almost every primary product and every farm product.
Only a few days ago we learnt that a major ingredient in the latest rise in the consumer price index has been the increases in the prices of meat, potatoes and onions. Whilst these products are bringing record prices and have been major influences in the rise in the consumer price index, members of the Country Party and members of the Liberal Party are united in total opposition to any proposition that prices should be fixed. If the position in the rural industries is such that after 23 years of their Government and their economic direction an increase of 1.7c per gallon in the cost of petrol is to be overpowering to those industries, I think it is time we considered whether those industries, or some of them, are viable or not. It is certainly time for examination of the whole picture in the country. I simply repeat that this Government is not opposed to the interests of the rural people, but it is in favour of seeing that all people in the rural areas receive a better deal - not just those sections that are operated by multi-national companies. I commend the Bill to the House.
– This Bill must be a disappointment to the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), who is sitting at the table, because he was the Minister who, on behalf of the LiberalCountry Party Government, introduced legislation to provide freight benefits for people living in remote parts of Australia. It must be extremely disappointing for the honourable member to hear members of the present Government Party support the destruction of the legislation which he and his Government introduced and which has been so beneficial right across the board.
We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who is now gathering his papers in preparation for a quick departure. It took 3 preselection ballots to bring him into this House and I am sure that, when the people of Shortland hear that he is sponsoring an increase in the price of motor spirit and distillate to the order of 7c a gallon, they will want to have another pre-selection ballot.
– Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise on a point of order. I spoke in support of the Bill which proposes a maximum increase of 1.7c, not 7c.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I do not think that is a point of order.
– The increase proposed in this Bill is 1.7c or near enough to 2c a gallon. This Government also has increased the duty paid on petrol by 5c a gallon. According to my arithmetic, if 2c is added to that amount the total is 7c.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) who spoke earlier in this debate, condemned the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) for saying that the retention of this subsidy was of great benefit to decentralisation. The honourable member may not be interested in decentralisation, but we members of the Liberal and Country Parties are because if we do not spread our population right across Australia we will be in trouble. i point out to honourable members opposite that 75 per cent of our population is situated on the seaboard and that there is a drift of population to the cities. There will continue to be a drift of population to the cities while this Government is in power and while it brings in legislation of the kind now before us. We members of the Country Party are concerned with every man, woman and child living in this country. Over the years members of our Party have played a responsible part with the Liberals in government and have had regard for all matters relating to people living in this great country.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) went off like a fire cracker when he talked about petrol being sold in Victoria by XL Petroleum Pty Ltd and the Independent Oil Co. Pty Ltd 10c a gallon cheaper than elsewhere. Those companies have no responsibility in the petroleum industry of Australia. They just bring their fuel into Australia. They have no bulk terminals or transport organisations; consequently they have no overhead. Their exercise is a very limited one because they have only a limited amount of fuel. If they wanted to get into the petroleum industry in a proper way or in a way in which they would provide real opposition to the major petroleum companies, their costs would go up and they would not be able to compete.
As I have said, this legislation is a great blow to decentralisation. When we take into consideration the fact that the transport of all our goods to country areas is dependent on fuel, whether the goods go by rail or road transport which of course now represents a big percentage of transport traffic it means an added cost to the people living in the country, to the industry that has been developing in the country and to the great pastoral industries in the country. When our great primary industries and secondary industries which are established in the provincial cities and country towns are faced with an increased loading of 7c a gallon then up will go their costs and up will go the inflationary trend. When those industries market their goods they will be faced with the same iniquitous cost. The price of meat and the price of other commodities cannot be reduced when costs of production are increased. This is just too silly to contemplate.
In September 1965, a Bill was brought in by the Liberal-Country Party Government for the purpose of making payments to the States to provided a subsidy on the distribution of petroleum products in country areas including motor spirit and distillate. Of course today distillate is playing a very prominent part in transport costs because the big transport lorries are nearly all diesel operated. The previous Government proposed that it would cut rural costs by bringing in this subsidy on freight. It proposed to bring this about by legislating that the normal prices of these products would nowhere in Australia be more than 4c a gallon above the level of capital city prices but of course with the introduction of decimal currency this has now been reduced to 3.3c a gallon. That Government put that proposal into effect by arrangement with the Australian petroleum companies and by arrangement with the States. I was a member of the State Government of New South Wales at that time which had to bring in complementary legislation in order to make that proposal effective in that State. So this Bill was a good Bill. It helped decentralisation. It helped people living in the great country areas of Australia.
We find when we read the reports of the debates that took place at that time that those honourable members who now occupy seats on the Government side of the House and who seek to eliminate through this legislation this concession all spoke in favour of that subsidy. They spoke in favour of a Bill which proposed to give this concession to the people living in country areas. Now they have made an about face and seek to eliminate that concession. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) in a debate that took place on 12 May 1965 said: for 17 months people living in country districts have waited for the Government to honour a promise made by the Prime Minister . . . This Bill has as its objective the redemption of the Prime Minister’s promise. The Bill seeks, with the co-operation of the States and the oil companies, to establish a petrol policy for the States and to make it possible by this means for people to purchase petrol throughout each State at a price which will be no higher than 4d. a gallon above the ruling capital city prices. The Opposition deplores the delay in the presentation of this measure and regrets that consumers will have to wait until 1st October - almost two years after the promise was made - to obtain petrol at lower prices.
The Opposition, whose policy was to obtain a uniform price for petrol throughout Australia, does not oppose the Bill.
The honourable member said, in effect: ‘We support it’. The same honourable member, along with his colleagues will of course support the present legislation which will eliminate something that they were in favour of at that time. I will give another example. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) said:
I have often wondered during the several occasions when this matter has been discussed why, there should not be a uniform price for petrol througout Australia.
He went on to support the legislation which had been introduced. The withdrawal of the subsidy on petroleum products will increase costs in the various States by something of the order of the amount by which the Government is at present subsidising freights. The most recent figures I have on the subsidy which is being paid at present are for 1972-73. In that year the cost to the Government of the subsidy in New South Wales was $6.379m. In Victoria is was $lm. In Queensland, with its vast size, sparse population and large distances between towns, it was $9m. Queensland was the State which benefited most from the legislation which was introduced by the honourable member for Farrer in the government of the time. South Australia received Sim and Western Australia received $5m. Little Tasmania, where everything is nicely situated, received $170,000. The total subsidy for the whole of Australia was $25m. The withdrawal of this freight subsidy or freight differential, as it should be known, on distillate and petrol will have a serious financial effect on transport costs. It will be of the order of the amount of money the Government was paying by way of the differential.
This is just another example of the attempt by the Government to discriminate between people living in country areas and people living in metropolitan areas. It is another move against the people who live in the country areas of Australia. One has only to examine ‘the legislation which the Labor Government has introduced since taking office to ascertain that it has introduced many measures which will seriously affect the living costs of people in country areas of Australia. The Opposition deplores the Government’s actions. They will ultimately - perhaps in the next 9 to 12 months - have a very serious effect on country areas. Primary producers and those in country towns who depend upon primary production for their livelihood are going to be seriously affected. Primary producers, who are just recovering from the great problems that they have experienced in the last few years, including 4 years of drought and poor prices for their commodities, are now being thumped by the present Government with charges right across the board. In the meat industry, the wheat industry or any other primary industry any honourable member cares to name the Government is discriminating against primary producers and country people. These people have a very marked effect on the economy of Australia. City people should realise that if things are not prosperous in our great rural areas they are not prosperous in our cities. That has taken some time to filter through to the cities. Look what happened to our secondary industries when severe drought waa experienced in our country areas. The people who made agricultural machinery and trucks felt the effects of it within 12 months and many of them lost their jobs. There was unemployment throughout the land. Now that prosperity has returned to our great primary industries we find the employment situation is improving and there is full employment. I very much deplore this legislation.
– I think any government has to be very careful about increasing at Budget time or at any other time charges that are complementary to the whole process of production in a nation. I think most of the honourable members who have been members of this House for a while know that charges have to be raised from time to time in order to increase the capacity of the nation to provide better schooling, new schools, new hospitals and various other things, but the across the board increase of 5c in the excise on petrol and the latest move to withdraw the petroleum products subsidy scheme in a most insidious manner is a different thing altogether. It will have a drastic effect upon the people of Australia. The honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) was the first speaker in this debate to draw attention to the tremendous increase there will be in the cost of goods coming to the city from country areas and of raw material being back-loaded to the country. These increased costs will be of great importance to general consumers throughout Australia.
I have had some work done for me by the Parliamentary Library but as yet I have not finished assessing it. However, it appears that the cost to the consumer will be in the region of $50m a year and to the primary sector of the economy about $20m a year. One ponders whether the reason for the Government introducing this measure and imposing an increased excise on fuel is not a lot deeper than merely trying to raise revenue. One ponders whether it is a move to try to drive the public motorist off the road and to make the future Australian a person who catches a public bus to the beach on Saturdays and public transport to work during the week.
I join with those honourable members who have preceded me in saying how distressed the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) must be. He introduced the original legislation in 1965. He has had to sit through this debate and watch his legislation’s at least partial dismemberment. The idea of the government of 1965 - I cannot see that there should be any other line of reasoning today - was to try to help the development of this nation, particularly in areas outside the cities. Unquestionably, as the honourable member for Farrer said, this legislation helped significantly in this form of development. The margin in the wholesale price - originally it was 4d or 3.3c a gallon - will now become 5c. When this margin is added to the 5c increase in excise, this will mean that in isolated areas of Australia petrol will increase in price by 10c a gallon. That in itself is bad enough, as I have tried to explain, but I do not think enough speakers have drawn attention to the proportional increase that will apply to kerosene, distillate, aviation fuel and other fuels that are becoming more important in many isolated areas.
In the electorate of Barker in South Australia is an island called Kangaroo Island. This is an area I used to represent when I was a member of the State Parliament Kingscote, which is the virtual capital of Kangaroo Island, enjoyed a subsidy of 2.4c a gallon, Parndana a subsidy of 4.3c and Penneshaw a subsidy of 4c. The advantage that those areas enjoyed as a result of that subsidy will now disappear to the extent that I previously mentioned. This is the sort of problem with which we are confronted. In my own electorate, at the Renmark aerodrome aviation fuel costs will be hit unduly by this legislation. Power kerosene and distillate prices also will rise.
I do not intend to say more at this stage. I think there has been a fair degree of repetition in many of the speeches we have heard. I join with other honourable members in objecting to legislation, which I think has been farseeing and important to the nation, being partially, and perhaps completely in the future if one can believe the Coombs report, done away with to the disadvantage of all Australians. I simply voice my protest and also my hope that the Government has no further unpleasant shocks in store for those who invest their savings in areas outside the major capital cities.
– I thank the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) for cutting short his remarks to allow me to be associated with the opposition to this Bill. I thank also the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) for giving me the opportunity to speak. I am fully conscious that he wishes to reply to some comments that have been made and that as most members realise, the sitting will be suspended at 6.15 p.m. I refer firstly to the following portion of the second reading speech which I find very hard to follow and which I am sure many people outside could not follow:
The objective of the scheme is to reduce rural costs by effecting a significant degree of equalisation between city and country wholesale prices of such petroleum products.
That refers to the principle of the legislation but not to the spirit of this particular Bill. This Bill does not cut the price to the consumer but increases it. A little further on the speech states:
The margin has hitherto been 3.3c per gallon. In the course of his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated that the margin will be lifted to Se per gallon with a consequential saving in Government expenditure.
One can see therefore without further explanation what I mean. The member for Angas quoted figures, which he said he could not substantiate but which no doubt will prove to be very close to being 100 per cent accurate, which showed that the cost of this particular proposal to the nation will be about $50m, or $20m to country people. Some who have referred to this piece of legislation of being of advantage only to the country people are quite wrong because, as the member for Angas has pointed out, this is an indirect cost that must be passed on the consumer in metropolitan areas.
I want to make only one other point on this costing. I refer to the comments made in the discussion on this Bill and on similar Bills about trying to reduce costs. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) to my way of thinking made a complete fool of himself this afternoon. On the one hand he was trying to protect the Government and on the other hand he was trying to indicate to people outside this place that this legislation would be of great advantage in the long term to country users. How silly can you get, when one considers that as a result of the last Budget excise went up by 5c and that this particular item is to rise from 3.3c to 5c which means that people in areas which are at present gaining some benefit from the margin of 3.3c will naturally face an added cost of 1.7c. That will mean a total increase of 6.7c per gallon for many of the constituents whom the Minister for Immigration represents. He accused me of being in a privileged area and of getting a reduction of 11c or 8c. I assure the Minister that I am not in that privileged position because very few of my constituents can buy petrol at a cut price. The cut price applies in the metropolitan areas, and I wish the Minister would bring himself up to date.
The final point I want to make concerns the fixed price that has been mentioned. I repeat what I have said on numerous occasions outside this House. We are talking about fixing the price of petrol in Australia. The price is based on the South Australian price fixing arrangement and is carried through to other States; they get their guide from South Australia. The price is set at, say, 50c in the capital cities. Immediately a cut price war begins. This is a fair indication that the Prices Commissioner in South Australia is a long way from accurate when he tries to fix the price. I would like to say a lot more on this particular matter, but in fairness to the Postmaster-General I will resume my seat so that he may close the debate.
– I would like to thank honourable members for their cooperation. The Government is anxious to get this piece of legislation through the House. As indicated, it is not being opposed in this chamber. I would like to make one or two points because it has been suggested that the Government is imposing a penalty. Firstly let us look at it from the point of view of sheer mathematics. In 1965 the margin was 3.3c. This is 1973 - 8 years later. It cannot be readily contraidcted that the 5c now proposed is virtually the equivalent of 3.3c 8 years ago. This proposal was submitted on that basis. It is purely an adjustment in respect of the inflationary position.
The other point which I think should be answered because I am acting for the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) is that honourable members should have a look at the efforts being made by the Government particularly in the field of primary products and see what results have been obtained. I refer particularly to the wheat trade with the People’s Republic of China and the negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade now taking place in Tokyo. These are of some significance. As a nation, if we are to make any development in this country it must be done by city and country interests combined. If we do not develop proper markets overseas we will not be looking after this country very effectively. Real efforts have been made by the Government not only in Australia but also outside ‘Australia to obtain markets for primary products and also secondary industries. I think some recognition should be given to those efforts because Minister of this Government are very busy and very occupied in putting Australia’s case before the world so that advantage will flow right across the board to both city and country dwellers.
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 Lionel Bowen) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (from 11 September (vide page 767), on motion by Mr Connor:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, and the Seas and Submerged Lands (Royalty on Minerals) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed.
– As the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said in his second reading speech, this Bill is completely identical in all respects with the measure which he introduced on 10 May 1973 and which he tried to railroad through with insufficient time for the Opposition to study and discuss. The Senate, however, would not be railroaded. We have now had time to study the Bill properly and it is apparent that a number of aspects of this Bill are not satisfactory.
However, there is no reason why this Bill should be hurried through the House. All the minerals so far discovered off-shore are of uneconomic ore grades to warrant production; and one must remember that the cost of mining off-shore is very much greater than the cost of mining on-shore. Gravels, sands and limestones are the only items at present mined or likely to be mined in the foreseeable future in Australia’s coastal shelf unless one includes coal, which I believe at one point is mined slightly off-shore from the low water mark. Perhaps in 10 years time it will be possible to mine the manganese nodules at great depth on the abyssal plain, but not yet.
The only other reason I can see for the Minister wanting to rush through this legislation is so that he can upset the petroleum products legislation, which was freely agreed to between the States and the Commonwealth, and which is working to the great advantage of the nation. But the Minister does not believe in co-operative federalism. He believes in centralism with all power residing in Canberra, even if he cannot administer it. He wants to abrogate the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act.
The States still believe that the wisest course would have been for a similar arrangement to have been adopted for off-shore minerals as for off-shore petroleum; that is, joint arrangements where the States administered the Act, subject to Commonwealth agreement, and where royalties were shared. The Commonwealth Government has seen fit, however, not to approach the States for discussions, but has acted as if it was the only one with any power, jurisdiction or interest below low water mark.
I would have preferred to have seen joint arrangements again. But as this is not to be, and to resolve a position which has remained unresolved for 4 years, we have decided not to oppose the passage of the first 2 parts of this Bill. This could resolve, for what it is worth, the abstract question of who has sovereign rights off-shore. But we will oppose, both here and in another place, part III of the Bill, commonly known as the mining code. It seems to be quite ludicrous to contemplate the setting up of a separate federal Mines Department to duplicate the work already being carried out by the States in this area. No one - not even the Minister - has claimed that the States are incompetent.
The mining code which a Liberal government would want to see employed if we were in office, is one which maintained the federal system. In the areas off-shore from the States the administration should be in the hands of the States. We would not want to set up large and overlapping mines departments to administer each State’s off-shore mining, always presuming that the High Court ruled that the Commonwealth did have sovereignty off-shore. In the United States, where the federal Government was ruled by the Supreme Court to have sovereignty off-shore from low water mark, the United States Government returned the powers, jurisdiction and administration of the area up to the 3-mile mark to the States. We should do the same.
The decisions over the allocation of exploration permits and licences to produce could be joint decisions - as they are in the search for oil - with either government having the right to veto a decision. The Commonwealth, for its part, should insist on adequate work requirements, release of information, and it should see that miners are required to pay suitable and adequate royalties.
We believe that the States should maintain and administer their laws in the territorial waters over such matters as boating, fishing, swimming, common crimes, etc. It would be quite ludicrous if the laws of the Australian Capital Territory applied from low water mark. Difficulty could be experienced in determining whether an alleged crime was committed abo ve or below low water mark, and hence in whose jurisdiction it was committed. The Commonwealth would of course still be responsible for the exercise of its constitutional powers such as defence, navigation, customs, exports and imports, etc. Royalties could be shared on an acceptable basis, as is the case at present under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Acts.
One of the complaints of the States with the presently proposed act is that State boundaries revert to what they were alleged to be at Federation. Presently accepted methods of determining State boundaries as used by the Division of National Mapping show the States to have more territory than they had at Federation - mainly because of the increased closing distance now used to close off internal waters, and because some areas, such as Wollongong, Portland, etc., have been built up since then. This Bill would, quite unjustly, take this increased area from the States. As a government we would propose that the State boundaries as shown on the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act should be the ones used in the mining code of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, and we would make certain that jetties, piers, etc., built by the States since Federation, would remain State property.
Finally, an area of great concern in this Bill is the wide powers of delegation by the Minister to any public servant and the very wide powers given to the Minister to grant and refuse, to impose conditions and to cancel. I believe that there should be a re-examination of the provisions of the legislation with a view to limiting, where practicable, the areas of discretion and delegated authority. I believe that there should be a requirement for the circumstances surrounding decisions and reasons for decisions to be made public and reported to the Parliament, at least in instances where it is reasonably practicable to do so.
I believe that there should be, in as many cases as are appropriate, the insertion in the legislation of objective criteria which the Designated Authority should observe in the exercise of his discretionary powers. Provision should be made for legal redress or appeal if it is believed, on an examination of the criteria or the reasons on which the decision was based, that there is arguable ground that there has been a failure to exercise a discretion properly. The legislation should be amended to provide for a regular report to the Parliament on the working and administration of the Act. An advisory authority could be established immediately, with Commonwealth and State representation, to collate information on Australia’s present and future needs of all forms of fuel and energy and power, and to act as an appeals board for appeals against decisions of designated authorities.
One cannot escape the conclusion that the discretions conferred by the mining code give the Minister enormous powers. They are capable of being mis-used and of subjecting companies which have expended vast sums pursuant to authorities, permits or licences to onerous and dictatorial conditions or to cancellation of their authorities, permits or licences. Government objectives and government control could be achieved merely by administrative procedures and without legislation. We intend, therefore, to amend the Bill by deleting Part III in its entirety. I have circulated the amendment which I will move in Committee.
The Government already knew that the Opposition intended to oppose Part III, and that as a result it would not pass the Senate. So why bring this Bill forward again? The Government already has fulfilled the conditions of the Constitution which would enable the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution, but we all know that the Government is scared to put its position to the test. Perquisites of office are very acceptable after you have been in the cold for 23 years and the only way in which the sticky fingers of the Government can be lossed is if it is dragged screaming from the tart shop. It will make no move itself to test whether it still possesses the confidence of the people.
can settle this at the Law of the Sea conference.
Let me turn to the position in the United States. There was a whole series of important United States oases in the nineteenth century - both Supreme Court and State courts - from the turn of the century, establishing that internal waters, that is bays and gulfs, were part of the territory of the various States to the extent permitted by English common Jaw. The important Supreme Court case of Pollard’s lessee v. Hagan in 1845 established that States entering the Union subsequent to the original federation were admitted on an equal footing and therefore acquired the same sovereign and proprietary rights in tidal lands and submerged lands under internal waters.
The litigation in the Supreme Court since 1947 has not controverted the fundamental underlying principle, namely, State rights to submerged lands under internal waters. However, the Supreme Court has seen fit either to ignore its previous decisions on the extent of internal waters or to regard them as inapplicable. More modern and internationally convenient definitions have been adopted. It is most doubtful that this neglect of judicial history would be possible in an Australian court, especially if it is found that the States’ boundaries were somehow frozen at colonial inception or at federation. In such a case judical alteration of State boundaries, such as has been countenanced by the United States Supreme Court since 1947 could not be legally tolerated. However, it should also be pointed out that the United States Constitution does not appear to have equivalents to sections 123 and 128 of our Constitution, which impede Federal Government action.
There have been frequent United States decisions establishing national property rights in the territorial sea, but until the United
States v. California case in 1947 it was not clear how these rights were divided in the federation. It should be pointed out however, that in that case the Supreme Court was motivated by political consideration - the paramountcy of the Federal Government in international affairs - which might not be available to our more legalistic High Court. In substance the Supreme Court was able to say that property rights in the territorial sea had coalesced with political rights, that political rights must vest in the national Government, and therefore property rights must too.
The Truman Proclamation in 1945 catalysed legal interest in the exploration of off-shore resources being undertaken at that time in the United States. It probably sparked the litigation in the Supreme Court to adjudicate between State and Federal rights. One of the commonly known submerged lands cases was the United States v. California in 1947. This was the first of 3 United States Supreme Court cases - the others were the United States v. Texas and the United States v. Louisiana both in 1950 - involving rights in the submerged lands underlying the ocean and outside the internal waters of California, Texas and Louisiana. The litigation began in 1945 following a controversy between the United States and several coastal States beginning in the 1920s with respect to the issuing of oil and gas leases over submerged lands by the United States.
The California case, a test case to determine the extent of respective rights, was instituted by the United States against the State of California in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. In summary, the result of the case is expressed in this form: This case was necessary and inevitable, given valuable submerged lands, and 2 governments maintaining conflicting proprietary interests in them. It is an adjudication which cannot be avoided in any federation. However, it is suggested that our rather legalistic High Court will have to search for an historical vesting of rights in the territorial sea in one of our federal polities, rather than hand down a decision overtly motivated by political consideration.
I turn to the Louisiana case. Prima facie, Louisiana’s claim for sovereignty over the territorial seas was directly parallel to that of California and therefore warranted litigation only if it was likely that the Supreme Court would overrule its previous verdict. Both
States were acquired from foreign countries - California from Mexico and Louisiana from France. Both were admitted to the Union after its formation and both were admitted- on the customary ‘equal footing’. However, Louisiana relied on one important differential. It had, by statute in 1938, extended its seaward boundaries to 27 marine miles from the shoreline. It was upon this action that Louisiana relied to set it apart from the considerations which pertained in the California case. In summary, this litigation arose because the State of Louisiana had unilaterally laid claim to a 27-mile territorial sea prior to the decision in the California case. The Supreme Court held unilateral extension without the imprimatur of national approval to be of no effect. There has been no such unilateral extension by an Australian State, nor does it seem possible that an Australian State would have power so to alter its boundaries.
I turn to the Texas case, the decision in which was handed down by the Supreme Court on the same day as its decision in the Louisiana case. The problems in the case of Texas were somewhat different because of its unique pre-admission status. Of the 37 States that have joined the Union subsequent to its formation, Texas was alone an independent nation immediately prior to statehood and did not first pass through territorial status. In these circumstances, Texas quite naturally argued that, as an independent nation, it had acquired paramount rights in the territorial sea equivalent to those awarded to the United States by the Supreme Court in the California case by virtue of its national external sovereignty.
However, once again the Supreme Court was not easily swayed from its path of national paramountcy. It invoked the ‘equal footing* clause against Texas by holding that irrespective of its pre-admission status upon admission to the Union its rights in adjacent maritime areas were no greater than those of any other coastal State. That case may be summed up in this way: This litigation arose first because of a unilateral boundary extension by Texas and, secondly, because of the unique independent republican status of Texas prior to admission to the Union. Neither consideration is material in the Australian Federation; nor is the Supreme Court’s argument in rebuttal of Texan claims that the ‘equal footing’ clause be invoked.
In 1952 there was the Supreme Court Master’s Judgment. This was a case in which internal waters were defined. It should be noted that in the California case the United States complaint excluded tide lands as well as lands under internal navigable waters from the controversy of disputed ownership. The Supreme Court held in 1947, by a vote of 6 to 2, that the United States and not California had paramount rights in the territorial sea and, incident to this, full dominion over the resources of the appurtenant seabed. While this judgment settled the basic division of legal rights over submerged lands, it made no precise demarcation of the Federal-State boundary. The Court adverted to this omission and commented that it would be more appropriately resolved at a later date.
In January 1948 the United States Government filed a petition for the entry of a supplemental decree seeking an adjudication. The Supreme Court rejected this submission but was unable to specify what particular segments should be determined. The Special Master was appointed with instructions to determine what segments of the coast ‘called for precise determination . . .’ One of the clauses directed to the Master read:
Are particular segments in fact bays or harbours constituting internal waters and from what land marks are the lines marking the seaward limits of bays, harbours, rivers and other internal waters to be drawn.
The Special Master filed his report with the Supreme Court in October 1952. It was particularly significant in two respects. First, the Master looked to international law, and to United States policy on it, rather than to any common law or internal constitutional criterion. Secondly, the Master treated United States rather than Californian practice, evidenced usually by nothing more authoritative than policy statements, as decisive. The Master considered that: ‘On the question of constitutional law propounded I agree with counsel for the United States that when the action of a State is actually contrary to action by the Federal Government the action is invalid for the reason that it is in conflict with the superior authority of the United States’.
In reaching ‘this conclusion, the Master was most probably influenced by Supreme Court decisions with regard to the territorial sea to the effect that the States could not, by extending their seaward limits, commit the Federal Government internationally to a greater extent than it had committed itself. In summarising that particular case, once again this sort of adjudication is inevitable in any federation, given the need to define the baseline from which the territorial sea is to be measured, and given the concept of internal waters which are part of the land territory for legal purposes. Again, however, it is submitted that in the Australian federation it is unlikely that a court will be able to incorporate current international criteria into the Australian constitutional structure. Rather, more traditional principles will have to be looked to. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth will simply be able to apply the Geneva Convention to the States because of section 123 and section 128 of our Constitution, and perhaps because of more general fundamental constitutional principles. However, the problem of defining the location of the baseline for the Australian territorial sea will probably prove the most difficult task confronting Austraiian courts dealing with off-shore legal problems. Extensive and complex coastlines present no easy solutions.
In 1953, as the honourable member foi Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said, the U.S. Congress passed the Submerged Lands Act In effect, the Act reversed the Supreme Court decisions in United States versus California and Louisiana cases. Thus what was once settled became unsettled once more. The Submerged Lands Act had a very simple goal, to reverse the previous Supreme Court decisions on the territorial sea. However it has probably raised as many difficulties as it solved, and has proved a breeding ground for litigation. The Act has been before the Supreme Court on 4 occasions. The first was a challenge to its constitutionality. The latter have been related to interpretation of boundary provisions in the Act. X do not intend to deal with each of the cases. In conclusion I would like to refer to the classic Louisiana boundary case of 1969. Essentially this case raised the same problems as the second Californian case, that is, the problem concerning the meaning of ‘coastline’ in the Submerged Lands Act 1953 and the location of the seaward limits of internal waters. Louisana claimed to have found some points of distinction between its case and that of California.
In summary, Louisiana brought the instant litigation, first, because it was attempting to argue that the Supreme Court’s adoption in the Californian case of definitions in the Geneva Conventions on internal waters was not generally binding on all States; and second, because it hoped that the inland waterline would have some boundary significance and thereby distinguish it from California. The first point is tenuous, the second can have no relevance in Australia. It is totally irrelevant for honourable members opposite to come to the conclusion that because there has been extensive litigation in the United States it will likewise happen in Australia. I say that for the following reasons. There are many factors which set the United States offshore resources legal controversy apart from the Australian constitutional situation. There are some indirect Federal parallels, but also many points of distinction. There is no need for similar extended and commercially unsatisfactory litigation in Australia.
I refer now to some of the factors which distinguish the 2 systems. Firstly, it is probable that the Australian States maritime boundaries, encompassing internal waters and possibly also the territorial sea, were fixed either at colonial inception or at federation. This would involve an Australian court in an historical investigation such as the United States Supreme Court saw fit to ignore because United States boundaries were not so fixed. Secondly, there are many more component States in the American federation, with far more variegated and even colourful constitutional histories, than in the Australian federation where by contrast constitutional development has been fairly uniform. Thirdly, the role of our courts will differ from that of the United States Supreme Court. Our courts would pay no heed to politically convenient notions like federal paramountcy in offshore areas if this means contraverting clearly established legal rules. It is just not on. Fourthly, the only necessary parallels for Australia in litigation are the first California case which determined rights in the territorial sea and the Special Master’s Report which decided upon the extent of internal waters. Certainly the determination of the precise, extent of internal waters will be a problem. But surely it is a problem already. After all, who can unequivocably declare at the moment precisely what bays and gulfs are part of the territory of the Australian States and hence from where the territorial sea is to be measured. I have not heard anybody, either here or in a State Parliament define that.
The fifth point is that as yet we in Australia have no clear judicial decisions to overturn and no submerged lands Act to overturn them. This Act in itself has been the source of most of the United States litigation. The sixth point is that the problem of historic bays, as pleaded in the Louisiana Boundary Case probably will arise if it is found that a valid title can be acquired in municipal law by the historical process. On the other hand it might be that there is no need to refer to the historical process in municipal law. If a claim to sovereignty is made by legislation and there is power to pass such legislation, it will be binding without recourse to historical title. If historical title is relevant, it might mean lengthy investigation into the legal status of various bays and gulfs. This is unavoidable. Finally, there is no reason why there should be excessive and expensive litigation in Australia once the legal fundamentals of off-shore zones have been resolved.
It should be pointed out that these legal fundamentals must be resolved irrespective of any Commonwealth legislation. Who knows where we stand at the moment? The Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources said:
The larger national interest is not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth Authority in the Territorial sea-bed and the Continental Shelf.
This question has to be resolved. If it is not done now it will have to be done in the future if the possession of off-shore resources is to be settled for the benefit of the nation as a whole. I support both Bills.
– I trespass upon the patience of the House for no more than two minutes. I listened with great interest to the speech made by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) this evening and there are some matters in that speech with which I agree. In particular I agree with what he had to say about the improper use of ministerial discretion in the mining code and the lack of provision for reports to the Parliament during the period of this legislation. But there was much in that speech with which I disagreed although I do not intend to go into that in any detail now. All I wish to make clear now is that inasmuch as the speech delivered by the honourable member for Farrer purported to be or may be taken to be a statement of what Liberal Party policy will be when we become the Government, I do not agree with it. I do not agree that it does propound future Liberal policy and I am not in any way to be considered as agreeing to or being bound by all the statements made in the speech.
– I respect the statement of opinion given to us by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). At the same time, the Australian Country Party has a view which relates more to our general concept of the way in which we see the future of the Australian Commonwealth, we are concerned as a Party that there should be meaningful co-operation between the States and the Australian Government. We do not believe that this Labor Government has contributed either directly or indirectly towards initiatives to resolve areas of difficulty. As a Minister who has been responsible in several areas affected by this legislation I believe that there has been reasonable progress towards the development of a regime which gives both fields of legislative responsibility an opportunity to express their several points of view towards the better interests of Australians.
We need, first of all, in any measure before this place to think not of whether we are responsible at a federal, a State or a local government level, but of those whom we represent. As far as I and the members of my Party are concerned we oppose at this stage all the sections of this Bill because we do not think that it is possible for the declaration of sovereignty and the resolution of who is particularly responsible to be solved by a decision of the courts. The High Court of Australia in the wisdom and the judicious determinations of those who preside there certainly will determine who is ultimately responsible but they will not resolve the administrative difficulties of who, how and when, in the practical sense, for example, is going to maintain control of those inner territorial waters up to the 3-mile limit. They do not cover the difficulties of providing the administration of a minerals regime. They do not provide the sort of meaningful co-operation which I think came out of the off-shore oil legislation that came through this Parliament and the regime that was negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States.
I see that there are a number of areas where further negotiations are necessary. I do not believe that either the Australian Labor Government nor the States have tried to enter into negotiations since the Bill was last before this Parliament. I would see that it is necessary that both sides attempt more than they have done to come to a resolution on the areas of difference. The resolution here is presented only by a laying down of the law in the manner in which the Australian Labor Government seeks it. I do not believe that to be the answer to the problem. I certainly am concerned at the problems which the Queensland Government and other State governments see in relation to their own territorial waters - as far as Queensland is concerned, the Great Barrier Reef and the islands to the north-east of Australia.
– How do you resolve them?
– I think again it is a matter of meaningful consultation. While we have 3 levels of government in Australia - and I support the system of 3 levels of government - I do not believe that the laying down of arbitrary sovereignty which is the product of this legislation is the way to get other tiers of government co-operating. I think the only way in which to resolve it is by sitting around a table and applying pressure. I do not think in the last 3 to 4 months, in the period of hiatus before the legislation reappeared in this House, pressure was in any way exercised by either the Federal Government or State governments towards achieving a resolution of these problems. Neither side was prepared to yield one inch from the firm lines of demarcation which they accepted. This legislation itself again presents the fact of the Federal Government asserting its sovereignty. I do not see that the resolution of sovereignty is as important as the resolution of the administrative responsibility of the area from the low water mark out to the 3-mile limit.
I acknowledge that one of the areas of difficulty is what happens in terms of the extension beyond the 3-mile limit. We now have the 12- mile limit for fishing rights. We have a probability of an extension beyond the 12-mile limit to whatever area the conference on the law of the sea might determine. I do recognise that there is a very real problem in the measure to which the States are able in the submissions to that conference on the law of the sea to determine how their administrative responsibility is affected. But as a member of a previous Cabinet which made a determination on the first submission on this legislation to come before this Parliament it was that perhaps more than any other aspect which motivated me in supporting it. But as a pragmatic politician in Australia in 1973 I am more concerned at what I see as the real conflict which this Government has generated between the Commonwealth and the States. When legislation of this character is introduced and pushed to a conclusion we see the personification of what to the Labor Party is the only basis upon which the problems of administration can be resolved, that is confrontation, not co-operation.
The Australian Country Party stands for meaningful, co-operative federalism, notwithstanding all the difficulties it presents. The Country Party believes that this legislation covers a number of areas which should be subject to administrative discussion. In the field of determination of fishing rights there are tremendous problems. As one who has been Chairman of the Australian Fisheries Council for some years I am fully cognisant of the difficulties that exist. However, if one examines the origin of these problems one realises they arise more because the Commonwealth has not provided the financial support to enable a patrol of waters outside the 3-mile limit than from any other cause. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to assume financial responsibilities if there is to be an exercise of its sovereign rights beyond the 3-mile limit. If it is not prepared to exercise its financial responsibilities beyond the 3-mile limit what idiocy it is for us tonight to consider that the Commonwealth will exercise such responsibility from the low water mark to the 3-mile limit. This is an area where there is a real need for discussion.
Also to be considered is the question of Commonwealth fishing licences and State fishing licences. I dislike the duplication of such licences. I dislike the difficulties that emerged as a result of the grounding of the “Oceanic Grandeur’, but as a result of that grounding we were able to establish a regime within which there is meaningful and purposeful arrangement as a result of which future oil pollution can be eliminated or contained through joint and co-operative action by the Commonwealth and the States. It is only by that sort of co-operative action that administrative problems can be resolved. I acknowledge that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asserts the necessity for one government to have sovereign rights over the area between the low water mark and whatever might be the ultimate limit of Australia’s territorial sea, but I do not believe that that is the way in which we will be able to overcome the day to day problems of administration. I believe it would be far better for the Commonwealth Parliament to promote a significant cooperative effort whereby the States could, with the Commonwealth, work out the way the administration should be carried out.
In this Parliament we are not concerned simply with laying down the laws of the land; we are concerned with administering them. If one considers the mineral and oil wealth beneath the sea one appreciates that there are untold riches which must be exploited not for the benefit of the Australian Parliament or the State Parliaments but for future generations of Australians, who will not care who carries out the administration so long as it is carried out in their best interests. I do not see that by the arbitrary laying down of a law which says that sovereignty must be exercised by the Australian Parliament we will necessarily be providing that protection for the average man and woman of his heritage - that heritage being the wealth beneath the sea. For this reason - I do not want to take up further the time of the House - the Country Party is opposed to the passage, at this time, of any of the 3 parts of this measure. Ultimately there must be a resolution of the sovereignty question. I appreciate full well the point of view submitted by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton. I know that there is a legal difficulty but, as a pragmatic politician, I am concerned at how we are to set up a regime which brings the people from the 2 tiers of government into administering this matter effectively. I do not believe that by the assertion of sovereignty we will achieve practical administrative effectiveness. For that reason, I believe, we should defer this measure tonight. Let us provide a bit of pressure to make sure that this Labor Government and the States get together around a table to work out regimes in fishing and regimes in the mineral area, which is complete anathema to my concept of how a Commonwealth should operate. Let them work out other areas where there are difficulties. Let them together effect an administrative regime or process which protects the interests concerned for future generations of Australians, not by confrontation but by co-operation.
Mr keating (Blaxland) (8.40)- No amount of soothing words or genteel delivery will cover up the sham of what is occurring on the other side of the House amongst most members of the Opposition. The speeches of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) amount to nothing more than humbug, because this legislation was first introduced in the days of the Gorton Government and it was to be introduced with a mining code. Later on tonight I will read from a draft speech by the Honourable R. W. Swartz on the proposed Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970. A speech was even prepared for it and honourable members opposite are saying that this legislation should not now be introduced. Some of the detail the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has included in part III of this Bill is mentioned in that speech and in the proposed Bill. This legislation has been rejected here twice since the Government introduced it. It then went across-
– I take a point of order. The honourable member has a speech which, I take it, was never delivered. Are we entitled to have that tabled?
– You are not entitled to have it yet.
– I am anxious to know where this came from.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Blaxland intimated that he intends to read from that speech later, and what he reads will appear in Hansard. He need not table it.
– This Bill was rejected here on one occasion. It was then taken across to the Senate where the so called States righters tore it to shreds, and it came back here again. This time the Liberal Party decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, they could not argue against the Bonser v La Macchia decision in the High Court. They could not continue to back the Premiers on their excursions to London - their free trips - on the basis that they do not trust the Australian High Court. They could not go against the views of Sir Percy Spender, a former member of the International Court of Justice and a former Minister of this House, that the States never had sovereignty over the offshore waters to the 3-mile limit either as colonies or as States. They could not pursue that sham any further so they decided to let the declaratory sections of the Bill through. They decided to say: ‘Yes’, we are prepared to vote for the declaratory sections and have the High Court look at it.’
But when we get around to the mining code all the vested interests come out of the woodwork. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) whom I call the honourable member for Woodside-Burmah, who must be on a retainer from that company, and all the other honourable members opposite interested in the oil companies see problems about the administration of the code. The fact of the matter is that in 1968 the former Prime Minister, now the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), and the Honourable R. W. Swartz, were prepared to legislate fully, and so was the honourable member for Farrer. I want to read an excerpt from a speech made by the right honourable member for Higgins on 3 March 1970. He said that the then Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, wrote:
As to offshore minerals other than petroleum, the Commonwealth is of the view that it should proceed on the footing that it enjoys total rights outside the 3-mile limit. It proposes to legislate in pursuance of this section.
That is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to the Austraiian Minerals Council. Honourable members opposite cannot deny it because the right honourable member for Higgins blew their cover. I will quote further. The right honourable member for Higgins told the then Minister:
Eliminate from any proposed letter any suggestion that the Commonwealth will not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on this matter.
He said ‘to hell with the States’ and good on him. It should have been ‘to hell with the States’ a few years ago, but we are still messing around here because of the machinations of the State Liberal Party and that agrarian pressure group, the Country Party.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. May I ask that this letter from the right honourable member for Higgins be tabled?
-Order! Standing Orders provide only in regard to the tabling of documents read to the House by a Minister.
– That matter has been read to the House.
– This is the second time I have quoted it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not a Minister.
– He was given it by a Minister.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– The facts of the matter are that those phonies opposite are being found out and the only people on that side of the House who have been true blue on the issue are the right honourable member for
Higgins (Mr Gorton), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and a few other colleagues who have been genuine on the issue from the start, as evidenced by the words spoken a few moments ago by the right honourable member for Higgins. The facts of the matter are that we are determined to see that this Parliament exercises national sovereignty over the off-shore area of Australia. We are not going to be stopped by the likes of honourable members opposite.
I should like to read some excerpts from a section of a speech prepared by the Minister for National Development in the days of the Gorton Government. It is a speech on a Bill which is now Part III of our Bill; that is the mining code which was then to be called the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970. It is now Part III of our Bill and it is the part to which the Opposition objects. It is the reason why the Bill has not been passed. I should like just to read a few excerpts from the speech. It starts off in these terms:
The purpose of this Bill and the associated Royalty Bill is to provide a legislative framework to govern the exploration for and the exploitation of the mineral resources other than petroleum, of submerged lands adjacent to Australia and certain of the Territories of the Commonwealth. This policy was foreshadowed on 16 April 1970 when on behalf of the Acting Minister for External Affairs I introduced the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970. I would remind the House that neither the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill nor the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill will in any way affect the existing agreement entered into in October 1967 between the Commonwealth and the States concerning off-shore petroleum and the legislation giving effect to that agreement.
In other words the former Minister was not going to interrupt the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill but he was going to have a mining code independent of the States. On page 2 of the speech he states:
As matters stand the whole question of jurisidiction and ownership in the offshore area is in doubt. The initiative which the Commonwealth is taking in bringing these two related Bills before the House is an essential prerequisite to enabling the issue to be placed before the High Court for decision. A challenge by the States is the second prerequisite. For its part the Commonwealth is not taking this step in a spirit of provocation. We wish to have the legal issues settled clearly and decisively. We wish to know where responsibility rests.
That was said by the Liberal Party’s own Minister 3 years ago. I refer now to page 3 of the speech because it needs to go into Hansard. I know it is a bit tedious but honourable members should listen. It states:
When Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States met in April 1964 under the chairmanship of the late Sir William Spooner it was agreed as far back as 1964 to isolate petroleum, both oil and gas, as the subjects for discussion. It was further agreed by all Ministers that any solution to the petroleum problem would not be taken as a precedent for solving the problem as to other resources on the continental shelf.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. A Westminster convention is referred to in ‘May’s Parliamentary Practice’ which states that letters, correspondence and submissions of earlier governments should not be made available to subsequent governments. The documents and the material which have been referred to by the honourable member for Blaxland-
– It hurts, does it not? Does it not hurt?
– They are obviously from files of earlier governments. He has been referring specifically to correspondence from a former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins. He has been referring to speeches by an earlier Minister, the former Minister for .National Development. I submit that all the correspondence and all the documents from which the honourable member for Blaxland has been quoting to this House, according to ‘May’s Parliamentary Practice’ and Westminster tradition should not be available to the honourable member, nor should they be made public in the debate in this chamber.
– Order! This is entirely a matter for the Government to decide. In the first place standing order 321 specifically states that a Minister or an Assistant Minister can be required to table a document from which he quotes, but that does not apply to a private member. .But in regard to the point of order just raised by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, that is entirely a matter for the Government.
– Mr Speaker, can I make a personal explanation? I have had these documents for quite a time and I believe I have used them in other speeches. I was not given it by the Minister for Minerals and Energy; I can assure honourable members of that. I want to read from page 8 of the speech - and this is the kernel of the subject. This was the speech of a Liberal Minister 3 years ago. It states:
However, at this point we cannot be sure that this co-operation will be forthcoming- .
This is with the States- or that it will be forthcoming from all the States and hence the Bill has been drafted in such a way as will enable the Commonwealth itself to establish its own administration should, regrettably. State cooperation be withheld.
Further down in the speech it refers to the minerals code which is identical to what has been introduced by this Government in Part III of the Bill before the House. In the speech of the Minister for Minerals and Energy in March of this year are details similar to the content of this speech. The facts of the matter are that the previous Liberal governments were prepared to introduce a mining code which was called a Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill, to vote upon it and to have it put through this House and through the Senate; but because of interstate rivalry and pressures within the Liberal and Country parties the matter never came to a head. And now their dirty washing is laid out in public.
We are not prepared to be thwarted anymore. We want to press on with this Bill. It is impertinent of the Opposition to hold up the mining code section of the Bill in this House when this is the third time this Bill has been presented. In fact, if one wants to consider the Gorton Bill also the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, it is the fourth time this legislation has been brought into this House. Honourable members opposite sit there as national parliamentarians and say that we should not have the power to legislate from low water mark to the edge of the continental shelf. Furthermore, not only are we not supposed to have the power, the Opposition objects to the fact that we want to use it to regulate the operation of oil companies operating off the Australian coast. Honourable members opposite ought to be ashamed of themselves individually and collectively. It is impertinent of them to put up these amendments. We are going to vote against them tonight in the House and I sincerely hope that the Opposition comes to its senses, that the Bill is carried through the Senate and once and for all the Australian Parliament can assert and exercise sovereignty over the offshore. The High Court can then decide the matter once and for all and reach a point of finality.
But let party politics be put aside. Let the rivalries of honourable members opposite be set aside. Let the Opposition’s mates, the people like the friends of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), be put aside because what counts here is the people of Australia, not Woodside Burmah, not a particular company, not interstate rivalries, not inter-party rivalries, but the welfare of the people of Australia.
– The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) never ceases to amaze me. The speeches that he makes are-
– He is an amazing fellow.
– He is an amazing fellow in what he can really draw out to press his argument, but the points are all so empty that I wonder that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) allows him to speak. The strangest thing of all is that whenever the Minister for Minerals and Energy, who is at the table, is there we can always find his lackey sitting in the back benches, and so it is tonight. He has continued to call a few people on this side of the chamber a few names, but that will not worry anybody. I am reminded by my colleague of a saying that comes from mainland China: You can always tell that you are out in front when the mob starts to throw stones. I suggest that the honourable member for Blaxland should remember that and maybe he will shut his mouth and sit down much earlier than he did this time.
On another point, the honourable member for Blaxland said that he has a copy of a speech that was not delivered. He has assured the House that he did not get it from the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I think that the House ought to be told from where the honourable member got the document. I think the honourable member ought to tell the House where he got the document.
-Order! I was wondering whether the honourable member for Stirling was appealing to the Chair to request that the honourable member say where he got the document. This has nothing to do with the Chair.
– I have no doubt that that is quite correct but I am equally without doubt that there are many honourable members in this House tonight who, having heard the honourable member for Blaxland, will want to know where he got this document.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who preceded the honourable member for Blaxland gave us a most erudite exposition of American law. I just wonder what relevance that has to the Australian Constitution and the particular document before the House. I am greatly indebted for all the learning that has gone into this exposition and the manner in which it has been delivered and the erudition that it displays but I wondered to myself as I listened whether the honourable member for Hawker had done all the investigation or whether it had been written by someone else. But I thought that, having displayed that erudition, he should at least have been aware for example of how the influence of the American Constitution upon Australian constitutional law was put to rest by Mr Menzies, as he then was, in the Engineers case in the early 1920s, when the decision of the United States Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland - a decision delivered by one of the most famous chief justices of the United States Court, Chief Justice Marshall - was clearly decided by the High Court of Australia to have no relevance to the interpretation of the Australian Constitution. I would think equally today that none of the law exposed to this House by the honourable member for Hawker has any relevance to the question of sovereignty over territorial waters or the continental shelf. So, let us put it aside and forget it, and next time the honourable member for Hawker may come forward with a better argument.
The honourable member for Farrar (Mr Fairbairn) clearly said that the question of sovereignty is not in issue in this debate. What is in issue is Part III, dealing with the minerals code. I wonder sometimes at honourable members opposite when they talk about how the High Court is being denied the opportunity of resolving this great constitutional question of sovereignty because, in his second reading speech, the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said:
The objective of the Bill, as announced by His Excellency the Governor-General in his Speech at the opening of the twenty-eighth Parliament is to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of. the sea bed . . .
So the Government believes that by this piece of legislation it can remove any doubt whatsoever, and the clear implication from that is that the Government does not need the assistance of the High Court, and of course with the benefit of the erudition of the honourable member for Hawker, naturally it does not need the benefit of the High Court to decide the question of sovereignty.
But then we have the arguments that came forth from both the honourable member for Blaxland and the honourable member for Hawker, that we on this side are denying to the High Court the opportunity of resolving this question. I would have thought that the clear way to resolve what is a political question and not a legal question is not litigation but negotiation and co-operation and if there is one thing that has come out of the speech of the honourable member for Hawker, it is that litigation is a fruitless exercise, and we in Australia do not want to embark upon the same path as was followed in America. Again, if the honourable member for Hawker had allowed his inquiries to go beyond the University of Adelaide, he would have found that there are other legal journals which have praised the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act as an example for the world of what can be achieved when questions of competing sovereignty are involved in a Federal system. I would have thought that the national spirit which we are told so often motivates Government supporters would have demanded that the same kind of legislation be brought down to apply to manganese nodules on the sea bed as has been introduced to control exploration and exploitation of oil and gas which is under the sea bed.
How do honourable members opposite draw a distinction between the 2 minerals? I have wondered about this because, I have looked for example, at clause 19 of the Bill before the House. Division 2 of Part III deals with the application of laws and clause 19 provides that: . .the laws, whether written or unwritten, for the time being in force in the Australian Capital Territory … so apply . . .
Those laws shall apply to the territorial zone - I will use that space. I then compare that with section 9 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act which we are assured that the Government accepts and will continue to operate. The laws enforced by section 9 of that Act are the laws of a State. We have the strange situation that, in respect of activities dealing with the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, the laws of, for example, Western Australia extended into the territorial seas and continental shelf, but under the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill the laws of the Australian Capital Territory will apply.
I might ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy to explain to me in my humble ignorance what happens when you have an explorer exploring for manganese nodules underneath a drilling ship which is exploring for oil and gas. The laws applying to the men in the submarine exploring for manganese nodules are the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. The laws applying to the diver standing alongside him, checking the drill pipe going down into the earth are the laws of Western Australia. I would not have thought that that is good sense, more particularly when the laws enforced in the Australian Capital Territory are the laws of New South Wales, subject to any ordinances or Acts which have been introduced so as to affect them. Why on earth a Western Australian would want to be governed by the laws of New South Wales - let alone the laws of Queensland - I really do not know. Perhaps the honourable member for Blaxland can explain to me after all that babble that he went on with earlier just why this sort of thing has been allowed to happen.
But really, in the end, there is a simple answer. In the zeal with which the Government pursues its socialist centralist policies, it cannot see beyond the end of its centralist nose, and so it cannot see beyond the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. It thinks in its wisdom that what is good for the Australian Capital Territory is good for the whole of Australia. I would not have thought that the people of Australia would want to be held in the iron band of clause 19 of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill so that right around the land mass of Australia, whatever the laws of the State are on shore, the laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply off shore in respect of exploration for manganese nodules. It has only to be stated to realise the absurdity of it.
I say unashamedly that I am the honourable member for Stirling, which is a part of Western Australia and I say unashamedly that when a Bill of this kind comes before the House and I see this Government seeking to take unto itself complete control over exploration of the sea bed, apart from exploration for petroleum, giving no access to the people of Western Australia to the administration of what goes on off their shores, then I refute the appropriateness, the fairness, the equity and the good sense of what is proposed. 1 know that continually Government supporters justify what they are doing by saying that it is in the national interest. But I would have thought that the national interest demands just as much that the people on shore should have say in the administration of what goes on off shore.
Again I have only to remind myself that I come from Western Australia, the State with more mineral activity, exploration and development than any other place in Australia, whether it be called a State or a region. I /remind myself that from the days of the gold rushes of the late nineteenth century we have built up a system of mining law and administration which has served Western Australia and Australia well in giving effect to the fullest exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources of that State. There is no need to me to elaborate - from gold to iron ore, from nickel to bauxite to oil and gas. What a benefit that has been to the whole of Australia. Why on earth it is thought that the expertise within the administration of the Department of Mines of Western Australia is not competent to extend itself off-shore I really do not know. Nothing has been shown by the Minister or either of those who have supported him to justify the Commonwealth Parliament and the Commonwealth Government establishing for itself a Federal department of mines which can only duplicate the personnel and expertise that is to be found already within Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and all the other State administrations throughout Australia.
I take my remarks no further. I have already spoken on this Bill when it was introduced during the autumn session. What I said then I would repeat again, but to do that would be superfluous. I think the House knows where I stand. I am sure the people of my electorate and my State know where I stand. To me there is nothing incompatible with the national interest for the State of Western Australia or any other State in Australia to participate in the administration of the mining laws to give effect to the exploration and exploitation of the mineral wealth on the sea bed of the continental shelf which surrounds Australia. I leave my remarks there because I am glad to give the opportunity to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) to say a few words.
– I would trespass upon the time of the House for but a few minutes to offer a few views which I hope are quite detached from any party political affinity. There has been no controversy in my 18 years in this Parliament which has incurred the wrath of my political colleagues more than this issue. The knives have led to some bleeding, but happily not to the extinction of the blood flow. I come back to a few fundamental issues as far as this legislation is concerned. I indicate to the House that I support the general principle, that is to say Parts I and II of the Bill. I reject Part III, the mining code, on which I shall have something to say in a moment or two. Parts I and II were substantially the parts in the Bill introduced on behalf of the present right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs by the then Minister for National Development and honourable member for Darling Downs, Sir Reginald Swartz, who has since swept himself into retirement. I still see the same sense of urgency that the Minister used on that occasion.
As far as the territorial sea is concerned, 1 am not greatly concerned. As far as the continental shelf is concerned, I am concerned. I want to repeat, if I may, something to those who take the view that this is a narrow pinched view. If the Acting Government Whip could occupy himself, I want to talk about one or two things, because people hold strong views on this matter.
– I am delighted to get your asseveration that they do hold strong views, because in my view the last government behaved illegally as far as the continental shelf is conceerned. That is the proposition. Is there any doubt about it? The last Government, the McMahon Government, behaved illegally as far as the continental shelf was concerned. Does anyone disagree with that?
– I am delighted to hear that from the honourable member for Petrie. Section 123 of our Constitution provides that this Parliament cannot unilaterally alter the boundary of any State. Is that in dispute from the honourable member for Petrie? I doubt it. The State Premiers, in particular the Premier of that northern State, contend that the continental shelf belongs to the States. Is there any doubt as to the assertion? This is the assertion which he makes. It was made by the former Attorney-General in Queensland, Dr Peter Delamothe. We have not had a lawyer in Queeensland as Attorney-General for over 40 years - a thundering disgrace. But put that to one side. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) wants to interject. If he wants to confute what I have to say I hope he will get up and say so.
– You stopped me from getting up.
– I will move an extension of time and we can sit here to sun-up as far as I am concerned. The Premier of Western Australia, the Premier of Queensland and all the Premiers by and large have contended-
– The Premier of Western Australia?
– Look, go and take some valium and keep yourself quiet. They have asserted that the continental shelf belongs to the States.
- Mr Tonkin says that?
– Of course he does. This is the point I want to make to you. Under the Australia-Indonesia agreement this Commonwealth Parliament purported to hand over part of the State of Western Australia to Indonesia. What does the honourable member have to say to that?
– It did it.
– Yes and people go out and commit murder. That does not connote approval or it should not connote approval. That is a silly situation people have got themselves into. I want to deal with the view put by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who is the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) for whom I have the utmost affection and admiration. Fancy in the Parliament, nurtured in the tradition of Westminster, saying that you will have a mixed responsibility. Who answers for what happens under a mixed responsibility? Does the Minister in the Queensland Parliament answer to the Queensland Parliament? Does the Minister for Minerals and Energy answer here? There must be the clearest line of authority as far as Parliament is concerned.
They are 2 practical grounds that I offer to honourable members, and unless they are to be swept into a state of curiosity about this great issue they will face up to them. But I want to go on to a further one and I will not have any person, no matter to which political party he may belong, seek to overwhelm me on this ground. Five-sevenths - I want to repeat the statistics on this - five-sevenths of the world in which we live is made up of oceans and the last great world to be conquered, so far as we are concerned, is represented by the oceans. Already those with power, money and influence are seeking to exploit the oceans. Howard Hughes has already started to mine the oceans. Is this race to go to the swiftest? I ask this question again. I ask it not for the first time. Is this race to go to the more powerful, to the strongest?
The President of the United States, backed with his unique authority, is going to the next Law of the Sea Conference, to ask the nations of the world to abandon the 1958 Geneva convention relating to the law of the sea dealing with the continental shelf and to restrict it to the 200 metre mark. The area between the 200 metre mark and the end of what is called compendiously the continental margin is to be handed over to a trusteeship arrangement operated by the United Nations and the coastal state - ‘state’ is used in that context in international law, not as a component of federation - for the purposes of international law.
I come to this point: Here is a plain challenge to Australia. How can this country legislate with respect to the 200-metre mark outwards to hand it over to anybody in infringement of section 123 of the Constitution unless we know where the sovereignty lies? Now, my honourable friend from Stirling says: ‘Irrelevant. You cannot hand over part of Western Australia, Arnhem Land or any other part of Australia to Indonesia’. Why is that so? The argument is that one would alter the boundary of a State. If the argument of the State Premiers is right, one cannot do the same with respect to the continental shelf.
I come to New Guinea. This is the last practical observation that I will make on this point. The North Sea continental shelf case decided by the International Court of Justice laid it down that the median line, that is, the centre line, is not a customary rule of international law. So where we have 2 nations bordering each other, joined by a continental shelf, a dispute between them must be settled by argument and by negotiation. That is the essence, that is the ratio decidendi, of the decision of the International Court in the North Sea continental shelf case.
It is seriously argued that Queensland can argue its case? Queensland has no inter- national personality. But I am left with the conclusion when I mention that to some State Ministers that I would almost be accused of declaring that they suffer from some form of social disease. Sir, this matter is too serious to be trifled with. The whole purpose of the High Court is to settle this sort of argument. It is all very fine to say that all arguments are political. Of course they are in the ultimate. The High Court is there to adjudicate for this precise reason.
The last matter that I wish to raise concerns as grave a matter as anything that I have heard in this Parliament. I refer to the speech of my friend, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). My friend this evening has quoted or purported to quote from a speech allegedly prepared to be delivered by a former Minister for National Development. There is a very old convention of government that no letter, no preparation, no recording and no proceeding dealing with the Cabinets in preceding governments are to be disclosed until such time as allowed by law. This has been done on 3 occasions by this Government. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - I think it was in February of this year - whether he supported that convention and he said that he did.
– He broke it on Friday last.
– It has been broken. If this breaching of that convention is to be taken as representing nothing, we have come to a very sorry pass. I say to my friend, the honourable member for Blaxland - and there is a measure of friendship between us - that he was in grievous error this evening in making the claim that he did. To say that he did not get the speech, the letter or whatever it purported to be, from the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) did not exculpate him. I would suggest that it has exacerbated his position. How did he get the letter? How did he get what purported to be the speech? These are not, in my submission, trifling questions. These go to the whole foundation of government. If this Parliament is to tolerate a Minister’s using what purported to be an exchange of correspondence between Ministers and their colleagues in former administrations, there is no health in them nor hope for them. But for a private member of Parliament to have access to these documents and to use them in the heat and thrust of political controversy - I say that minded as I am at the moment I would seek in the next few days an explanation from the honourable member for Blaxland as to how he came by it; otherwise I will move a censure against the Government led by the Prime Minister.
– This matter has aroused a good deal of fire at times from some honourable members. Because one has a command of English and one’s oratory is regarded by some people as being pleasant to listen to, this does not mean that there is unlimited logic in it. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has been talking on this subject for quite a considerable time. I doubt whether in the whole of that period any people who have heard him have been convinced by his arguments. I certainly have not met any of them. If his contentions are so irrefutable and so logical, and if they are so perfect in their concept, it is rather a wonder that more people have not been converted to his point of view. I recognise that the honourable member has every right as has every member of this House to voice his opinion. I do not deny that right at all. But, at the same time, for any member of this House to rise and to suggest that because he has a particular view other views are not. acceptable, are not reasonable and that no basis exists for them is something that I certainly cannot accept. I will not use the words that I would like to use to describe that sort of approach.
The debate on the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 (No. 2) does emphasise the problems of federal government in Australia. But that does not mean that the only alternative is the acceptance of a government that is so centralised in outlook that it is determined to try to undermine all of the authority and functions of our State governments. I think that very few people who have taken any interest in the operations of the present Federal Gov.ernment have any doubts about its approach to State governments generally. This legislation gives the Government another opportunity to further that cause. The legislation certainly is not the only matter that it is going to use, but this matter does fall into that category.
I believe that the question under consideration at the moment is one that should be resolved. I do not argue that it should not be resolved. I would like to see it resolved by consultation with the States. I think it could be. One of the main factors preventing a greater degree of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth has been the very justifiable fear of the less populous States of the domination of the Federal Government. They feel that if they give away any of the rights that they have to the Federal Government this would be another step towards centralisation. Whatever reservations the Government of my own State of Queensland had previously - quite obviously it did - those reservations certainly have increased enormously since the present Labor Government has been in office. This change has been fully justified by many of the actions that the Federal Government has taken. The latest is the action of the Federal Government to refute the agreement made with the State governments of Queensland and New South Wales with regard to Pikes Creek dam. I quote that only as an example of the sort of thing that is happening. Can we expect a State government to have any confidence in this Federal Government if it will not honour an agreement that was undertaken by the previous Federal Government? If the Federal Government will not do that, what confidence can the States have that the Federal Government will co-operate with them to the benefit of the community generally? I have cited the Pikes Creek dam project as an example.
I repeat - and I accept completely - that a need exists for a clarification of sovereignty with respect to the matter under debate now. While there have been long negotiations - I concede that those negotiations cannot go on indefinitely - I do believe that the consultations should be continued. Probably there is a recognition by the States that those consultations cannot continue indefinitely. The States would be - and I feel should be - prepared to try to co-operate to achieve that goal of agreement.
The problem that confronts the States is that they must try to promote the general development of Australia. Faced with the problem of trying to promote their own ideas against the views of a population which is so centralised in the south-eastern portion of the nation, the States must naturally be most careful not to give away any of the powers that they hold that affect the promotion of their welfare. It is essential that there be cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth. That is the line that we in the Country Party have continued to take. I do not believe that because some difficulty has been experienced in arriving at a decision we should suddenly say that that is the end of the matter and that there can be no further consultation between the States and the Commonwealth.
I believe that if a reasonable proposition is put forward the States will consult with the Commonwealth. After all, the State governments represent the same people as we represent. Why would the State governments wish to hold these powers if there was no justification for it? Honourable members can talk about party lines. What is the attitude of the Western Australian Government on this question? What was its attitude at the Labor Party convention? The Western Australian Government was most reluctant and in fact was not prepared to hand over the powers to the Commonwealth as it was requested to do.
– They were not prepared to do that under any circumstances.
– As my friend the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) says, the Western Australian Government was not prepared to hand the powers over under any circumstances.
– That does not make it right.
– It does not make it right and it does not make it wrong. The honourable member for Diamond Valley has adopted the attitude that because he holds a view it must be right, or because the Commonwealth holds a view it must be right and because the State holds a view it must be wrong. If that is the attitude of the honourable member all I can say is that it is a biased attitude and does not cut any ice with me at all.
The dissension between the Commonwealth and the States has continued longer than I believe any member of this Parliament would have liked to have seen it continued. Members on either side of the House could make some concessions to try to resolve this very difficult problem. Several problems are associated with my own State of Queensland. One of the things for which I gave the Premier of Queensland great credit was his determination to see that the Torres Strait Islands were not to be taken from the Queensland Government and handed to New Guinea. Will any honourable member on the Government side contend that the Commonwealth was not pre pared to alter the boundary of that State? We heard a good deal from the honourable member for Moreton about who can and who cannot alter boundaries. I suggest to him that he looks at the negotiations which took place with the people of the Torres Strait Islands. If one thing clearly came out of those negotiations it was that the Premier and the Government of Queensland were prepared to defend the rights of the people in those islands to remain a part of my own great State of Queensland. That is the clear cut position. It is another one of the things which makes the Queensland Government consider very seriously any further negotiations with the Commonwealth.
– What about New Guinea?
– If the honourable member wishes to promote the interests of New Guinea against the interests of Queensland that is his business; it is not my attitude. We heard a good deal tonight about how good the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton were. I think the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) made those observations. What did the honourable member for Blaxland and the Labor Party say in general about the attitude of those members? Do they agree with their general attitudes? If the honourable members are so accurate in their assessment of all matters I hope the Government will take notice of their attitudes towards many of the political problems of the day, or will the Government select only the attitudes which happen to agree with its own opinion?
There is one other matter I should like to mention. Before concluding my speech I thank the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is at the table, for the courtesy he showed in allowing me to talk beyond the time to which he had intended to allow this debate to continue. I wish to comment with regard to the problem of the exploitation of the mineral wealth that is contained in the continental shelf. I will quote what was said by the Minister when introducing this Bill. Anyone who has had a close association with the mining and oil industries will know how much they feel that the Government has or has not helped them. Never has the exploration for oil been dimmed as much as it has under this Government; never has the mining industry been more depressed than it is at present. Yet the Minister said:
I would now like to touch briefly on some financial aspects of this Bill and its associated royalty Bill. It is our aim to encourage, under Commonwealth control, off-shore minerals exploration and exploitation. We realise that these are costly operations and therefore intend to keep fees for such activities at a reasonably low level.
Honourable members should consider how the Government has treated those industries. No wonder the States are concerned about what would happen with the exploration and exploitation of minerals in view of the words of the Minister and after the States have considered the actions that have been taken by the Labor Government. I am certainly opposed to the Bill and I support the attitude of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, in his remarks on this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
Omit Part III, comprising clauses 17 to 111.
Question put -
That the Part proposed to be omitted (Mr Fairbairn’s amendment) stand part of the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Bill be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Connor) - by leave - put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Ayes . . . . 57
Noes . . . . 44
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 September (vide page 767), on motion by Mr Connor:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Connor) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 344), on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure. It might suit the convenience of honourable members to discuss the subject matter of the 4 Bills listed as Order of the Day No. 9 with the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1973. Separate questions of course will be put for each Bill.
– Order! Is there any objection? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed
– In the course of the remarks of the Minister for External Territories in his second reading speech on the 4 Bills before the House, he said:
The amendments proposed to the Papua New Guinea Act-
This relates primarily to the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973- are certainly historic, but the changes brought about are more symbolic than substantive.
That, of course, is true. What we are doing is legislating for self-government for Papua New Guinea. We are, in fact, enacting decisions which were, in the main, taken by the Government of Papua New Guinea in conjunction with the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It is most important, however, that people recognise the fundamental distinction between self-government and independence. I recall that when I held the portfolio of External Territories I used to use a definition of internal self-government along the lines that it was a situation in which the Commonwealth had ceased to exercise executive or legislative control in the administration of Papua New Guinea in respect of its internal affairs. External affairs and defence would remain a Commonwealth responsibility. The outward sign of internal self-government would be the formal divesting by Australia of its powers by amendment to the Papua New Guinea Act. This would take place, as I used to say, in the final stages of an orderly progression. The scope of power conferred at internal self-government would probably need to reflect Australia’s continuing obligations under the trusteeship agreement with the United Nations. But at the time of this divesting of powers under the Papua New Guinea Act other Commonwealth legislation affecting the bulk of Papua New Guinea’s internal affairs would have ceased to be applicable to Papua New Guinea. In the main, that is still a sufficiently accurate definition of internal self-government.
When I continue my remarks tomorrow I will point out certain differences in approach between this government and the previous Government in relation to the post selfgovernment situation - in other words the preindpendence and then post-independence situation. In concentrating my remarks over the next few minutes on self-government it is well to remember that the situation we are now enacting has come about not as a result of recent and radical change in Papua New Guinea but as a result of a continuing and somewhat accelerating movement which started in 1967. In that year, on the recommendation of its Select Committee on Constitutional Development, the first House recommended that ministerial office holders be appointed from the House and that arrangements to allow for the development of a system of ministerial responsibility be provided for. I will make some remarks tomorrow about the wisdom of continuing with a Westminster system in operation in Papua New Guinea notwithstanding the deliberations of the constitutional planning committee. At this juncture I merely want to retrace the background to the legislation which is now before the House.
In 1968 the Papua New Guinea Act was amended to give effect to the request I mentioned a moment ago. In 1969 and 1970 ministerial office holders gradually assumed responsibility and became more involved in governing Papua New Guinea. In July 1970 final powers over wide areas of internal government were devolved to Ministers. The initiative for this devolution of authority and responsibility, which is a continuing one, rests with the Papua New Guinea Ministers and with the support of the House. The previous Governments policy - regrettably it is not reflected accurately to date although it has been the aim yet not the result of this Government’s administration - that the initiatives for constitutional development should come from Papua New Guinea. As I said continually last year, we would not impose constitutional change regardless of the wishes of the people. Therefore we would not impose self-government or a self-government date on Papua New Guinea. I stated consistently that the Australian Government stood ready to give selfgovernment to Papua New Guinea. Its aim was to help and encourage Papua New Guinea towards that goal, but the decision to accept self-government was one for the House of Assembly to speak about or to indicate the way in which the wishes of Papua New Guinea on the question could be clearly seen. This was done, and it was agreed last year after constitutional discussions between myself and the Government of Papua New Guinea that the aim for self-government would be 1 December 1973 or as soon as possible thereafter.
What we are doing now is to ensure that Papua New Guinea can in fact and in law reach self-government on that day. We are providing for formal self-government. It is not something that has been accomplished with a single step. I think .he Minister referred to something along that line. It is not a sudden jump from one status and set of responsibilities to another but it should be seen as emerging from a series of steps which were agreed upon in advance by Papua New Guinea and the Commonwealth Government. There was some discussion last year and prior to that as to whether the power over internal security should pass to Papua New Guinea on self-government. It was thought that the power over external affairs and defence would naturally remain with the metropolitan power - the administering authority - but that it may be wise to retain some area of responsibility over internal security. I did not necessarily subscribe to that view but in any case the Government has adopted the attitude - the Government has not put it to us but we have had to glean it from a number of remarks - that internal security and the power over internal security will pass to Papua New Guinea during the period from selfgovernment to independence or prior to 1 December.
There is no hard and fast rule of constitutional practice, as I understand it, concerning the timing of the transfer of responsibility for internal security. In most former British dependencies the British Government, through the Governor, retained ultimate responsibility for internal security up until the time of independence itself, but whatever arrangements were arrived at prior to that date seem to have been based upon the particular situation in each dependency. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development in a statement to the House of Assembly on 17 November 1970 outlined the Committee’s understanding of the sort of arrangements which might be likely to exist during internal self-government. He said then:
Basically the Committee feels that it could be assumed that external affairs and defence would remain the responsibility of the Australian Government and that as far as other areas of government are concerned arrangements would be negotiated between the Territory Government and the Australian Government at the time.
He went on to say:
While Australia would remain responsible for the Territory’s defence and external affairs, arrangements might be made for sharing of some police and internal security matters between the Governments of the Territory and Australia.
He then went on to say:
The Territory might have a new name but Papua and New Guinea - as it was then known - would continue as 2 separate Territories and the Territories’ constitution would remain in a Commonwealth Act, and the United Nations trusteeship agreement would continue in force for New Guinea.
That is as it was put in 1970. Of course, some changes have been made.
I would like the Minister to advise this House of the details of the transfer of responsibility over internal security. If the power is to be transferred, this House should be fully informed of the ramifications and, more particularly in the first instance, of the details of the transfer. The next matter is not this Minister’s responsibility but that of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who, I would remind the House, consistently criticised the previous Government on an unfounded basis for not making known sufficiently frequently the future standing, deployment and structure of the forces known as the Pacific Islands Regiment. The Minister for Defence referred to the Pacific Islands Regiment in but one paragraph in a lengthy defence statement in this House. He has a prime duty to advise the Parliament as to what program of defence arrangements related to Papua New Guinea is being determined by his Department, by the Department of External Territories and of course by the Government of Papua New Guinea. We must be advised of the study of arrangements deemed necessary by this Government at selfgovernment for the maintenance of internal security as a local responsibility. We need to be advised of the consideration that has been given to the organisation, training and other matters relative to Papua New Guinea forces which could be accomplished now without prejudice to their ultimate size and shape. .We ought to be advised of what study has been given to consultations.
-Order! It being 15 minutes past 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of the day of 1 March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight it is a most unpleasant duty for me to bring formally to the knowledge of this House a most distressing blot on the social landscape of Australia. I refer to the strike by employees of the Hospital Employees Union in Queensland at the Challenor Centre and Wolston Park hospital situated in the electorate of Oxley, represented in this House by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), and at Baillie Henderson Hospital in Toowoomba. These 3 hospitals are doing a magnificent job in caring for the unfortunates in our society who have social, mental and psychological problems. The daily average number of people involved as patients at Challenor for the year ending 30 June 1973 was 47.6, for Baillie Henderson 809 and for Wolston Park 1,434.
The number of medical staff at Challenor approximates 350, Baillie Henderson 350 and Wolston Park 750. I give these figures to the House to indicate the magnitude of operations at these centres. The institutions have over the years - years of control and administration by governments of various political colours - endeavoured as a positive instrument of policy to treat their inmates as dignified human beings, to brighten their day and to help them along the road to recovery to lead an ordinary life and existence. We commend them on this. Over the years society must surely owe a great deal of gratitude to those many excellent people who have laboured in this vineyard - a labour of love. Often unnoticed, sometimes unthanked. their work has obviously enriched the lives of the people who have worked there, often for a lifetime.
Tonight I pay tribute to those many people who have contributed to the smooth and efficient operations of the Baillie Henderson Hospital at Toowoomba. Their devotion to duty and application to the task at hand have been matched by the generosity of volunteers who have cared for the patients at Baillie Henderson during the period of the strike - a strike which had its beginning in petty union jealousy. These volunteers, old and young, experienced and inexperienced, answered the call of charity and looked after those unfortunate people when they were left to their own initiative by members of the Hospital Employees Union. The volunteers came from all walks of life, from near and far, and one of the most rewarding episodes was the tremendous response from youth. They turned up in their hundreds. This indicates the quality of the young people in the Darling Downs area. They responded to the challenge and we are mighty proud of them.
I pay special tribute to the local members of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation for their magnificent achievement. Imbued with decency and concern, reliving in their hearts and minds the noble ideals of their founders, and the watchwords: ‘You never walk out on your patient’, they worked continuously day after day. They were the task force that inspired others to give so generously of their time, energy and talent. Why was this unenviable situation thrust on all these people? There was a demarcation issue between the Hospital Employees Union and the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, all members of which are employed under the Mental Hospital Employees State Award. The demarcation issue had as its focus the Arthur Pavilion of the Challenor Centre in Ipswich. We note how quiet the Minister for Social Security is on this most important issue. When confronted with rabid socialist unions he becomes a toy rabbit in front of a greyhound.
– Where is he tonight?
– Yes, where is he? He runs for cover - no interest and no comment. For the information of the House I advise that there are 9 wards in the Arthur Pavilion with a charge nurse in charge of each ward. At present these charge nurses are 5 male and 4 females. The responsibility of appointing the charge nurses has been and must continue to be the responsibility of the medical superintendent and senior administrative officer. But the Hospital Employees Union was aggrieved when a female employee of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation was appointed as a charge nurse. All hell literally then broke loose. Of course, the example was set by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a speech to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress - a congress incidentally which he treated with contempt by arriving 6 hours late. His speech was reported in the Financial Review’ of 15 August 1973. He said that the necessity to have demarcation disputes was imposed because the law demanded that each union be a separate legal entity. If he does not believe in demarcation issues why does not this self-styled imperious demagogue do something about it? His example encouraged demarcation issues. He could have a double dissolution but he is not game.
Does the Australian Labor Party not regognise the right of women to be in charge of a ward? Why has it been silent? . Does it not wish to defend the rights of women? Where has been the voice of the Minister for Social Security? I am glad that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has come into the chamber. We heard from him a rather feeble bleat. He said that he would offer his services as an arbitrator. Needless to say those services, that little bleat of concern, were turned down and utterly rejected. Why has the Labor Party been silent? I can offer only the following logical solution: Notwithstanding the fact that the above mentioned position was discussed for some months, it was not until Mr Ringlestein, the secretary of the Hospital Employees Union, went on holidays that the simmering kettle boiled. The kettle had been kept simmering by Mr John Francis Daley, an official of the Hospital Employees Union. True to his communistic training and ideologies he stirred up trouble when the boss was away, just as Whitlam and his two or three stooges stir up trouble when Caucus is not present.
-Order! The Standing Orders provide that when an honourable member refers to another honourable member he should refer to him by his title or his electorate.
– I refer to the Prime Minister. Let us have a look at the background of Daley. In 1958 he unsuccessfully contested the ward of Mount Gravatt at the Brisbane City Council elections of that year as a member of the Communist Party. He is the man responsible for the great inconvenience caused to many people, a man completely devoid of charity and justice, a man who obviously bows and kowtows to Mao. He must have the support of the present Labor administration because we have not heard one word of criticism of him. The Government has needled the population by its silence on this important issue. We cannot even get a glimmer of responsibility. But its sails will be trimmed by the Parramatta by-election on Saturday. The Australian people will not accept irresponsible strikes initiated by a communist in a sneaky way, a strike caused by an internecine union jealousy, a jealousy which would not allow a woman to be given a position of responsibility.
This is a very distressing situation and I am indebted to my colleague the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) for reinforcing my statements to this House and pointing out that because of this strike, inspired by a member of the Communist Party who contested an election under the banner of that Party and who, when his boss left, stirred up trouble, many innocent children and many people who unfortunately have been afflicted with mental problems were denied their rightful place and hospital care and attention. I am perturbed at the Government of Australia having an involvement with this type of trade union official. Mr Burns, the shadow Minister for Health in Queensland, has not said one thing. The golden rapid voice has been silenced. This man who parades as a champion of the workers had his house broken into and had 7 suits stolen.
– He had 12 stolen.
– Well, twelve. He bought all of them . in Hong Kong. He is a champion of the workers but he buys his suits in Hong Kong. He does not want to create employment. He has not said one word of protest. He is condoning the action of irresponsible trade unionism - trade unionism that stirs up trouble. When Mr Ringlestein, a solid trade union official, was away, behind his back-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) used the opportunity of the adjournment debate tonight to make such » vicious attack on the members of the trade union movement currently engaged in an industrial dispute in the special hospitals in Brisbane. It ill behoves him, but perhaps we might excuse his performance this evening and put it down to his inexperience in this House, to the fact that he has not been here very long, and hope that he will learn better as time goes on. One thing that is sure is that nothing he has said this evening can serve any purpose in the most important consideration concerning that dispute, that is the settlement of that dispute. My colleague, the Minister for Health, Dr Everingham, has offered his services to mediate in this dispute, should he be called upon. He is eager and ready to carry out the task of endeavouring to settle the dispute, should he be asked. Naturally, he will not do as some people are prepared to do, namely, butt into somebody else’s business. However, he has indicated that he is prepared to try to settle the dispute if he is asked to do so.
Let me remind the honourable member for Darling Downs that not one member of the union involved in the dispute is earning money while he is out on strike. It is money out of the pocket of the worker. What consideration does he give to that when he gets up on an occasion such as this and makes groundless accusations against people involved in a dispute? If the honourable member for Darling Downs is such a wonderful person and knows such a great deal about the dispute, his time would be better spent in assisting Industrial Commissioner Gibson in his efforts to try to settle the dispute, rather than making such an attack this evening on people involved in the dispute.
This evening I wish to speak principally about something that has been brought to my attention in recent days. I refer to the new found interests of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) in Eagle Farm airport. I see the honourable member for Griffith sitting in the House this evening. If it is his intention to speak again on this matter tonight in the adjournment debate, he will be making his third speech on the subject in just on a week. That is more speeches on the subject than he made on this issue in the entire previous time that he has been in this Parliament. I have consulted the Hansard records and have come up with some startling facts relating to the great interest the honourable member showed in the problems of Eagle Farm airport in the first 6 years that he was inflicted on this Parliament and on the electors of Griffith. I should like to quote this record to honourable members.
The first speech of the honourable member for Griffith on this issue was made some 3 years after he became the honourable member for Griffith. It was made on 11 March 1970 and it was the first time he got on his feet and showed any concern for the victims of noise in his electorate for whom he now cries so loudly. The speech was made on the occasion of the reappointment of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. His grave concern for the electors of Griffith was shown at this time when he made a statement in the House in which he really attacked the then Minister for Civil Aviation for his inactivity. He said:
I ask the Minister to give an’ assurance that the Committee’s findings will be taken seriously by the Government.
That is really going to town on the Minister. Twelve months later, he was again stirred to make some effort on behalf of the people of his electorate and the people of Brisbane who were suffering through the inactivity over so many years of the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Sir Reginald Swartz, and on 18 March 1971 he spoke on the adjournment and stated:
All honourable members will know that ever since I arrived in this House I have been a strong advocate of the cause for peace for the constituents residing in my electorate and those who have been subjected over the years to the increasing noise problem.
He was a strong advocate but also a very silent one until that time. He continued to make a great effort to impress upon his Government the urgency of the task before it and about which it had been making excuses for so many years, and these were his words to spur on the then Government to greater efforts:
Today I am advocating that something be done quickly and that 1978 be the date for the building of a second airport in Brisbane.
He was talking about a second airport and the Government was not even able to do anything about the one that was already there. The honourable member for Griffith went on to talk about the great efforts his colleague, the previous member for Lilley had made and said: . . the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), has quietly but positively worked towards the solution of the problem of the Brisbane airport.
The then honourable member for Lilley certainly must have worked very quietly towards it because we never heard very much from that gentleman except words of praise for his friends in the Democratic Labor Party. The honourable member for Griffith went on during his speech on the adjournment on 18 March 1971 to refer to a Press statement. It is probably as well that I explain to honourable members how he came to make this statement to which I am about to refer. The Press statement made mention of noise in the Ascot-Hamilton area. The honourable member for Griffith said:
I would hate it to be thought that reference has been made to the electorate of the honourable member for Lilley in this Press statement because he has worked harder than I and no mention has been made of my electorate because of my tardiness.
If the cap fits, wear it. The second speech that the honourable member for Griffith made and which I have just quoted was made on 1 8 March 1971. He had been a member of this House since the 1966 elections. That was the extent of his interest in Eagle Farm airport during the whole of the 6 years he spent sitting on the back benches in support of a government that did nothing until just before the last election. A Press statement referred to the report that was tabled in March 1972.
At that stage, the Government announced for about the fourth time that plans had been prepared and activity was to commence at Eagle Farm airport. Such was that activity that he was able to refer to it in the third speech that he made, on 12 September 1973, when he said that 5 years had almost passed and the new Government had done nothing towards the planning of Eagle Farm Airport.
– I was referring to Sir Donald Anderson’s statement in Melbourne at the Rotary Club. Be specific and honest.
– I accept that. It was not intentional that I should have misquoted the honourable member. I am quoting from his speech. I accept, as the honourable member says, that he was referring to a speech made by Sir Donald Anderson. But in that speech he referred to the inactivity of the present Government and certainly made no reference to the inactivity of the previous Government. But of course he woke up to himself in the last speech that he made prior to yesterday evening, on 13 September. He said: 1 repeat my comments last night when I referred to the Coombs report which clearly outlined that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government had intentions … of continuing, moving along the road of speeding up the building of the Brisbane airport.
That was the Government that he was proud, pleased or prepared to sit behind and support in the. efforts it made, and those efforts it made, and those efforts amounted to nothing over the years it was in office as far as the Brisbane airport was concerned. In a few moments my colleague, the honourable member for Lilley, will be able to outline very clearly the activity of this Government in the short time that it has had the responsibility for the rebuilding of Eagle Farm Airport.
– The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) has just claimed that at last my interest has been awakened. He made reference before to the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) and talked about his own seniority in the House. Allow me to remind the honourable member that before he was even chosen as a candidate for his Party I was appearing before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise making representations on behalf of my constituents about aircraft noise. If the honourable member for Bowman had made a detailed study of my past performances in the House on this subject I am quite certain that he would have found other references in Hansard besides simply one on civil-
– I rise on a point of order.
– Sit down and be quiet. I let you talk without interrupting. So sit down will you?
– I must rise and take this point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member is reflecting on the staff of the Parliamentary Library. They looked up the records for me and they searched through all the honourable member’s speeches.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I do not reflect on the staff of the Library. Perhaps the instructions to them on how to look were not clearly defined. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) last night and the honourable member for Bowman again tonight referred to the inactivity of the previous Government. The truth is that aeroplanes have become noisy in recent years. The advent of the big jet has changed the situation from that which existed some years ago. The old DC3s and DC4s did not pose very much of a problem at all, but the advent of the Jumbo, the 707 and the 727 has. It was when I first came into this Parliament that those big jets were coming on to the routes and there were but a few of them in Australia. I do not heap praise upon the previous Government for what it did or did not do, and I am consistent in my criticism; but the truth is that the Coombs report - a document compiled on instructions from the Australian Labor Party - states that the Liberal-Country Party Government was to start spending money this year on a new airport for Brisbane. This is true.
– It states that on page 149.
– That is stated on page 149, as the honourable member for Petrie reminds me. I thank the honourable member. I remind you, Mr Speaker, in the absence of the wayward Minister, the missing Minister who does not have the courage to come into this House but who sends his little henchmen along to try to speak on his behalf, that it was the honourable member for Petrie who was confronted with an announcement in huge headlines in March in the ‘Australian’ stating: ‘SI 50m planned for Queensland Airport’. The ‘Courier-Mail’ carried this headline:
It was a wake up because it had those words in inverted commas - for new airport planned.
The honourable member for Petrie then wrote to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) and asked: ‘Where is it going to be?’ The Minister answered him in an evasive manner. He said: ‘We really do not know.’ Perhaps the honourable member for Petrie can speak on this on another night and reinforce me.
If I can refer again to last year or the year before, I clearly recall going to the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), and saying: ‘Sir, if I am asked what should be done for Queensland and what should be given a very high priority I would nominate the resiting of our airport.’ The previous honourable member for Lilley was the Minister for Housing. It is very unfair of the honourable member for Bowman to castigate him, because it is difficult for Ministers to talk on portfolios outside their area of responsibility. But I assure the House with all the honesty and sincerity that I can conjure up at this moment that we attempted to get a new airport for Brisbane. What has happened? The idea appears to have been scrapped. I refer to an editorial in the Courier-Mail’ on 31 August, which is headed New Airport is Essential’. If the honourable member thinks I have jets on the brain he wants to listen to what it states. It states:
It would be intolerable for Brisbane if the Federal Government were to accept the Coombs Task Force Report favouring deferral of the updating of Brisbane Airport.
A clear statement of the Government’s intentions on the airport is needed to satisfy Brisbane and the local residents affected by the project but still uncertain of the future of their land and homes.
The uproar in Sydney over the Galston airport plan is an example of what can happen without adequately announced long-range intentions.
How we listened to the Minister’s spokesmen. What a piteous stage we have reached when the Minister for Civil Aviation will not speak in this Parliament about his intentions for north of the border.
– Watch out, here he comes.
– Where? I would be happy to sit down immediately and let him speak if he walked into the House, but I believe be does not have the courage. People in Queensland want to know where they stand. I regret to draw the honourable member for Lilley into this matter, but he claimed that he spoke for the Minister and the facts arc that he has been an ineffective spokesman. The Coombs report stands as testimony for the work that the honourable member’s predecessor and I did in the past 2 years. The Brisbane suburbs of Hendra, Ascot, Hamilton, Doomben, Eagle Farm, Bulimba, Balmoral, Hawthorne, Norman Park, Merthyr, New Farm, Teneriffe and Newstead all belong to the group that has been described so aptly by myself as the unlucky thirteen. The 50,000 people - there are at least 50,000 of them - who live in those suburbs are the unlucky 50,000.
All I want is for the evasive Minister, a Minister who belongs to a Party which came to power on the promise of open government, to speak on this matter in the House. He has come here and clammed up like a Newcastle shell. We cannot get anything out of him. He just sits there ignoring pleas. Last night he handed out the greatest insult of all to the people of these 13 unlucky suburbs, because when he saw me stand up to speak again he walked out. The honourable member for Petrie expresses indigation at a recollection of history from yesterday. It is true and it is a continuing condemnation not only of the Minister but also of the whole Australian Labor Party.
I know that the House is about to be treated to a speech by the second of the terrible twins with the great union background or from wherever they may come, who will stand up and tell us what this new Government is doing. If the honourable member for Lilley has any courage, what he will do is to select one of my speeches from last Wednesday night, last Thursday night, last night or even my speech tonight and repeat it word for word. If the honourable member does that, the Minister for Civil Aviation will recognise that members of his own Party from Brisbane are equally as concerned as I am about this matter. I know that they leave this chamber after each adjournment debate, go up to his office and say: Charlie, he has been at it again. Do not worry. Do not take any notice of it because it is not a problem’. But for the people of Brisbane it is a problem. I will conclude my speech one minute before my allotted time expires as a mark of respect to the airport on which work would have started under my Party but has not started under this Government.
– This evening the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has been exposed as a phoney. Last evening in this chamber-
– Mr Speaker, I take grave exception to the use of that expression. I regard the word ‘phoney’ as unparliamentary. It is offensive to me.
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Lilley would have done better to refer to the phoney speech.
– I withdraw the word ‘phoney’ and say that this evening, as he did last night, the honourable member for Griffith has attempted to grandstand in this place. He has used abusive language to attack a most kindly and gentlemanly person, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones). We have been shown this evening that in 6 years in this Parliament the honourable member for Griffith made 2 speeches on the subject of the Brisbane airport. He has made 3 speeches apparently on that subject in the last few days. The honourable member says that he has made 4 speeches on the Brisbane airport in the last few days. If the other three were no better than the speech that we have heard this evening I would suggest that he should give the game away with respect to debating what is happening in relation to the Brisbane airport. It appears from the references that have been quoted from speeches of the honourable member in 1970 and 1971 that his approach to the previous Government of which he was a member was that of a mouse. He approached the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, and said: ‘Sir, I want you to do something’. Now he is roaring like a lion in this place. But he is a pretty old and timid lion, I feel.
– And toothless.
– Probably with no teeth. What the honourable member for Griffith has not said is that in the Budget for 1972-73 the previous Liberal Government allocated S500.000 to the improvement of Brisbane airport. The recent decision of the Labor Government has resulted in $6.5m being allocated to the updating and modernisation of Brisbane airport. If ‘we wish to compare the money appropriated by this Government with the efforts of the previous Government in its last year of office, it will be seen that the Labor
Government has allocated in the last few months 12 times more than the Liberal Government allocated in its last 1 2 months in office. I mentioned last evening the attitude of the previous Government to the Brisbane airport. It would appear that it was anti-Queensland. A great deal of money was expended by the former Government in either building new airports or updating and modernising existing airports in Perth, Launceston, Sydney and Melbourne. But nothing was done with respect to the Brisbane airport.
Certainly due to the insistence of members of the Labor Party in Opposition in this House for a better deal for Queensland and with the assistance of Brisbane’s dynamic Lord Mayor, the conservatives were finally nudged into the position where they agreed to set up an advisory committee to review the primary airport facilities to serve the future needs of Brisbane. I repeat that had it not been for the activities of Brisbane’s dynamic Lord Mayor who has played a major role in the planning of the new airport and the proposals which will result in Brisbane having a modern international airport in the not distant future, and had it not been for the pressure applied by Labor members in this House or at the local government level in Brisbane, this advisory committee would not have been appointed. It is well known that one of the terms of reference of that committee was to seek to reduce the noise level in certain residential areas of Brisbane.
– What about Cribb Island?
– Unfortunately - and this is one thing that makes me extremely sad - the people of Cribb Island and Nudgee Beach who can least afford to be disturbed and removed from their homes are the ones who will be suffering because of the modernisation of the Brisbane airport. But they are accepting this decision. With a government in office which is prepared to pay proper compensation, to resettle them and to look after their interests, they are prepared, I believe, to step aside to allow this airport to be developed. It is well known, as I mentioned last evening, that the report of this advisory committee was handed down in January of last year. Nobody in my electorate, in the electorate of Griffith or anywhere else in Brisbane had any idea of what the conservatives intended to do with regard to putting in progress the work suggested in that report.
Let me explain what I have done since my election to this House. I do not come here to blow my bags about what I have done, but I believe that the statements made by the honourable member for Griffith are a reflection on my representation of my electorate. I feel that I must say that since I have been elected to this Parliament I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of the electorate of Lilley on the matter of the development of the Brisbane airport. When I came here the day after my election to this Parliament was confirmed, I approached the Minister for Civil Aviation and asked him what he was going to do about modernising Brisbane airport and proceeding with the work. I have talked to him on numerous occasions since. He has arranged conferences for me with heads of the Department of Civil Aviation and with the Department of Services and Property. We have had meetings in the Lilley electorate.
It is pretty obvious to me that the honourable member for Griffith with his great interest in Brisbane airport knew nothing about these matters while they were going on. I doubt very much whether, if he were asked to find his own way to Brisbane airport, he could find his own way there. I venture to suggest that there are many areas of my electorate in which he has not been. Matters may be becoming a bit hard for him in Griffith and he is endeavouring to set up a smokescreen to take the heat off his own area. But I can assure him that I am quite capable of looking after the people of my electorate. If the honourable member cares to come into my electorate at any time I will debate with him what I have done on behalf of the people there. I will take to the people in my electorate copies of the speeches that he made on 2 occasions in 6 years here. The people of Lilley can judge then whether I have been active on their behalf.
– It is what your Minister does, not what you think, that is important.
– All right. As I mentioned last evening, the work of developing this new airport area is something which cannot be undertaken in a short space of time. Drainage work must be carried out. Provision must be made for a floodway. This floodway will assist the people of the lower Nudgee area by providing drainage for their properties. When the floodway is developed by the Commonwealth Government, it will be handed over to the Brisbane City Council. It will provide parklands, sporting fields and facilities that will enhance the beauty of the area and will make available to the young people of that district facilities for sport and for recreation. I mention these aspects because they underline the good features of what will occur as a result of this development.
I mentioned last night, I believe - I had 3 minutes only in which to speak then - that an ecological study was being carried out and that a scale model of the proposed airport development had been built at the University of Queensland so that the flooding patterns of Brisbane could be gauged in relation to the development of that airport. A number of people have become involved in the planning of Brisbane airport. If the honourable member for Griffith and members of his Party believe that one can go into an area such as this which is a low-lying area and-
– The studies are completed.
– That interjection indicates that the honourable member does not know what he is talking about. The studies are still going on. Only last Friday I met officers of the Department of Works concerning the floodway around the Nudgee Beach area. Certain works are to be carried out there and tests made to see whether the floodway can be made not quite so wide to enable some of the homes in the area to be left as they are. When the honourable member interjects and mentions that the studies are completed it indicates that he does not know exactly what is going on in the area at all. About 10 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped into the runway areas to form a base. I believe the sand will have to settle for about 2 years. As I mentioned last night a report submitted to the previous Gov.ernrment set out a timetable showing that the construction of the first runway will commence about mid 1976 and will be completed in about 1979.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffiths)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I will be very quick in my remarks. I do not think I was misrepresented deliberately. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) failed to take into account what Senator Cavanagh said in the Senate. He said that quite a comprehensive environmental impact statement had been completed. Furthermore the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, who is a Labor Mayor, said that he was disappointed with the Labor Party’s decision on this particular project.
– I apologise to the House for rising to speak at such a late hour on a matter which could be classified as a domestic case. However, I am pleased that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) is present. I believe in the old principle that one must pay for progress. I believe one of the most urgent issues of the Postmaster-General’s Department is the upgrading of telephone services. This is most desirable and I do not wish to put anything in the way of such a development. However, I am a little concerned at some of the things that are going on concerning the upgrading of telephone services. I refer to the manually operated trunk line exchanges that have to dismiss staff because of progress. They are the Maryborough exchange in the Wimmera electorate, the Kerang exchange in the Mallee electorate and the Castlemaine exchange in the Bendigo electorate.
I am informed by the mayor of one of these cities, telephonists and local newspapers that these telephone exchanges will close next April. As from that date all trunk line services will be directed through the Ballarat and Bendigo exchanges. The Department has offered staff alternative employment in Ballarat and Bendigo but many of the telephonists are married. In Maryborough 5 members of the staff of seven are married and naturally enough they cannot accept a position in Ballarat or Bendigo. I have always had a great admiration for officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I appreciate that the girls in this case have been given the opportunity to transfer to another exchange if they so desire. I am concerned that this is one of the few occasions that I, as federal representative, have not been notified of a major operation within the Postmaster-General’s Department. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) informs me that he was not notified.
The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bouchier) knows nothing about the exercise. I do not know who is at fault.
I am sure that the Postmaster-General will look into the matter. I wish to know when there have to be alterations and upgradings in the Department. The Department can depend on me to support it in principle. I will show no objection provided that I know that the closure is for the betterment of the area concerned. If I am not informed of action taken by the Postmaster-General’s Department I wish to place on notice that I and some of my colleagues will, from time to time, make our presence known to the effect that the Department need not automatically depend on our support. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will have a look at the situation.
– I will have a look at the problem. It is not usual that the Postmaster-General’s Department fails to carry out a function officially. If some lapse has occurred we will rectify it and be in touch with the honourable member tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government has been asked to provide financial assistance for two projects in the Asian region being undertaken by the ILO with financial assistance from the United Nations Development Program and Governments of the Region viz.
Any further requests for assistance for similar ILO projects will certainly be given sympathetic consideration.
Visits by Overseas Trade Union Specialists: Discussions on Collective Bargaining (Question No. 764)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Inter-departmental Committee: Development of System of Social Indicators in Australia (Question No. 765)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Nor thern Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
National Health Federation of Australia (unspecified)
Conservation Council of Victoria (unspecified)
Port Phillip Conservation Council, $15,000
Environment Research and Information Centre, $2,250
Royal Australian Ornithologists Union (unspecified)
David G. Stead Memorial Wildlife Research Centre (unspecified) ,
Tasmanian Environment Centre, $40,000
Cape York Conservation Council, $5,000
Conservation and Bush Rescue Association (unspecified)
Southern Caving Society (unspecified)
Victorian INSPECT (unspecified)
Cairns Environment Advisory Committee, $100
Combined Universities Recreation Research Group, $500
Department of Architectural Studies, Canberra Technical College (unspecified)
Group Action to Stop Pollution, approximately $15,000
Capricorn Conservation Council, $5,000
Estuarine Regions Protection Committee (unspecified)
Victorian Private Water-Diverters Association, $10,000
Queensland Conservation Council Inc., $60,000
Australian Conservation Foundation, $8,000
Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (Western Victoria Branch), approximately $3,500
Keep Australia Beautiful Council, $50,000
Australian Wild Life Preservation Centre (unspecified)
Friends of the Earth (Aust.) (unspecified)
Victorian National Parks Association (unspecified)
Australian Wildlife Protection Council, $50,000
Murray Research and Extension Committee (unspecified)
Swan Hill Irrigation Research Farm (unspecified)
Kerang Agricultural Research Farm (unspecified)
Victorian Irrigation Research and Promotion Organisation (unspecified)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Conservation Foundation (Question No. 898)
asked the Minister for the
Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
C2) No. However, I did point out that since the Foundation had been established, Departments with responsibility for environmental protection had been formed by Australian and State governments. As a consequence the role which the Foundation could most appropriately play had changed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730919_reps_28_hor85/>.